Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Chabad and the State of Israel

I have often said that Lubavitch’s views on the legitimacy of the State of Israel are the same as the those of the Satmar Rebbe. They in no way support it. They believe – as does Satmar - that if anything the creation of the State has (ironically for them) delayed Moshiach's coming rather than advanced it.

I was once told by a close friend of mine who was one of the Rebbe’s Shiluchim that this was indeed the case but that their public face was one of support for purposes of Kiruv. They view lying for purposes of outreach to be a valid form of serving God. The Shaliach’s attitude was - so what if it’s a lie? As long as you win them over on their terms who is harmed? Once they become Frum, and are integrated into the community, you tell them the truth - that Satmar and Lubavitch view the State of Israel in the same negative light.

When I have said this in the past, I was challenged by Lubavitchers who were upset (to put it mildly) that I accused them of lying or that they don’t support Israel. They pointed to many things Chabad does in Israel that shows tremendous support for the State. Including chaplaincies and even actual army service by some of them.

I have to admit, that Lubavitch is indeed well integrated into Israeli society. But I do not believe they support the government for ideological reasons. They do it entirely for pragmatic ones. Either to further outreach or to simply play by the rules for personal gain – like being able to work only after army service. Much like they play by the rules in America and around the world.

There is of course nothing wrong with that. But again the problem is one of deception. They want to give the image that they support the state and yet privately reject it.

This was demonstrated by the recent acceptance by a Chabad Shalaich in Israel to light one of the 12 torches "for the glory of the State of Israel". The image is one of complete acceptance. But not so in the inner circles of Lubavitch.

The following incident from a Chabad website that tells the story. It begins by describing an event with respect to the publication by the Shulsinger Brothers of a Chabad Calendar with Yom Ha’atzmaut noted in it. Chabad would not accept it. When the ‘proof’ was presented the Lubavitcher in charge of the project ‘he erased them so vigorously that not a trace remained of them’.

Of course this upset the publishers who after seeing the erasure tried to argue their case. But the Lubavithcer official remained firm and canceled the order. The publishers managed to get an appointment with the Rebbe to make their case – calling Yom Ha’atzmaut ‘Aschalta L’Geula’ – the beginning of our redemption. Here is the Rebbe’s response:

"Ischalta dGeula"? Chas V'Shalom! It was not the ischalta d'Geula!

The brothers began arguing: Nu, fine, it wasn't the beginning of the complete Geula, but it was still a day of salvation and redemption for the Jewish people! Why should it be erased?

Again, the Rebbe responded sharply: No! It was not a day of salvation and redemption for the Jewish people! (there were some other phrases which I don't remember now).

The brothers remained dissatisfied and even raised their voices (as they themselves told me), and tried to plead with the Rebbe that even if it wasn't an actual yeshua for the Jewish people, it was at least a festive day, and it represented salvation for many Jews.

I think the Rebbe also raised his voice - the talmidim in the yeshiva who sat in the small zal, not far from the yechidus room, said that they could hear the voices of the brothers the entire time, but then suddenly they could hear the Rebbe speaking loudly. This is what the Rebbe said which the brothers repeated to me:

"Not only is it not the ischalta d'Geula; not only is it not a Yom Tov and a day of salvation for the Jewish people etc. - but this delayed the Geula for such and such a number of tens of years!"…

That was when the brothers finally understood how the Rebbe regarded Zionism, with a "fanaticism that was greater than Satmar's"…

There you have it. Lubavitch is opposed to the State of Israel with ‘a fanaticism greater than Satmar’. This is pretty much what that Shaliach told me personally many years ago. I think that this fact ought to be recognized next time the State of Israel wants to give Lubavitch any honors. There ought to be truth in advertising. Even - and perhaps especially - when it comes to outreach.