Thursday, August 16, 2012

Chabad Stragglers - Not Giving it All They Ought

When it comes to averting temptation, orthodox Jews have an unusual risk factor for transgression.

Normally the "Evil Inclination", which sends its communiques from the heart to the brain, does it rather unabashedly; At best, it modifies the recommendation to make it appear respectable. The challenge for the Jew is simply to erase the notion from his mind and supplant the idea with a permissible one. An example is talking in the synagogue. Rather than pursuing small talk in this holy place, the Jew can revert to communion with God Almighty.

The religious Jew, however, can get this occasional dispatch to his psyche from an unsuspecting source - an ostensibly religious-appearing Evil Inclination. This makes determination of the activity, whether permissible or not, whether "kosher" or not, more difficult to decipher. The sin suggested thereby, cloaked as a religious undertaking, can appear quite admirable, even outright holy.

A good example of this is when the seemingly virtuous behavior is untimely. But because it looks right, aside from the timing, the person can be deceived and fall for the Evil Inclination's trap.

Such a case we find in Torah (Num.14:39-45). The spies had polluted the minds of Jews and convinced them to resist entry into the Land of Israel. God then struck the spies dead and Moses rebuked the people, telling them of their punishment, which entailed extending their desert sojourn to 40 years and that only the next generation shall merit entry into the Holy Land.

After the rebuke, many Jews felt a sincere change of heart. So, with a new surge of faith in God and a feeling of surety that God's entrusted gift of The Land will not be denied, they arose early next morning and en masse began a hasty climb towards the Holy Land to undo their mistake, looking to force themselves through enemy territory and burst through into The Land of Israel.

Moses warned them to halt but they persisted with their "holy" mission. The result was a massacre at the hands of the enemy.

Why did these brave warriors meet with such a bitter end? After all, their cause was a most worthy one. Were they not extremely inspired with a new faith in God and a profound trust they will succeed? Did they not show love for the Holy Land? Did they not express terrible regret and grief for forsaking the wishes of God? And, is this not the very reason for which Jews left Egypt in the first place?

Here, then, is the lesson that should not be lost on readers of this portion of Torah. The problem was - they went against the exhortation of Moses, the leader of the generation. Moses said
"Do not go!" and they figured they could proceed nevertheless, feeling justified with new-found faith and trust in God.

But the leader of the generation knows what others know nothing about; Timing, for example.

When the leader of the generation, the "head" of the Jewish "body" says to do one thing, and Jews, on their own, under the very best intentions, even holy intentions, think they can one up on their leader's instruction - here lies an impending source for disaster. To rely on one's own brain and overrule the wishes of the Leader of the Generation (נשיא הדור) spells FORFEITURE. This is the lesson to learn of this Torah episode.

The leader of our generation, on Shabbat Chayei-Sarah, 1992, announced a new provision for his followers. The entire talk he devoted to this purpose. He said to his listeners they should promote the "acceptance of the countenance of Moshiach" as a main point, as the only framework from which to operate all other Chabad activity. All light they project must emanate from this focal point. He did not say to halt any activities that bring Jews closer to the religious fold. No. These, he said, should continue. But he did say these activities should not proceed unless they first have been threaded through the porthole called "Accepting the Countenance of Moshiach" (see here). First things first. First comes the idea of "Accepting Moshiach". Then, and only then, once this Messianic notion is wafted, can any Chabad interaction be one the Rebbe recommends. In fact, said the Rebbe, in order for such activity to be branded as a mission of Chabad, it first must undergo this Messianic initiation. Such was the Rebbe's directive on that Sabbath day.

Simply put, it can go something like this: Say you want to put Tefillin on someone.
"Do you know we live in a special generation?"
"How so?"
"Because in our generation Moshiach will show up to redeem the Jewish people. Do you know who the Messiah is?"
"Nope. Who?"
"My feeling is - it's my Rabbi, the Lubavitcher Rebbe."

Now go ahead and don the tefillin. You will thereby have launched your interaction from a Messianic framework.

Of course, that precursor narrative must conform to the peculiarities assessed in the target - so the listener can appreciate the message. The Rebbe relies on the gut instincts of the Chabadnik. The message should be delivered appropriately, and not in a wild manner.

There are those in Chabad who continue, in good faith, rendering friendly services to fellow Jews. And for this they must be commended. However, if they circumvent the threading of their activities through the proper precursor framework, they effectively short-circuit the desire of the Rebbe, the leader of our generation - and fail in their mission.



  2. You are, frankly, out of your mind. Nothing would turn unaffiliated Jews further away from Yiddishkeit and Chabad than what you just wrote.

  3. Say why Finrod. I might then give your comment some merit.