Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Chabad - G-d focused or Rebbe focused?

LazerA's comment to "Chabad IV - The apologetics aren't satisfying/Lack...":
I'm sorry, I missed Shloime's response. Now it seems that Shloime has clarified that he, like myself, does not approve of the idea of transforming one's rebbe into one's primary focus.

In his earlier response he did NOT deny this, on the contrary, he appeared to defend it, citing sources in its favor. Moreover, other pro-Chabad commenters still appear to support it. This has muddied the waters a great deal.

The fact that Shloime, thus far, appears incapable of carrying on a conversation without insulting those he disagrees with has, of course, not improved matters.

In any case, at this point it seems that we can agree that making one's rebbe into one's primary spiritual focus is wrong and is not supported by any traditional sources, even within the chassidic world.

This brings us to the widespread perception and criticism of current Chabad that they have done just this.

The radio advertisements announcing that the Lubavitcher rebbe says that Jews should keep various mitzvos are an obvious case in point. The Lubavitcher rebbe is not the reason Jews should do mitzvos!

The widely publicized declarations that the LLR was a prophet whose words are binding on all Jews, and that he is moshiach, are similar obvious examples.

It is well-known examples like these (accompanied by innumerable private such encounters throughout the Jewish world) that have created the, in my opinion convincing, perception that current Chabad has moved from a God-centered religion to Rebbe-centered religion.

I have yet to hear anything from the defenders of Chabad to convince me that this perception is wrong.

As for my demands for proof, I have two brief responses:

A) The main issue for which I was seeking proof was the claim that it is proper to make your rebbe into your primary spiritual focus. My demand for proof in this was justified, as such a claim flies in the face of traditional Torah thought. Now it seems that this claim has been abandoned and proof for it is no longer needed.

B) Being that the concerns being expressed here are widespread throughout the Torah world, it would seem to me that defenders of Chabad would welcome the opportunity to demonstrate their falsity. Unfortunately, it seems that some of these concerns are all too justified. (Thus, thanks to R' Oliver's earnest efforts, I have become convinced that the LLR did indeed claim to be a navi without any halachic justification.)

I would like to add one personal note on why I am personally convinced that current Chabad has placed the Rebbe as their primary spiritual focus.

I attended a Camp Gan Yisrael (Midwest) when I was a kid in the very early '80s. (So much for my family's antagonism to Chabad, huh?)

I remember the entire camp singing "leshana haba be770" and "u'va'u haovdim... v'hishtachavu lashem behar hakodesh b'770 - 770 - 770 etc."

We also saluted the rebbe every morning after davening. There was a picture of the rebbe in every bunk's room and we were told by the counselors that the rebbe could see through his pictures.

There was no question in my mind then, and I didn't even realize there was anything wrong with it yet, that this was a religion of the Rebbe.

Another personal tidbit (not entirely relevant but interesting) is that I actually have a personal debt of gratitue to the LLR.

When my father was in Telz yeshiva, he was a beginning student (he didn't come from a Torah background). While in Telz he got involved with a secret Chabad "kiruv" program that was trying to save the poor deluded yeshiva bochurim from their false religion.

At one point my father went to Crown Heights and had yechidus with the rebbe. My father told the rebbe that he wanted to leave Telz and go to a Chabad yeshiva so he could learn chasidus. The rebbe told him to stay in Telz and learn normal Torah.

Most Lubavitcher's accuse my father of lying when he says this story. In any case, I have to be grateful to the rebbe, because if it weren't for him I would have been a Lubavitcher. (As it is, my family remained close to Lubavitch and I have many Chabad minhagim, not the least being the siddur.)


  1. "the Lubavitcher rebbe says that Jews should keep various mitzvos are an obvious case in point."

    Obviously, the point of the ads was to inform people that the Rebbe sent a message that certain specific messages are recommended; funny how you twist that.

    "The rebbe told him to stay in Telz and learn normal Torah."

    so this is an exact quote, huh?!

    As for the grossly offensive title of the thread (so much for respect and "even-handedness"): "G-d focused or Rebbe focused", the concept of hiskashrus is that through the focus on connecting to the Tzaddik, one's Rebbe, one is inspired by him to serve Hashem in all areas, until mesiras nefesh, as we see in the case of Chasidei Chabad in their mesiras nefesh throughout the generations, notably under communist Russia and in the Shluchim who go to remote places today.

    As for pictures of the Tzadik, there are many maamorei Chazal that speak about the holy impact of seeing the image of a Tzaddik. Do you doubt this? If so, I'm happy to quote sources.

  2. Daniel Eidensohn is nothing more than a partisan rosho masquerading as an honest researcher. His carefully framed 'innocent questions' remind one of the "keitzad measrin es hateven" style research. I thought it fair to give the man a chance to show his colors, and he has. He'll print any and every unsubstantiated lie about Chabad and / or the Rebbe, but he will refuse to post simple comments or refutations to the lies he promotes. I seriously doubt whether a dishonest wannabe like Eidensohn will last very long in the blogsphere - too many people will see him for the dreck he is much sooner than he thinks. Some free advive to you, Dannyboy, go back to the yeshiva/hate factory you came from, the limelight is not for you.

  3. I feel that it is a chiyuv for me, as someone who is a lubavitcher & has learn in lubavitcher yishivos to make this point: it is unfortunately true that there are some lubavitchers that have become rebbe centered instead of G-d centered, but most lubavitchers are not like that. It is true that to the outsider it might not look like that because of the numerous posters etc. but is important to remember: those who spend there time hanging up posters etc. are usually kalei hadas who are the one's who become rebbe centered. The normal lubavitcher who is not like that spends his time learning & daveneing, pluss being mekarev yiden to torah & mitzvos.

  4. > As for pictures of the Tzadik, there are many maamorei Chazal that speak about the holy impact of seeing the image of a Tzaddik.

    I think they meant the tzaddik himself, not a photo.

    Besides, if the Rebbe is Atzmus, is there a contradiction between being God centered or Rebbe focused when they're the same thing?

    Maybe the Vilna Gaon was onto something when he took his stand...

  5. "I think they meant the tzaddik himself, not a photo."

    The point is seeing the image of his face; of course seeing it in real life is better. But Chazal say, and Rashi brings it in pirusho al haTorah, that "dmus dyokno shel oviv"--the image of Yaakov's face--appeared in Yosef's mind when he was about to sin and saved him. Obviously, then, the powerful impact of the Tzadik's face is there even when he is not physically before a person. And obviously this image is much more real when physically seen that when merely imagined in one's mind's eye.

    "if the Rebbe is Atzmus"

    As has been explained repeatedly, the sicha is not saying that they are one and the same, ch"v, as the misnagdim choose to twist it, but that since the Tzadik is in a state of total bittul, Hashem is revealed *through* him.


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