Thursday, June 21, 2018

Messianism – Alive and Well in Chabad

'Giant gathering! Messiah in the square' says the poster
I thought the issue was dead and buried…  just like their leader, R’ Menachem Mendel Schneerson – the 7th and last Lubavitcher Rebbe who died nearly 25 years ago. But that, it seems, is far from the case. Certainly in Israel but even in America. There are still plenty of Lubavitchers that believe the Rebbe will have a 2nd coming as Moshiach (the Messiah) – arising from the dead  ‘to lead  us out of this bitter Galus’ …as they put it. Or that he is still alive lying in wait - hidden until he reappears as Moshiach.

I can already hear my friends from Lubavitch (and I have many) complaining about this – as they do every time I deal with it. Which is rare these days. They will say, that what I see is a small insignificant minority of Luabvitchers who eyes are glazed over. And that they said should be ignored. 

I have indeed pretty much ignored them for a long time. Most of my more recent posts about Lubavitch were in the form of richly deserved praise for a variety of their accomplishments. I have ignored the Meshichist issue in part because I had personally witnessed a purge years ago of the Meshcihist element from Bnei Ruven, the mainstream Lubavitch Shul here in Chicago. 

They were virtually ‘kicked out’ of the Shul  and banned from Davening there. The Meshichists started their own Shul called ‘Bais Moshiach’ and are pretty much ignored by mainstream Lubavitch here. True - they are a very small group. But they exist and have existed for many years. They are not going away. I believe they still have their own ‘underground’ Meshichist girls high school. 

But Bnei Ruven has of late seen some card carrying Meshichists reappear. They are easily identified by the ‘Yechi’ Kipa they wear  proclaiming in Hebrew ‘Long live our master, our teacher, and our Rebbe, the King Messiah forever and ever’! - printed around the Kipa’s border. No one is kicking them out. 

The Yechi refrain was created just before the Rebbe died. He had been strongly emphasizing his belief that Moshiach’s arrival was imminent. Most of his Chasidim  believed that the Rebbe would soon reveal himself as Moshiach – waiting for a sign from heaven to do so. Although he denied it he never discouraged them from saying it. Even in his presence. Small wonder they believed he was. They probably explained his denial on his great humility.

That was a foolish enough notion to have when he was still alive since he was clearly not seen that way outside of Lubavitch. When he died - that should have ended it. But some of the truly faithful reinterpreted various sources to show that he could still be Moshiach arising from the dead.  Some believed that he hadn’t even died. That he was still alive somewhere much the same way that Eliyahu HaNavi is. Waiting for the right moment to show up and proclaim the mantel of Messiah. 

Some Lubavitchers went off the rails dancing and singing upon hearing of his death. They believed that this was just another step in the process of his ultimate Messiahship.

The more rational majority of Chabad understood that he died. However, few if any saw this as an end to belief that he could arise in a 2nd coming. Some thought he definitely would. Some thought he might. Some even thought it unlikely. But to the best of my knowledge – none of them rejected at least the possibility of his return as Moshiach even while admitting it was highly unlikely. I believe that is the majority view. But, not it appears for the Meshichists in 770 and in Israel. Which is a source of great pain to the mainstream. They are practically at war with these Meshichists as noted by their expulsion from Bnei Ruven. The mainstream understand that these beliefs make outreach difficult if not impossible.

‘770’ is  their headquarters in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. It is called 770 because of the address: 770 Eastern Parkway. 770 is the geographic epicenter of Chabad/Lubavitch. It is dominated by the Meshichist element. No one denies this. It has been the case since the Rebbe’s death almost 25 years ago.

In Israel the problem is even greater. I don’t know the proportion of Meshichist versus non Meshichists, but there is no doubt about who is the most publicly active in promoting their views. It is clearly the Meshichsists. When in Israel you can’t help but notice pictures,  posters, signs,  and even billboards with a picture of the Rebbe in a messianic ‘Yechi’ context.They are all over Israel.

Which brings me to a post on Rafi’s Life in Israel blog. It had to do with the issue of discriminatory practices against religious Jews by the municipality of Tel Aviv. I agree with Rafi’s implication that there was prejudice in that case - probably for the reasons he stated.

But the 800 pound gorilla in that post is a poster advertising an event organized by Chabad in Israel: The yearly celebration of the  6th  Lubavitcher Rebbe's release from prison. It is impossible not to see the Messianic component of that poster. It overwhelms the actual event they were advertising. It was about welcoming Moshiach’s arrival. Moshiach of course being their Rebbe. It was accompanied by the standard ‘Yechi’ proclamation and a large picture of the Rebbe. 

This is no small gathering. It was to be gala event in Tel Aviv’s ‘Rabin square’ featuring many performers. 

I guess to Rafi and others living in Israel this is so common that it isn’t even worth mentioning.

I continue to challenge my good friends in Lubavitch about their claim that their Meshichists are just a few off the wall ‘crazies’ long ago dismissed by their mainstream. That may be how they see them personally. But events like this contradict their claim that they are insignificant and that nobody pays any attention to them.

As does the obvious fact that after nearly 25 years, mainstream Lubavitch has yet to expel the Meshichists from 770.  The excuse that they don’t like to use violence and have otherwise tried to do that has lost credibility with me. Their Shiluchim (emissaries sent out to all corners of the globe for purposes of outreach) still meet at that location every year. If they are so opposed, then 25 years is more than enough time for them to have done something about it. That they have tolerated it for so long shows that perhaps they are not as upset about it as they claim.

I want to be clear. I am not here to bash or embarrass Chabad. My entire purpose is for their leadership to take a hard look at what is really going; to realize how others really see them; and to finally do whatever it takes to fix this.