Wednesday, August 08, 2012

The Rebbe's Vanguard - The Juggernaut of Chabad

The word "Moshichist" I first heard a Chabad chassid use disparagingly. He felt the Rebbe died a natural death and those who believe otherwise are, by sheer force of logic that Nature exerts, delusional.

This Jew feels his camp aligns with integrity of thought. Until the 3rd of Tammuz he too believed the Rebbe as most qualified for rank of Moshiach. But once Nature intervened, this proved the exalted expectation never materialized. God had someone else in mind. In effect, we were forced into a new wait-state, fresh to consider whomever else comes forth to prove himself a worthy candidate.

He too believes some abstract notions transcend Nature, such as belief in God, or that God gave Jews the Torah at Mount Sinai, and therefore prayers to an invisible God, or wearing tzitzis, for example, merit indulgence; But that a man of flesh and blood after burial can remain "alive and well" - this his mind will not tolerate. Here he draws the line between foolishness and sanity. "Moshichism", he thinks, renders its adherents somewhat insane, a camp he regards with disdain.

He takes comfort in pragmatism. He avoids complicated reasoning raised by Moshichists, mind-bending issues of the Rebbe embracing the supernatural. He is aware many issues in the holy Jewish literature relate to King Moshiach and the Messianic Era, but these became impractical because God denied such status to the Rebbe. He thinks the Rebbe's "crowning" as Moshiach was based on mere hope by a bunch of hopefuls. Pragmatists like himself took a wait-and-see attitude - especially after the Rebbe suffered a second stroke that sapped his vitality.

This point is key, because it takes us back in time - to BEFORE the 3rd of Tammuz. Most Chabad chassidim, based on all the Rebbe said since he assumed leadership, had regarded the Rebbe as Moshiach. Even those today who consider the Rebbe dead - also shared that view. So what axe fell that hewed Chabad into two?

On the 3rd of Tammuz, 5754, Chabad reached a watershed. What ostensibly appeared as a homogenous Chabad community emerged from that day's prism split into a dichotomy. Hidden reservations that the Rebbe was Moshiach, or, conversely, strong convictions that he was, once latent and unnoticed, now emerged and contrasted in bold relief.

Accordingly, from that day on the conversation in both camps also changed radically.

For one camp, their "Moshiach bubble" burst. All booming talk of the Rebbe as Moshiach collapsed. The doubts they harbored before the 3rd of Tammuz now seem justified. This group would not deny Nature. Perhaps the Rebbe remains alive - but only in soul. The real Moshiach candidate has been thrown up for grabs. At best, the Rebbe might be brought back to life if God so wills it, but they won't be betting this long shot.

All their talk of Moshiach now, if the subject is broached, dresses itself decidedly in generic fashion. This group's conversation has become rather indistinct from most other orthodox circles.

Another striking resemblance this group shares with other orthodox, non-Chabad circles is their comfort level with Messianic vagueness. The 3rd of Tammuz released the tension they felt in casting the Rebbe into a Moshiach mold. Like a burden removed from the shoulder, this group regained a relaxed composure; No longer do they feel vulnerable grappling with the identity of Moshiach; Finally this irritating issue they could toss into oblivion.

Yes, these people pray about Moshiach daily; But then they leave Moshiach in the siddur - once they close it.

So how would we characterize this group's belief in the Rebbe BEFORE the 3rd of Tammuz? Until that day they figured that - "CHANCES ARE the Rebbe MIGHT be Moshiach".

The other camp, in sharp contrast, never doubted anything the Rebbe said. If something he said did not square with rationale, they would keep these words nearby so one day they could discover their intent and tie things together. Never did they bear doubt on what the Rebbe said. The Rebbe's words resonated for them with absolute precision and absolute truth. ALWAYS they held the Rebbe's words tightly to their bosom.

Incredibly, this group believes no essential change occurred that Tammuz day; The Rebbe's apparent burial had no impact whatsoever on the Rebbe's actual reality. If facts of Nature seems to clash with what the Rebbe taught, it's because fleshy eyes cannot perceive absolute truth. These chassidim cling to the supernatural prospect that the Rebbe remains alive in body! The Jewish people, as a "body", cannot be without a "head". The Rebbe, therefore, until today, remains the physical "head" of the Jewish people.

They believe that day in Tammuz marks the first day of a precursor period that will usher in the final Era of Redemption. It marks the start-time of a trial period for believers like themselves to disregard Nature's apparent facade. The generation of Moses failed this waiting-test with the sin of the Golden Calf in the last hours prior to Moses' reappearance. This group is banking on the Rebbe until the outcome is plain for all to see.

They have what to bank on. For example, several stories in Talmud tell of sages who died yet remained physically alive (e.g., Yaacov our forefather, Rabbi Yehuda Hanassi, Rabbi Eliezer the son of the Rashbi). Many authoritative sources, ranging from Midrashim to latter-day sages such as Rashi, Ramban, Chassam Sofer and Rabbi Bechayei predict such a scenario before Moshiach's final debut. The Torah itself and the Holy Books too (e.g., Chanoch, sons of Korach, Eliyahu, Chiram, Daniel) invoke the phenomenon of escaping death. The Rebbe discussed many of these supernatural circumstances.

Relegating Nature to inferior status vis-a-vis the supernatural truth intimated by the Rebbe resonates from and characterizes this Chabad group's conversation. In fact, this articulation is what gives Chabad its current distinctive ring.

So how would we characterize this group's belief about the Rebbe BEFORE the 3rd of Tammuz? They believed that - "FOR SURE the Rebbe WAS Moshiach". The former group fostered a doubt and, for them, the Rebbe's spark extinguished. The latter group holds every word of his sacred and, for them, the spark of Moshiach energizes them.

The prophet Daniel tells us that before Moshiach's revelation, truth and falsity will become evident. Like a crucible used to purify gold and purge it of foreign elements, the period prior to Moshiach's revelation will give truth buoyancy, separating it from untruth. This inevitability does not spare Chabad. That which inherently lurked as doubt in the Rebbe, after the 3rd of Tammuz manifested in a demotion in the Rebbe's rank. Those for whom the Rebbe's aura of Moshiach was palpable, after the 3rd of Tammuz rejoiced in an ideal deemed to be on track, with ever greater anticipation.

So Chabad today constitutes two groups of stark contrast. Whereas they wear the same wear, pray the same prayer and walk the same walk, they talk a different talk.

The majority in Chabad feel uncomfortable touting the Rebbe as Moshiach. This majority group represents the "stragglers" of Chabad, the ones who by dint of inheritance hang on to their Chabad namesake - and not because they think differently from their non-Chabad, orthodox brethren. They will begrudgingly admit the Rebbe is best suited to be knighted as Moshiach, but only when "cornered". The other group, smaller but with powerful conviction, represents the vanguard of Chabad. This group today projects the Messianic ideology, and, paradoxically, the entire world, both Jewish and Gentile, attributes this as characteristic of Chabad - the whole of Chabad! It's a case of minority representation receiving all of the spotlight. Chabad and Moshichism are synonymous. Opposition to the Rebbe being Moshiach, if ever vented, hardly makes a dent on world impression. Opposition to a Messianic Chabad segment remains a vapid narrative, one that cannot be made to stick.

This is the result of divine providence. For all its history, Chabad had been the cutting edge of Jewish revival and still represents the front line forging the way for the Jewish community to prepare itself for Moshiach.

That a large part of Chabad fell by the wayside after the 3rd of Tammuz, is unfortunate. Strangely enough, most of these proponents originate from Chabad families that predated the Rebbe's leadership. But the great majority of Chabadniks who "enlisted" during the Rebbe's leadership, hundreds of thousands - remain behind the Rebbe as Moshiach. These represent the major bulk of the Chabad vanguard. Many of those with "older roots", for some strange reason, fell in with the "stragglers" group.

There are some Chabad emissaries who admit they refrain advocating the Rebbe's Messianic agenda for fear of "turning off" potential financial benefactors, thinking their benefactors would not tolerate such "absurd" talk. Such Chabad folk also fall in with the "stragglers" group for they lack the spirit to push the Rebbe's cause and, furthermore, they deny the Rebbe's assertion that, if presented sensibly,
"the world is ready to accept Moshiach!".

Despite this perceived dichotomy in Chabad, it is a non-issue. The very fact that Chabad continues to forge ahead as a catalyst for Moshiach's agenda, even as these advocates represent a minority, provides ample testimony that Chabad's core values have not been compromised and remain on target. Detractors cannot gain traction. Divine providence has ruled them out, despite their majority. No matter how disparate the two groups' opinions, the spotlight remains in focus, with nothing to hinder the juggernaut of Moshiach, as the minority group leads the pack.

A brief history of Chabad deserves review. Nine generations ago, the Ba'al Shem Tov got the go-ahead to illuminate Jewry with the new light of Chassidus. The purpose was to rouse them from their stupor wrought by two millennia of exile and to pave the way for Moshiach's arrival. Thoughts of Moshiach were stifled subconsciously, even taboo for fear of shams. People needed again to appreciate the purpose for which the world was created in the first place. The major thrust for this awareness and philosophy came from the Chabad Rebbeim. For the last 7 generations Chabad has been the forefront of chassidic/Messianic Judaism. Other chassidic sects rested on their laurels with the chassidus they acquired, but Chabad campaigned yet harder every generation to prepare all of Jewry for the Era of Moshiach and Redemption.

Each of the seven Rebbeim outdid his predecessor by a geometric order of magnitude in spreading chassidus. For example, the Previous Rebbe, after firing up his chassidim to self-sacrifice for Judaism in the Soviet Union, moved to North America, where religious Judaism hung on a hair. As soon as he arrived, the Previous Rebbe began bulldozing the continent with chassidus and heralding the advent of Moshiach. His son-in-law, the 7th and present Rebbe, surpassed these efforts and dispatched emissaries to nearly every corner on the face of the globe where a Jew would step foot. Often these volunteer emissaries are newlyweds, starting out on a dime and setting up a new life of self-sacrifice for the sake of helping other Jews appreciate Torah tradition. By now Chabad has taken the world by storm and the words "The Rebbe" and "Moshiach" have become household names. Even Gentiles can be included in the know.

The Rebbe, the moment he accepted leadership of Chabad in 1951, asserted that his generation merited a favored status (by being the 7th) and would merit to usher in the Era of Redemption. While the topic of Moshiach was always pronounced, from about 1988 almost every talk the Rebbe gave intimated that he, the leader of the generation, was Moshiach. He never said so point blank, but his strong hints could be explained in no other way. He explained that Moshiach, as a king, must be "given life" and appointed by the people. "There can be no king without a common folk appointing him over them", he would say. Many chassidim therefore accepted the Rebbe's role as King Moshiach. In fact, about two years before the 3rd of Tammuz, many Chabad rabbis signed a Jewish legal decree assigning Messianic sovereign sanction to the Rebbe.

Since its inception, Chabad always served as the dominating factor for revitalizing Judaism. In the beginning they had to fight the bitter Misnagdim. Then, with self-sacrifice, they fought against the atheistic Communist repression. Later, in the free world, Chabad extended itself to prevent Jews from undergoing assimilation. And always, as now, Moshiach remained a major agenda, every generation ratcheting up its dissemination.

God's plan for the world has not changed. He created the world for becoming a utopia for the Jewish people and righteous Gentiles. The body of this collective union has a head - the Rebbe - the Moshiach! The Rebbe, to take this agenda from its embryonic state to full birth, sculpted a final dynamic blueprint to achieve this end. That movement today defines the vanguard of Chabad. That Chabad movement is the tugboat pushing the world to meet its utopic destiny into the port called The Era of the Final and Ultimate Redemption. And may it happen speedily - in our days!

The irony in the disparaging view alluded to earlier is apropos. Just as Judaism some 10 generations ago was torn by the introduction of Chassidic teachings, and, despite mighty forces to denigrate the initiative, as by use of the disparaging term "Chassid", a name opposers themselves adopted for the mockery, Chassidism in the end thrives and all opposition to it effectively fell away over the years, to the extent that the once-disparaging term today has become an honorary label. A similar irony manifests today with the so-called term "Moshichist", which also originated among detractors as a label of scorn, yet, in the end, cannot help but become a label of distinction, one everyone will proudly adopt, because the outcome - belonging to Moshiach's circle - will not be denied; After all, it's God's plan for His universe. Every Jew prays for the rebuilding of the Beit Hamikdash, but the master purveyor in those days of glory will be none other than King Moshiach, and for none other than for every single Jew in the entire world.


joe zamboe said...

Having read your long essay, I am highly disappointed by your disparaging remarks about the majority of Chabad chassidim. You may not agree with their position, but that does not make them stragglers. You make it sound as if they are stupid or ignorant or doubters or chickens refusing to admit what they really know or should know. How dare you!

Almost all the chassidim appointed to positions within Chabad by the Rebbe and the heads of the Rebbe's modos and the shluchim all over the world who are devoting their lives to the Rebbe are in that group -- they are the real Chabad. Meanwhile the disgusting violence and fighting of the so-called Mishochists makes me realize that they are wrong. More than anything except perhaps moshiach, the Rebbe called for avoiding machlokes and ahavas yisroel.

Even if you are correct about Gimmel Tammuz, you are like the thousands of talmidim of Rabbi Akiva who died because they refused to respect the opinion of others.

in the vanguard said...

Right, Yosef.

My point, that the Rebbe's army of soldiers pushes the cause of "Rebbe equals accepting Moshiach", which the Rebbe clearly established for all Chabad to take note, on Shabbos Chayei Sarah 1992. Then and there he gave us all his marching orders. Those who want to back off, I call stragglers.

The Rebbe intimated: "You're not carrying through with your mission - unless you follow these orders".

"Stupid" - no!
"Ignorant" - perhaps.
"Doubters" - certainly.
"Chickens" - some, yes.

How dare I? Frankly, I'm doing what I think the Rebbe wants me to do.

In your last two paragraphs, you vent emotion - and to that I will not respond.

David Gorbasho said...

I read your meanderings. My one main comment is that I am of the opinion that talking about the negative gives it more energy. I do not mean that we “should” cover our eyes and cover our ears, but somehow by projecting Love and Goodness we will swallow up the negative forever. Last night during our 20 Av 5772 Farbrengen, when our rabbis were lauding the superhuman abilities and accomplishments of Reb Levi Yitzchok, all I could think about was that his being the father of Moshiach, is a praise that truly explains who he is.

in the vanguard said...

David, if negativity you detect, it is my fault, although I hold no negativity in my heart because I'm no better than the next. I mused about the dictum, somewhere in Talmud, where the minority carries the majority. After all, 770 reverberates every day with Yechi whereas many shuls in the community find it distasteful. Chabad chassidim ALL want Moshiach, for who does not want a utopia, only that the road to get there isn't unanimously agreed upon. And this is what I expressed. But I made sure, or rather tried to dissuade any provocateur from taking advantage of my words.

By the way, reading about Rebbetzin Chana also is quite amazing. Thanks for your comment.

Tidbits of Torah said...

Too many of us rely on our senses so much that if we see an object, then it exists. Our senses alone confirm its existence.

Thus, how can we relate to a discipline centered on matters beyond our senses and even our intellect? ......

Kabbalistic concepts may seem incomprehensible. But if the scholar realizes the limits of his intelligence, he will learn to perceive with his intellect, i.e., to relate to intangibles. He will confirm things with his intellect, not only with his senses.

Let us use an analogy. As we know, there are heavenly bodies light years away from us. Through a telescope, an astronomer sees a star. He can even photograph it. He is positive the star exists. However, mathematical calculations indicate that this star burned up a long time ago, and only because it is several light years away does the astronomer sees its light, moving at the speed of light. Thus, our senses can mislead us, and only our intellect can ascertain the truth. Reality is determined by the mind, not the senses.

"Long Live Our Master, Our Teacher, Our Rebbe, King Moshiach Forever and Ever!"

in the vanguard said...


It's well known in Chassidic literature, as when, for example, explaining the phrase מבשרי אחזה אלוה, that in the future, when deeper into the Messianic era, when the the world will be thrust into a higher realm of holiness, we will sense divinity at a much higher level of acuity than we can now sense it, if at all, so much so that G-dliness will be apparent even from tissue other than from the usual visual apparatus, something that sounds absurd to anyone who insists the world was meant to remain forever as mundane as it is today.

Thanks so much for that keen physical analogy.