Thursday, May 07, 2009

A Step in the Right Direction

HaRav Eliezar Man Shach, Rabbi Chaim Dov Keller, Rabbi Dr. David Berger, Rav Menashe Klein (The Ungvarer Rav). What do these four great but disparate Orthodox individuals have in common?

They have in common their outspoken opposition to Lubavitch Meshichism. Meshichism is the idea that their late Rebbe, Harav Menachem Mendel Schneersohn will in some way return from the dead to become the Messiah.

They have each in their own way taken a very strong public stand against this sad phenomenon in Lubavitch - a segment of Jewry that should otherwise be greatly admired. I have written about my own strong opposition to this phenomenon many times. And so have many other bloggers including the highly respected Rabbi Gil Student who authored a book refuting all the ‘proofs’ about their deceased Rebbe’s Messiahship.

The truth is that just about all of mainstream Orthodox rabbinic leadership outside of Lubavitch has a problem with this belief to one extent or another. The problem is that thus far they have mostly been silent on the issue. Lubavitch has used – or at least interpreted - that silence as evidence that their views about the Rebbe’s Messiahship are more or less acceptable.

Mainstream Lubavitch will tell you that they too are opposed to the Meshichists in their midst. But their opposition to Meshichism is a relative one. The vast majority actually believes that it is possible to devise a scenario where the late Lubavitcher Rebbe will be resurrected from the dead and fulfill his mission and then reveal that he is Moshiach.

Many Lubavitchers might admit that that scenario is unlikely. But they almost all insist that the view is legitimate and even normative - although there are some heroic ones who do reject that notion entirely.

I’m not going to get into whether that scenario is in any way a legitimate Torah approach. Suffice it to say that never in the history of Judaism since the destruction of the second Temple was that a mainstream belief. There was never an era that promoted one of its deceased rabbinic leaders – no matter how great - as returning from the dead to become Moshiach. There are many reasons why this is so. But not for now.

Thus far the only one who has called the silence and relative indifference of Orthodox leadership a scandal is Dr. Berger. He spelled that out very clearly in his book on the subject.

The current reality is that Meshichism had died down a bit as an issue. I believe this to be the result of two factors. One is that enough time has passed since the Rebbe’s passing to have cooled things down a bit. Passions about his death have declined and have been re-invested in the ‘work’ of Lubavitch – bring Judaism to Jews all over the world. True - it is a the Lubavitcher form of Judaism. But it is Judaism nonetheless. This is to their great credit. But it comes at a price. Meshichism is still very much a part of their theology. And that is passed along to the people they bring to observance at some point in their relationship with them.

Silence and relative indifference has been the status quo - until now! From

The Ungvarer Rov, Harav Menashe Klein shlit”a, has denounced the messianic group within Chabad in a new sefer. In his 17th volume of Mishnah Halachos, Harav Klein states that people who believe that the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rav Menachem Mendel Schneerson, is still alive, as “apikorsim.”The head of the Ungar kehillah Yeshiva Bais Shearim in Boro Park, Brooklyn, Harav Klein knew the Lubavitcher Rebbe before he assumed leadership of the Lubavitch movement.

“This sect of crazies, which falsify the Torah and our sages’ words, to say the Moshiach is dead but is really alive… these are things against our holy Torah,” says Harav Klein, echoing the sentiments and shitos of numerous gedolei Torah v’yirah of the last decades.
Harav Klein’s words are an answer to a messianic booklet, which is not identified by name.

Harav Klein continues to write: “Whoever can, should as soon as possible, silence and stop the proclamations after or before the prayers ‘Yechi… King Moshiach’ which is a disgrace to the Rebbe of blessed memory.”

I welcome Rav Klein as a new addition and voice in this cause. One can hardly call him a Lubavitch basher - or ‘snag’ as many Lubavitchers call Lubavitch bashers.

I believe that the word ‘snag’ is a sort of contraction or slang for the word Misnagid - a Hebrew word meaning ‘those are opposed’. That’s what Orthodox Jews who first opposed Chasidus were called. Like the Vilna Gaon who led that opposition.

Rav Klein hardly qualifies as a ‘snag’. I’m told that He was very close with the late Lubavitcher Rebbe. He strongly supports their work. That is obvious in the concluding paragraph:

Harav Klein concludes with a plea: “My intentions are holy - not to destroy the big building the Rebbe of blessed memory built for over 50 years.. may he be an advocate for us and for all the Jewish people, especially his students and chassidim.”

To this I say, ‘Amen’.