Monday, September 01, 2008

Why are The Messianists not Purged?

It’s not like I want to keep talking about the Meshichism of Lubavitch. But - as much as I would like to ignore it - it keeps coming back like a bad penny. Last Wednesday, an article appeared in the Village Voice that once again made this movement look foolish. And - once again - it shows the theological danger of the Messianism in their midst.

Here are some excerpts from the article:

When (Itzik Balulu is) not ensconced in 770 Eastern Parkway, the center of the Chabad-Lubavitch universe, the 26-year-old Israeli and his crew drive around in a blinged-out Cadillac, a regular kandy-kolored streamline baby…

The Caddy, which they bought a few years ago, is bright yellow and covered with enormous decals featuring a "King Messiah" crown and a picture of the messiah himself: Rebbe Menachem M. Schneerson.

When they aren't studying, the yeshiva boys doggedly tool around the city and install yellow flags in homes and businesses. The flags look a lot like the images on the car: a crown and the words "Long Live the King Messiah Forever and Ever." Balulu installed seven last week and just ordered a thousand more from a factory in China.

Balulu and his ‘crew’ are not alone. There are others who are even worse:

…people like Sara Kanevsky insist that he never died.

Kanevsky's is a world of constant miracles. Pictures of the rebbe plaster the walls of her third-floor apartment. Every night, she and her friends put on a trance CD of traditional Yiddish hymns set to techno music, and they dance for hours. They take belly-dancing classes that can start at midnight. Her cell-phone ringtone plays the Hebrew messianic slogan Yechi ha Melech, which roughly translates as "Long Live the King Messiah Forever and Ever." She answers the phone with these same words.

Kanevsky does a lot of celebrating when others are mourning. She says that in the time of redemption, all rules are reversed. Two years ago, she walked around eating ice cream in 770 on a fast day, which led to her being kicked out. And on the most recent fast day this summer, she talked with some Chabad members in Florida who were enjoying a spaghetti dinner. Kanevsky has even written a book in four languages on the new rules.

While such behavior is extreme even for the Meshichsists it does exist. And it is the source of Meshchist fanaticism gone haywire. While its true that she was thrown out of Lubavitch she is obviously not alone.

Lubavitch is in trouble, despite claims to the contrary. And I think they realize it:

Rabbi Zalman Shmotkin, a spokesman for Chabad, describes the behavior of people like Kanevsky as "more painful than words"—an abuse of the rebbe's message.

He and others do not set foot into the main Shul that has been commandeered by the Messianists. But I have to ask, how it is that 14 years after the Rebbe’s death that this is allowed to go on ith the Rebbe’s own Shul at Lubavitch headquarters? How many Sara Kanevskys will have to be produced by this environment before they begin to force the Meshichists out? …and change the very essence of their Meshichist beliefs?

Repeating to the media just how painful this is has not produced any productive results. People like Balulu and Kanevsky are running around freely spreading their Messianist claims to Chabad to a large number of people. And it isn’t only those two. To one degree or another it is the entire assemblage of people who pray at 770 plus many such cells around the world! Is there any other Shul in the world that has huge photos of anyone like the one's of Rebbe in 770?

I really do not buy the claims that many in Lubavitch make that this is just a few noisy ones that are the Meshichists and that the vast majority are not like this. It is more than a few. A lot more. This article sums it my view quite nicely:

No one really knows how many Lubavitchers believe that Schneerson is the messiah. It's been a mostly futile effort trying to quantify them, though some have tried methods like counting yellow flags. This is partly due to the gradations of belief among the messianists: While many believe that the rebbe's death was an illusion, there are some who accept it but are convinced that he will one day be resurrected; others who believe deeply that he is the messiah but don't publicize it, preferring to keep the whole thing a matter of the heart; and still others who aren't 100 percent sure either way but are afraid to really talk about it, since it has become such a contentious matter. And then there are those, like Kanevsky and Balulu, who proclaim their faith to everyone they meet.

So once again, before the next story like this appears in the media, I challenge Chabad leaders who think like Rabbi Shmotkin to do what’s necessary to rid Lubavitch of this scourge. It isn’t enough to say how successful their outreach program is.

It is successful. But they need to change their entire approach to Messianism vis-à-vis the Rebbe in any form and - repudiate all of it. They need to purge that thinking entirely from their philosophy - declaring it unacceptable in any form.

They have to gird themselves for war - the task of expelling all Messianists including any Shaliach - no matter where they are or how long they’ve been there from the movement - starting with the Shul at 770. And that includes removing all Messianist paraphernalia. They need to forbid any and all references to the Rebbe as Moshiach.

Alas, I doubt they will do this. But that is what they need to do if they are to regain the respect from the rest of Orthodox Jewry and prevent another article like this one from ever appearing again.