Don’t Chop Down the Trees, We Need the Forest – We Need Chabad

I really misfired. My intentions were sincere, they were directed to constructive critique and they were, in my opinion, expressed quite gently and respectfully – yet they were not helpful in the overall scheme of things.

My focus on The Realignment of American Jewry by Rabbi Dovid Eliezrie was on both inconsequential issues, as well as on very internal aspects of Chabad which are really the business of Chabad and no one else. More importantly, there is not one group in the general Orthodox camp that does not have its challenges, and it would have been far wiser to focus on matters that are within my relative purview and closer to my immediate community rather than on those of others.

Taking a step back, it is clear as day that Chabad is a crucial ally – actually a foremost leader – in the battle to preserve tradition and keep Jews affiliated, without compromise, through genuine love and mesiras nefesh. This trumps all else, and one doesn’t actually need not take a step back to realize this glaring fact, as well as the abundance of good that Chabad does on so many levels and in so many locations. It is overwhelming and should inspire us all to follow suit.

Chabad has for so long been a partner with non-Chabad Orthodoxy in protecting and promoting the interests of Yahadus in countless ways; doing anything to jeopardize or not show appreciation for this critical partnership is ill-advised. I am reminded of the inspiring story of the rescue of the Ba’al Ha-Tanya in Chaslavitch by a talmid of the Vilna Gaon and the beautiful reciprocity that ensued (v. Mipeninei Ha-Rav s. Rabbanus sec. 3, and Divrei Ha-Rav p. 110), as well as the massive efforts of the Lubavitcher Rebbe zt”l in the Mihu Yehudi episode, fortifying the position of non-Chabad Torah leadership and rallying the troops like no one else can. This and much more exemplify a holy shutfus, setting the stage for how we should all interact and for true achdus.

Chabad has created a massive and beautiful global forest of Judaism, and one cannot overlook it by unmindfully bumping into trees.

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25 Responses

  1. Avi6 says:

    Yasher koach for this mea culpa. Chabad does amazing work in communities most Jews in New York have never heard of, let alone visited. Although I do not know Rabbi Eliezrie personally, I grew up in Orange County, CA, which is 948 square miles in size, but 35 years ago, was two inches deep as far as frumkeit. The county’s only Jewish paper would regularly list the synagogues-and the only Orthodox one in all of Orange County was Rabbi Eliezrie’s. If that was his only accomplishment– to show Jews that yes, Orthodoxy is alive, even in the far reaches of California–dayenu. Few readers here know what it is like to live without a minyan of Shomrei Shabbos, without a yeshiva, without kosher food, with only the singular goal to be an example to others of authentic, committed yiddishkeit. The growth of yiddishkeit in the “O.C.” is due directly to the mesiras nefesh of Rabbi Eliezrie and those who followed. Ashrecha v’tov lach.

  2. Steve Brizel says:

    One can clearly disagree with the Messianist views within Chabad and still admire the fact that Chabad without  is a portal for many to begin to explore Judaism without apologetics and to seek other venues beyond a local Chabad house which for many is the first introduction to many basic mitzvos such as a Shabbos meal, an intact family, putting on Tefilin, shaking Arbah Minim. Without the pioneering work of Chabad in the US, there would have been little if any impulse for such programs as YU’s JSS, and TLS , YI dining clubs, the creation of NCSY , community kollelim, and JLI on college campuses that now are found throughout the US.  I would always err on the side of a college student having a Shabbos meal at the house of a Chabad shliach than at a Hillel house simply because the possibility of experiencing the Kedusha of both Zachor and Shamor is far more posssible at the house of any Chabad Shliach than at a Hillel house that by its umbrella like definition has to be careful not to step on the toes , hearts and minds of its varied participants.

    • dr. bill says:

      to give chabad credit as you do “Without the pioneering work of Chabad in the US, there would have been little if any impulse for such programs as YU’s JSS, and TLS , YI dining clubs, the creation of NCSY , community kollelim, and JLI on college campuses that now are found throughout the US.” requires historical research and demonstration.  tofastoh merubaeh, no tofastoh.

      In our community, led by an avowed meshichist,  chabad’s attraction is intoxicating.  The community supports other efforts.  there are also excellent chabad programs on some campuses.  nothing is black and white especially in such an undisciplined community.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Dr bill-look at the historical background and the facts on the ground.  RYYS ZL came off the boat committed to outreach in the US .  You can trace NCSY and TLS from the late 1950s and JSS’s best years in the 1960s and 1970s. Community kollelim took off under the leadership of R S Kotler, RYK, R Y Ruderman and R H Leiboiwtz, ZL in the mid 197os. JLI was a 21st Century OU reaction to MO high school grads going OTD on secular college campuses

      • mycroft says:

        “RYYS ZL came off the boat committed to outreach in the US .  ”


        “You can trace NCSY and TLS from the late 1950s and JSS’s best years in the 1960s and 1970s.”

        Agreed-but don’t forget that outreach on a micro level was going on as part of a Ravs obligations in serving communities. There certainly are many who can trace their shemiras  Shabbos behavior to some Rav influencing them or their parents or grandparents before TLS or NCSY ever came into existence.In some respects the positive aspects of both organizations are obvious-sad byproduct too many people believe kiruv is a responsibility for paid professionals-really best kirus is a genuine not professional one.

      • dr. bill says:

        i guess you believe post hoc ergo procter hoc.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        I think that the historical facts on the ground support my contention, although I am open to evidence to the contrary. As far as micro and macro based kiruv, every step forward in Torah and mitzvah observance that any Jew takes is inherently a micro endeavor-kiruv as a communal endeavor today has many dimensions and focuses on many different elements of the Jewish community-teens, college students, young single and marrieds and middle aged persons as well.

        We should also remember that chizuk within the MO and Charedi worlds also is a major priority-that’s why we see such efforts as Kollel Yom Rishon, YU Torah and many similar web based portals for Torah learning, as well as numerous other opportunities for Limud HaTorah throughout the year.

        With respect to secular college campuses, if you know someone who is part of a JLI presence on a college campus, ask that person about his or her impression of the social, academic and political milieu and whether they think that environment is a proper setting for the average MO post Israel student.  The question remains why so many parents ( with the implicit cooperation of the yeshivos that they have spent so much on tuition from K-12) allow their children, who they hope to transmit the values of Torah observance , and who ostensibly  are the next generation of the Torah observant world, to enter into such an environment with the odds clearly stacked against their remaining observant. Why so many parents worship at the false idol of the Ivies and similar schools because of the “education of their children” and ignore the neshamos of their childen consistently escapes me.

  3. Steve Brizel says:

    For those interested in a fascinating bio of the Lubavicher Rebbe ZL written by someone with Chabad roots but not hagiograpgical, read R Joseph Telushkin’s “Rebbe.” One need not be a card carrying Chabadnik to appreciate the SA HaRav ( which the MB cites on almost every page). There is much in common between Shaar Daled of Nefesh HaChaim and Hilcos Talmud Torah of the SA HaRav with respect to the discussion of the breadth of the mitzvah of Talmud Torah. It should be noted that RYBS quoted from the Tanya, Igeres HaTeshuvah and other works from Chabad, and if one reads the above cited work of R Telushkin and R D Holzer’s Thinking Aloud, one will see that RYBS had a great deal of appreciation and admiration for the works of the Rebbe ZL as a leader of Am Yisrael and as a Gadol BaTorah.

    • Reader says:

      Joseph Telushkin is the minister of a non-Orthodox congregation in California with female cantor, etc. His book on the late Lubavitcher Rebbe was done together with Lub. HQ at 770, if not totally commissioned by them. Let no one fool themselves. It is not a critical work by an outside objective author.

      Re RYBS and the Lubavitcher Rebbe – RYBS had serious reservations about him and Lubavitch as well, even if he made some nice comments, being the gentleman that he was. Cf. Rabbi Dr. J.J. Schachter’s comments at the YU event about them, and other sources.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        I had no idea where R Telushkin’s trajectory took him. The book is still a fascinating read, and was not published by Kehot.

      • Reader says:

        Steve – The Lubavitch PR machine, headed by R. Yudel Krinsky from Maimonides and Boston Latin school. who was hired by them in the 1950’s specifically to have a native English speaker for PR work, is not that dense. They realized that a book by a known outside author like Telushkin, published by a general publisher, would be much better for PR, than a book by a Lubavitcher published by a Lubavitcher publishing house.

  4. S Ziskind says:

    I think one of the great things about Cross Currents is the maturity of the writers. I was very happy to hear a critique from an “outsider” and I do think it’s valuable. I would love to see more interaction between Lubavitch and the greater frum world outside of Lubavitch.  I think the post did bring up valid issues. Okay, so in terms of fixing them, that’s not your job, but the dialogue is good and helpful. I would love it if there were more events where my community in Crown Heights could be more connected to others while still retaining a strong sense of pride in the Lubavitch minhagim and hashkafos.

    When I read Cross Currents I feel like I’m part of the greater Jewish world. It’s the denigrating comments and over generalizations which I did not see here but I did see in the linked article you posted which makes me feel like I’m the other, and that saddened me. I hope that we’re all part of a greater klal Yisroel and want to help and strengthen each other and our communities all over.

  5. Shmuel W says:

    It seems Chabad and pro Chabad ppl cannot take even friendly cirticism. The first article was very gentle. If Chabad cannot see some introspection and continue thinking the whole frum world dislikes them, then there is a bigger problem than I thought.  Chabad does good, noone denied that but they also have some problems that perhaps they should reflect on. R’ Gordimer’s first article was IMO true.

    • Reader says:

      I also was surprised to see this piece. I will take it in the spirit of the time it appears in, Sefira and Lag Ba’omer, as a product of mussar thinking and introspection, even if excessive and not necessary perhaps. Such gestures reflect well on those who extend them.

      I would hope that others would put forth similar gestures, and that it would not be just from one party.

  6. gg says:

    Another little known fact about Chabad (even though the Kiruv aspect seems to overwhelm everything else when it comes to perceptions) is that they have some awesome yeshivas, great roshei yeshiva (rav Ezra shochet in LA, rav schapiro in Miami to name a few) amazing roshei kollel (for example rav Chaim sholom Deutsch a talmid of tomchei temimim in kfar  Chabad but also of r. Zalman Nechemia Goldberg was close to rav Shlomo zalman [also learned by rav shach in ponovitch before Lubavitch and was apparently a close talmid]) and significant poskim ( The late rav of kfar Chabad rav ashkenazi who wrote many sforim, and lbmclc rav yekusiel farkash currently a major Posek in Chabad circles also a talmid of rav vosner who wrote many important halachic sforim on nidda and hilchos shabbos – Recomended learning)

    • dr. bill says:

      RZNG is the son-in-law of RSZA ztl.  i had never heard either referred to as a lubavitcher.  Lubavitch had a reputation for talmud torah, as did a small number of other chassidic groups.  In the middle of the last century, lubavitch had a number of first rate talmidei chachamim including Rav Rivkin ztl who gave the yoreh deah shiur in Torah Vodaath and a number of others.  (i heard the Rav ztl give a shloshim hesped for rav Rivkin at Moriah.) Of course, it goes without saying that the Rebbe ztl was also a Talmid chacham of the first order.  

      however, with the growth of the movement and its outward focus, that tradition appears to be dwarfed by rabbis with other skills.  I once engaged a lubavitcher heading chabad in a major city about the Baal Hatanya’s missive on the beginning of Shabbat, printed in every lubavitch siddur, and he sounded mystified.  Then again, maybe it was a fluke.

      • gg says:

        I never said rzng was a Lubavitcher

      • gg says:

        I also never said rav shach was a Lubavitcher 🙂

      • dr. bill says:

        you said rosh kollel i believe; i never saw that.  i do believe RZNG gave shiurim in a lubavitch yeshivah in jerusalem, but he has given shiurim at various mosdot.

        the more significant issue is the system producing quality Talmidei chachamim in its institutions.  i have no idea, but i certainly have not heard of any.

      • gg says:

        Yes rav Chaim sholom Deutsch is the rosh kollel of kollel tzemach tzedek in the old city. Sorry if my writing was so unclear that it was totally misunderstood.

        (I personally am not aware of too many  talmidei Chachomim of major caliber produced by the conventional yeshiva system either , maybe just my ignorance , I guess everyone just knows those in their own little circle )

      • gg says:

        How many great caliber talmidei Chachomim (comparing to rav elysashiv or rasa ) are being produced by the modern conventional yeshiva system ? I guess in my ignorance I haven’t heard of too many.

      • dr. bill says:

        i am not talking about individuals who come about once every few generations; most are largely auto-didactic.  show me the chabad version of YU torah or the gush vbm, things i am familiar with in my circles.

  7. Jake says:

     It is overwhelming and should inspire us all to follow suit.

    Right. Is it correct for the author to deliver – even constructive – mussar after admitting that he was the one to point out his misstep – ? It seems a little out of place. I’m just wondering.

  8. Appel says:

    כל ישראל ערבין זה לזה. The point that Chasidim of the Rebbe come from 770 to do their outreach and go to frum shuls (that’ll allow them in) to speak, along with their yarmulkes that in big letters read יחי אדונינו מורינו ורבנו מלך המשיח (visible when they lift their black hats), supplying overtly meshichist pamphlets, and sometimes even ending their “dvar torah” at the 3rd seudah with יחי אדונינו — this is the point that “their” issues have become ours. If they kept it to themselves that would be another story, but when they come to our fellow yidden, be it Sefardim or anyone else who isn’t wise to their ways, it is incorrect to say that it is not our business. One needs only to leave their comfort zone of black hat or Yeshivish minyanim and spend time in Sefardi / non-black hat Shuls, and ask around, if they are unaware of the reality I described above. One would hope that if criticism were to be concentrated specifically on this meshichist group, non-meshichist members of Chabad would not sweep it under the rug but would agree, maybe even suggesting ways to work together addressing this issue. I hope that everyone here will agree that it’s not this version of Chabad that we should support.

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