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. mycroft says:

    Not only kiruv workers-but everyone especially mechanchim should emphasize ahavas Israel for all including their students.

  2. DMZ says:

    Am I the only one who finds these two statements a bit contradictory?

    “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.”

    “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).”

  3. Nachum says:

    Unfortunately, that approach often results in Chabad “outreach” neglecting the goal of making Jews religious altogether. There are plenty of examples of people taken in by Chabad continuing- with Chabad approval- their old lifestyle completely, and turning to Chabad to a little Jewish feeling every now and then.

    “I hesitate to publicize on this blog what are essentially blows at the very heart of our mesorah (tradition).”

    Can we not take it? Can the mesorah not take it?

  4. Aaron says:

    Does Dennis have any discomfort with Chabad’s moshichistim or see any parallel with another outreach-emphasizing movement 19 centuries ago that had problems when “their guy” didn’t complete the “big stuff” during his lifetime?

    Has Dennis read David Berger’s “The Rebbe, The Messiah, and the Scandal of Orthodox Indifference?”

    Would Dennis have the courage to bring THAT stuff up if he faced a predominantly Chabad audience? Would he be able to say that Chabad has uniquely given missionaries a nuclear bomb in their efforts by claiming that a messianic candidate can be resurrected to complete the job, in contradiction to 19 centuries of mesorah to the contrary and Psalm 146’s clear assertion that when a person dies, and is buried, all his plans end. Maybe it’s Bar Kochba that’s coming back to complete the messianic task?

    I was kind of hoping that the Yechi stuff would end after a year… after five… or even after ten. What is the statute of limitations that 95% of Chabadniks would accept as exceeding the reasonable limit of the moshichistic claim? Or are we seeing something that we really haven’t seen repeated in the centuries since Shabtai Zvi or the “other guy” whose birthday was changed to today.

    Kind of hoping that Dennis reads this.

  5. Tal Benschar says:

    It is hard to respond to criticism of “the mesorah” without concrete examples. As (vaguely) presented here, it sounds like he is rejecting the authority of Torah itself — which self-contradicts the insistence that the Torah is of Divine origin and Authority. That means you accept that which you are uncomfortable with along with the comfortable. Once you feel to reject those parts of the masorah you dislike or find uncomfprtable, then you have taken yourself out of Orthodoxy.

  6. Bob Miller says:

    How beguiled are we by star power? By popularity?

    There are many “proven draws” out there who have, nonetheless, proven themselves unworthy to address an Orthodox-sponsored conference.

  7. David Eliezrie says:

    Kudos to my friend Rabbi Yitzchak Adlerstein for his honesty and courage to stand up to Dennis. While not being at the debate I did participate in the next days session on Kiruv put on by the OU. There I pointed out that most people are not willing to totally change their lives. Our goal as Chabad Shluchim is to move them forward in their Yiddikiet, step by step. Halevi we would succeed in moving eveyone all the way. However reality is that not eveyone is willing to make to take the whole road. I think Nachum misunderstands that we try to make everyone fully Shomer Mitzvhas but just as many of us are unwilling to loose five pounds many Yidden will make steps but not go all the way. The differance between us and some in the Frum community is we see value in a Jew that moves partially forward and begins the observance of some Mitzvahs.

    Dovid Eliezrie

  8. Fern R says:

    Will the transcript of your debate be published anywhere? I’m curious about Dennis Prager’s criticisms interested to see how you rebuffed them.

  9. Yitzchok Adlerstein says:

    DMZ –
    Not contradictory at all. The OU made a decision to host DP, attendant risks and all, at a live session in front of a crowd whose composition they could predict. CC plays to a much more varied audience, and I don’t feel comfortable exposing casual readers to more than they bargained for.

    Nachum –
    I know you can take it. Not everyone else can. I am already getting flak from the kanaim for even participating, even though I didn’t extend the invitation.

    Fern –
    We don’t know yet. The OU is deciding whether or not to publish the tape. There are private copies circulating, and I imagine some of them will be made available on various servers. Please keep in mind that, as is often the case in debate, I did not get a chance to address all of the issues, or make the points I would have liked to.

  10. hp says:

    “I am already getting flak from the kanaim”

    R’A., please don’t fall prey to the temptation to paint anyone with an differing opinion to the right of you “kanaim”.

    It lacks intellectual honesty (but is certainly replete with emotional honesty…).

  11. Yitzchok Adlerstein says:

    R’A., please don’t fall prey to the temptation to paint anyone with an differing opinion to the right of you “kanaim”.

    I certainly don’t. I have no shortage of friends to the right of me (as well as the left of me), and we cordially disagree all the time.

    But why would you think that I don’t know the identity of some bona fide kanaim? Do you doubt that they exist, or whether they would have bothered communicating directly?

  12. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “I am already getting flak from the kanaim for even participating, even though I didn’t extend the invitation.”

    I empathize with any people in your position.

    “Not all Orthodox communities are comfortable with outsiders offering their suggestions about what they are doing wrong…I think it was a wise move, although clearly not appropriate for every audience…He cited example after example of halachic areas he thought problematic… 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…”

    It sounds like Dennis Prager discussed either areas of Halacha which are not in accordance with current Western ethics and sensibilities, or that he took in his speech a non-Orthodox, critical-historical approach to the development of Halacha and Mesorah. Neither of these areas are new, but public discussion and debate are seriously problematic if it will weaken anyone’s belief in Yiddishkeit. Certainly, for people who never encountered such ideas, discussion could be lethal.

    I would add two points:

    Even if one is not prepared to debate, people should strengthen themselves internally. Merely as an analogy, this distinction is made by the Beis Halevi regarding the response in the Haggadah to the rashah. In that vein, Rav Matisyahu Salomon said at the Agudah Convention: “…For we must strengthen all of our children, and give them the ammunition with which to fight back when their beliefs are attacked. ”

    In addition, one might distinguish between belief in the fundamentals of Judaism, versus those in a particular derech. I would hope and expect that the majority of people would be secure enough to hold their own in a thorough intellectual discussion as to why he or she chooses a certain path within Orthodoxy. In “These and Those”, Rav Schwab makes a statement to the effect that “only those who are secure in their own hashkafos can afford to hear those of others”. Rav Schwab is making a call for tolerance between adherents of TIDE and “Torah-Only”, but I think the point of security in derachim in avodas HaShem is applicable in broader contexts. I would like to see more of such amicable and open discussions occur publicly in different forums, such as the press.

  13. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “But why would you think that I don’t know the identity of some bona fide kanaim? Do you doubt that they exist..”

    Regarding the term “Kannoi”, there are both the bona fide as well as the ersatz types. Additionally, some like the term and the concept, and others don’t.

    Some proudly identify with Pinchas, about whom Hashem said, “tachas ashar kinie lelokav”, or with Eliyahu, who said of himself “kanoi kineisi l’Hashem Elokei Tzavokos”.

    To others, zealotry in general, or a particular level thereof is to be shunned. Some think a particular group such as Agudah is not zealous enough ; others think the opposite.

    Regarding zealotry in general,there are very subjective opinions, and one might apply the saying: one man’s askan(activist), is another man’s kannoi(zealot) 🙂

  14. Gary Shuman says:

    Dear Rabbi Adlerstein,
    You did Avodas Hashem by standing up for Torah values against a speaker who is well spoken and a fine moral person but not completely shomer Torah and Mitzvot at this time by his own admissision. If I were looking for a rebbe in Ethical Humanism I would turn to Dennis Prager. However I believe that the Torah is true, both the Oral and Written parts of the one true Torah. I therefore can not accept Praegar’s incomplete method of Sabbath observence. I feel it was inappropriate for him to talk to us about that as well as his other comments on the mesores at the OU conference.
    People go to this conference for chizuk. Not everybody has the knowledge or strength in one’s convictions as a true ben Torah. There may be some bnei Torah that are so sheltered in their world that they too may have a difficult time with the challenges posed by one similar to Dennis Prager.
    I wish that Dennis Prager should have so much nachas from his son who is learning Torah seriously that the son should lead the father to a life filled with more Torah and Yiras Shamayim. I express my appreciation for you guarding Kavod Hatorah with strength knowledge conviction and eloquence.
    Sincerely, Gary Shulman
    P.S. On a lighter note the two of you were the best entertainment ever at an OU conference.

  15. Melech Press says:

    i am amazed that someone as sophisticated as my friend R’ Yitzchok would talk about such an absurd notion as the ahavas Yisroel of Chabad. Chabad is totally devoid of ahavas Yisroel and is consumed with ahavas Chabad. The examples are endless; one need only ask the rabbonim who share communities with the Chabadniks. The most glaring examples are the readiness of Chabad to destroy programs which they see as competing with them even if they are more successful than those of Chabad, their willingness to encourage Jews to be mechallel Shabbos for the convenience of Chabad shlichim to have a “minyon,” their lack of concern with kiyum hamitzvos in their affiliates rather than association with Chabad, their beliefs in their exemption from halacha when it interferes with their desires, etc. I could go on but what for – the evidence for Chabad being a sect rather than a branch of Torah Judaism is overwhelming to those who look even moderately carefully. What Chabad succeeds at is public relations; it makes little real contribution to kiruv rechokim. I am not commenting on the question of messianism or the “bor’einu” crazies. I have long held that Dovid Berger is too generous in seeing only the messianists among Chabad as kofrim.

  16. Jewish Observer says:

    “I fiercely reject the notion that Chabad pioneered outreach in American or put it on the map”

    – fierceness does not make it any less true

  17. Joel Rich says:

    Interesting is the percentage of “approved by HKB”H kannoim” in tanach versus people who think their kannous is what HKB”H wants. The purity of soul required to be a Pinchas is well known – for generations that are constantly pointing out how far below our anscestors we rank, it’s worthwhile for each of us to ask ourselves (and probably others) what our true motivations are, will we be effective and are we at the level needed.

  18. hp says:

    “But why would you think that I don’t know the identity of some bona fide kanaim?”

    I don’t doubt you do. I simply wonder, though, if these dissenters were categorized by you as kanaim before they voiced their opinion on something you personally did, or after.

  19. Nachum says:

    Tal, just one note: It’s possible to believe in Torah Min HaShamayim and not in all aspects of the Mesorah- after all, there’s Oral Law as well as Written Law, and there’s law as it’s developed (I don’t think anyone honest, no matter how frum, would question the use of that word) for over 2000 years. Now, you and I may accept all of that, and even link them, but Mr. Prager may not.

    Mr. Eliezre: Granted. But there are other issues, as Dr. Press notes.

    R’ Adlerstein: I suppose the whole Koran flap (or Mr. Prager’s odd allegation that Jewish officeholders swear on a Christian Bible) didn’t come up?

  20. Harry Maryles says:

    Interesting fellow… Dennis Prager. I once had an opportunity to speak with him on air. While I was on hold, I tried to decide if he was making a daily Kiddush HaShem or daily Chilul HaShem. I decide to compliment him on air and say that his daily presence on air is a Kiddush HaShem. But it is really a mixed bag.

    On the one hand, his obvious love for Torah, his strong advocacy of religious practices, his often very positive comments about Orthodoxy, (while admitting that he is not Orthodox himself) and his general positive approach to religious observance and belief in God, does make observant Judaism look attractive.

    On the other hand he clearly rejects some Halacha, especially certain D’Rabbanons (Rabbinic decrees of our sages). And he obviously advocates those views as appropriate. But, he knows better, having been brought up in a religious home and having a religious education. He completely violates Lo Sassur (the commandment to follow our sages). This makes him an Apikores or at least something very close to it. As such his show can be viewed as a Chilul HaShem.

    But… I still I enjoy listening to him generally and in the bottom line is he does make observant Judaism look good in my view. And there is no better advocate for Israel than Dennis Prager.

    I would love to know what the elements of the debate were, and who said what. He is quite bright and obviously a polished debater and communicator, having many years experience as a broadcaster.

  21. Dovid Eliezrie says:

    I am suprised also. That someone as intelligent and sophisticated as Melech Press would react in a emotional and hostile tone. There is no question that Chabad is far from perfect, as any community. However the absolute assertion that there is no good in Chabad expresses a deeper anxiety that does not seem to be rooted in the Tzad Hatov. A few points.
    1. I would love to invite Mr. Press to come to my Orange County California. He will find a community of 75,000 Jews that prior to Chabad had no Yiddiksiet. Today we have a Chabad day school with 350 kids, Ten Chabad Centers, five well established, and five in early stages. There is an Modern Orthdox Shul that broke away from Chabad and is doing well. Some two thousand kids attend the summer camps, hebrew schools-for kids in public schools, pre schools, and the day school. We have tons of adult education, with shiurim all over the county, lunch and learns and much more. We have established Kashruth, and the first Mikvah is set to open in a month. The Federation is much better than LA since we are such a large segment of the community they are much more sensative to Halacha.
    2. It its all hype are we to discount the rebirth of a community from nothing. Is it just spin all the Jews who have become Shomer Mitzvhas, many that moved on to LA and other Frum communities.
    3. The Borienu stuff is absolute baloney. Oh, there was this menatally ill guy in Tzefat that David Berger discovered. But he forgot to tell everyone that the guy tried twice the 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 not lack of crazies in Boro Park but no one would assert that they represent a philosophy that has followers.
    4. Ask any Baal Teshuva, (including writers to this blog)in the great majority of the cases a Schliach played a role in that persons return to Yiddiskiet. In many cases the Schliach was at the point of first contact, since the he lived where the guy was, from from a frum community.
    5. As for Shlulchan Arouch. Ask the kid in Alaska who eats Chalov Yisroel or the Schliach in suburbia who puts up a proper Mechiza when the MO Shul down the block has a lower one. Shluchim are Moser Nefesh for Siman in Shluchan Aruch. You may find-and we are just human beings full of faults -that someone may do something improper. But to insinuate that this is sanctioned or supported in any way is absurb. The culture is Lubavitch is that Halacha is supreme. Many times we find oursleves holding up a higher standard than local Rabbonim.

    Lubavitchers are not perfect. To say that a young couple leaves his family and friends to live in Hanoi or Laos, Valivadstock or for that matter Orange County California to hype Lubavitch is absurb. There goal is to spread Yiddiskiet.
    Dovid Eliezrie

  22. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    I find R. Adlerstein’s post worthwhile and thought-provoking as usual. The issue of kiruv in Chabad vs. other sectors of Orthodoxy is part of the general principle of kinat sofrim tarbeh chochmah. Chabad may or may not have been the first player in organized kiruv, but are a big-time player that has brought a lot of Jews to Torah. Many of those baalei-teshuva did not end up identified as Chabad chasidim. I agree with R. Dovid Eliezrie’s point that people have to move forward at their own pace. A lockstep of measurement of halachic progress would be analogous to shutting down the beginners’ minyanim and immediately requiring raw recruits to meet the pace of a 6 am weekday shacharis. Another analogous issue that we face in Eretz Yisrael is the derech of Rav Kook who saw the return to Eretz Yisrael as a first step to return to Torah. For some it worked and for many it did not. In the aftermath of the expulsion and other abominations in the name of Medinat Yisrael the Religious Zionist public in EY is also becoming more activist in kiruv, and this is a good thing. We do have to move forward in our connection to Torah and mitzvot, all of us including FFBs, but not with a stopwatch.

  23. HirshelTzig says:

    One thing’s for sure, Melech Press is full of Ahavas Yisroel. Every word he writes is just brimming with it. I wish him lots of success in his Kiruv work, he must be very successful with that kind of loving attitude.


    and if Chabad pioneered outreach, so what? why do you feel the need to rewrite history and deny them the little credit they DO get?

  24. HILLEL says:

    Reb Yitzchok:

    Perhaps, I could be considered a Kanoi–defender of G-D’s honor.

    The O-U, in my opinion, did an irresposible thing inviting a non-Orthodox Jew to their gathering to freely criticise Halacha in front of an audience of laymen.

    If you felt inadequate to the task of debating with Dennis, you can just imagine how the audience felt. O-U took the irresponsible risk of confusing many BaaLei-TeShuVa beginners, who don’t have enough of a solid grounding in Judaism.

    In our tradition, only our great Torah sages, who were intimately familiar with all of Talmud, were qualified to contend with ApiKorSim. Great men, like the RAMBAM (Guide to the Perplexed)and the RAMBAN.

    People who are not at this level are better off investing their limited time in gaining a broader and deeper understanding of our authentic Torah tradition.

    As for Lubavitch, they are absolutely indispensable. Where else can a totally lost Jew in India or VietNam go to re-connect his soul to Torah Judaism?

    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.

    The Lubavitch emissaries throughout the world regard themselves as lifeguards, who are attempting to save lost Jews from drowning in a sea of Pagan hedonism.

    The Lubavitch formula is a proven success.

  25. Dovid Eliezrie says:

    As for who came first I think that there is tendancy to Historical Revionisim in the Litvasher World. A few facts
    1. The first national day school organization was set up by the Previous Rebbe in 1941. It still is the organization that stands at the center of Chabad, Merkos L’inyonie Chinuch. It opened schools and Yeshivas all over the northeast and as far west as Chicago in its first few years. A few years later Torah Umesorah, who have done a great job was started. According to some as a reaction to Chabad.
    2. The previous Rebbe sent the first people to campus to do outreach in 1949. The first campus Chabad House was established in the late sixties before anyone else. Young Israel did set up some kitchens but that was for frum kids.
    3. Community Outreach. The first summer outreach program, as we call it in Chabad “Merkos Schlichus” was in 1943. Since then senior Yeshiva bachurim have been sent to every community in the world during summer. During the first year or so bachurim went to US states and Canada. in two or three years they started going international.
    4. The first push to reach out to American Jews in a broad way was the day the previous Rebbe arrived in the US, March 1940. He stated on the dock that “America in Not Different” claiming that outreach was the key starting Mesibo Shabbos, Release time, day shools, etc. etc. The Litvasher approach of the Roshie Yeshiva was to set up Yeshivas and have a slow trickle down effect in the broader community. The Rebbe did not agree and advocated outreach as a primary strategy, something the Yeshivash world took years, if not decades to emulate.
    5. The first Baal Teshuva Yeshiva was Hadar Hatorah set up in the early sixties in Crown Heights by Chabad.
    6. The first Shluchim where sent out in the early forties to communities primarily focusing on building schools. The second wave began in the late fifties with a broader mandate of transforming whole communities.

    The point is that Chabad, from the begining of World War 2 launched outreach as its primary strategy. Sadly when I read the Artscroll version of history I find that the above mentioned facts are ommitted. I am not minimizing the contributions of Agudah, NCSY, Young Israel etc. they are significant. However Chabad’s approach was not one of building fortress Judaism and making a foray to the outside world. It was an approach of self confidence that from the get go reached out to the broader community. It took time, money and effort to build momentum and make a large impact.

    Dovid Eliezrie

  26. Shalhevet says:

    Unfortunately, in my unpleasant experience, Melech Press has a point. I or friends have been involved in succesful outreach projects that Chabad actively worked to destroy, once they showed up in town, an dwere unsuccessful in what they tried to do. In other places, all Orthodox outreach efforts cooperated (from Bnei Akivah to Agudah and Chassidic), and encouraged the kids we were working with to attend others’ events, and at the very least, did not talk against them. All, except for Chabad, that is. This occured in a few places that I am personally aware of.

  27. Andy Rubin says:

    Hashem loves every Jew. Chabad followers are not the only Shlichim, every Jew is a Shliach of Hashem!

    So get to work!

    Bottom Line? Moshiach now!

  28. Nachum says:

    “But, he knows better, having been brought up in a religious home and having a religious education. He completely violates Lo Sassur (the commandment to follow our sages).”

    The first sentence is quite patronizing; both sentences are very simplistic.

    “As for Shlulchan Arouch. Ask the kid in Alaska who eats Chalov Yisroel or the Schliach in suburbia who puts up a proper Mechiza when the MO Shul down the block has a lower one.”

    Neither of those things are worth dividing a community over.

  29. David says:

    “I hesitate to publicize on this blog what are essentially blows at the very heart of our mesorah (tradition).”

    I didn’t hear the debate. Nevertheless, the statement I quoted above tells me that the Torah side lost. As an Orthodox Jew who struggles with belief, I find that one of the most devastating handicaps I face in this struggle is our fondness for censorship (e.g., l’affaire Slifkin).

    Hiding Prager’s arguments is tantamount to acknowledging that we lack responses.

    The increasing insularity and slide to the right in Orthodoxy will not save us– the world is here, and we’re not getting out of it that easily. As Torah Jews, we have two (and only two) choices– 1) acknowledge and respond to challenges to Torah, trusting that we do have answers; or 2) admit that we don’t have any answers, and put our trust in ignorance of the questions to sustain our beliefs.

  30. Eliyahu says:

    Would the OU invite a conservative rabbi to a debate with R. Adlerstein (even if he is from the more traditional wing)? Would R. Adlerstein participate in such debate? If the answer is no, why should Dennis Prager be any different?

  31. Aaron says:


    Is it Jewish tradition to assert that a messianic candidate will die and return to complete the messianic prophecies or has it been that from time immemorial (or at least 19 centuries) that the typical first argument against someone whose birthday was celebrated yesterday is that the candidate died before completing the job?

    Or, per Ps. 146, once one dies is one’s job over?

    Yes or no, did the last Lubavitcher Rebbe die?

    I have MANY examples of achdus-opposing activity by Chabad in my city but would prefer to remain anonymous for the safety of my family. This pains me because I was initially mikareved by Chabad. But since the Rebbe died, the movement has scared me as repeating a tragedy that we have seen before.

  32. Zelig K says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein-
    didn’t you support R. Reinmen’s book on in an article in jewish action a few years back?? Why is publishing a transcript of your debate with Dennis Prager any different? And if it is because of the nature of this sepcific blog, perhaps you should present it on another website, as I would imagine that your responses to such a powerful figure could be very benificial to the readers of these blogs and the like.

  33. Mordechai says:

    Given that Chabad has been wholeheartedly committed to ripping my community apart in an attempt to destroy the community’s new kiruv rabbi, I must agree with Melech’s comments. Given their actions here, I must agree with Melech that Chabad’s ‘ahavat yisrael’, while being a cute concept to slap on a brochure in order to suck money from intermarried lawyers, is apparently hardly a motivating concept for some shluchim.

    At least I know now that whenever I see a Chabad shliach, I will promptly walk the other way.

  34. Dovid Eliezrie says:

    Oh now we have the ideological Moshiach test. First let me state it well known my criticism within and outside of Chabad-even in the New York Times about the Meshistim.
    So the answer to question nubmer 1, is it Jewish tradition etc., is no. By the way that is not the theology of the Meschistim, that’s Dr. Berger’s redefinition of their theology.
    Did the Rebbe pass away, Yes. I was at the Lavaya. However it may suprise you that Chassidim always refer to the passing of a Tzadik as “histalkus” as the Gemrara says “beloshon Hanikia”. Some outside of Lubavitch think, by they are mistaken, that this means the person did not pass away. However this is common Chassidic terminolgy for death.

    I do not know your community and not always is Chabad right. So it is impossible to relate to your issue about breaking community unity etc. You can email me privatly if you choose, [email protected].
    Dovid Eliezrie

  35. S. says:


    Hillel, you write this as if it is an acronym (AKS). May I ask what for?

  36. Rivka W. says:

    My initial response to Dr. Press’ comment was to disagree on a number of points. As a non-Lubavitcher who taught in a Lubavitch school for 10 years, I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. And the good is a good deal better than the picture that Dr. Press paints.

    However, Rabbi Eliezre’s response was just as over the top. Orange County is “yours”? There was no Yiddishkeit whatsoever in Orange County prior to Chabad? What utter rubbish.

    If there is a tendency among Litvaks to write Chabad out of the picture, perhaps it is response to the Chabad tendency of writing everyone else out. Not only do some (SOME! certainly not all!) shluchim make it exceedingly difficult for other kiruv groups to co-exist with them, I am astounded by repeated attempts to re-write pre-1700s Jewish history in Chabad’s image. (Did you know that Avraham Avinu opened the first Chabad House? Yeah, me either.)

  37. truth says:

    Dear Rabbi Eliezrie,

    With all due respect to many things that you write, you overlook many points made by your critics. I will mention some:

    Lubavitch is supposedly for Ahavas Yisroel for “all” Jews. But any chossid who knows a bit about the Gro, Chazon Ish, and of course R. Kotler would speak about these figures with the utmost disrespect words like “klipoh” and with utmost hatred that you decry about your opponents. It seems that these expressions show the emptiness and shallowness of the mantra that you upheld for yourself of “ahavat yisroel”. It seems that that you have lots of room for respect for shabbos desecrators and shiktze marrriers, but the GRo and Chazon Ish do not have that small measure of compassion that the aforementioned have.

    You minimize the importance of others in pioneering Yidishkeyt in the USA. Only the Freidiker Rebbe did something valuable. The growth of Yeshiva, which after everything is said and done is THE THING THAT MOSTLY HOLDS UP YIDDISHKEYT IN THE USA was started by Reb Shraga Feivel Mendelowitz of blessed memory.

    Your tactic of claiming that the messianists or boreyno are a minority can no longer hold water. You educate your youth to believe that the REBBE IS THE MOSHIACH, what chutzpah did you have to CHANGE WHAT JEWS BELEIVED IN FOR THOUSANDS OF YEARS? If some of your oppoonents do something in much lesser scale your people call them “the snags” and other epithets. But you CHANGED what people believed in for THOUSANDS OF YEARS without ANY SUBSTANCE and you think that you can go by free of charge?

  38. Jewish Observer says:

    “have MANY examples of achdus-opposing activity by Chabad in my city but would prefer to remain anonymous for the safety of my family.”

    – I doubt CC would have allowed a comment with equivalent cynicism about haredim to get published

  39. easterner says:

    kol hakavod for r adlerstein’s shul, which , while not supporting anything OU/YOLA/interfaith etc and remains chareidi mainstream, has not asked him to go elsewhere. i think that is as open minded as one could ever hope for… oh i stand corrected –the esteemed mara datra, a renowned posek, presented at the OU west coast gabay conference….

  40. Baruch Horowitz says:

    I looked over a description of the debate posted elsewhere on the internet, and I can see how anyone had their work cut out for them.

    I found the most controversial part of the debate, Rabbi Adlerstein’s remarks about New Yorker’s greeting habits; I hope that he realizes that people in large cities are of a diverse nature. 🙂

    Perhaps someone can do a post concerning reasons why some, or many, in large cities find it difficult to greet others properly. In order to correct the problem, one must first understand what makes exchanging greeting difficult, in or out of New York, and I don’t know if that was addressed at the OU conference. Factors may include insularity, splintering of communities, and shyness.

  41. Baruch Horowitz says:

    Rabbi Eliezrie,

    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.

    I don’t know what goes on in smaller communities, but in New York, there are little public opportunities for such unity. Obviously, there are various hashkafa-gaps which need to be overcome, and it might be best not to focus on the differences in philosophy in any hypothetical get-togethers.

    For example, would it be possible for a small contingent from Lubavitch to attend the next Siyum Hashas of Daf Yomi, and for a segment from Agudah/MO to attend a Rambam Siyum? Ideally, both groups probably should make it as comfortable as possible for the other. I imagine if the Rambam Siyum would have a Meshichist flavor(I don’t know if it currently does), then that would not be a good idea for joint gatherings or cooperation.

    Maybe smaller venues would be better, and there are such situations which I am not aware of. For example, an OK representative spoke at a meeting at OU headquarters following the Monsey kashrus scandal.

    I am curious to hear ideas on these questions which are probably more thorny than those of Dennis Prager. 🙂

  42. Yitzchok Adlerstein says:

    Eliyahu –

    I cannot speak for the OU, but I would not debate the Conservative rabbi in a public forum, in keeping with the issur of the gedolim promulgated decades ago. That issur applied to sharing platforms with clergy, however, not to laypeople like Dennis.

  43. David Eliezrie says:

    First in reference to Boruch Horowitz’s comment I wholeheadly agree. The division in the Frum world is very counterproductive. The responsibility goes both ways. Many in the Litvahser world are very hostile to Chabad, and many in Chabad are narrow and do not see beyond their community. I have tried over the last few years to create bridges of communicaton between Chabad and other segments of the Orthodox world-something that Rabbi Adlerstein has shared in. At the least we have created some communication and even some cooperation on crucial issues. We have reached out to Aguda, the OU and the most open of all Young Israel. I think the parachioalism,is ultimatly not good for Klal Yisroel.

    As for Rivkah W. comments. The facts are what they are. Prior to opening of the Hebrew Academy-Lubavitch in Long Beach thirty years ago, and its move to Orange County (California) a few years later there was no Orthodox presence in the County. Chabad opened the first center in Irvine, I was number two in Anaheim joining a small minyan that existed for a short time, and the rest is history. Since then Yiddiskiet has grown, however all the Orthodox Shuls except for Beth Jacob-which came after Chabad and was in reality a breakaway- in Irvine and small Minyan in Leisure World, as well as the Frum school are Chabad. The facts speak for themselves. All the Temples prior to our arrival where either Reform or Conservative.
    Dovid Eliezrie

    Dovid Eliezrie

  44. Aaron says:

    DE, let me be as subtle as a sledgehammer. Do you believe that the prophesied Moshiach ben David is/was/will be the Rebbe?

    Much would be disambiguated and nervous tension about ulterior motives ameliorated if the ubiquitous yellow signs, posters and flags of the Rebbe with the phrase “Welcome Melech HaMoshiach” were altered to “The Rebbe Reminded Us to Welcome Melech HaMoshaich”, to which I’d exclaim a hearty Kol HaKavod! The common practice of speaking of the Rebbe in present tense exacerbates suspicions. What’s the statute of limitations on that? Was it a practice as common 50 years ago with the Frierdike Rebbe as now?

    Google “rebbe moshiach” and we can draw our own conclusions on what the vast majority of Chabadniks think and aggressively promote about the Rebbe.

    Two generations from now will we still be seeing cultish rationalizations, apologetics and assertions like Yechi HaMelech?

  45. Leah says:

    I am under the impression that a big percentage of chabbad haters are BT (returnees). Some of the more virulent attacks I ever encountered were on the baal teshuva forum, the one which rabbi Horowitz serves as advisor.

    I am no big fan of chabbad and I saw some of them behaving unethically but I would not brash all the movement with it. I saw charedim rabbis behaving unethically as well but I know you cannot judge a movement by the behavior of few.

    Another blogger writing about the event made this following observation which in my experience is correct: “Basically, it boils down to this: Chabad values Jews whether they’re frum or not. Mitnagdim value only frum Jews”

  46. Bob Miller says:

    As someone who grew up in NYC, I’m amused that Baruch Horowitz (December 26, 2006 @ 11:01 pm) thought New Yorkers might be shy. It’s true that they may zip along the sidewalk, etc., in a kind of mental cocoon, but shy? Naaaah!

  47. kar says:

    “I hesitate to publicize on this blog what are essentially blows at the very heart of our mesorah (tradition).”

    If the summaries I’ve seen are correct, you make a mistake by not summarizing as few OJs would consider these blows effective. His main objections seem to be to what he considers halachic legal fictions, and to drabbonons that are in effect due to minhag and/or golus/lack of sanhedrin that he feels take away from what God really “Wants” which is the d’oreisa. This is one of the main conceptual splits between Conservative doctrine (Catholic Israel) and Orthodoxy.
    Additionally, he has some sociological criticisms that I bet many sincere Orthodox share.
    I don’t know how this played out, but it’s interesting that Prager complained of lack of discussion of hashkafa, yet I bet most would consider themselves to understand and have internalized the Orthodox position.

    I think the emphasis on Ahavas Yisrael is a general aspect of Hassidus, not specific to any denomination, and of course a lesson from hassidim that all of us would do well to internalize (whether chabad kiruv reflects true a. y. or not – chabad, even premessianism, always viewed itself as special).

  48. joel rich says:

    the issur of the gedolim promulgated decades ago. That issur applied to sharing platforms with clergy, however, not to laypeople like Dennis.

    Pretty interesting, is there a copy of the decleration available on-line?


  49. Dovid Eliezrie says:

    I whole hardly agree with the Aaron, I would love nothing better that to see the removal of the signs, flags, lapels-that are called by many “speed passes” etc. But you can’t stop a guy with a few dollars and some glue to put up what he wants. I googled as you suggested and alas they well known rarely visited Moshiach sites. If you want the official view of Chabad check out you will find another viewpoint.
    We can rehash this again and again, my views on the Moshistim are clear they have seriouly distorted the Rebbe’s teachings. I think their theology is wrong and loosing influence.

    If you want to truly see Chabad come to the Shluchim covention. Over two thousand Shluchim and not a Meshist sign, lapel, or banner. In fact a few die hard Meshichistim are so troubled by the mainline philosophy that rejects them they made a small counter convention with fourteen of their best friends. You got 2,000 Shluchim in one room and a minyan of them in another. And if you dig deeper those few guys are almost all cases where they had Maklokes in their communities. Lets get real.

    The larger question is one that was stated earlier the breakdown of the realtionship. Chabad feels there is much hostility towards it. For example a young man from my community went to Yerusahlyim a few months ago. He comes back after visiting a prominent Baal Teshuva Yeshiva where he heard unreal hatred of Chabad etc.”they are not Jewish,etc.” This guy comes from a place where the only Yiddiskiet is Chabad. I asked him did you ever hear from me negative comments about the Litvasher, he response was no.

    When one comments on this blog that Chabad is not part of traditional Yiddiskiet there is little room for common conversation. When almost every Schliach has a Aish Hatorah, Ohr Sameach etc. horror story. When prominent roshe yeshiva trash Chabad. When Artscroll rewrites history ignoring Chabad, and refuses to include the Rebbe’s Chiddushim in the Shas “because its controversial” we have a serious problem.

    We can continue the attitude of insularity -that exists in both communities- or we can try to create a new dynamic. Having dealt with some of the leadership of the Litvasher world I seen a kind of anxiety that “I would like to deal with you but the Kanoim will …..” and on the other side in Chabad people who think “why deal with them they don’t like us anyway”. There are different world views, the question can we come down the tree for a few moments for the good of Klal Yisroel.
    Dovid Eliezrie

  50. Bob Miller says:

    This troubles me:

    “…I cannot speak for the OU, but I would not debate the Conservative rabbi in a public forum, in keeping with the issur of the gedolim promulgated decades ago. That issur applied to sharing platforms with clergy, however, not to laypeople like Dennis.

    Comment by Yitzchok Adlerstein — December 26, 2006 @ 11:41 pm”

    Let’s consider these two future scenarios:

    1. Conservative Rabbi challenges Rav Adlerstein to a debate about aspects of Judaism in a public (maybe OU) forum. With a sigh, Rav Adlerstein has to decline because of the above issur.

    2. Conservative Rabbi is distraught. After much tossing and turning that night, he has a new plan. He resigns all his Conservative posts, turns in his commission as a rabbi, and declares before a kosher Beit Din that he has become a layman. The Beit Din agrees and sends angelic messengers to Rav Adlerstein with the good news that the issur no longer applies to Ex-Conservative-Rabbi. Ex-Conservative-Rabbi, whose actual beliefs have not changed, renews his challenge to Rav Adlerstein, who snaps to his feet, shouting “Let’s get ready to rumble!”

    What is wrong with this picture?

  51. HILLEL says:

    To All:

    When attempting to understand Lubavitch’s sometimes puzzling behavior, we should bear in mind that the Lubavitcher Chassidim came out of a crucible of extreme persecution from Misnagdim–opponents of Hassidism.

    Their first Rebbe, ZT”L, was jailed as a result of false accusations, and the day of his release from prison, 19 Kislev, is celebrated every year.

  52. Bob Miller says:

    Follow-up to “Comment by Bob Miller — December 27, 2006 @ 1:39 pm”:

    This is what I consider to be wrong with the picture I painted:

    I believe that the issur Rav Adlerstein mentioned was promulgated mainly because someone like a Conservative Rabbi is presumed to harbor anti-Torah views that should not be given any “legitimacy” by public presentation while an Orthodox Rav shares the dais. Logically, anybody else who has frequently expressed anti-Torah views in public should fall under the same presumption and also be off-limits for public debate about Judaism.

  53. joel rich says:

    That’s why I asked for an on-line copy of the issur. If the legitimacy issue was prescriptive, then you may be correct, if it’s because we don’t discuss this type of issue….

  54. Eliyahu says:

    I would add to #52 that it would seem to me that the distinction between rabbi and layman is particularly inapplicable in the case of a popular and articulate person with a following such as Dennis Prager. Furthermore, if R. Adlerstein hesitates to publish the debate (for a very good reason), shouldn’t the knowledge that the debate would most likely be taped (with the tapes possibly becoming publicly available) prevented him from attending in the first place?

  55. HILLEL says:

    To Bob Miller:

    You’re 100% right!

    The MALBI”M on Mishei(Proverbs) states that, when contending with wrongdoers and wrongthinkers, you should be especially careful not to legitimize their mistaken and harmful ideas, lest the onlookers be misled.

  56. Tal Benschar says:


    The issue is more fundamental than that. Our masorah should be taken as a given — not something open to debate. It is a bizayon ha Torah to have an open public forum sponsored by an Orthodox organization where the masorah itself is subject to question and attack.

    (As opposed to, for example, presentations which give the tsibbur mussar for not living up to some aspect of masorah, or presentation of different opinions within the masorah).

    Just curious: does Dennis Prager, when speaking to Xtian audiences, attack aspects of their beliefs and traditions?

  57. yka says:

    I simply must believe that those commenting to this post have missed the entire point. I became progressively more horrified when reading through the comments. How is it that a post that ends with “Maybe there is some wisdom in Chabad’s putting all their kiruv eggs in the basket of ahavas yisrael” can be followed with such virulent sinas chinum?

    Since when is it about who did what first, who hates who more, and who deserves it more or less? I feel that there are readers of this post from all sides of the spectrum who should be ashamed of themselves and their emotional (to be diplomatic) responses.

    I was raised in an “out of town” community with large yeshivish and chabad communities who’ve learned to co-exist quite well (and this is a community not free of the “politics” of small towns).

    Arguing about who has more Ahavas Yisroel & bringing mashiach into the mix makes one thing very clear. It’s this very hatred that’s going to keep us waiting for Mashiach ben David and the final Geulah.

  58. SM says:

    Good for you on the debate! And why not publish – there are difficulties with orthodoxy and we all know it. So? If there weren’t difficulties the meschiach would already have come. No one can tell me why we have to burn a red heifer – it is built in that some tihngs don’t have an answer. Ultimately, it isn’t about how good your explanation for halacha is. It’s about how you conduct yourself and whether you believe that every thing you do has to be rationally explainable. In that respect, religion is no different to anything else. If everything could be explained and people only did what was rational no one would have an affair; or hit anyone else; or tell lies.

    Lubavitch outreach is a wondeful thing providing you draw a distinction between “welcoming” and “accepting”. Lubavitch has built its kiruv on the former. And why should it be accepting of a total lack of mitzvot? The difficulty arises when Lubavitch meets Jews with a well worked out and shomrei mitzvot approach which isn’t Lubavitch. At that stage they are unaccepting. Hence the need to set up parallel organisations and to fail to cooperate with a community’s exisiting activities.
    In practice that isn’t a problem most of the time. But when it is a problem Lubavitch is unwilling to compromise its own wishes for the sake of communal unity. And that is a problem.

  59. Aryeh says:

    “The larger question is one that was stated earlier the breakdown of the realtionship. Chabad feels there is much hostility towards it. ”

    The hostility is due to the Messianic pretensions of (some/most?) Chabadniks about their Rebbe (of the two Chabad shlichim in our town, one is openly Meshichist). Perhaps once you would eliminate Meshichism from your midst the relationship would improve.
    You complaining about the hostility towards Chabad is similar to Arab-Americans complaining about racial profiling at airports (at the risk of stating the obvious, no I’m not equating Meshichisten and terrorists).
    Another thing that irritates non-Chabadniks is the “cult of personality” of the Rebbe, and the falsifications that surrond it. For exaample, here’s what I heard from Hadar Torah students (quite sane ones and not given to misnaged-hatred): “Everyone acknowledged that the Rebbe was Nassi haDor” (the implication was that how could one argue with anything he did). Notice that they weren’t told–“we believe that the Rebbe was Nossi haDor,” or “Rebbe was the our Nossi haDor.” But rather “everyone acknowledged” that he was. That’s clearly factually false (I’m not speaking about whether he was or wasn’t, but about people “acknowledging” him to be) and their teachers had to have known that.

    So to answer your point about hostility to Chabad (I myself have tremendous respect for the job they’re doing in kiruv and have helped out the local chabad house with a minyan on a regular basis, so please don’t accuse me of chabad-hatred), first put your house in order.

    P.S. Hostility to Chabad doesn’t equal Sinas chinom. I can be deeply ideologically hostile to secular/religious Zionism and have a tremendous sense of respect/appreciation/love for the people of IDF/Gush Katif/Bet El etc.

  60. de la costa says:

    r eliezrie should be commended for his lone voice in the wilderness approach, trying to justify/rectify what normative chabad is. while maybe shluchim, who are on the frontlines of dealing with non-frum have a non-meshichist face, look at where spitz chassidim pray, or the chabad day schools. LA is probably typical. i have yet to see a kid in the day school without the de rigour yechi kippa…. the future shluchim of america suck yechi with their mothers’ milk… this will not die down, [well it might when the mashiach comes, but it’s not so clear]…….

  61. Mordechai says:

    Every shliach has Aish HaTorah and Ohr Somayach horror stories? What about the horror stories in small communities like mine where the Chabad shliach goes out on a slash and burn campaign in order to destroy the other Orthodox kiruv rabbi AND the people associated with him? This is occurring on a college campus no less! Do people not realize that students seeing this are thus turned off by ALL Yiddishkeit, whether it’s Chabad, Sephardi, Litvish, or whatever?

    I find this whole debate nothing more than idiotic at best, but the suggestion that Chabad is universally subject to hostility and that’s why some act in a myopic/hostile fashion, is a bit too much of a simplification for my tastes.

    Banning people from minyanim, attempting to destroy reputations, and ripping communities apart is inexcusable, regardless of whether or not some shliach feels a vague sense of hostility from the vast non-Chabad world.

  62. Dovid Eliezrie says:

    I do not think the issue is analogous to profiling of Arab Americans. There is no question that the Meshichist issue has created a greater rift. But lets not fool oursleves the Litvasher hostility to Chassidim and Chabad far predates that. Take a look at the “Making of Gadol”, if I may mention that book here. A century ago there was strong hostility to Chassidim and Chabad in paticular that was ingrained in the Yeshivas of the time. That legacy still exists today.
    In the last half a century there was a conflict in the post war era. The Litvahser Gedolim taking one apprpoach and the Fredeker Rebbe and the Rebbe a diffent one on a host of issues, be it community building, outreach, chinuch, involevement with the broader society, Eretz Yisroel-land for so called peace etc. Underlying all of these divergent views was the inherant hostility to Chassidus which is just under the surface and has a two century history.
    So we can approach this one of two ways. Someone can say that Chabad will not work with the other Frum groups in a town, we will say why did you tell my Baal Teshuva that Chabad is ?!?!!?. Or do we rise above the conflicts and look for common ground.
    Dovid Eliezrie


    Re Chabad: Leaving to the side the issue of messiaism, many Chabad organizations do much good, but always on their own terms. In the 34 years I have been in Montreal I have seen Chabad join with other communal organizatons only ONCE, in 2002-03 during the height of the intafada. There is also the issue of intellectual honesty; Chabad sheluchim tell you what you want to hear.

  64. hp says:

    “Owning up to what he saw as certain tensions between mainstream Orthodoxy and Chabad, he nonetheless sang the virtues of the latter.”

    As Dennis is not Orthodox, “owning up” seems interesting phraseology. Only a Torah-observant Jew would need to “own up” to any possible negative. Perhaps ‘observed’, ‘noted’, or ‘pointed out’ makes more sense.

    IMHO, I believe the mention of Chabad at the article’s closing was intended to stir controversy, and dilute the more significant issue here, which Bob Miller, Eliyahu, Tal Benschar, and others already pointed out.

  65. Bob Miller says:

    I share the concerns expressed in the comment by Tal Benschar — December 27, 2006 @ 3:39 pm

    My first comment in this discussion (December 25, 2006 @ 8:18 pm) was an attempt to get a similar idea across more indirectly.

    Those who program these types of events for the OU should get with their Gadol or Gedolim of choice ASAP to get Torah-based, as opposed to popularity-based, guidelines for picking future discussion topics and speakers.

    It wouldn’t matter if the able defenders of Torah got a standing O and high fives all around for verbally annihilating the opponents of Torah; the opponents should never be asked in, period.

  66. truth says:

    Rabbi Eliezri,

    With all due respect (and there is much respect thatshould be given to you, since you are the ONLY voice in Lubavitch that acknlwedges that there is some level of alienation of lubavitchers from the frummer world), you again miss man points in your anaysis.

    You still like many L have many”horror” stories by people who learned in Aish or Ohr Sameahc etc. What you fail to tell the audience: that in YOUR SCHOOLS (and that incldes ALL schools: the big yeshivas, the small ones) ALL your kids are educated that the “snags” (and so that it be properly unerstood: it meANS ALL NON LUBAVITCHERS) are missing in yiddishkeyt, and they care only for money, kovod or to become a godol etc. THis is PART AND PARCEL of the education of boys from bar mitzva until until the end of all the education cycles in the schools you educate that they hve no leaders, no ehrliche yidden and that all of the rebbes and rosh yehivaos sell themselvs for money and that really only “lubavitche shechitah” can be really trusted the examples would not sufice hundred pages…so it’s so dishonest of you to mention the horoor stories by those who attend aish etc. what do you tell ALL of your baaley teshuva about the “snags” etc?

    The same point to another comment here: Lubavitch accepts all frum or not frum. It’s NOT true, they accept ONLY non frum (who do not dare criticize them), but frum people are not welcomed if they are not part of the machine that aggrandizes Lubavitch.

    THey would kiss any stranger in the TV or an mdia outlet but not dare to give a warm sholom to a “Fershtunkene misnaged” (as the are often called in your circles).

    It’s time to call a spade a spade.

    With respect,


  67. Baruch Horowitz says:

    Many thanks to Dennis Prager for providing conversation on a number of
    unrelated topics on a single thread: heterodox debate, Artscroll
    biographies, Lubavitch, New Yorker’s manners. Regarding the first issue, Rabbi Adlerstein has written that he consults with Poskim for each situation(see links at the end). There are number of concerns in dealing with heterodox clergymen on a theological, as opposed to an individual level:

    (1)Granting the heterodox rabbinate, theology, and movements legitimacy. This confuses the unlettered amongst the Orthodox, and
    encouragers the heterodox movements.

    (2) If clergymen, because of their education, do not have the tinnok
    s’hnishba status, then one is associating with those who may halachically be considered “evildoers”(see Shaarie Teshuvah).

    (3) Debates might weaken some people’s belief in Yiddishkeit.

    Regarding the third concern, it depends on the audience. Rabbi Daniel
    Korobkin is summarized as having said ” if there’s anything that’s
    bothering you, seek out your rabbi and ask…there are answers to all
    these questions.” This would appear to show a serious weakness to
    the OU decision, but on the other hand, they did not expect what
    happened. However, the questions raised were very basic, and we should
    be confronting them at least on an internal level. I think that our
    Torah is strong enough to allow us to discuss these issues openly, and
    the fact that there are people who are not confident enough to encounter
    them, may show that Orthodox education on all levels needs to be
    strengthening issues of basic belief(see quote from Rabbi Salomon,
    comment #12). From a historical perspective as well, the issue is
    related to the emunah peshutah vs. emunah al pi chakirah debate.

    Regarding the first two issues, from a historical perspective,
    Austritt was a subject of debate within Orthodox Germany, and was one
    of the causes of divisions up until the Nazi takeover. Each situation
    needs to considered separately; the question was raised fifty years
    ago, and again with the publication of “One People, Two Worlds”, and the
    subsequent ban relating to the attendant polemicizing. Rabbi Reinman

    ” The rabbis who authorized and supported this project decided, based on
    several fine distinctions, that it was an exception to the rule. To
    mention just one of these distinctions, since I am an independent
    scholar and writer rather than a member of the rabbinate, my
    participation was considered “individual” rather than “official”
    contact; I mention this distinction in the book several times. We felt
    we could thus circumvent the rabbinate and speak directly to the people…”

  68. Baruch Horowitz says:

    I agree with Rabbi Eliezrie that the responsibility for cooperation falls on both sides. This needs to come from moderates, as the extremes on both ends will not be able to contribute to any cooperation. Perhaps it also should be in small gestures, and “under the radar screen”.

    Some Litvshe gedolim have expressed strong differences with aspects
    of the previous Rebbe’s Zt’l hashkafa, but they were merely fulfilling
    their role — unlimited to Lubavitch– of setting theological boundaries
    for the chareidi world. This need not mean that individuals need to become zealots in these matters.

    From the Lubavitch end, it would help if children and newly minted Baalei Teshuva would not broadcast their belief in the identity of Moshiach on their head coverings. However, Lubavitch is splintered on this, and in any event, change can not be forced from without.

    I think that in both Artscroll and Feldheim compendiums on individuals
    who participated in the clandestine Jewish life in Communist
    Russia, there is mention and focus on Lubavitcher heroic individuals. As far as the Artscroll Talmud, the Rebbe is not the only one excluded, and RYBS Zt’l and Rav Kook Zt’l also do not make the cut. As discussed previously on CC, there is concern of kannoim wreaking havoc, and also that some of the less sophisticated would view this as “official recognition” of these Gedolim, and would therefore come to accept any controversial opinions without exercising intellectual nuance and discrimination.

  69. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “…Lubavitcher Chassidim came out of a crucible of extreme persecution from Misnagdim—opponents of Hassidism.”

    Hillel makes a good point. Besides Messianism, scars from the old
    Chassidic/Misnagdic battles are sociological factors involved in the
    Lubavitch divide. The term “anash”, or “anshei shelomeinu”, still used by various groups of Chassidim, hearkens back to those days. Generally speaking however, Chassidim and Misnagdim have years ago declared an unofficial truce to fight the common enemy of the haskalah.

    Regarding splintering within Lubavitch, we see the same within the RZ
    communities, other Chassidic groups, and most recently, within the
    yeshivah world. Anyone involved in any one of these four situations,
    should have no difficulty understanding or empathizing on the personal
    level with those involved in the other three.

    There is nothing wrong with Lubavich maintaing a certain separatism and
    “marching to it’s own drummer”. In fact, I find the example of
    Lubavitch helpful whenever reading sweeping generalizations that
    avoid nuance, in statements such as “all the Gedolim say this” ,
    ” this is against Torah-true Judaism”, or ” the Mainstream rejects
    that”. While there would be people who would have no compunctions with
    writing Lubavitch out of Klal Yisrael, Rabbi Berel Wein has stated, “we are too small of a people to be a Small People”.

    There is always tension between maintaining ahavas Yisrael and fidelity to Truth, or hashkafic purity. There is a good shiur from Rabbi Mayer Schiller on this topic which can be downloaded here:

  70. Nachum Lamm says:

    I wonder if it occurs to people that the very concept of a Rebbe (or placing any one individual, even a Litvak Rosh Yeshiva, at the center of your Judaism) makes it very hard for Mashiach to arrive. After all, he’s likely not going to be any of those people, or at most only one out of hundreds.

    Dennis Prager makes some solid criticisms of the Orthodox world, criticisms that the frummest of Jews could agree with. However, if he was decent, upon being invited to an OU conference, he would have stuck to those. Why would he start on halachic matters when: 1) He has no halachic training, Orthodox or otherwise; 2) He doesn’t adhere to Orthodox halacha himself; and 3) These are not matters for “debate”- not from a halachic perspective only, but from a practical one. Discussion among those well-phrased in it, perhaps, or the like, but, l’havdil, the Jewish-Christian “debates” of the Middle Ages were really anything but. No one gets convinced. As Rabbi Wein once put it, “debates” have a way of turning into arguments, and no one wins.

    Perhaps the very fact that R’ Adlerstein was “responding” and the OU structured it as a “debate” was the problem. Had Mr. Prager been told by the OU, “You have some good points to make about the Orthodox world.” (*Not* about *Orthodoxy*, which is completely different.) “Come, tell us what they are, and R’ Adlerstein will respond, agreeing ot not as he sees fit,” he would not have presumed to lecture on halacha, of all things.

  71. truth says:

    R. Eliezrie,

    You mention the book “the Making of a Godol” as a proof for what has transpired over the past hundred years and the hostility that existed by Misnagdim against Chabad. For that matter it behooves you to be intellectually honest that Lubavitchers have educated their masses in the past 80 years with the same (and worse) hostility towards the litvisher world and also to any non lubavitch entity. THey promulgated to thier people the negative things and tidbits printed in the aforementioned book to prove how their leaders were devoid of yiras shomayim and how they lacked any real value of being someone who leads others or who serves Hashem.

    as Lubavitcher you will understand: that what the Making of The Godol records of hositlity to lubavitch are loshon horehlech similar to what 70% of farbrengens are gathering where the meaning of a misnaged (and today it means anyone who is not lubavitch) and the hositlity towards their leaders and the people who identify as such is portrayed in similar terms to those negative hostilities that you see in the book of the making of the godol.

    Better yet: most non Lubavitchers today are probably ignorant about Lubavitch and they mostly express their disdain in what they see in the beleiefs that the Rebbe is Moshiach. BUT for the most part they could not care less (and many many actually do have a very positive outlook to lubavitch and their tremendous good work). BUt most Lubavitchers are *educated* to know and understand how non lubavitchers cannot and are not real lovers of Hashem and they share negative outlook and hostility towards anyone who is not affiliated or does not acknolwedge the existence and greatness of Lubavitch.

  72. Baruch Horowitz says:


    You make a good point, and Rabbi Wien’s is also very true. I think the OU should have made clear to Prager exactly what extent the OU wished to debate/argue with him, and what is beyond the purview of discussion.

    In fact, Yeshivos who hire non-Orthodox or non-Jewish teachers for secular studies do exactly that. The teachers know quite well what is acceptable and what isn’t. For example, one teacher from a Conservative Jewish background who I had in Yeshivah, and later again for a college writing course said, “I wouldn’t touch evolulution with a ten-foot pole”.

    In fact, had the OU made that clear, then Dennis Prager could have focused on his pet peeve of “what he sees as [Orthodoxy] shirking its responsibility to the rest of humanity”.

    As long as the validity of halacha is not up for debate, it might have been a very appropriate discussion for the OU audience, who assumingly can handle criticism of certain natures, critically evaluate it, and “[take] it to heart if it was accurate, rejecting it if it was not”.

    Obviously, there are communities who are uncomfortable in doing even that on the public level as Rabbi Adlerstein said, “not all Orthodox communities are comfortable with outsiders offering their suggestions about what they are doing wrong.”

    However, I think that it’s arrogance to imply that an outsider has nothing to teach us at all, providing that such an outsider is fair, and merely acts as a mirror. I also feel that it would help the Orthodox image, if we project the idea that we care about valid external criticism. I think it’s represents a small extreme, but the complete opposite of this attitude was typified by a letter to Hamishpocha(which was countered in the next issue) that said to the effect, “they hate us anyway, and it has nothing to do with us burning garbage cans, so let’s not even discuss it”.

    I think both the OU and Agudah should have the equivalent of “suggestion boxes”. Not that every problem can be solved–certainly not over night, but rather to at least project that we are “consumer friendly”, and that we take other’s concerns seriously. If the IRS(l’havdil) can do that in response to Senate-hearings, certainly Orthodoxy can.

  73. Charles B. Hall says:

    ‘ slash and burn campaign in order to destroy the other Orthodox kiruv rabbi AND the people associated with him’

    In my neighborhood the other Orthodox kiruv rabbi welcomed the Chabad rabbi and they continue to work together. I’ve seen the Chabad rabbi get aliyot in the shul of the other Orthodox kiruv rabbi and in other shuls as well.

    ‘Debates might weaken some people’s belief in Yiddishkeit.’

    The very first time I ever saw an Orthodox rabbi was at a debate with a Reform rabbi and a Conservative rabbi at the Reform rabbi’s synagogue. I was so impressed with the honest presentation by the Orthodox rabbi that I started attending his shul shortly thereafter — and that started me on the road to becoming Orthodox myself.

  74. Ahron says:

    Baruch: Lol, l’havdil indeed. But indeed, if even so foul a group as the IRS recognizes the need to appear friendly to its would-be victims…..well let’s just keep it at l’havdil! But I think we really do have an obligation to in fact be friendly and warm to outsiders and insiders. Pirkei Avos and Chazal have quite a bit to say about that. We should listen.

    There’s a lot to note about Prager’s talk, but I think we do have to acknowledge that he is raising some very serious and deeply-felt issues about being shomer Torah in the modern world. I don’t know if the OU convention is the “most” appropriate place to raise them. But it actually might be. We need to know the issues that are out there and we need to keep in mind the principle of “da mah she’tashiv l’apikoros”. We can’t pretend that these genuine questions don’t exist: whether we’ve solved them (or even just ignore them) other people haven’t and they deserve our respect and engagement. Frankly would it even be possible to have an intelligent discussion with someone who did not feel some of these issues? Were our great Halachic leaders of the past ignorant of the risk/benefit balance inherent in most psak? I don’t think so. I think that many of them probably felt these issues even more intensely than Mr. Prager does.

    The issue of venue is another question–but let’s also remember that almost any venue in which these questions could be effectively raised will ipso facto be a sensitive one.

  75. Ahron says:

    Read, for example, Halakhic Man by R. Soloveitchik for his grippingly simple descriptions of the profoundly felt human elements in Torah and Halacha that were lived daily by his mentors and heroes in Europe. These are the real “godol stories” that we do not hear enough of anymore.

  76. Joel Rich says:

    I wonder if the editor would comment on this blog’s rules of acceptable discourse. Without prejudice either way on the claims being made, I wonder if the charges being made were leveled at charedi/mo movements or their leaders, whether they would have been allowed.


  77. S. says:

    >What is wrong with this picture?

    Nothing. There’s no social policy among Orthodox Jews that Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jews can’t discuss or even debate Judaism; but there is a longstanding, mainstream social policy among Orthodox Jews that Orthodox rabbis can’t discuss or debate Judaism with non-Orthodox rabbis.

  78. michoel halberstam says:

    I would like to take this discussion somewhere else, since it is apparent that lots of people are just “itchin” for an opening to express their opinion of this or that. To what extent is it an absolute must that a Jew should, in order to serve Hashem “bchol Levovo”, be totally convinced that he is right, and every else- and here I refer only to “everyone else” who admits that the Derech Hatorah is the only legitimate expression of Yahadus- is either wrong on purpose or wrong because of ignorance.
    It seems that this necessity to know that we are absolutely right has become a hallmark of belonging to our community. I know that this is not really what Rav Yitzchok started off with, but we seem to be going there. If I am wrong please correct me. M. Halberstam

  79. Mendy says:

    What is the big tzimmis about chabad – lubavitch. Whether they are a cult or not, the first or the second. If you want to go to them you may if you dont, dont. Most of the readers on this blog seem like orthodox jews which is great, I applaud all of you for your commitment to Yiddishkeit. Unfortunately the entire world is not orthodox, Chabad has succeeded in reaching out to that demographic, if that is through the media or not is irrelevent. I am a chabad Rabbi, I met with the annual campaign chair of my local federation (one of the top ten in the country) and his first question to me was “what makes chabad successful?”. That is a great affirmation of the invaluable contribution of Chabad to world jewry. If any of the other Jewish organizations feel that they are having the same impact, great! Otherwise all the meaningless criticism and defense of it (sorry Rabbi Eliezri) is pointless. All the Orthodox readers are welcomed to a class in Chassidus at your local chabad house, if you arent interested, I look forward to you calling me for Kosher food, Kashering your aunts kitchens, Mikveh appointment, hospital visitation minyan times or any other service the entire Orthodox jewish world has come to rely upon chabad for. Meanwhile allow me to go put on teffilin with my local intermarried lawyer.

  80. Mordechai says:

    Dear Mr. Truth,
    As a second generation Shliach, I would like to address a few points in your post…

    You still like many L have many”horror” stories by people who learned in Aish or Ohr Sameach etc. What you fail to tell the audience: that in YOUR SCHOOLS (and that includes ALL schools: the big yeshivas, the small ones) ALL your kids are educated that the “snags” (and so that it be properly understood: it meANS ALL NON LUBAVITCHERS) are missing in yiddishkeyt,
    Firstly, you make a big mistake when you write ALL… That is simply not the case.
    I went through the school system in South Africa. While the school is run by Lubavitch, there are students from every part of the community from Lubavitch to Litvak to non frum etc. Throughout school, high school included, I NEVER heard a negative word about any other segment of Orthodoxy. In fact many of the teachers themselves were litvaks. Whenever other frum organizations brought out a guest speaker, our school tried to have them come and address us students. I can almost certainly say that the education you describe does not take place in any bona fide Lubavitch institution. Such talk might only be the result of the talk of parents or acquaintances who like getting involved in “politics”.

    and they care only for money, kovod or to become a godol etc. THis is PART AND PARCEL of the education of boys from bar mitzva until until the end of all the education cycles in the schools you educate that they hve no leaders, no ehrliche yidden and that all of the rebbes and rosh yehivaos sell themselvs for money and that really only “lubavitche shechitah” can be really trusted the examples would not sufice hundred pages…
    Again, this is simply not true. As I just mentioned the model of my chinuch and general Chabad chinuch was through High School and in fact through Yeshiva. In fact when I travelled abroad to continue studying in Yeshiva, my magid shiur for gemorah was a non Lubavitch Rov from the general community. At the end of the year the local Rabbanim and Dayanim were called in to farher us on the masechta we had learnt. If we felt as you say we do, we would not have embarked on this path. Also, your point about Lubavitcher Shechita is insane. While there are many who have personal chumros to eat only from specific shechitos, as do many communities, this is not transmitted to our students or congregants. In fact as we Kosher more homes and increase Kashrus awareness in our communities, it is the big non lubavitch hashgachos and companies that are promoted and supported. On the same note, with whatever issues Chabad might have with Artscroll, if you look around the many Chabad Centers around the world, you will see them full of Artscroll Chumashim and Gemorahs. I guess it would seem safe to say that a significant amount of Artscroll’s revenues come from Chabd.

    so it’s so dishonest of you to mention the horoor stories by those who attend aish etc. what do you tell ALL of your baaley teshuva about the “snags” etc?
    Unfortuantely I myself can tell you of several Baalei Teshuvah whose introduction to Yiddishkeit was through my father, a Chabad Shliach, who came back from non lubavitcher baal teshuva yeshivos in Israel with a disrespect and cynical attitude to our “derech” the “derech” that brought them there in the first place.

    The same point to another comment here: Lubavitch accepts all frum or not frum. It’s NOT true, they accept ONLY non frum (who do not dare criticize them), but frum people are not welcomed if they are not part of the machine that aggrandizes Lubavitch.
    It happens to be that I find most frum people tend to look for Chabad on their travels and are quite welcome when they do come. Our Mikvaos become a convenience to many who are travelling on the road. Our homes are open to all who need a place. I myself being a Shliach 5 minutes off a major highway and near some vacation spots, have many frum people coming to us to partake in our Minyanim and we welcome them with open arms without asking which organizations they are from etc. I hope one day to be able to welcome you into my Chabad Center, and I am sure you will feel at home.


  81. Gary Shuman says:

    Prager vs. Adlerstein Debate Score(I know the score because I was there)

    Prager 50%
    Rabbi Adlerstein 50%
    OU Negative 100%
    People go to a convention like this to be inspired in Torah , not to hear reechoed doubts and questions of faith and Jewish practice that many people from time to time feel in their hearts.

    Dennis’s own description of his Shaboss observance, described a very religious Shaboss observance for a Conservative Jew.He publicly stated in the debate that he permitted on Shaboss the lighting of electric lights in his house.This type of observance by Orthodox standards could be discribed as Chilul Shaboss Daorisa. Why would an organization like the OU give Prager the oppurtunity to describe his lifestyle publicly in front of an audience that is seeking to grow in Yiddishkeit, even while some in the audience are not quite yet Shomer Shaboss? An apology is due to the Jews in LA and wherever they are touched by this incident. I do not blame Prager. America is a free country. He was paid by OU to speak his mind, which he did.
    Rabbi Adlerstein answered Prager point by point. The score is even because even with answering each point Prager’s questions were good and can only be answered by faith Vyaminu BHashem ova Moshe Avdo And you will believe in Hashem and Moshe his servant. R Adlerstein pointed to faith in the Torah and knowing that Chilul Shaboss has as its consequence severe punishment. G-d help us all!!!

  82. SM says:

    Mordechai – you are quite right about welcoming the travellers (shades of Avraham Avinu!). But on a communal basis, I maintain that Chabad are welcoming but not accepting. I regard myself as Orthodox and non-Chabad. Is everything I do ok by you? would you tell me it could be imporved in what I might call “procedural” ways (as opposed to more kavanah in t’filla, more visiting the sick etc)?
    One can be welcoming but not accept the legitimacy of the view of the person you are welcoming (even MORE shades of Avrahamn Avinu). When the encounter is transient that doesn’t become an issue. But when it is longstanding there is bound to be friction.
    I am absolutely positive that if one day (bh) our family ends up in your Chabad Centre we will be welcomed with open arms and drive off on Motzei Shabbat talking about how wonderful it was to have such a facility. So disagreement needn’t mean enmity.
    Shabbat Shalom

  83. Mordechai says:

    I’m interested in these so called Aish HaTorah and Ohr Somayach ‘horror stories’. What does that mean exactly? If someone goes there and decides that being a Litvak/Dati Leumi/whatever appeals to them more than being Lubavitch, is that a ‘horror’ story?

    Chabad can’t speak to everyone, so I’m not sure what the big deal is in admitting that fact. If someone goes to a Chabad house and then decides to, horror of horrors, go to a non-Lubavitch yeshiva and become some other type of Orthodox Jew, I don’t see what the problem is.

    Not davening nusach ari or wanting to learn sichot isn’t the worst thing a Jew could decide to do.

  84. nickname says:

    Shluchim are perfectly fine when they’re mekuravim go to ‘other’ Yeshivos. It just seems to be a recurring theme that often they return with so called ‘horror tales’ having been told out of the blue that chabad represents all the evil on the planet. This happened to a family friend so add that to the list. He never was going to be lubavitch in the first place, that’s not the issue. The issue is the vehemence he heard in the voices of the rabbis in an Israel BT Yeshiva. It did not hurt him much because he happens to have character and does not associate himself with anyone, but the facts are there.

  85. sam says:

    Most groups like Ger, Belz, Bobov, Litvish recognize each other as a true paths, without believing their derech as THE ultimate truth.

    Chabad believes there is Domeim, Tzomeach, Chai, Midaber,Yehudi, Chasid, Chabad.

    Correct me if I am wrong

  86. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “Chabad believes there is Domeim, Tzomeach, Chai, Midaber,Yehudi, Chasid, Chabad”

    I think that’s going way too far in understanding separatism of Lubavitch ! I think Lubavitch needs to understand how others perceive it, and attempt to better communicate with others. But as Rabbi Eliezrie said, the responsibility is both ways, and if Lubavitch feels that they are “under siege”, then they will have no incentive to be more integrated into the klal, or to attempt to perceive how others feel.

    Even if you feel that the burden is on them, in arbitration, both sides need to make good-will efforts, and the gestures must be bilateral. I suggested something small like removing the Yechi’s on the Yarmulka’s. Obviously it’s not easy to get Meshichists to agree to that. Litvak’s can in turn publicly emphasize good that Chabad does for the entire Jewish people. The question is who takes the first step.

    As long as there is some attempt at either integration, or at least Lubavitch understanding how some Litvishe perceive them, by putting themselves in Litvacks shoes, I don’t see what is wrong if Lubavitch “marches to it’s own drummer”. If someone wants to believe that he, his Rebbe, or his group, plays the dominant role in “l’ch’sheyafutzu maynosecha chutzah”–who cares who brings Moshiach, or about “seven generations”, or who is the “nasi hador”? I can think that my group will bring Moshiach, and my Rebbe or Rosh Yeshivah is the best, and sholam al Yisrael!

    I think that it is all a test from Hashem. If people relate internally, without jealousy, to a part of Klal Yisrael that is perceived to have a degree of separatism, then we can then ask Hashem, middah k’neged middah, that non-Jews as well should not be jealous about the concept of “atah b’chartanu” that Klal Yisrael believes in, as a whole.

  87. Dovid Eliezrie says:

    The horror stories are real. Just this last summer a boy from our community went to Yerusalyim. He comes back and the first Shabbos sits down and asks me “Whats the real scoop on Chabad is it Avoda Zara, thats what I was told from Aish”. Last year a Maggid Shiur in Ohr Sameach gave a Shiur on Chabad. He claimed the Rebbe did not wear a Yamulke before the war, that Chabad was just a step away from Judaism, it was outrageous. The Shiur was taped I heard it so did another thousand Shluchim when it was posted on a web site.And to top it off the guy who gave the shiur thought we had a chuzpa to let Shluchim what you really learn at Ohr Sameach.
    I am not talking about the old debates of Chassidus vs. Mussar. That is a real debate. And a debate that many should have. Baali Teshuva taste different parts of the Frum world before settling in to where they find their place. I am talking of BAal Teshuva coming back to Shluchim and saying we can’t eat in your house. And they are not occasional. Every Schliach seems to have such a story.
    I for one will not encourage anyone to go to these Yeshivas. However, and as recently as today a women told me her daughter is going to a Aish trip to Israel and left a few days ago, I told her its wonderful that her daughter is learning more about Yiddikiet. I will not let non frum peolple know my feelings since it might inhibit them from getting some Yiddiskiet.
    As a Chassid I believe that Chassidus has a abilty to give a person a deeper sense of Yiras Shemayim. In fact I would imagine that anyone, be he a Gerer, Bobver, or Litvak feels his dercech is the best.However not I, nor do my fellow Chassidim feel that we have the only derech in Yiddiskiet. Nor will I tell others that there Roshie Yeshiva are liars, avodie avoda Zara or to quote the guy who gave the Shiur at Ohr Sameach, one step away from Judaism.
    The reason we call it horror stories is we put in years of effort taking from zero to something. Getting someone to go learn in Israel is no small effort. Then they come back with hostility to the Chossid who left friends and family to live is some remote suburban area and the person that you thought would give you some nachas for all that you where Moser Nefesh ?!?!
    Dovid Eliezrie

  88. Mendy says:

    Rabbi Eliezrie,

    I appreciate your candor in addressing these issues. I would like to comment on your previous point regarding Meshichistim, Chabad’s insularity and the anti-“Misnagid” invective that is standard fare in Lubavitch camps and schools.

    As a child of a prominent Chabad Shliach, I attended three of the most prominent Chabad summer camps in North America, Gan Yisroel of Montreal, New York and Michigan (“Detroit”). In every single one of them, Misnagdim (any non-Chasid) or “snags” were constantly denigrated by the counselors and rebbeim. Every single authority figure who expressed an opinion on the subject of Moshiach (and that is pretty much everyone in a Chabad camp) was firmly of the opinion that the Rebbe was (and IS) Moshiach.

    Many (if not most) of the children in these camps were children of Chabad emissaries. Although you claimed above that there was only a “minyan” of Meshichistim at the recent Kinus in New York, 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?

  89. SephardiLady says:

    Rabbi Eliezrie,
    Please realize that many people who had significant contact with Chabad and have become critical have done so through their own reasoning and accord. Not all criticism has been “spoon-fed” by Rabbis in Aish and Ohr Sameach. While I am sure that some of your guests have been influenced, I can tell you about many, many BT’s who have reached these conclusions on their own, through their own observations, and through their own Torah learning.

  90. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “The horror stories are real…”

    That is indeed the part that needs to change from the non-Chabad end of things. I only know from my experience in FFB world and it’s yeshivos, but I can say that generally speaking, I was not subjected to the kannoish approach.

    In fact, when my relative asked a prominent member of the Yeshiva world about the policy towards Chabad, he was told that “we don’t talk in our Yeshivah about things which divide Klal Yisrael”, that “Lubavitchers are good people”, and that “there are much more serious issues in Klal Yisrael than Lubavitch”. This attitude characterizes the responsible attitude in the Yeshivah world leadership.

    During the height of Messianism, before and after the Rebbe’s death, I do recall two instances where students asked Rebbeim to address the topic. You can’t ignore what was prominently being discussed in newspapers, so I do remember hearing in two instances about Rav Shaach’s objections to Lubavitch. If anything, it was more the students who were interested, than were the rebbeim in addressing it, and as above, the Litvshe Yeshivos where I studied generally took the attitude of “we don’t discuss these things”.

    From your information, it appears that some in the BT yeshivos might be concerned of losing Balei Teshuva to Chabad. In the FFB world, the social divide in such, that it is completely unrealistic that someone reading the Rebbes Sichos will suddenly take up residence in Crown Heights. Nevertheless, the Rebbeim in the horror stories in the BT yeshivos are not acting correctly. In addition, Balie Teshuvah do not need to see such kannos.

    There needs to be some way to get across to BT why “our perspective doesn’t follow or accept this derech”, without the excesses of zealotry. It is no different than how the charedi BT world will presumably discourage people from exploring Modern Orthodoxy, hopefully without demonizing them.

    For what they are worth, these are my experiences, involving Lubavitch or the Rebbe:

    (1) I recall hearing on one of Rav Avigdor Miller’s tapes that fabreigens were a good source of inspiration.

    (2) The mashgiach in a large Litvshe yeshiva praised the Rebbe. To be fair, he does have chassidic leanings.

    (3) About twenty years ago there were statement back and forth between Rav Shaach and the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Prior to a pre- Tisha B’aav play in Camp Agudah attended by the entire camp, I remember one of the Rebbeim announcing that “if Gedolim are fighted at opposite ends of world, what right have we to mix in?” That has had an influence on my own attitude.

    (4) A rebbe of mine, who is a public figure as well, responded in a Jewish magazine with a large circulation, to a person who took him to task for his praise of the Rebbe, in light of Rav Shaach’s criticism. His response was that “fights between Gedolim are the curse of our bitter exile”. He is, by the way, not chassidish at all.

    (5) The schul where I davened in for many years has a Yeshivish bent. To be honest, I don’t think they would appreciate distributing the Rebbe’s Sichos or having Lubavitch bachurim come on Simchos Torah, as they come to some schuls in Brooklyn that have a dwindling membership.

    Nevertheless, over the years, there were at least four or five Lubavitcher steady members, one of whom served as an officer for a number of years. It’s not uncommon to see a nussach Ari siddur on the shelves. The Lubavitcher officer, most of whose children are active in Lubavitch, got along very well with the Litvshe Rav, and has been a chavrusah for years with one of the more yeshivshe individuals. It is interesting that this person has a very good relationship with another hyper- yeshivishe member who is an ardent follower of Rav Shaach and Brisk.

    (6) The yeshiva I was attending at the time of the Rebbe’s death had a few buses going to the Rebbe’s levayah. There were a few Litvshe Rebbeim in attendance. Coming back, I do remember a conversation with a chassidishe friend who said, “They had a genuine Gadol, but because of the Messianism which surrounded the Rebbe, his own followers bear some of the responsibility for the Rebbe being under-appreciated”. I don’t know if that is an accurate statement, but I thought at the time, that it was true.

  91. Mordechai says:

    With all due respect, this comes across as an issue of ‘if you became frum through us then you must ALWAYS stay with us’, at least to someone on the outside looking in. Furthermore, since when does someone’s path to becoming religious have anything to do with making the shliach feel good? A shliach should shlep nachas from any Jew he’s influenced to keep Shabbat or Kashrut, not just those who run around in a kapote and daven nusach Ari, which includes even those who decide that Chabad simply isn’t for them (or alternatively decide to follow their own family’s minhagim). If some shluchim take such offense at that, or think that making baalei tshuva (which only Hashem can do) is all about their shlepping naches, then maybe they don’t belong out in the field at all.

    Regardless of what people say in Ohr Somayach or Aish, it flies both ways, much to the detriment of everyone. I’ve heard my own local shlicha warn people that non-Hasidim have a Judaism based on ‘fear’ and that they ‘do everything out of rote.’ Again, two wrongs don’t make a right, but it is a two way street, which simply makes everyone look stupid. However, I’ve heard similar obnoxious comments floated by Chabadnikim (including rabbis) about Litvish/Modern Orthodox/Dati Leumi/Sephardi Judaism and gedolim (Rav Ovadia Yosef anyone?).

    Perhaps it is just me, but I have little sympathy for so called ‘horror stories’ or pleas that shluchim feel under siege. The shluchim I know give as good as they get (see previous references to the shluchim in my community who are hellbent on destroying another rav). As the old saying goes, it takes two to tango.

  92. Steve Brizel says:

    Dennis Prager’s views toward O have been documented for a very long time. He may be a radio host with a large following, but I view debates and discussions with such personalities as self-defeating exercises in legitimation of unbridgeable differences ala panel discussions with heterodox clergy.I think that Richard Joel’s comments at the recent GA summed up this issue very well that discussions are nice, but that kumsitzim were not a way to bridge the unbridegable .

    Like many who are strong on the notions of “Jewish continuity” and “pluralism”, he is attacted to Chabad without considering its methods, hashkafa or results. While a Chabad house offers more of Shabbos than a pluralistic Hillel house, IMO, many students on the average college campus might relate more effectively to a young Kollel couple from any yeshiva than to either Chabad or Hillel as a means of maintaining their level of observance in a milieu that is not exactly intellectually or socially conducive to the same. IOW, the bottom line should be who enables Jewish students to endure and grow in their committment to Torah, Avodah and Gmilus Chasadim in such an environment without presenting unnecessary tangential arguments on hashkafa.

    Like it or not, the messianist element in Chabad is very present and so strong that one has to almost close one’s eyes to pretend that it does not exist in EY. Look at the mitzvah taks, tefilin stands, highway signs, bumper posters, and kipot with the strongest messianist slogans that can be purchased anywhere in EY. Indeed, one can find Chabad oriented messianist material in many DL/RZ shuls, which IMO can be attributed to Chabad’s long held view against “land for piece.” I therefore disagree with those who claim that the messianist influence is minor in nature or has been addressed within Chabad.

    I think that it is evident in many of the comments here that the old Chasidishe-Misnagdishe split that Haskallah ended and led to the forming of Agudah basically was papered over in reality.In MOAG, there is evidence that the split simmered in print, at least, until the onset of WW2. That is IMO one of the reasons why one sees anti Chabad or anti OS/Aish comments. OTOH, there is definite evidence that some within the Litvishe world view a committed MO who is Shomer Torah Umitzvos as more of a hashkafic threat than a totally unaffiliated Jew. I question whether those who make such comments would have uttered them if they had ever learned both the Tanya and Nefesh HaChayim or the SA Rav or RYBS’s works. IMO, especially those who denigrate either RIETS or the Charedi world, do so from the cozy convenience of their dining room or computer areas based upon stereotypes and urban myths without ever stepping foot into the bastions of these worlds. While I detest historical revisionism of all kinds, there is much evidence that it thrives in MO, RZ, Chabad, Chasidishe and Litvishe circles, with each claiming to have “saved” world Jewry from totally assimilating when in truth, all have offered significant contributions in the battle when they were not belittling each other.

  93. Holy Hyrax says:

    People go to a convention like this to be inspired in Torah , not to hear reechoed doubts and questions of faith and Jewish practice that many people from time to time feel in their hearts.

    I have to disagree. This convention in particular in not necassarily meant to inspire, but to talk about issues that are raised in the community. Were you there in the morning panel discussion about a need to change the yeshiva curriculam? That was not meant to inspire, but to deal with a problem that some feel is being neglected. Last years convention was titled “The Polarization of Orthodoxy” where many of the the speakers were naming specific problems and if there can be a resolution. There are indeed conventions that are meant to inspire, but sometimes we need to put aside the “feel-good sermons” and deal with realities problems. I am grateful that the OU sees a need to have a public forum for the community to talk about these problems.

  94. Fern R says:

    I have lived in Orange County California for all of my life (except for three years of college when I lived in Los Angeles). Rabbi Eliezrie accurately portrayed the Jewish “scene” in the Long Beach-Orange County area. The synagogue I grew up in held Shabbat services on **SUNDAY** until shortly before I was born. They’ve also recently had a gay cantor/chazzan and currently have both a woman rabbi and a woman cantor. So if any of you ever moved here and couldn’t afford a million dollar home in Irvine then your only choice would be one of the many warm, full-of-life and full of ahavas yisroel Chabad shuls. If you have children, and you want them to have a Jewish education, you have two choices: the school my brother goes to (Tarbut V’Torah) where the girls where skirts so tiny you need a microscope to find them, or the award winning Chabad day school.

    Maybe things are different elsewhere in the country, but what you all are describing about Chabad is FALSE when it comes to Chabad in Orange County.

  95. Moishe says:

    this Blog and its comments were forwarded to me, and I have found it an interesting read. There are some very good posts here, from both sides, there are also some very malicious ones, and that in short is really the story here, there is much validity and honest criticism that can be leveled at both sides, nobody is perfect we are human, and honest valid criticism, which doesn’t deflect from the core truths are actually helpful.
    By way of personal introduction, I am a Chabad Rabbi and also a (succesful?) businessperson active in many levels of commerce and finance, I also have the fortune of being able to “learn” Torah many hours a day. I grew up in a hugely (literally world class philantrophy) philantrophic home observing my Father (Shy’) support and befriend Rabbonim and institutions of all stripes. to give an example, although my Father is a die hard (not born into though) Lubavitcher, he was intimate, on a very close level with Rav Shneur Kotler, Rav Shmuel Kaminetzky, Rav Berel , Rav Moshe Feinstein, Rav Gedalia Schorr and others with whom he shared a very close and open relationship, not to mention varius Chassidic Rebbes who often stayed in our home. My Father was the founder of the Lakewood Kollel in our large city, I think you get the idea. I say this because I have the unique perspective of seeing both worlds up close and persoanl. And let me tell you, in most instances it’s not pretty.
    I have a load of personal anecdotes, that I personally witnessed and they are not pretty. I will not give into temtations here and begin to recite them if anybody wants we can begin an email dialog.
    The issue between Chassidus chabad and the Frum Torah world, began years before the Moshiach campaign, whoever denies that simply doesn’t know history, Chabad was merely the largest chassidic group in Russia and Ukraine which is next to Lithuiania, it is a fact that many chabads kids went to Volozhin (how many people know that one of Reb Chaim Briskers prime students Rav Don-Yechiya was a huge Chabadnik?) and to Slobodka as well, Rabbis Ruderman and Kaminetzky came from Chassidic Chabad families, When they came to Slobodka The Alter “took care” (see Making…) of “that”.
    Ther was a huge animosity between the groups. After WW2 Rabbi Ashkenazi (a Chabad Rov from Shanghai) took the Vaad Hatzoloh (mainly Litvish) to a major Din Torah over misappropriated funds that were never recieved by The Lubavitcher Students sent by the previous Rebbe, I have in my possesion a letter signed by the Lubavitcher Bochurim to [edited] in response to the Latters request (after the war the Rebbe demanded an accounting) for a reciept of funds, in that letter they express amazment that he even had the “chutzpah” to ask. I personally heard many times from Rabbi Rainchik who was in charge of the Yeshiva funds that he would go monthky to the Tzadik Horav Chaim Shmulevitch of Mir for funds (he was the distributor) and with tears Rav Chaim would say there is no money and would ocassionaly give dome of the Mirrer funds for the Bochurim.
    The point being its an old problem.
    In the current age. What most people don’t ubderstand is that the underlying principle of Chabad activism is that hte Rebbe felt that we all are responsible for the spiritual welfare of all Jews, whether he be close or far or even whether he is frum or not, that main point is the reason why he sent Shluchim to all corners of the globe and why he instituted the mitzvah campaigns and the mitzvah tanks etc. it is also the reason that he was the one screaming about the Israeli Law of Return, (alone, bTW, a serious threat the Gedolim are only now beginning to realize) and agibst the land for peace, Chabad philosophy is that we have to help a Jew in anything he/she needs, even if they don’t realize they need it.This, I think is the fundamental difference between Chabad and other, well meaning, groups. We feel that we have a spiritual “shlichus” to bring spirituality to every Jew. this includes, disseminating Chassidic philosophy even among very Frum and learned Yeshiva/Kolel student, which is why Chabad pushes its nose where it isn’t readily wanted, evenhostile environments. i recall when the Rebe felt that Achdus Yisrael would be bettered if we all united through a Sefer Torah writing campaign, the non religious were Easy it was the Frum Jews that simply couldn’t get it/ Why are you comiong into our neighborhoods and soliciting us? there was a lot of hostility/
    If Frum, torah Jews would at least understand where Chabad is coming from it would at least become more palatable.
    And I respectfully, strongly, disagree with Rabbi Adlerstein, Kiruv was the furthest thing from every Rosh Yeshivas (except for very few like Rabbi Friefeld) mind, in fact the opposite was true, the Roshei Yeshiva would prohibit the studnts drom engaging or G-D forbid living in an environment of non religious. I personally heard a top student of Rav Gedalliah Shorr relate how he came into the yeshiva one day and gave a heated Shmooze against Kiruv. It is a fact that the Yeshiva world did not like what Lubavitch was doing with “the hippies” and the “Goyim” (Jews) and we students would be constantly be insulted and made fun of for it. To deny that the Rebbe was the visionary and pioneer of Kiruv is nothing less than dihonest. I suspect (and fear) that what R’ Adlerstein really means to say is that what Kiruv Lubavitch did was nothing and remained nothing until the Torah Yeshiva world woke up and realized there is a concept of Klal Yisrale and lets start doing something. does anybody remember JEP? from the 70’s I do, because they were the first mainstream Kirruv group to start really being mekarev young JKewish boys.
    I once heard a tape (unauthorized) of R’ Yaakov Weinbeerg talk about Chabad abd the Rebbe (he was actually very flaterring of the Rebbes scholarship and erudition, something I mknow he wasn’t in other forums) where he related his experiences with the release time program on the 40’s and it was clear that this was run by Chabad.
    I have more to say about the Torah world vs chabad (and don’t get me started on Artscroll!) but its getting to long, if you guys want I’ll continue.
    Now, Is Chabad perfect? of course not! Just because we are willing to live in Tulsa Oklahoma and send our kids away to Cheder at 8 doesn’t mean we are angels, Chabad is ig, huge, we have plenty of Talmidei Chachomim and plenty of whackos and plenty of whack talmidei chachomim, we have infighting and politics just like everybody else, there are very special unsung heroes (my wife) and there are people with bad middos, so what else is new? what do you expect perfection? it doesn’t exist today. We try our best. so, whrn you hear this story or that about people why judge the concept? I think there are trmendous people on bith sides of the fence, but in all truth, Chabad has been villified for so long in the Torah world they have insulated themselves against it and feel that the only way to continue is to propogate that wagon train mentality.
    Let me conclude with two small stories. In Columbia there is a Rov, a lakewood Talmid by the name of Rav Goldshmidt, he is the Rov, there is a Shliach from Chabad called Rabbi Rosenfeld, Rabbi Goldshmidt welcomed Rabbi Rosenfeld into his community and befriended him and supported him and tday they are in love with reach other and with mutual respect and admiration they work together beautifully, one is the Rov the other is the “Shliach” activist. there is only harmony. Thats the good story the way it should be.
    Another story, in a small college town, I cannot say which, there was barely a minyan and there was a Chabad Rabbi working on campus, he had a modicum of success, suddenly a mini kolel came, now that should be a good thing right? Of Course it is, you will say that this Rabbi has been there long enough to build up his group, another group is not a threat. That is true. So comes this Kolel, and instead of finding new sources for participants, instead of developing new resources, they began by systematically going after the few devoted families this shliach had inspired. Is this the right way? by all means, GROW Torah, but why minimize what others worked so hard for, this Rabi had a stand on the university walkway, one day a professor stopped to talk to him, he actually wasn’t Jewish, he had a question about Judaism, The Chabad Rabbi answered him the best he could, as he walked away the chabdnik was amazed to see a newly arrived Kollel student run after the professor and stop him, give him a brochure about his activities and urge him to attend. There aren’t other souls to save? you have to go after the guy that just stopped to speak to another Rabbi.
    The above story is unfortunately very typical and painful, it shows a lack of respect and Derch Eretz. there are so many Jews out there that there should be room for Ten organizations, if we would only work together.
    Again, I am not defending Chabad in any way, I am sure all you guys out there have stories as well (and believe me i have Doozies) the point is there is a divide premeditated by hate, mistrust ignorance which in turn breeds hate mistrust and ignorance.
    Shabbat Shalom!

  96. Tal Benschar says:

    Holy Hyrax:

    I think you are missing the point. It is fine to discuss communal problems and issues, even if such discussions are not “feel good” discussions. It is quite another thing to permit a frontal attack on masoras Yisroel. That is — or should be — a given in an Orthodox communal discussion.

    A convention of the “Orthodox Union” can well be thought-provoking about the issues and problems of the day. It should not be a vehicle for undermining of faith. It is the latter to which some posters object.

  97. Michael says:

    I am a ger who is greatly heartened by this thread. From my perspective, the greatest threat to the Orthodox is the lack of candid, public conversations like these. Do we really think that the Yiddishkeit of the OU audience will be shaken by public debates like these? Do we think the audience is hearing Mr. Prager’s concerns for the first time in the OU forum? At the OU forum we look to responsible Orthodox parties to engage the likes of Mr. Prager, who does a service by acknowledging his position and asking hard questions that are more often asked in less articulate and less respectful terms. We who attend the OU conference not only will cope — we crave this discussion. These issues are the subject of quiet conversations in Orthodox shuls before and after davening, before and after study, outside shul at all sorts of occasions. It seems to me there is a great danger when these issues, much discussed among individuals, are not addressed in public by responsible parties, institutions, scholars and thoughtful indivuduals, including the OU, Mr. Prager, R. Adlerstein, and Cross-currents, which is to say, all of the contributors to this thread. Argue, debate, of course abide by the rules of engagement, but engage these issues for the sake of heaven and each other, and in public forums, even if that means that an occasional comment oversteps, oversteps in public, in front of parents at an OU forum who are looking both for answers and for role models who will suggest how to engage their children’s difficult questions at the Shabbos table, and who will show that it is possible to discuss these direct challenges with poise.

  98. truth says:


    Not belabor the points. You claim you have the perspective of both worlds. You claim that there is mistrust and ignorance and hate.

    And you bring us anecdotes and stories from the non chabad abhorring chabad. And you admit that “you guys have your stories as well…”.

    But please listen to something that you did in this post (and i belive and know that you are a genuine tayere person who is sincere in doing the right thing, but yet, you are unable to look at the issue from the opposing perspective), and i’m far from being someone to point fingers on this issue on any side, i’m only showing you how deep perceptions of hate (even if they had a legitimate reason from a certain perspective) have grown and bred hatred till today in the youth of lubavitch towards other jews ad hayom Zeh and is legitimized by the retelling of old stories with a deep venom that makes it impossible to heal and try to make amends

    (and i’m sure you can come up with the same from the “other side” but it does not help you an additionally: not everyone can an should be put in the same basket, for there are many groups an inidivudals who do not share this kind of hatred towards you and on the contrary respect you for your good hings but have questions and many are legitimate and when confronted with the response “you hate us” and th elike start thinking that maybe it is insecurity to the claims being made that puts these guys in a corner to create the need for “Everyone hates us” “Even before mashiach”)

    You write about the episodes during the holocaust. I will not go on other details (since it is excatly these kind of stories tha MUST be put aside since they have different angles), but just point out the way you write this story about Rav Shumlevitz: A reader will not get the impression that Rav Shmulevitz was actaull VERY FRIENDLY towards chabad and the talmidim of chabad. A reader will not know that actually many lubavitchers that were there will speak of Rav Shmulelvitz with great admiration (his coming to Yud Tes Kislev Farbrengens and his genuine attempts and actual help in physical ways whenever possible). Choosing to perpetuate these episodes in a light that leaves out some thing that can be a link to each other, is what makes it impossile to make a bridge between them.

    You rightly point out the vision of the Rebbe and how he excelled and saw many things before they materialized and how he affected an affects jewry at large from all corners of the globe and in mulfaceted aspets of their lives. But, what is missing even in your “knowing both wolds” the apprecation of what others have done and do in their own right. Although “bizer anpin” at least acknolwedge that lots of good have been done. This is something that Lubavitcher is never ever taught and usually does not undertand and cetainly not appreciate. He may thing that having the other as a guest and providing him his needs (And that is a terrific deed, don’t get me wrong) subsititutes for acknowledging what the other’s maalos and feats stand for. Moishe: it does not work that way. the other guy is not only a good guy when he sings your praises and or when he is part of your service; he is something to respect for his own deeds in his own right.

    Moishe: if younger Lubavitcher were educated that they were the best and others are good or close to good it would be great. But to educate and dwell on past anecdotes from one’s mirrored glasses to sow hatred and disregard for the other’s qualities and accomplishments an claim
    “ahavat yisroel” that is empty and shallow does your guys no service.

    i wish ou luck and blessings for all good things you and yor family do,

    with respect,


  99. Dovid Eliezrie says:

    It has been an interesting, enlightening and painful discussion over the last week on Cross Currents. The question is what becomes of all of this. I would like to make a few observations in an effort to bring a conclusion.

    1. I am hoping that both sides have gained a broader understanding of the divide that exists in the Frum world. I think we need to find forums public and private to began a broader discussion between Chabad and the LItvasher world.

    2. One small example of that was an initiative launched a few years ago called Am Echad. The concept for the organization was Chabad’s the actual implementation was Aguda. For a period of two- three years there was strong cooperation between Agudah, Chabad, Young Israel, OU etc. in dealing with serious challenges from outside of the Frum community. We all learned to trust and respect one another. Still there where barriers that where not overcome. When it came to internal cooperation in the frum community we did not succeed to bridging the gaps. Still Am Echad was an important beginning and a proof there is hope.
    3. In Chabad we are concerned with the intense Misnagdeshe hostility to us and Chassidus. It predates by two centuries or so the Meshichist issue. The Rebbim of Lubavitch had a different world view than the Litvashe Gedolim, a century ago the Rebbe Rashab left Agudah shortly after its founding. In recent times this was more acute when Lubavitch took a different approach to the modern challenges of assimilation, religious life in America and Israel, and many other issues. I think that much of the tension is an outgrowth over real varied world views from Lubavitch and the Litvasher.

    4. The Litvasher need to drop their historical revionism of modern Jewish history. The Previous Rebbe and the Rebbe started Kiruv. Their LItvahse Roshie Yesihva degraded the efforts for years. An amazing example of this I recalled this Shabbos. Two years ago Artscroll/Shaar Press published about a book about the Gedolim who brought Yiddiskiet to America. The editor asked me to write a chapter on the Previous Rebbe, which I did. When it was published the whole front section, close to a hundred pages was about the organizations that brought about the growth of Yiddiskiet in the US in the mid century. There was Aguda, Young Israel, various Yeshivas, the OU. Not one mention of Chabad. When I expressed to the editor my outrage he told he that he got flack from “Lakewood guys” for including the bio of the Previous Rebbe. As if he did me a great favor. The revisionism is so strong that the Misnagdim have convinced themselves that they did what they copied from us. It would make David Irving proud.

    5. 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. They are not the threat that some say, they are fully Shomer Mitzvavh and 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. I strongly disagree with their ideology but I will argue, debate with them I will not push them out of the Machaneh. There is no so Elokist movement it simply does not exist. It is an absolute lie (except as I told you for the mental patient in Tzefas, but how many crazies populate Boro Park and Lakewood, no one says they represent anymore than a psychotic person.)

    6. The Litvahser also need to confront their own inbred hostility, 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?. The hatred that we have seen, the intolerance for a different Shitah is real and reaches back over two hundred years to the Cherem of the Gra.

    7. In Chabad we need to develop a stronger appreciation for the Shitahs and contributions of others to Yiddiskiet. Chabad needs to break out of is insular environment. Something I think the Rebbe always advocated. While he may have not shared common views with many Litavhser Gedolim there where always avenues of communication.. Many of them fell apart around Gimmel Tammuz.

    I think many can take a lesson from the friendship that I have developed with my colleague Rabbi Yitzchak Adlerstein. Some years ago I organized an event called the National Conference of Jewish and Contemporary Law. I was urged to invited Yitzchak to make a presentation and told a mutual friend I would not invite him since he had spoken about the Rebbe with great disrespect ( I did invite other Litvasher who did not have such a record). I was urged to meet with him and talk about the issue of contention. From that conversation developed I think he developed a an appreciation for Chabad and the Rebbe, and I an understanding of the LItvvasher world. We have mutual respect, cooperation on communal projects, a shattering of misconceptions, an agreement to agree to disagree, and a friendship. We both are strong in our own Shitohs but we have learned to appreciate the ideas of the other.

    If any of you would like to communicate to me privately on the above email me at [email protected]

    Dovid Eliezrie

  100. Steve Brizel says:

    Moishe-Fascinating history. Yet, JEP was not the only group outside of Chabad engaged in kiruv during the 1960s and 1970s. Ever hear of NCSY?

  101. 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.

  102. 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.

  103. 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.

  104. 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…”

  105. 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.

  106. 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.

  107. 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 ?

  108. 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.

  109. 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.

  110. 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.

  111. 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.

  112. 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).

  113. 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

  114. 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.

  115. 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!

  116. 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.

  117. 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.

  118. 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.

  119. 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.

  120. 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.

  121. 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.



  122. 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.

  123. 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.

  124. 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.

  125. 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,


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