My Debate With Dennis Prager


I debated Dennis Prager yesterday – and survived!

The OU was looking for a strong closing session for its West Coast Torah Convention, and there are very few proven draws as strong as Dennis, who lives and broadcasts here in Los Angeles. The two of us have been friends for many, many years, so I was seen as a natural sparring partner.

Of course it was foolish to go up against a consummate debater like Dennis. I agreed to swallow my pride and dignity to help out the OU, and my good friend Rabbi Alan Kalinsky, the OU’s West Coast director. I tried to make light of being outranked by describing the encounter as a win-win proposition for me. If I made a few good points, great. If I didn’t, Dennis would get the blame, since everything I know about public debate I learned from him.

Nonetheless, I was plenty apprehensive about the encounter. The brochures had assigned a topic so vague – The Future of American Jewry: Innovation or Preservation – that I could not prepare in any way. Dennis would have to lead, and I would respond. Dennis did not disappoint – neither in holding the audience spellbound, nor in providing an opportunity to respond.

For as long as I have known him, Dennis has clearly broadcast his modus operandi. When he speaks to a Reform audience, he criticizes Reform; Conservative audience can expect a critique of Conservatism. Orthodoxy gets the same treatment.

Not all Orthodox communities are comfortable with outsiders offering their suggestions about what they are doing wrong. The OU thought about it, and decided that hearing criticism – taking it to heart if it was accurate, rejecting it if it was not – would be a positive experience, not a negative one. I think it was a wise move, although clearly not appropriate for every audience.

Coming into the debate, my guess was that Dennis would stay away from ideological issues, and primarily focus on one of his pet peeves about Orthodoxy – what he sees as its shirking its responsibility to the rest of humanity. First mistake. While he did take aim at our insularity, he spent more time going after parts of halacha that he took strong exception to. He placed at least equal emphasis on the parts of Orthodoxy that he admired (he grew up Modern Orthodox, and his oldest son David is completely observant and learning in YU), and underscored that he shared with Orthodoxy a belief in the Divinity of the Torah – the single factor he considers to be the most important guarantor of the values he cherishes the most, and that are at the core of American greatness.

He cited example after example of halachic areas he thought problematic. I hesitate to publicize on this blog what are essentially blows at the very heart of our mesorah (tradition). The casual reader may not appreciate it. [For those really interested, you can find a copy of the presentation minus the first minute or so at The server will automatically delete the file after one month.]In responding, I had my work cut out for me. I tried to get as much as I could into the time I had, and to match humor with humor. Only the audience can tell whether I succeeded.

Most important was that there was no real need to educate the audience, but simply to defend kavod HaTorah. I don’t believe that anyone in the audience was really moved by the specific arguments, because they recognized that those arguments struck at the heart of what halacha tries to accomplish, and they had enough confidence in it to withstanding the attacks. They may not have known how to satisfactorily explain each example, but they knew that the answers were there for the asking. In that sense, I think people walked away with the confidence that they had heard what a respected and intelligent critic had to say, and it didn’t sway them.

Dennis did make one point that I feel more comfortable sharing, and that is worthwhile pondering. Owning up to what he saw as certain tensions between mainstream Orthodoxy and Chabad, he nonetheless sang the virtues of the latter. In particular, he contrasted what he saw as different kiruv styles between the communities.

He argued that Chabad was so successful because the greatest motivation for their work was unqualified love for every Jew. Outside of Chabad, he thought, kiruv workers were far more focused on results – more mitzvah performance – than on the person.

Generalizations always fail. There is plenty of ahavas yisrael (love of other Jews) around among successful kiruv workers. Yet the thrust of his argument does seem reasonable to me. I had a similar conversation with my friend Rabbi Dovid Eliezrie of Chabad of Yorba Linda. While I fiercely reject the notion that Chabad pioneered outreach in American or put it on the map, I would resist any attempt to deny their great accomplishment, especially in far-away areas that no one else is interested in serving. I think that it is accurate to say that much of the vocabulary of the non-Chabad kiruv world does derive from other halachic areas, other than ahavas yisrael. Specifically, the mitzvah of kiruv is seen as deriving from the mitzvah of vehashaivosa lo (returning lost property, and a fortiori, a lost soul), or tochacha (rebuke), or teaching Torah. Every kiruv gathering I have attended has emphasized that kiruv workers need to be supersaturated with love of their fellow Jew, but it is not the only theme or halachic source.

Maybe there is some wisdom in Chabad’s putting all their kiruv eggs in the basket of ahavas yisrael.

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125 Responses

  1. Truth says:


    I know it’s extemely difficult to have a rational discussion on these matters, even with a intelligent one, because sooner or later it brings forth emotional outbursts rather than logical analysis of the matter discussed, but since the point has to get accross let’s try slowly:

    One of the criticisms being posed here was the denigrating (and isolation) attitude of Lubavitchers towards the rest of the non chabad world. when presented with such complaint (with many anecdotal experieces) the response is “but they all hate us”. and starts a whole list of subjective anecdotal history (going back to such difficult times as the Holocaust and they educate their youth on this whenever possible)) to supports the position, that since everyone “hates us” it is legitimate to relate in kind. Then it is pointed out: that even judging by these “anecdotes”‘ there are shades in the story where some really were impartial and showed compassion towards L; that is dismissed in practice (neither highlighted and neither given over with emphasis to the youth).

    Then the discussion further continues with the anecdotes of those who were hostile to l: is it possible for a L to see that from another pespective the other person meant sincerely leshem shomayim (albeit he was wrong)? and even when the L is right that this particular person was hostile to begin with (which is sometimes the case and sometimes not the case) IS it possible for him to put those thing in their proportion? NO

    They will perpetuate those subjective feelings for ever and ever and not try to make bridges. They should educate their youth that all non chabdsker hate them and some of their leaders were murderers and the rest are “snags” anyway.

    additionally: when shown by their non chabad neutral friends (or non enemies) how they deviated publicly from the way jews beleived for thousands of years and feel that the change is highly repugnant they respond: “but they have complained before moshiach?” “it’s got nothing to do with moshiach…”. They would bury their head in sand and not deal with the issue to change their attitude internally, abee they are able to justify their wrong to the world outside.

    It is also highly illogical to harp on something that the detractors have railed about prior 3 tammuz precisely about their concern (from their perspective at least) that it will degenerate into a change in thousands of jews beleif in the 13 ikkrey emunoh, and what looks today by some of them (albeit a small minority but a not a handful) as a beggining of a new religion (shvil, saying yechi togeher with Hashem Hoo Elokim and tkias shofar etc. and other such practices) and they were unfortunately vindicated, to then turn around to them and claim: “you hated us anyway before it happened?” HOw disingenous can one rational person be? They were railing about THIS VERY issue! (and to try make beleif that people like Rabbi Volpo and his teachings did not exist is to put blinders in one’s face. So what we have now is irrational emotional response to a legitimate claim even if the opponent happened to have been a “hater” (which probably and certainly some of them were), it does not “answer” the claim of the opponent; on the contrary, the emotional logicalless outbursts only reinforces the vehement opposition from the opponent.

    So by bringing the unfortunate comment made in the neighborhood you are not strengthening your position; on the contrary you strengthen his position by saying that you cannot logically show how the position he made in the past precisely about the prediction of how will look today was faulty.

    Let me try to give you an “example”; it is just an example (and is not certainly in all aspects and maybe in most aspects, but just to the point made here):

    In the late 70s and early 80’s the Lubavitcher Rebbe warned jewry about the dangers of the peace process. At that time he would say that (some of the) Roshey Yeshivos who are unfamilar with the practical situations on the ground were wrong. At times he said that the are selling jewish blood for money.

    Now for someone to bring this as a point how the Rebbe spoke in such terms about…would be ludicrous and ridiculous given what we see now on the ground how the Lubavitcher rebbe was so right when he saw the suicide bombers erupting from the Sadat Begin Camp David treaty. vehanimshal (only for the aspect of mentioning something harsh that was said *in the context* of an issue which the person who made those claims is vindicated is ridiculous in a logical discussion) yuvon.

    Now with regards to the issue at hand: A) it is not in the interests of Lubavitchers! to educate their children how everyone else is a snag and hates them. 2) Especially when they are so skilled in getting along with everyone else even people who are not yet shomer torah and mitzvot and find all ways to legitimize their stance (and tovoy alehem brocho for the wonderful positive work that comes out of that) and label most of them “tinokos shenishbu”, why can’t they find a way to label the frum non chabadskers as “tinokos shenishbu”? and live in peace with them? (interesting that you mention how Rabbi so and so did not make want to make a”cherem” against another so and so over maters of disagreement; and yet you don’t see in your own backyard: how in your circles your movement will make “peace” and find ways to relate to worse poshey orchey yisroel (especially when it gives the publicity points) and cannot find some of these feats towards the manichey tefillin and shomrey shabbos etc) 3) and Most importantly, it is about time to understand and teach their children that when most of jewry (even those who were friendly to them or non belligerent) are appalled by their stance regarding messianism that they at least understand that those people have a legitimate coplaint, 4) and that should be corrected in the education of their own youth for their own sake… 5) but the least that should be done If all cannot be achieved: stop telling your youth how all non lubavitcher frum people are not really yireh shomayim, are for the money, are for kovod, for being godol and so on, (and maybe when you will put more effort to stop the beliggerant attitude towards other jews, there will also be less fights within your movement),

    bekovod and i do not mean to be offensive personally but to make the point how many have legitimate grievances about the movement and maybe you will hear the grain of truth therein and some change will happen,

    shabbat Shalom,


  2. Steve Brizel says:

    Moishe-NCSY, in its earliest days, had a substantial mix, of public school and day school products. Many regions had a mix, others were and remain 100% public school as of this date. In recent years, it leaned more towards yeshiva high school products and some public school products. I hope that the mix continues. For some day school products whose school and home life resembled mitzvos anashim mlumadah, NCSY inspires them to realize that others struggle to get to that level.

    As far as R Ruderman ZTL is concerned, I do know that RYBS and R Ruderman ZTL exchanged pre Pesach greetings every year. I suspect that this was because of RCS ZTL’s payment of R Ruderman ZTL’s scar limud. I know of no source that substantiates the idea that R Ruderman ZTL was a Chabad child who ran away from a Chabad yeshivah. MOAG, a wonderful guide to the Litvishe world, sets forth RCS ZTL’s involvement in R Ruderman ZTL’s chinuch in quite extensive detail.

  3. Moishe says:

    Friends, I just saw this on a neighboring post, read this and then tell me how a lubavitcher Bochur or Yungerman should feel, or have felt, about the Torah world around him and the respect he should then have for it and its Gedolim, when this is the kind of extreme talk ITS gedolim have for HIS Rebbe, who taught him Torah. Remember that the time frame this must have occcured was 20 (maybe more) years ago when the Rebbe was still aliv and well, promoting Torah mitzvos ( and Moshiach), no yechi, no chai vekayom, etc. and to the Lubavitcher was his Rebbe.
    Its funny, how now, almost universally the talk is, that “Meila, while the Rebbe was alive…”)
    As one Litvisher told me, recently, that he now feels that the Rebbe Was a candidate for Moshiach, but he died!
    Remember how this affected drinking of the wine and etc. of a Lubavitcher Chosid. this is the kind of talk, that was transmitted to the Talmidim of these Rabbonim.
    here is the post.

    kudos to Cross_Currents for facilitating an interesting exchange of views on Lubavitch. It must resonate if so many people joined the discussion.
    I am a utililtarian and am happy as can be that there are successes galore in outreach. This is still a drop in the bucket of what can be accomplished and there is room for every group in the effort.
    Rav Ruderman told me personally that Rav Shach wanted to put them in cherem but he and Rav Yaakov told him that we don’t do that in this generation. You will note that Rav Shach did not do it while these two men still lived.
    Though they agreed with Rav Shach ideologically,they had a different approach dealing with the issue.
    Ad Kan.

    So, ideologically they were in full agreement to put me and my Rebbe and my Rosh Yeshiva (And Kalmenson, Ashkenazi, Eliezrie etc.) in RaMach.
    Then you wonder why a lubavitcher Bochur is told by his peers what they are told.
    IMHO, with respect, this was not the way Gedolim should approach an issue, there were other ways, and there were other Gedolim who may have not agreed with everything Lubvitch did, but handled it differently, and more responsibely. Did Rav Aaron agree with Rav Ruderman on college? Rav moshe paskened (Baal Peh) that a woman who went to college was bechezkas Zonah and her Kohen Son could marry a Zonah etc. I heard this from the baal hamaaseh, the Rov who was mesader Kiddushin. And in Ner Yisroel they permitted and in some cases encouraged college and secular studies.
    Rav Aaron didn’t feel it was worth the split in Klal Yisrael.

  4. Moishe says:

    truth= I happen to disagree with most of what you’ve just written, and to tell the truth Im surprised. I have heard from many Lomdim that The Kovetz mentioned is of a high calibre. I mentioned before that I was proud to present it to some friends in Lakewood who aren’t ashamed to tell the truth, and they liked it.
    To call R’ Forkoshes seforim on Niddah Shabbos and Chol Hamoed a Likkut is astounding, It is actually anything but, his biurim and chidushim in the above subjects are amazing, look at them again.
    However, the above, and our difference of opinion is again not relevant here, Is that what we are discussing?

    You (purposely) misstated my words, and after reading (and appreciating) your previous comments, I am quite surprised and disappointed, I never said in my post That Lubavitch Learns BETTER (although now that you ask, I can say that IMHO i know many Lubavitch Talmidim, you seem to know them as well, who are tremendous Baalei Kishron and happen to have a straighter and clearer learning than other yeshivos, that is my personal opinion) the issue you raised was whether Lubavitch at large learns and publishes.It is to that issue I correctly, and adequately responded.You clearly laid down the premise that Lubavitch as a group doesn’t learn or publish Chidushei Torah, so now you say that its not a high calibre, is every Pilpul In Nehuroie good, I saw a lot of Marginal Stuff, Is every Shtikel in Shufra Dishtoro correct, or original, or repetative in four different places?
    I just bought a new sefer from a Lakewood Yungerman on Sukka, a very thick and impressive looking sefer, it was very very poor, I called a guy in Lakewood, he called back a few days later, agreeing.

    I am amazed and quite taken aback at your blanket (to me ridiculous) statements about one group (satmar Bobov Lakewood) knows more or less than Lubavitch, first of all, who checked? and by what standards? second and most important, Lubavitch has been so marginalized and isolated for so long no outsider really can adequately assess whats going on.
    Thirdly, and most importantly, Lubavitch is unique that we sent our best and brightest to all corners of the world, some to remote places, in that a Shliach can live in an area like Ithaca NY alone for twenty one years and continue his learning, without feeling he has a need to prove himself or show himself off with some one upmanship to his yeshiva colleagues. This is a fact.
    I’ll conclude with a small anecdote, that I know personally to be true, A very fine family from Lakewood, in ,business, needed to open up an office in Kansas city,althogh they all learn, One of the brothers, is an exceptional Lamdan, he later called me up and said he was amazed at the Shliach In Kansas, Rabbi Weinberg, who blew him away with his knowledge, and depth, and besides his “nigleh” learning, he is a big Mayvin in Nistar, he said “whats that guy doing in Kansas? he should be in a yeshiva?
    If you, Truth, know the inside Lubavitch, like I now realize you actually do,(afterall, how many people out there know who was the editor of Migdal Ohr….Forkosh Ah Milaket?? vos iz mit dir?) you will know that I am right, and the Label Kaplans and Sholom Ber Weinbergs and Sholom Ber Lipskers and Sholom Ber Chaikins and Nosson Gurary’s and Moishe Meir Glukowskis and Gershon Shustermans Efraim pikarski, and Naftoli Estulin , Label Altein, Sholom Charitonoff, Nochum Shapiro, Avremi Shternberg, Avremel Shemtov, Tzvi Grunblatt, Avremel Altein, Imanual and Dovid Shochat etc etc all ridiculous Illuyim Mammesh(to say nothing of the Roshei Yeshiva and Magidei Shiur in the myriad of Lubavitcher Yeshivas) stayed in 770 or a learning institution instead of going on Shlichus to Calgary, Seattle,Buffalo, Long Beach Ca, Tzfas, Bal Harbour, would have outshined any and every Torah institution, maybe the Rebbe deserves credit for that, sacrificing his best for Klal Yisrael.

    But.. that doesn’t mean that Chabad doesn’t need improvement in their Torah learning.

  5. truth says:


    I have read some of the haoros. With all due repsect, you can print a 10,000 page kuntres but it has no caliber. I have read other kovtzim from other groups and they stand lemaaloh from the kovets you mention.

    You know Lubavitch is very good in publicizing itself as the greatest in all areas. The way to test these things is through “Yehallucho zor…”. Bring the voices of other Gedoyley Hatorah who are respected by a wide array of Roshey Yeshivos and great Rabbonim who testify about the greatness of these kovtzim and these talmidey chachomim and the proper gadlus in learning etc..

    Not to belittle the aforementioned kovtzim and chiburim they are not outstanding more than the hundreds of seforim that are put out by many other talmidey chachomim from all corners. For instance, Rav F a Talmid Chochom is mainly a melaket (and a good one) and there are dozens and more so melaktim today in the world of a higher claiber (this does not belittle Rav F) which btw i’m not sure studied in Lubavitch in his learning age (the same with the author of Migdol Ohr who studied in his prime “learning years” in Lakewood!)

    Yes, there are a handful of Bney Torah and Talmidey chachomim in Lubavitch but they are not outstanding anymore than many talmidey chachomim that you would find in many shtiblech from MANY MANY and all kreyzen.

    “But, does that make one a lamdan? Rav Soloveitchik hardly published in his lifetime,” 100% “I know many shluchim, Rabbis of Chabad Houses, who are literally Torah Illuim im not kidding”. As said before, bring the “eydoos” of talmidey chachomim muchzokim vemumchim nechochmas hatorah in writing who are accepted by klal yisroel…otherwise your judgment on this is VERY subjective (nothing against you…you are a great guy) to say the least.

    You next point on the next level: “Also a point to ponder, that I’ll bet you never realized, Lubavitch (like Satmar and Bobov) are “Family” institutions meaning typically Everybody in the family goes thru the Yeshiva system, whether he is “Shtark” or not, if he is a dilligent student he learns more, if not he “coasts” till marriage or etc.”

    Yes, but unfortunately the level of knowledge by those who “coast” in “Satmar and Bobv or Belz are FAR greater (in gemoroh and halocho) than their counterparts in Lubavitch!

    “in a litvisher yeshiva like Lakewood or Brisk you literaly have only the best from all over, you can (and do, as we both well know) have a family of say four five boys, one or perhaps two happpen to be natural Shakdonium and Masmidim and they go on to Brisk and Lakewood while the others (in many instances, much more than in a Chassidic Yeshiva) go onto to other endeavors or professions college etc.”

    And here too their overall and general knowledge and sometimes the percentage of people who LEARN (as opposed to read) some parts of the Torah more beiyun (even if it be an omud gemoroh or less or a halocho etc.) is greater than in your neck of the woods.

    Make an honest assessment of the very few who learn on a CONSTANT basis by your baaley batim (talking about Talmud and or Halocho) and if your intellectually honest you will see that the batey medrashin chabad shtiblach have per capita much participants in these studies than in ANY other kreyz that you mentioned here.



  6. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “Try having special needs children, or medical conditions, or … As a friend of mine (Lubavitch) once said to me – that’s what it takes to bring Lakewood and Crown Heights together! There are many parents’ organizations devoted to such issues in which we all cooperate and work together.”(comment # 109),

    While I would not recommend that anyone pray for those nisyonos, perhaps unity of the Klal is part of Hashem’s hashgacha. When one group opposes another’s shittos, even for legitimate reasons, it is easy over time for both sides to forget that the people of the other group have lives and needs just like one’s self. These humanitarian issues, and hopefully only happy occasions, achieve at least some communal unity where other means have not, at least as of yet, been successful in creating it.

  7. Moishe says:

    Truth- First of all, please go to which is a Torah journal published by the students of Yeshiva Oholei Torah, which is published every two weeks, although there is some Chassidus (B’Iyun) there, there is a tremendous amount of Chidushei Torah in Gemmoro, Rambam, and Halocho, written almost exclusively by Talmidei Lubavitch, if you understand learning look at the hundred page (!) plus journal and its 20 year (!!) archives, then tell me that Lubavitch doesn’t publish or learn. A similar journal is published by many lubavitch yeshivas worldwide, I just don’t know if its on the web.
    Also, I have in my library hundreds, literally of Torah journals and seforim published by Chabad institutions written solely on Halachic topics, for example, 9 volumes of Migdal Ohr from Los Angeles, seven highly acclaimed volumes from Kolel Tzemach Tzedek, the ones on Birchos Hanehenin and Kiddush are so sought after they are photo copied, the set of Har Hamelech on the Rambam from Nachla in Israel, Afikei Yam from Kalmenson of France on all the 39 melochos (Lomdus) Shaarei Sholom, From Spalter, Appirion Deshimon from Heber in Brooklyn, the acclaimed seforim from Harav Forkosh on Niddah and Shabbos and Chol Hamoed (That Rav Shlommo Zalman used exclusively, The Seforim on Niddah from Rav Heller, imreyi Mordechai from Harav MEntlick, the list goes on, also hundreds of Kovtzei Pilpulim published twice yearly. and there is many more, I just don’t have the energy to list them all.
    But, does that make one a lamdan? Rav Soloveitchik hardly published in his lifetime, I know many shluchim, Rabbis of Chabad Houses, who are literally Torah Illuim im not kidding.
    Also a point to ponder, that I’ll bet you never realized, Lubavitch (like Satmar and Bobov) are “Family” institutions meaning typically Everybody in the family goes thru the Yeshiva system, whether he is “Shtark” or not, if he is a dilligent student he learns more, if not he “coasts” till marriage or etc. in a litvisher yeshiva like Lakewood or Brisk you literaly have only the best from all over, you can (and do, as we both well know) have a family of say four five boys, one or perhaps two happpen to be natural Shakdonium and Masmidim and they go on to Brisk and Lakewood while the others (in many instances, much more than in a Chassidic Yeshiva) go onto to other endeavors or professions college etc.
    Demographically its simply not fair to compare the Yeshivas, you cannot compare a lakewood whosestudents (at least officially, or at least those that continue after marriage) have “risen to the top” to a Lubavitch or Even Satmar who include everyone.
    I believe the Ratio is more than equal, you may not want to accept it, and in Lubavitch they are just learning to publish their Chiddushei Torah (see above Haoros), but I have found incredible lomdim in Chabad. A friend, Rabbi Eli Silberstein of Cornell in Ithaca is a prime example, he is simply a talmudic genius. ‘And, Yes there is also tremendous non learning, as I am sure there exists in every group, lets not forget the emphasis on teaching and outreach that has taken many of these energies away to the benefit of the Klal.

  8. Shalhevet says:

    As far as trying to build bridges, how about Chabad considering itself a part of the general Jewish community. For example, Lubavitch chesed and tzedakah organizations seem to be open only to themselves. A case in point: As former (non-Lubavitch) Crown Height residents we used to support the Crown Heights Bikur Cholim , Hachnosas Kallah and such funds. However, when we tried to apply for help for someone not Chabad who needed help we told that the funds are just for our community- we have so many needs of our own…. We were rather surprised – Satmar doesn’t have its own needs? Bobov? Washington Heights – I can go on; all these communities offered help to us when my parents were r”l sick, all without asking what our affiliations are.
    This only one example of how Lubavitch seems to see itself as a community apart from the rest of us, responsible only for themselves.
    Needless to say, we now direct our support to other organizations, who help all of Klal Yisrael.

  9. truth says:

    Dear Moishe,

    It’s good that you now write about some of the relationships of some of the litvisher friendship to chabad in the past. Your previous post atempted to show how the animosity extends from brias hoolom and you brought the painful episodes during the holocaust (which has different anglles as said before) as a demonstration how the enmity was and at the same time failed to see how it is not black or white, as in that episode itself the Mirrer RY showed such great admiration and compassion and friendship to Lubavitchers.

    So when you write now that “The point I wanted to bring out was that a) his feelings to Chabad are not well known and b) there were those Gedolim who did not harbor rancor towards Chabad and C) acted the way a Godol should”‘ is welcome. But it is important to be prudent that these informations are not known (not only outside of chabad, but most importantly) WITHIN CHABAD where the yound studen is never informed about these episodes and good relationship and all hears are horror stories similar to the letter you recorded in the previous post!

    Therefore, imho when you write: “..Young Lubavitchers in general have no idea what is out there because there is so much animosity towards them they naturally assume the defensive pose and defend themselves by finding fault in the yeshiva world”, is simply NOT TRUE! because while there is “So much animosity” but there was (and albeit the legitimate grivances) there is lots of people who do apprecite the good. The real reasn why they have no idea is: because inside Lubavitch no responsible chassidishe mechanech bothers to impart on their students that there WERE in the past lots of people who had good relations with Chabad.

    Furthermore: Chabad is not the begining and the end of Judaism and Jewish people. There can and should be appreciation for what others do o don’t even if they have neutral relations towards chabad. Not everyone who is neutral deserves the epithets that are thrown about them in the educational insitituons of Chabad.

    Furthermore: Even when many of them genuinely question of even dare disagree does not make them worthy of contempt and disdain that Lubavitch systems offer to their youth how to rlate to these questions and to the questioners.

    You write about the chidushey torah and your relationship with people outside Chabad and how they perceive learning within chabad:

    You may think that their perception is false and does reflect reality. But the fact that you or another handful individuals are able to converse in learning or to write chiddushey torah does NOT reflect reality in knowldge of torah or the level of love for torah and shkidah in learning in the majority of students in chabad yeshivos today and in the past decades. THere are real encounters that does conform to the perception that you refer to in this post.

    YOu know what: Let’s see per capita, how many qualitative seforim have been written by lubavitchers in the past 4 years in Gemoroh and Shulchan ORuch and compare to writings made by talmidey chachomim in other groups . It is almos not a match period. and w are talking about the numbers of people that chabad claims and the numbers of people other groups claim.

    With a few exceptions like Rav Kalmanoson Sefori or Rav Ashkenazi you hardly see a qualitative work of a higher caliber that is found i other circles. You hardly find the yegias hatorah that exists in other works from other groups.

    This in the higher levels. When we talk about the majority of the student population and their knowledge in areas of torah
    (hanilgah like: reading mishnaos; knowing general information bechol hatorah; reading inside a piece of gemoroh and shulchan oruch etc.) in Lubavitch compared to students of other groups, i must say that that perception that your counterparpts reflected bears some truth to it. And it is time for Lubavitch to address them not for the sake of your guests but for their own sake.

    We are not talking now abou halalchik reservations that must be corrected; we are talking about a major overhaul chane in atitude Lubavitch has for two major issues: 1) How they view other jews (regarding their outlook in general and how they perceive Lubavich etc.), 2) An overhaul in how they perceive the importance of studying all areas of Torah to their eneral student body.

    This is before the Moshiach issue. After that it is simply impossible not to realize that there needs to an internal overhaul and change in the whole outlook.

    The fact that hundreds of people attend shabos does not justify the fact that thousands of people changed the way Jews believed in for thousands of years without sources to back their positions and especially when they antagonize other people who feel that the way people beleived in
    for those thousands of years were beleifs that some jews have chosen to give up their livs for those beliefs.

    “Moshiach, and his imminent arrival, and our need to “bring” him was a dominant issue in all of the Rebbes writings, that is a fact”.

    But identifying and declaring with a certainty that he is Moshiach WAS NOT! And there is no backing for this post his histalus period.
    (And R. Eliezrie: Your “chliluk” between “will be” or “is” does not help. There is no source for identifying with certainty that X Y or Z will be other than the criteria of Halacha. Furthermore there is no remez in tradition for ideitfying one’s Rebbe after his hisltakus as being the “Will be moshiach”. There is no backing whatsoever for their shitoh).
    And you are being disingenous if you say tht has NOT permeated to the large population. you are not being truthful. All students are taught to believe in form or anothe that the Rebbe is Moshiach, period. Those who dare disagree politely or even by passing are ostracized , period.

    And you and R. Eliezrie who think that by pointing out the pictures of convention without the banners or the absence of them at the banquet changes the equation are onyl fooling yourselves to think that the outsider does not HAVE REAL DAILY ENCOUNTERS WITH HUNDREDS of people and in real life (not the one who is used for themoment or for extenal usage) they experience first hand some the issues related to new concepts about the beleif in mosiach that were not existent in the thousands of years.

    And to justify these beleifs by negating the critics right argument, by saying that they voiced their opposition to other (similar things) just does not cut it. It does not address the legitimate criticism that these declarations and beleifs (About moshiach) have no precedent in jewish though (only in non positive ways).

    I must conclude though, that your anecdotes about your brothers in law and another Lakewood Rav expeirence should be amulated by everyone at large and i thank you for posting it. halaevay we should only be busy in our service in such a manner and maybe moshiach would be here already.

  10. David Berger says:

    A final (I hope) comment:
    One of the most interesting and distressing things I have learned in the course of this controversy is that intelligent people either forget how to read or pretend that they cannot read when their emotions are engaged. I invite readers to see what I wrote about avodah zarah in my comment and compare it with Rabbi Eliezrie’s “response.” If his assertion that he read my book is sincere, his response underscores my point to a degree that staggers the imagination.
    As to the purported distinction between believing that the Rebbe will be the Messiah and believing that he is the Messiah: 1—Fervent messianists absolutely affirm that he already is. I am looking at this moment at a brochure distributed before Chanuka instructing readers to “accept the kingship of the Rebbe King Messiah who lives forever” by proclaimimg “Yechi Adoneinu Moreinu V’Rabbeinu Melech HaMoshiach L’Olom Voed” immediately after lighting the shamash. The front page of the brochure proclaims: “The Redemption is already here—literally!” There is nothing atypical about this brochure. I do not distort the messianists’ “shitoh.” It is Rabbi Eliezrie (and Rabbi Schochet, from whom he borrowed this argument) who do so. 2—Rabbi Eliezrie’s presentation is rather fuzzy, and he appears to blur the distinction between the belief that a living rebbe has the potential to be the Messiah and the absolutely certain belief that the deceased Lubavitcher Rebbe “will be” the Messiah. The confident assertion that the Rebbe will be the Messiah contradicts the Rambam’s–and klal Yisrael’s– criteria for identifying the Messiah no less clearly than the assertion that he already is.

  11. Moishe says:

    Aryeh- I am not going to fall into the trap of denigrating other Gedolim to prove my point. I am way past that part of my life, when I once mentioned to my Chavrusa (non lubavitch) a beautiful vort I heard from the Satmer rebbe, he mentioned that to a Satmer relative of mine who promptly sent me a gift of the whole set of Vayoel Moshe which I look into and enjoy ocassionaly, I have learnt thru the entire Chidushei Rav Chaim and the Griz al Harambam plus read the letters of the Chazon Ish. and the Steipler, I am thoroughly aware of the life and stories (and constantly use him in my speeches) of one of my heroes, the ponovizher Rov (how many of the Rebbes works have you learnt?)
    Go online to the main Chabad web site ( and download the weekly Sichat Hashovua which is acknowledged as one of the most popular weekly pamphlets distributed in Israel, it is highly sought after, there are stories and words of Torah from ALL Gedolim, weekly, there is also a sicha of the Rebbe and othere personalities, don’t take my word for it, go online and check out the archives.


    First of all, if you want to prove that Lubavitch hold their Rebbe primary over all, I will not argue that point, that is simply not relevant to the above discussion re respect, mutual common decency and simple honesty, do I need to have a picture of the Chofetz Chaim (or the Lubavitcher Rebbe) on my dining room wall to hold that he was a godol? a Lamdan and an Ehrilcher Yid? (See Gemorah Sanhedrin 98B how each student held that his Rebbe was Moshiach) However, in my many visits around the world I have been in many Jewish homes and I can say, that for the most part Jews are pretty cliquey (is that how you spell it?) a satmar will have a picture of the Satmar Rov, a Gerer of the Gerere a sephardi of the Sephardic (Ben Ish Chai) Gedolim, and my good frien DB who was a ponvizher Talmid of Rav Shach has his picture on the wall! “your eyes should see your teacher”
    Again, this is the problem, do you want me to deny that Lubavitch is isolated in the Frum Yeshiva world?? I will be the first to agree, read my first post above,
    My point was, that what used to be a basic chasidic (very prevalent in Chabad) custom of surrounding yourself with a picture of the Rebbe, AND WAS DENIGRATED by the Yeshiva World, has now become part and parcel of its Avoda, i doubt you will find a house without it.
    If you would see my fathers house and office, you will be bombarded by pictures of all Gedolim, sometimes clippings froma newspaer stuck to the wall.
    also, IMHO, only a talmid of Rav Yaakov will have his picture, and only a Talmid of Rav AAron will have his picture etc.
    There is a set of books, I would love for you to see, it is called “Shemen Sasson Mechaverecho” by Sholom Ber Volpo. it is a beautiful set of books, describing the personal relationship between the Lubavitcher Rebbe and many many Gedolim from all, stripes, the world has no idea of the relationship the Rebbe had with many gedolim such as Rav Moshe (there are some Teshuvos to him in Igros Moshe see how he writes about him) and Rav Soloveitchik. also Ther Rebbe and the Satmar Rebbe visited each other a few times, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and Dayan Weiss two of the greatest poskim in our time corresponded with the Rebbe extensively and held him in high regard,Rav Auerbach told a business partner of mine (Yerushalmi, non chabad) that he is very pained at how the Litvish rabbinate and Roshei Yeshiva are treating the Rebbe, he told him he wants to come out with a kol koreih. Dayan Weiss Asked the Rebbe if he COULD (not Should) leave Manchester to become Raavad of the Eidah Hachareidis, Recently in the Jewish Press, a writer,not fond of Lubavitch, Dr. Yitzchok Levine from New Jersey wrote that Rav Avigdor Miller, a true Tzaddik, who I had no idea had ANY relationship with the Rebbe, requested a private audience with the Rebbe to ask his advice on how he should spend his last years (not my words) as he would rather devote them to himself rather than the Klal.
    I could go on.
    My point is, that perhaps it is time that we look a little beyond past differences, and past pettiness and misunderstandings of the groups and realize that we are all Yidden, who want to serve the ribono Shel Olam, why does there have to be so much hate? And I am NOT excluding hate in Chabad, I am merely trying to explain it and in my opinion its source.
    My Sister and Brother in law are Shluchim in a medium size American City, when they came there 33 years ago, another young Lakewood Rov was there, a grandson of a prominent litvish Rosh Yeshiva, There was tremendous respect on both sides, they were also the only two real Frum yidden whose wives covered their hair. when Chabad opened a Yeshiva The Rebbe specified the it should be with the permission of this Rov, and that this Rov should be on the Hanholo (administration), he also gave periodic shiurim there. This is the way it should and could be.

    I heard from a very very close relative that certain people wanted to open up a Chabad Yeshive in Los Angeles, in the early 70’s, they went to the Rebbe, the Rebbe expressed amazement and said “But WE have Reb Elchonons son there who has a Yeshiva?” and of course the issue went away. did the Rebbe not show respect to another Godol?

    Point being, its time we both start respecting each other, and eventhough we disagree we should respectfully disagree and focus on what we do agree on!

  12. Tal Benschar says:

    I am generally tolerant of most Orthodox groups and have no special axe to grind against Lubavitch. That said, we have in this post at least an edus mukcheshes about what the reality on the ground is. On the one hand, R. Eliezrie claims that the “Meshichists” are “only a minyan” or so as compared to 2000 non-Meshichists. On the other hand, one poster here wrote:

    I can bear witness to thousands of Chabad children being educated that the Rebbe is:

    a) Moshiach
    b) All-knowing and all-powerful
    c) A fitting person to pray to and make requests of

    How can you claim that these ideas are not mainstream Chabad teachings when they are being propagated in Chabad institutions to thousands (if not tens of thousands) of Lubavitch children worldwide?

    These latter words made me shudder. Anyone who believes all three of those things is a Min as defined by the Rambam, pure and simple. You cannot avoid the issue through talks of “achdus” nor review of the history of the chassidish-misnagdish controversy. These beliefs, if truly held by some people, strike to the very fundamentals of Judaism. This is what has made normally tolerant people hostile.

    Frankly, I find the excuse that “there was only a minyan” of such believers at a recent convention to be weak to the point of dishonesty. As my rebbe once said, apikorsus, like avoda zara, is not battel even 1 in 1000. Hard to imagine a convention of Agudas Yisroel or the OU where there would be “only a minyan” of people who practiced minus.

    Let me also react to the following:

    The Litvasher need to understand that we as a community are struggling in what we call a post Gimmel Tammuz world (the 3rd of Tammuz the day of the Rebbe’s histalkus- just to clarify again this is how Chassidim have always referred to the passing of Tzadik). We are searching for ways to be Chassidim and to impart this to our children when the Rebbe is not with us physically. We are attempting to remain connected to his ideas, ideals and principles inn this environment. The Meshistim are one expression of this internal spiritual struggle.

    With all due respect, plenty of groups in klal yisroel have been devoted to the ideals of their rebbe, even after his death, without turning the Rebbe into a getchke. That’s true even of Chassidische Rebbes, indeed even prior Lubavitcher Rebbes. Why is the current situation any different than the passing of the Baal Shem Tov, the Baal ha Tanya or the five other prior Lubavitcher Rebbes? Not to even mention the numerous other chassidische rebbes and non-chassidische leaders of klal yisroel.

  13. Dovid Eliezrie says:

    I will take the cue from my friend Moshe above to focus for a few moments on Dr. Bergers assertions, well not new, continue to echo from time to time.

    On another posting Harry Marlyes suggested that we invite Dr. Berger to speak about this Moshiach issue, so to speak to help us out. There is no question that those of us who strongly disagree with the Meschistim will not do that. For the simple reason that Dr. Berger has little or no understanding of the internal dynamics of Chabad, the actual shitoh of the Meshichistim, and many times distorts reality to suit his agenda. I have spoken to him, read his book and in my opinion there he does not truly represent the issue.

    First on the Borienu issue. I repeat what I wrote earlier on this blog, “its baloney”. There is not Borienu group in Lubavitchnor does ideology have any support from anyone or any influence. It’s a fixture of his imagination. Berger has dug up another Meshugana from Milwaukee that today has nothing to do with Lubavitch. He was ostracized and of late strangely finds things in common with the local Litvashe community. He represents no one, has a history of being arrested for reasons I will not write here. Alas Berger thinks he can put the guy together with the person who attempted to murder the Lubavitcher Rav in Tzefat and hocus pocus we have a movement. In both cases they where thrown out of their communities, both have arrests on their records and the guy in Tzefas was committed to a mental hospital. The insinuation of any movement, impact etc. in Chabad is nothing better than the blood libel of the middle ages against a Kehillah Kedosha. It’s like saying the five guys from Neturie Karta that went to Iran represent something. But in this case there is a history of mental illness etc.

    The Shitoh of the Meshistim is the Rebbe “WILL BE” Moshiach. Not that he is. Which they believe, (and again I strongly disagree with) is based on the Gemara in Sanhedrin. Taking the concept that many Chassidim have through history have believed that THEIR Rebbes had the POTENTIAL to be Moshiach. Berger fails to understand this fundamental difference and distorts their Shitoh.

    I would like to share an answer I received from the Rebbe on this very issue. It came after the Rebbe’s first stroke when there was much debate on this. I wrote to the Rebbe a series of yes/no questions that where designed to get to the essence of the issue. At that time the Rebbe’s ability to speak was inhibited by the stoke and I wanted the questions to focus the issue. There is old saying by Chassidim “the way you ask you get an answer”. I wanted the Rebbe’s clear view.

    The first group of questions where “should we teach the inyan of Moshiach as stated in Rambam, is it is a central part of our shlichus etc. ” to each of these questions the Rebbe answered in the positive. Then came the central question of the group which was the position-Shitoh of the Meschistim at the time (it has changed since Gimmel Tammuz) “Should we make promotion that there is someone in our generation who is Moshiach, and through the fact that people will recognize that who that a person is it will increase their belief in Moshiach” The Rebbe’s answer was “NO”.

    The next day I get a call from Rabbi Leibel Groner the Rebbe’s secretary asking me if he can make my answer known to others. I said yes and he got up in Shul and told everyone what the Rebbe had said. This cooled the Meshistim down for about six months.

    There is no question we have a problem. But it is not the problem Dr. Berger describes. Sadly someone like him could have been a help to Chabad but he has zero credibility even amongst us “anti’s”. In addition to distorting the Shitoh and claiming things that don’t exist he does not understand that at times, and not always, the Meshist debate is really camouflage for a debate over the control of Chabad in a post Gimmel Tammuz era. Something that clearly has been won by the Shluchim and the anti Meshisit Chabad establishment. And if you doubt that come to the annual Kinus Hashluchim, over two thousand Shluchim and they have no impact.

    About year or two after Gimmel Tammuz (the Rebbe’s histalkus) we stood outside 770 to take the traditional picture of the Shluchim at the Shluchim convention. At that time the Kinus had around 800 Shluchim (this year we topped 2,300) Just before the picture was taken the Meshistim unveiled a banner saying Yechie etc. The Vaad Hakinus, of which I am a member embargoed the picture. The next year there was a debate and we decided to tell these guys we had hired guards and if they pulled the same stunt we would rip down the sign. That’s exactly what happened. They rolled the banner at the last minute and the security guards removed it. A few minutes later when the picture concluded a few diehards Meshistim picked up the banner and did a second picture. It was quite funny actually, a small group on big bleachers that had been erected in front of 770. A year later they did not even try to put up the banner but after the regular picture did a second one for maybe a Minyan and finally the next year not even this happened.

    One prominent Schliach told me “we are a generation of orphans”. To Chassidim this sums up our situation. Yesterday my 17 year daughter tells me that he asked her teacher “how can I be a Chassid, I did not see the Rebbe the way my parents did, not have the personal relationship”. And then she turned the question to me. I answered her you must learn the Rebbe’s Sichos, Mamarim and become connected with the great depth of his Torah learning and his world view. She then told me “that’s what my teacher told me.”. That is not an easy road to go. It’s intellectually demanding, but equally rewarding. Sadly some in our community in seeking those connections thought by singing Yechie and making slogans they could have that connection. Slowly many are beginning to realize it does not work.

    What the rest of the Frum world needs to understand that it’s an honest struggle that we are having, and they need to appreciate the depth of angst and commitment to continue the remarkable teachings the Rebbe taught us.

    Dovid Eliezrie

  14. Aryeh says:

    “there is a brisk (pun intended) business in Pictures of ALL the Gedolim”

    Exactly–and no one will blink an eye to see a picture of a gadol from a different yeshiva in house of a person who associates himself with a different one (for example of R’ Yakov in Lakewood, or R’ Aharon Kotler in Chaim Berlin, or Satmar Rav etc.).
    Whereas in Lubavitch ONE and ONLY ONE picture is hung.

    That’s the difference. Lubavitch has a sort of “cult of personality” around the Rebbe to the EXCLUSION of everyone else. And they think everyone else should subscribe to it too.

    Briskers will not dispute the personal greatness (even if they might argue with the learning style) of Chafetz Chaim, Chazon Ish, Satmar Rav, R’ Moshe Feinstein etc. They will tell stories of Brisker Rav showing honor to others and treating them as his equal/peer. Nor will they refrain from looking at them as a major source of inspiration. Nor will they say–R’ Chaim was the greatest Jew in the last 100 years. Nor will the Litvaks who follow a particular Rosh Yeshiva deny that it’s possible (or even true) that some other Rosh Yeshiva might know more Torah, be better at psak halachah, understand some issues better, daven better etc. etc.

    Chabadniks look to their Rebbe for everything and deny even the possibility that anyone can compare with him in anything. All this is a result of “cult of personality of the Rebbe” in Chabad. Now if you want to tell me that this is normal Chassidus, I don’t know, I’m not a Chasid. But somehow, I never got that impression of “Our Rebbe’s the best, everyone else doesn’t come even close” from the non-Chabad Chasidim I’ve interacted with. Ridiculous terms like “Nassi haDor” (who exactly determines/elects to that position?) and “Rabi–Rosh Bne Israel” (why not Rosh bnei Ishmael?) I’ve only heard thrown around by Chabadniks.

    The most ironic part of it is that all the Rebbe-promotion that Chabad engages in only lowers his status in the eyes of everyone else. Kol harodef achar kavod, kavod boreach mimenu (please don’t misinterpret this point. I’m referring to the Chabadniks’ actions vis-a-vis the Rebbe, not his own personal actions).

  15. J. Rubin says:

    Dr. Berger writes that Rabbi Levi Bistritsky zt”l “was a Lubavitcher hasid and the Chief Rabbi of Tzefat, who pursued a courageous anti-messianist policy.”

    I lived in Tsfat during that tekufa and knew the Rav well. The tragedy was that the Rav went after the wrong man. The Rosh Yeshiva of the Chabad Yeshiva in Tsfas, a farbrent moshiachist, was the one to close down and drive out of town. Would the Rav have put a mashugana Breslover into Charem if the masuganer had posted posters proclaiming Rabbi Nachmun Boreino? Certainly not; he would have made sure the man was given proper medical/mental health care. Therin lies the greater tragedy of Chabad. That the Chief Rabbi of Tsfat, an erlich Lubavitcher and a talmud chacham was driven to take such action to protect the dignity of his derech.

  16. Moishe says:

    To briefly respond to Truth. (IY”H later more comprehensively on other issues) I believe I actually did adequately show what type of pure Tzaddik Rav Chaim was, although I didn’t go into great detail, which I can, at great length if you’re interested, also about the close connection his son in law Rav Nochum Pertzovitz had with the Rebbe, which is also not known, (2 of the top Talmidim of Mir the illui Chatzkel Cohen and R’ Moshe Havlin were his prime Talmidim)The point I wanted to bring out was that a) his feelings to Chabad are not well known and b) there were those Gedolim who did not harbor rancor towards Chabad and C) acted the way a Godol should.
    I do have the perspective on both sides, I was brief, albeit not brief enough for this forum, I do have an appreciation for the good done on both sides, I could fill up an entire Blog on this, I merely wanted to begin a dialougue with a taste of what is out there.
    Young Lubavitchers in general have no idea what is out there because there is so much animosity towards them they naturally assume the defensive pose and defend themselves by finding fault in the yeshiva world. this is not a justification, it is merely a fact and an unfortunate reaction. What is funny is, that on a one on one, its different, I get along with aquantances in Lakewood very well, I email them Chidushei Torah and they are amazed (and delighted) that Lubavitchers learn Gemorra.
    A small anecdote, I had a mentor, he was an older Bochur who is a tremendous Lamdan, he is now a principal in a large (non lubavitch) day school on the East coast, he gave a ride once to a mashgiach of Kashrus, whose car broke down in middle of a rain strom, a talmid of a large Litvishe Yeshiva (Baltimore) when the driver mentioned he has smicha from Lubavitch, the Mashgiach unabashedly asked him “what did they test you on? chumash and Rashi?” aside from the very obvious lack of mentschlechkeit (which I have witnessed many times, even from people who come into my home as last minute Shabbos guests or fund raisers when we get to talking about the above issues, after I give the check)

    The above really gets to the core of a major issue, that the Litvishe Yeahiva world has absoloutly no respect, (even when it should be due from their own perspective,) for a Chabad Rabbi, he is judged immediately as an Am Haaretz, as is the Rebbe himself, not worthy of any courtesy and respect. In the horror stories mentioned above, and it occurs time and time again, a recent Baal Teshuva comes back to his beloved Chabad Rabbi totally bewildered because he met a respected Rabbi or teacher who completely belittled the Chabad Rabbi and made comments like “they are only good for Kashering kitchens or putting up mezuzahs etc. they don’t know how to learn” This was a personal experience, and if I may humbly say, I can actually learn a little.
    When the Lubavitch Talmid hears these stories, he develops a certain attitude.
    This can change thru more open dialouge, like this wonderful forum. And I must add again, that yes, of course, there is much fault and correction needed in Chabad, at every Kinus Hashluchim regional and national there are Halachic seminars for this reason, In many areas Chabad has appointed roving “Mevakrim” who visit Chabad houses and shuls pointing out certain deficincies, we are NOT perfect nor close to it, but our heart is in the right palce, our actions are in the right place and the feeling is that the Torah world has written us off.
    I again, went off too long, Truth, and Boruch (or anyone else) give me your email,we can continue.

    To Steve, thanks for reading. of course there were other groups I didn’t deny that, I mentioned Rabbi Friefeld and others. I mentioned JEP only because it was made up of primarily Litvish Yeshiva boys which was not the case of NCSY. NCSY is a beautiful organization,and I am very familiar with them as a youth, they have done and do incredible things, HOWEVER, with all due respect there is a difference, in addition to the more modern orthodox view, NCSY’s focus was (if im not mistaken) more on inreach with students who already attended some type of day or high school, JEP and others I believe tried to reach unaffiliated public school kids, no matter, I wasn’t ruling anybody out.
    Also, Steve, Rabbi Ruderman (in Chabad lore) attended The lubavich yeshiva for a short while then left.
    I have a story that is unknown, with my brother and Rabbi Ruderman re lubavitch, it is a warm one, although he was not too fond of Lubavitch, and was quite vocal about it.
    I also spent a Friday night meal alone with my father and Rabbi Yaakov Weinberg A’H, and when we walked home we could have sworn he was a lubavitcher Chassid, the stories and personal anecdotes about the Rebbe with whom he met often, he told were amazing. I wish that warmth would have been transmitted to his many students.
    I do not want to address Dr. Bergers post (my dear friend Rabbi Eliezrie and others can have the honor). Although the Moshiach issue is very very problematic and painful for mainstream Chabad, I believe the agenda is personal and he mixes a lot of truth, fiction and fantasy to create a more global problem than truly is there. I would like to say, I live in an county that has almost a million Jews, in my immediate area there are 19 Chabad houses and shuls, the shul population fluctuates between 100-200 people each Shabbos with hundreds (in some instances close to a thousand) attendees on the Yomim Noraim. I challenge and urge Dr. Berger and anyone else, to attend randomely any one of the services, any one of their many classes,such as the popular JLI, or chassidus classes, he can do it incognito (I have no idea what he looks like) and then let him publish his findings, I strongly doubt he will hear , in a personal or public venue the kind of stuff he mentions in his writings,

    Moshiach, and his imminent arrival, and our need to “bring” him was a dominant issue in all of the Rebbes writings, that is a fact.
    a Godol, who I was close with, once told me after I asked him about Moshiach and the Rebbe, that there is one Jew in this world who Is sick about Moshiach, and HKBH should bring Moshiach just for him.
    Another Fact is that are many individuals, yes Many, who have taken these ideas and feelings to an extreme, a very damaging and hurtful extreme. it has NOT permeatred to the student or Mispallel at large, at least outside certain enclaves in Israel.come and check it out.
    We recently attended the main Chabad Shluchim Conference banquet, where there were 2850 leading Chabad Rabbis and another 1000 plus lay leaders, there was no mention, not a word about the issues and fear Berger talks and hand wrings about,the fact remains that as time goes on many of these elements have faded out, leaving only a minor vocal radical element who is causing more damage to Chabad than any other group. This is a problem that we are very aware of.
    However, to be perfectly honest, the issues with Moshiach and Rebbe were always prevalent in the Yeshiva world, they always had a problem with the Adoration and love and total devotion a Chossid (especially Chabad) had to their Rebbe. Or of what was percieved (shades of Rav hutner, who seemingly had this issue) as the Rebbes culture of Self, Who remembers when it was alomst considered “Ossur” to have a picture of the Rebbe, the Litvish couldn’t get over it, why do you have to have a picture of the Rebbe all over? why do you ask the Rebbe everything? Why can’t you get married without the Rebbes Brocha? So where are we today? there is a brisk (pun intended) business in Pictures of ALL the Gedolim (execept for the Lubavitcher Rebbe of course) in every home ther is now a beautiful picture of each Roish Yeshiva, even the most Misnagdish, Rav Chaim Kanievsky is asked (as was his Father ZT”L) from Jews worldwide about everything from Shiduchim to business, (there are seforim with his answers to questions that would amaze you…) I personally know 2 succesful businessmen one from Lakewood and one from California who ask Rav Chaim everything,and recently went to Israel to inquire about a shidduch and a business deal. He is not the only one.

    Today every Talmid consideres his rosh yeshiva a Rebbe in the very chassidic sense of the word. Take Brisk, (which in reality is now every major Talmid of Lakewood) with its looks (Peyos) and customs and chumros, how are they different from any other Chassidic group?
    I once heard that Rav soloveitchik say that he wished his talmidim would listen to him like the Chabad Chassidim listen to the Rebbe (
    Lonely Man notwithstanding) this was in reference to his studying Likuttei Torah with them.
    I had a long converstaion with a very prominent Litvish Rosh Yeshiva, who is at least honest in his criticisms, when I brought up the Moshiach issue he said he has no problem with that, and he never did, seeing my surprise he said, he comes from a Polish Chassidic family (Tchortkov, Bobov) when he grew up ALL the chasidim said their rebbe was Moshiach, so he isn’t bothered by that, he was more bothered by the fact that it is well known that Lubavitch can’t learn. When I pointed out to him that I just finished presenting an hour long halchic analysis of a complex tlamudic issue (Mitzvo Haboo leyodcho al tachmitzena) and we then went off on a tngent of many other talmudic topics and there was considerable give and take, and I only learnt in Luvbavitch yrshivas? he stared at me for a long time and said, you know you’re right, maybe I shouldn’t be so quick to judge.
    We need more interaction and mutual respect through respectful dialougue.

  17. Shalhevet says:

    To answer the comment by Baruch Horowitz — December 26, 2006 @ 11:30 pm
    “Do you see any way of bringing Lubavitch and non-Lubavitch communities together before the advent of Moshiach, for specific events or forums ? I have considered the same with the charedi/MO divide, and chassidic/Litvish.”

    Try having special needs children, or medical conditions, or … As a friend of mine (Lubavitch) once said to me – that’s what it takes to bring Lakewood and Crown Heights together! There are many parents’ organizations devoted to such issues in which we all cooperate and work together.

  18. David Berger says:

    Rabbi Eliezrie’s assessment of the extent of belief in the Rebbe’s Messiahship within Chabad is, as Mendy notes in comment 88, far removed from reality. My own assessment is available at

    Another remark by Rabbi Eliezrie allows for a more focused look at his credibility. Here is what he wrote in comment 21:

    “The Boreinu stuff is absolute baloney. Oh, there was this mentally ill guy in Tzefat that David Berger discovered. But he forgot to tell everyone that the guy tried twice to murder the Lubavitcher Rav after he threw him out of the community for his crazy ideas. Then he was committed to a mental hospital. I am sure that there are no lack of crazies in Boro Park but no one would assert that they represent a philosophy that has followers.”

    My presentation of the issue of avodah zarah in Chabad is one to which I devoted three chapters in the book as well as a long appendix, and a few paragraphs of the above-linked article present a bare-bones summary of some of the key points. The “mentally ill guy in Tzefat” plays no role whatever in those discussions. I mentioned him in one footnote in the chapter dealing with the extent of messianism in the movement. (See the English book, p. 123, n. 14; in the Hebrew I revised that chapter considerably and in the course of the revision dropped the footnote –and hence the reference to this fellow–entirely.) That footnote, which is governed by a reference to a Milwaukee rabbi who published an “elokist” calendar, reads as follows:

    “The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle, Dec. 4, 1998, published a story about this rabbi, including a reproduction of the picture of the Rebbe with the Russian word for God underneath (‘Bog,’ spelled B-g out of respect for the divine name). The story reports that the main Lubavitch emissary there denounced the rabbi. In late May, 2000, a resident of my neighborhood gave me a picture of the Rebbe with the word G-d underneath that he had just removed from a wall in a Manhattan business district. Needless to say, no large conclusions can be drawn from a poster of unknown provenance. Similarly, an unbalanced hasid from Safed, who took out advertisements proclaiming the divinity of the Rebbe and even scratched such a message on the Western Wall, was arrested after intentionally injuring Rabbi Levi Bistritsky with his car because of the latter’s vigorous opposition. [The reader of the book already knows that Rabbi Bistritsky was a Lubavitcher hasid and the Chief Rabbi of Tzefat, who “pursued a courageous anti-messianist policy”—p. 12.] On the one hand, such atypical manifestations deflect concern by convincing outsiders that the problem of avodah zarah is limited to lunatics; in fact, they are symptoms of a deep problem at the core.”

    I have no idea if Rabbi Eliezrie read my book with serious attention (or at all). If he did, then his statement is a knowing falsehood. In the more likely event that he did not, it reflects the carelessness with which he disseminates “information.” In either case, it should alert the reader to the need to check anything he says about this matter with great care. It is evident from this thread and many others that few participants have read the book, though several—to whom I am very grateful—have. I ask every one with a serious interest in this subject (which should be every committed Jew) to read it, preferably in the updated Hebrew version. (This is not a sales pitch. My financial interest in the Hebrew version is nugatory.)

    I end with a reference to a recent text not found in my book or in the article: See Sichat Hageula #614 at The bottom of p. 1 (the paragraph with the heading hofa ba-hadar ge’on uzzekha) provides an illustration of prayer to the Rebbe as God. While the people who publish this do not represent what is regarded as the Chabad establishment in Israel, they are not a handful of marginal lunatics. They are able to put together events attracting thousands of believers with the participation of major Chabad mashpi’im and rabbis. The practical implications of the likelihood that at least a mi’ut ha-matzuy of Lubavitch hasidim are ovdei avodah zarah are so dire that Jews simply refuse to face facts. Even worse—far worse–some of the few people who do face the facts avoid the consequences by saying that this belief is not so terrible and reflects (chas ve-shalom) standard chasidus. In short, the admirable desire to preserve achdus, a value so eloquently defended by some of the participants in this discussion, has placed the core of Judaism in the most acute jeopardy, ve-ein ish sam al lev.

  19. Litvak says:

    R. Eliezrie keeps on talking about Litvishe antagonism to Lubavitch. However, he conveniently omits strong opposition by many other Chassidim to Lubavitch, which goes back a long, long time. No less than the grandson of the BESHT himself, R. Boruch of Mezhibuzh, confronted the baal haTanya and said to him ‘your derech is not the derech of my zeide’ – and such opposition has continued to this day.

    He writes “The Previous Rebbe and the Rebbe started Kiruv.”. That is simply false. The Chofetz Chaim called for kiruv and various Litvishe and others answered his call. Okay, maybe they didn’t have a PR machine like Lubavitch has, so they are not as well known. But they definitely existed.

    Do you hold that the Rebbe invented the wheel too ? And Al Gore the internet ?

  20. dovid says:

    To Rabbi Dovid Eliezrie:

    One of the leading figures at Ohr Somayach (not chassidish) told me appreciatively at a Shabbos table about 18 years ago, that most of his talmidim (or a large number of them, I am not sure any more) have started off in their observance with Lubavitch. Comments and jokes made about Lubavitch Chassidim are of benign nature, comparable to those that servicemen in the Navy make about their counterparts in the Air Force or Army. Since not everyone is cut to be a Lubavitcher chassid, Lubavitchers should not feel betrayed if someone that they were mekarev ends up in OS or Aish. Post #24 by HILLEL summarizes best Lubavitchers’ forte in kiruv: “By providing unconditional love to all Jews, regardless of their level of observance, Lubavitch creates a non-threatening atmosphere in which each and every Jew can advance in his level of study and observance at his own pace, within his own comfort zone.” Lubavitchers’ track record is unparalleled. I love their warmth and menschlichkeit. Have you ever met a grouchy, indifferent, or arrogant Lubavitch Chassid? I haven’t.

  21. J. Rubin says:

    Dennis Prager has missed the point with Chabad. He is obtuse to the deeper particularism and chauvanism inherent in Chabad’s relationship to Jews in general and Orthodoxy in particular.

    This is best illustrated by a personal experience. I was makareved by Chabad and moved to Israel and became Charedi/Frum. I look parve and at first glance could be holding anywhere other than Breslov. Thus, several years later, while in America I visited the shliach who makareved me. He greeted me warmly and then eyed me and asked, “Where are your daughter’s studying”. I answered, “Beis Yaakov”. It was as though I said a Catholic Seminary. They makareve me, they won the battle but lost the War. In their heart of hearts, with me, they failed. I am not a Lubavitcher.

  22. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “I think we need to find forums public and private to began a broader discussion between Chabad and the LItvasher world”

    I agree. A friend I spoke to earlier today, said that there is nothing that can be done by us grass-root bloggers, and that speaking about contentious issues will only make it worse. I, however, refuse to accept the fact that the Chabad/non-Chabad relationship is hopeless, the same way I don’t say that regarding the Chareidi/MO divide.

    I saw in this thread an unprecedented opportunity to exchange ideas with someone in Chabad who can see another point of view, and that is why I joined the conversation. In general(depending on the issue of course) I also prefer to have a discussion with someone who can see another view, but is much to the left of me on the Orthodox spectrum, than with someone belonging to the identical group as myself, but can not engage in any self-criticism, or see multiple perspectives.

    In any conversation of this sort, both sides need to have good will, and perhaps everyone should learn mussar before…or sifrei chassidus, for that matter. Tanya, Likkitay Amorim 32 is a good source on the foundation of Jewish unity, and is sometimes quoted in Litvish circles:

    ” U’lechain nik’reu kol Yisrael achim mamosh, metzad shoresh nafshom ba’Shem echad, rak s’hagufim mechulakim…”

  23. Baruch Horowitz says:

    ” Their parochialism is no better than Chabad’s. Comments like we need to be part of the Klal, who makes you guys the Klal and us not?”

    I agree. Different groups interact with the broader Klal Yisrael in different ways. Orthodoxy, Chareidim, Satmar, Chassidim in general. As I said above, I think Lubavitch has every right to “do their own thing”, or “march to their own drummer”.

    Rambam Siyumim versus Siyum Hashas shouldn’t bother anyone. After all, not all chassidic groups attend Daf Yomi’s Siyum Hashas, although as I said above, it would be nice at some point prior to Moshiach’s arrival, to have contingents from all groups attending the other’s celebrations. The analogy regarding a siyum that “my brother makes a simcha and therefore I attend” should have the broadest applications possible.

    ” The Litvasher need to understand that we as a community are struggling in what we call a post Gimmel Tammuz world…The Meshistim are one expression of this internal spiritual struggle.”

    This is true, and I understand that.

    I also think that the more zealous anti-Chabadniks needs to keep in mind the words of Chazal: “mum she’becha al toamar l’chaveircha”.

    All humans as individuals find it easier to rationalize, than look a problem in the eye. A group has an even more complex dynamic when it comes to change–whether it’s a minority community changing group culture towards education, the Orthodox community facing the reality of social problems such as drug abuse and molestation, or Charedim ostracizing fringe kannoish elements in Ramat Beit Shemesh.

    In order for people like Rabbi Eliezrie to present to Meshicists a “five-year plan” to remove the excesses of in-your-face-Meshicism which turns off Litvish and even some non-Orthodox Jews, he needs to be able to show in return a similar five-year plan from anti-Chabadniks for reducing acerbic opposition.

    Anti-Meshicists outside Chabad can not change a person’s personal belief and should give up the notion that they will effect change of belief, but on the other hand, there is no reason for Meshichists to announce to the world a very personal, and parochial belief out of the notion that they will convince other’s that their credo leads to spiritual and eschatological good. Both sides must make these overtures simultaneously, or nearly so, to show the good-will necessary to jumpstart small positive change on both sides.

  24. truth says:

    Rabbi Eliezrie,

    I also hope that everyone gained from each other. And after summing up what one thinks the other should learn from his positions, one should take heed to see the other’s viewpoint and see how one can fix his position in light of the perception of the other.

    One thing though that has to be stressed as many in Lubavitch think that your following comment “answers” the legitimate taromes that you cannot take in your hands and change at whim how jews believed for thousands of years and some went to die because of this beleif.

    When you state: “their shitah is based on the Gemara in Sanhedrin 98B , if you read the footnote number 42 in the Artscroll you would think it was written by a Meshchist”, does not help give them legitimacy, for NOWHERE do we find a definite identification for someone who is no longer with us. At best we have a statement from one amora stating if that *were* to be the case (where of course he accepts that it could also mechayo, meaning no DEFINITE identification) it would a prophet from the past millenium and not a recent Rebbe. There is NO precedent whatsoever in Jewish history (legitimate) to take upon oneself and declare with certainity that a recent Rebbe who was nistalek is the moshiach. And furthermore, in order to *identify with certainty* it must fit the criteria set by the Rambam which obviously does not fit the bill. Definite statements in regards to this issue must have a precedent in Jewish history or as it is recorded in TOrah She Baal Peh.

  25. Steve Brizel says:

    For those interested, R Ruderman ZTL was a an orphan whose tuition was paid by none other than R Chaim Brisker ZTL. MOAG has much on this episode for the interested reader.