Well, apparently I belong to a cult. That is just super.
How should the chareidi community react to phenomena such as Chabad and the wide publicity it engenders with its Mashiaeh campaigns periodically splashed across the non-Jewish radio and TV media?
Rav Belsky: I disagree. Chabad used to be about disseminating Chassidic teachings which the Baal HaTanya wrote, saying his Divrei Torah, etc. In America, Chabad started out with Shlichim going out and bringing the masses back to Judaism. These are goals which we share and do not contest.
But present-day Chabad has nothing to do with the above. Present-day Chabad has become a personal cult centered on the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe. Everything they do from beginning to end, revolves around this. They constantly project his image, talk about him and how great he was, how smart he was, how he was a better strategist than all the generals, that he was Mashiach. etc. This is the way people talk about a cult figure. There’s no room in Yiddeshkeit for a personality cult in which an individual is deified and glorified. Whether he was great or wasn’t great is immaterial. There have been many great people in Judaism. The personality cult of glorifying an individual person, giving him unique titles, elevating the shape other building he was active in. etc., has no place in Yiddishkeit.
Here’s the thing, go read the other two responses by the link I provided above. Rav Miller and Rav Heinemann both chose to answer the question directly about Mishichistim. They both spoke against them and addressed the actual question. Rav Belsky chose to widen the net and trash the entire Chabad movement.
In light of his recent comments on the Lipa ban I had got a positive impression of Rav Belsky. Even though he should have made public that information weeks ago and he should have known better then to assume nothing foul had gone on, I still gave him credit for publicly admitting that something was very wrong about how the whole thing happened. But these statements have really got me upset.
I really hope that somehow these words are not as accurate as he relayed them originally. Maybe something was lost in translation. Maybe the question was phrased differently then we’re reading it there. I don’t know, but I desperately want to believe that what is written there is not word for word what he really thinks.
The Meshichists among Chabad have died down a great deal. Not nearly enough to my own liking, but considerably. Yes, we do not have control back of 700 yet, but we will. That is only a matter of appellate courts and yellow tape. The Judges have all agreed with Aguch (Chabad Leadership) and it’s just a matter of time. The truth is they have died out, and a great majority of the most serious fanatics are bread from Israel and are off the deep end. Even from those who still believe it, who live in the community, they are more quiet about it.
If you come to Crown Heights and take a look you will see a beautiful community that is boasting serious growth, especially for guys my age range. Life has gone on, painfully, but it has. Construction on new buildings and homes are at record hights, schools are over filling, there are even new shuls opening.
You have to understand, and maybe if you aren’t Lubavitch or never met the Rebbe its hard to understand. But we didn’t just lose one single Rav on Gimmel Tammuz. We lost a Gadol, a leader, a teacher and most personal of all, a father. The Rebbe is with us spiritually and we use his love, his wisdom, his Torah and his words to guide us every day. Maybe Rav Belsky wants us to just get over it already and file the Rebbe away somewhere in a history museum. That is not how we act, that is not how Chassidus works, and I thought that wasn’t how Yiddishkeit worked.
That’s why it pains me to read his depiction of “modern day Chabad”, it’s beyond insulting, it’s just plain not true. It’s the worst kind of Motzei Sheim Ra and shows a serious lacking in basic Ahavas Yisroel. I really want to believe Rav Belsky can explain away why the tone and description of my community was so ignorant.
I don’t mind the usual bashing that Chabad gets. That’s fine, it’s the way it always was, there were always people who just hate Chabad and every decade it was a different thing they hated us for. I have never let those people get to me. If you are too young to remember then ask a parent. There were those who attacked Chabad 50 years ago. They attacked us for anything from publicizing candle lighting times on the radio to putting Tefilin on non Religious people. The haters came out in full force as soon as the Rebbe talked about Moshaich. This was decades before any of the Meshichistim ever came to be.
His depiction of todays Chabad is dead wrong. Thats not how the thousands of Shluchim all over world are, and it’s not how Crown Heights is. Yes, we talk about the Rebbe a lot. I’m sorry that offends Rav Belsky, and I’m sorry that somehow that makes me part of a cult. We talk a lot about Avraham Avinu and Dovid Hamelech and Moshe Rabenu and The Baal Shem Tov and The Baal Hatanya. We like to talk about the Tzadikim that continue, spiritually, to be guides for all of us in Derech Hatorah. If you’ll notice some of those people have titles as well.
I know that the “Mishichist Problem” is big. I know it’s not good and I know it has done tremendous harm. You don’t have to tell me. I am a Chabad Chossid, with all my heart and all my soul. I couldn’t even imagine being anything else. I mean that very seriously. So it kills me to bear witness to the damage the Mishichists have done to my own community.
If it were up to me the Chabad leadership would spend all its nights and all its days doing nothing but rooting out every single fanatic. I would love to see every Yellow Flag taken down, every school teacher or Shul that goes with the Meshichist path reprimanded. But I’m not in charge and I don’t make those decisions.
Ignoring them has worked for me and I think it has been an effective tool over all. The other part of this was of course the legal battles that continue to wage on and so far have brought results. The community no longer wants to be dragged down by fanatics and Rav Belsky would do himself a great benefit by coming to Crown Heights, spending a Shabbos or two and getting to know “modern day Chabad” a little better.
Update: The OU is already distancing themselves from Rav Belsky’s statements. Check that out here.
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