Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Pictures Don’t Lie

Just when I thought the Meshiach issue in Lubavitch was going underground, I was surprised to see that it is alive and well and in full bloom. One can see it in the pictures of the installation of Rabbi Yossi Braun as the new Rav and Dayan on Lubavitch’s mainstream Beis Din in Crown Heights. Those pictures show a ‘packed house’.

There were hundreds of Lubavitchers in attendance -some wearing Yechi Yarmulkees. But more telling are signs all over in both Hebrew and English declaring: Long live our master, our teacher, the Rebbe, the king Moshiach forever and ever. These were not some ad hoc signs put up by a few renegade Lubavitcher Meshichists. These were big signs prominently displayed behind the dais and elsewhere.

Meshichism is the most problematic thing about Lubavitch – the one that has caused much of the Yeshiva world to avoid all interaction with them – in many cases boycotting their Shuls, and in some cases avoiding their Shechita – as per the Psak of Rav Eliezer Menachem Man Shach.

This Meshichism has caused Telzer Rosh HaYeshiva Rabbi Chaim Dov Keller to write some of the harshest criticism he has ever written about any segment of observant Jewry including YU. Rabbi Dr. David Berger has completely condemned them and calls Orthodox indifference to it - a scandal!

I don’t think most Lubavitchers are aware of just how rejected they are by the Yeshiva world (and some parts of the Chasidic world). They make the claim that opposition is based on the venom of irrational Lubavitch haters who spread lies about them. And that it isn’t working in any case since they are so widely accepted by the mainstream. It is true that many in mainstream Orthodoxy do not boycott them. But in the world of Yeshivos most people do. It isn’t just a few crazy Lubavitch haters that causes this attitude but their Meshichism. A Meshichism that exists despite their best efforts to keep it quiet.

In their campaign to keep Lubavitch acceptable to mainstream Orthodox Jewry Lubavitcher Rabbanim – especially outside of Crown Heights - have gone to great lengths to show just how ‘anti’ Meshichist they are. They minimize their number claiming they are a small but vocal group centered in Israel.

But the pictures from Crown Heights give lie to that. It is obvious that all in attendance there feel perfectly fine with signs declaring their now deceased Rebbe to be the eternal Messiah. Among the huge crowd are Lubavitchers wearing Yarmulkes printed with those same words. All is fine. The new Dayan felt perfectly comfortable addressing his audience beneath a sign boldly proclaiming it.

Just to be clear, I am not being mean spirited about this. Please do not read this post this way. I am just being truthful in what I observe.

Nor do I God forbid hate any of them in any way. In fact on a personal level I actually like them very much. I live among them and consider many of them good friends and I think the feeling is mutual. They are some of the nicest people I know. Their dedication to Judaism and their fellow Jews is something for all of us to emulate. Most of my Lubavitch friends and acquaintances know the problem I have with their Meshichism. Frankly I don’t know why they put up with me.

I daven with them every morning and evening. I am in fact their Shaliach Tzibur most mornings. It is a true testament to their tolerance of even sharp criticism. But despite our friendship my strong objection to their Meshichism - or at least tolerance of it – remains unchanged and has been reinforced by these pictures. Rabbi Yossi Braun who may very well be an overt Meshichst is now a Dayan on their main Beis Din in Crown Heights. Those signs speak louder than words.

When you combine Messianic beliefs with a Kabalistic idea that their rabbinic leader is Atzmus U’Mahus Melubash BaGuf – the essence of God clothed in a body - you have one very dangerous formula for apostasy.

There is no hiding their messianic view of the Rebbe at some level. It is part and parcel of their belief system and it resides openly in their world headquarters in Crown Heights. Look at those pictures! They speak louder than any denial. It is now about 15 years after the Rebbe’s death. And the Meshichism is as strong as ever!