Wednesday, March 18, 2009

It's always hakhel!

One of the difficult things about being a kofer is that there are so many opinions out there in this religion of ours, it's almost impossible not to find one you can agree with and cherish. Take for example Birkas Hachamah, which is taking the blogosphere (and hence the world) by storm, affecting even this little corner of the universe, the Machon L'Horaah of Morristown, New Jersey. A large argument ensued about the sun, the moon, the stars, etc, and the Rebbe's opinion was brought up.

Rabbi Chaim Schapiro, our benevolent leader, mentioned a letter he has seen. Rabbi Klass wrote in the Jewish Press forty or fifty years ago that the earth goes around the sun. The Lubavitcher Rebbe ostensibly (we'll get to that later) wrote a letter protesting this assumption and explained that according to Mr. Einstein it was impossible to prove either way (two bodies circling one another, impossible to ever prove which one is circling which). Rabbi Klass wrote back (presumably in an article) asking if the Rebbe denied that the earth was rotating on its axis! The Rebbe (again ostensibly) wrote back that no, the earth certainly rotated around its axis, but what he held regarding the movement of the sun and the earth remained.

The reason this is all ostensible is because these letters were never sent, or were possibly never sent, or something like that. They're in the collection of R' Nissan Mangel, him of the infamous Ethiopian debacle (cf. Scott) so their validity could be questioned.

Be that as it may, Rabbi Schapiro said that he used to be a big kanoi when it came to this issue (earth rotation) but now he's not. Besides, as he explained, science proves that it's true.

The only difficulty with accepting earth rotation is that it appears to negate the Rabbis' concept of the galgal hatshi'i, which was what used to be the alternative to earth rotation. The simple answer to this issue is that in fact the galgal hatshi'i is the Rabbi's way of saying earth rotation! So now everyone's happy.

Why does this all matter? First of all, it's always a good thing to figure out what exactly we believe in. The Rabbis say some pretty wild things in the aggadata, but once you learn that most of them are allegorical, faith is easier to handle. So too here-I never understood how it was possible to say that the earth was not moving, but now I don't have to. Yes, this is bordering on apologetics, but that's why I'm not the one doing it. When the Lubavitcher Rebbe clarifies a matter of belief that's one thing; when TRS does it, well, that's another matter entirely.

I'll conclude with a famous story. A professor was once told by his Shliach that the Rebbe held that the sun rotated around the earth. The professor was so shocked out of his boxers that he wrote into the Rebbe, "I can't believe that a man as intelligent as you could possibly think that the sun goes around the earth. I'm so confident that you'll tell me that you don't believe such things that I told the Shliach (Zushe Weiner I believe) that if you do I'll put on tefillin for the rest of my life!" Boy was he surprised when he got the Rebbe's answer.

Postscript: I just watched next week's Living Torah, and there's a great story from Yisrael Gordon which ends, "Then we realized that our shul was special. Not only was Hashem there, but also great tzaddikim. We knew we had to behave differently."

Isn't that a great line? I know that some people have in recent days gotten very angry with me for writing things that might provoke our brothers of a snaggish persuasion to hate us-and Rabbi Gordon says it for all the world to see! I can just imagine a snag saying, "What! By you tzaddikim are more important than Hashem!?"

It's great, no?

40 comments:

Anonymous said...

Some accuracies:

1) It's R' Nissen Mindel z"l, not R' Nissen Mangel, may he live and be well.

2) The Shliach in the last story was close in geography.. It's R' Shraga Feivel Rimler (also in Brighton Beach). Here's a link to the original correspondence (pages 43-47):

http://www.teshura.com/teshurapdf/Rimler-Schneider%20Sivan%2014%205765.pdf

Check out some additional references on this topic from the Rebbe, listed on p. 47 there.

Dovid said...

TRS, kol hakavod, very nice post. I remember in Montreal, our mashpia said that there is no Earth rotation. Prior to that I always thought yeish Earth rotation v'eyn Earth around Sun orbit. Would be interesting to see that letter. Why is the letter's validity in question, because scott fizzled out after he read one? That shouldn't make the validity of the letter suspect.

Modeh B'Miktsas said...

"What! By you tzaddikim are more important than Hashem!?"

(cut and pasted no less)

The Real Shliach said...

Anon: thanks.

Dovid: the validity is in question because...was it ever sent? Maybe the Rebbe didn't send it for a reason? Bichlal who knows what the letter's provenance is...I'm not saying it's not true, it just needs some clarification.

Modeh: shocking, I know.

Dovid said...

wow, provenance, I had to google that one. Ok I get what the problem is with the letters.

MS said...

I generally enjoy your blog and perspective, but there's one aspect of young Chabad that I find repellant, and that is the hypocrisy of saying "we love everyone" and stressing Ahavas Yisrael, while in the next breath using words like "snag" and putting down anyone who doesn't daven the same nusach. That's not something you can honestly justify by saying "they started it", or "they probably say the same things about us", because this is not about anyone else; it's about your personal integrity.


Although I'm not Lubavitch, I daven in a Chabad shul. There are many beautiful things about Chabad, but I gotta tell ya - this ain't one of them. When I see you preaching love and then practicing hate, I lose respect for you and for your message.

The Real Shliach said...

Dovid: You learn new things every day, eh?

MS: When did I put down people who daven a different nusach? I mean sure, our nusach is the best (as it says in Tehillas Hashem), but I can't remember ever saying that to anyone.

As for your comments about preaching love and practicing hate...I seem to deal with this every four minutes or so. It is what it is. I don't hate any Jew, but I do make fun of stereotypes. The above comment, for example, was, I think, obviously made in jest. Our resident Litvak (Modeh) certainly thought so.

MS said...

It actually wasn't just this post that I was referring to; I've been hearing young Lubavichers use the word "snag" all too often, and your more recent posts have been increasingly negative.

It's not about the nusach either. You can't pretend to represent the Jewish people when your attitude marginalizes anyone who isn't exactly like you (that's where the nusach came in). The attitude I see is, "if you're not Lubavitch you must be a snag, poor you". I guess this attitude is useful for those with low self-esteem, but for the rest of you, what are you doing? Pointing fingers at people who aren't like you and giving them a label other than "Jew".

That's it for now. Sorry for the rant.

The Real Shliach said...

They have been? Really? Whoops. (I mean that).

All all the Jews at my Jew school who used to call me "Lubav"? OK, I realize that's unfair, and doesn't answer anything. Listen, what do you want me to tell you?

Happens to be I had a conversation with a Lubavitcher I respect recently and I was sounding a bit like you, and he pointed out, hey, we're Lubavitch and we believe we're the best! So sorry, that's the way it goes. Doesn't mean anyone else is bad, just...

MS said...

"hey, we're Lubavitch and we believe we're the best"

That's just an excuse to tell himself that there is any real difference between him and any other Jew, because "we're better than you". That creates artificial distinctions between the majority of Jews and Lubavitch.

Most mainstream frum people I know ("snags" in your language, "Jewish" in mine), whether they are Yeshivish, MO, or any other flavor can accept people from other group without turning their lifestyle into a competition. What gives any Jew the right to look down on any other Jew?


And yes, I know there are also people who are unkind, and act derogatorily toward Lubavich. But that's not the standard mainstream (non-Lubavitch) view, whereas in Lubavitch it's perfectly normal to have an elitist outlook, as evidenced by, "hey, we're Lubavitch and we believe we're the best"... which gives you license to bash anyone else because they're, well, just so darn inferior.

Just so I don't get too far off my original point, I like Chabad, and think it has a lot to offer. But this is a disturbing trend that I see among the younger set (10-30 years) and I hope people realize the long-term damage this can cause before it's too late.

Throughout our history, the way we've gotten through the difficult times is by sticking together, no matter what our differences may be.

The Real Shliach said...

The simplest answer I can give you is that in fact the vast majority of Lubavitchers believe that their way is the best way, the same way the vast majority of Lubavitchers believe the Rebbe is Moshiach. At the same time, the vast majority of Lubavitchers won't admit to either of these things. Why? Because they're not PC.

Think about it. If Lubavitch is not the best, then what right do we have to proselytize to anyone else? For that matter, every group believes it's the best, and believes that they have discovered the best way of serving Hashem. Maybe they're too smart to say it, but they certainly believe it.

MS said...

"If Lubavitch is not the best, then what right do we have to proselytize to anyone else?"

The Lubavitcher Rebbe wanted his Chassidim to reach out to the unaffiliated and disaffected. For those people (who no one else was actively trying to pursue), of course they would come to Lubavitch, since that's who reached out to them.
But when the Lubavich outreach program began, and approached my father on the street with the first pair of tefillin he'd seen since his Bar Mitzvah, there was no agenda to "proselytize" for Lubavich. The goal was just to get a Jew to become Shomer Torah in his own way.
The reason there are do many factions is that each one has something to offer. Lubavich may be the best way for some, but for others the best path to serving Hashem may lie elsewhere.

The Real Shliach said...

So this was exactly the argument I had with those respected Lubavitch people I was talking about, and yeah, I said what you say, and he said that no, the goal is "yafutzo maanosecha chutza", bifrat b'darchei Chassidus Chabad. And I think he's right too. I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree.

Modeh B'Miktsas said...

The resident litvak I am? cool. The wolf among 70 lambs bwahahahaha. The thing with chabad is their rhetoric is all full of hatefilled propaganda and the need to brainwash people and all that shtuff (see, you brainwashed me into using your affectations) but they are so bad at being nasty hateful and superior that they just come across as wonderful yidden full of ahavas yisrael most of the time.

The Real Shliach said...

Awe...you're so sweet!

Anonymous said...

but not short. LOL

The Real Shliach said...

col

le7 said...

Hey hey hey.... (finally subscribing so I don't have to check back here).

MS said...

So let me get this straight. I said it was wrong to put down any other Jew, no matter what group they are in. You argued, basically saying that:
1. Chabad is better than all other Jews
2. If you are Chabad, you have the right to view everyone else as inferior, because they are.
3. It's ok to be nasty to Jews who aren't Lubavitch, because they are inferior.

I'm pretty surprised to see that attitude from you. I don't believe that the older generation of Chabad would agree with you.

The Real Shliach said...

1. Takeh.
2. Inferior? Just not as advanced in the process. As the old line goes, everyone's a Lubavitcher, they just don't know it yet.
3. Nasty? When was I nasty?

Surprised? If I have this attitude, why is it surprising?
The older generation is the same as this one-confused, frustrated, and feeling lonely.

Modeh B'Miktsas said...

It's surprising because, as you mentioned on this blog, one of the topics lubavitchers discuss often is "telling the truth on shlichus." This poor soul does not seem to have been exposed to lubavitch dogma before. Believe it or not an encounter with your stated positions often leave an average "not yet lubavitcher" wondering something like "were there 2 towns in Russia named Lubavitch, one with chabadniks and one with their evil twins?"

The Real Shliach said...

That's funny, I just had a whole argument with someone about saying the truth on shlichus (tonight's post).

You think this whole thing is easy to deal with (Second part of tonight's post)?

MS said...

RE: Nasty

I was referring back to my original comment about "snags" and the intolerance for other paths in Yiddishkeit.

The Real Shliach said...

I figured. What do you want me to say? Fact is, the Rebbe never called anyone names. So I also shouldn't.

MS said...

As far as the other points what's surprising that you give yourself the right to say that anyone who identifies themselves as Chabad is automatically a qualitatively better Jew than everyone else. So any kid off the street in Crown Hights is a better Jew than any Rosh Yeshiva (non-Chabad, of course), or anyone else for that matter.
I can see the temptation to say "I believe this is the right path for me, and it works, so it must be right for everyone". But as soon as you find yourself able to justify casting aside the rest of Klal Yisrael along your way, you can be sure you've left the Hashem behind.

MS said...

*what's surprising IS that

The Real Shliach said...

Any kid in CH is a Lubavitcher? He might identify as one, but if the Rebbe isn't proud, (not loving, proud), then um...

And who's casting people away? We're trying to bring them with us!

MS said...

"Any kid in CH is a Lubavitcher? He might identify as one, but if the Rebbe isn't proud, (not loving, proud), then um..."

So how does that work; is it a self-administered test, pubic opinion poll, or is there a list somewhere?

"And who's casting people away? We're trying to bring them with us!"

But, of course, if they refuse to see the error of their ways and come to the light, their souls are lost forever. Or something like that, right?

The Real Shliach said...

All 3.

Their souls lost forever? CH"V! Lo yidach memenu nidach! No Jew will be left behind!

MS said...

I think I understand now. Your saying that any kid who decides that the Rebbe is proud of him gets upgraded to First Class and then has the right to point and laugh at the poor sucker Ger/Belz/Lakewood/Sephardi guy who doesn't even know he's got a Second Class ticket.

And you think somehow that the Rebbe is proud of this system? Seems a little off to me. The only way to get a First Class ticket is by your actions, not by club membership. And the kinds of actions that we've been talking about would be a good indication that those people aren't quite holding there yet.

The Real Shliach said...

Wow! You just totally misunderstood me. You certainly can not declare yourself to be part of the club. You have to earn it. And who decides who's in the club? Who knows? Who cares? You'll know when you're in it.

And of course, there's no such thing as a club. And there are no criterion. It's all about you+G-d.

sarabonne said...

Never thought I'd say this, subscribing.

Modeh B'Miktsas said...

MS: The whole point is that there is no list or test anywhere. Therefore a Lubab can't be nasty to a snag because the snag can possibly be a lubab and nobody knows least of all said snag who would probably die of shock if he found out. I see this a lot. There's this shliach I help out often (if I say more than that the lubavitch world intelligence network will let you know who I am) who every time I help him out tells me I'm a 'real chassidishe bochur' this is news to me and to my parents too.

The Real Shliach said...

Sara: Why did you never think you'd say that?

Modeh: You're not a real chassidishe bochur?! I was hoping you'd be TCB!

Modeh B'Miktsas said...

Getting there, getting there. In the space of 90 days I went from "hanistaros lHashem elokeinu, Mishna TOrah is as philosophical as I'm getting" to Tanya, which didn't work out to Izhbitz, and hopefully back to Tanya again soon.

Modeh B'Miktsas said...

Getting there, getting there. In the space of 90 days I went from "hanistaros lHashem elokeinu, Mishna TOrah is as philosophical as I'm getting" to Tanya, which didn't work out to Izhbitz, and hopefully back to Tanya again soon.

The Real Shliach said...

Why bother? Go straight to ayin beis!

sarabonne said...

I never thought I'd post a comment for the sheer purpose of subscribing. That's all. re.ayin beis? thats quite a leap.

The Real Shliach said...

Lechatchila ariber!

Anonymous said...

thanks "Anonymous,March 18, 2009 11:51 PM" for the teshura link.

anyone know of an online source for old kfar chabad magazines? (for the letters in question)

(let me get this straight: rabbi klass wrote back (via the newspaper) to a letter that was written to be sent to the newspaper, but never published in said paper, and no one today can find it in the newspaper's archives. correct??)