Were We Wrong About Chabad?

For decades, Chabad’s want-to-wrap-tefillin legions made us feel uncomfortable. More bluntly, we mocked them.

To be sure, that was only half of the picture. We openly admired Chabad’s mesiras nefesh, and their very real love for all Jews. Parts of their modus operandi, including the tefillin thing however, just struck us as goofy. We couldn’t relate to hundreds of people spending all that time just trying to put tefillin on bemused non-religious Jews. Just how important could that single moment be? If anything, it seemed to violate our sense of the extreme kedushah of tefillin. We didn’t buy into the idea that acquiescing one time to humor a guy in a Fiddler On The Roof outfit would erase a lifetime of ignoring the mitzvah – something no one thought was his fault in the first place, having been disconnected from Torah for generations – and save him from the Talmud’s description of the fate of those who did not wear tefillin. Lots of wasted energy there. Better that the folks who manned the booths should be in the beis medrash.

Looking back at recent events in Israel, it appears that we were all wrong. So wrong, that perhaps we should be reevaluating how we do what is popularly called “kiruv.”

Hardly a day passes without some new anti-religious outrage going viral on social media. The context within which the shocking episodes is embedded is even more lamentable. People who have lived here for decades say that the hatred of charedim and Yiddishkeit itself has never been so palpable. The mayoral race in Tel Aviv pits a long-standing anti-religious mayor against a challenger who declares himself to be even more anti-religious. Both campaign openly not only against Chabad “missionaries,” but all forms of introducing religion to their proud, secular redoubt in Tel Aviv. Residents vow to keep out a wonderful dati-leumi yeshivah with a proven track record of care and respect for their neighbors. A different dati-leumi yeshivah – this one in Yerushalayim – sees a large demonstration outside its doors, claiming that all that is wrong with judicial reform owes to the fanaticism, racism, and messianism that is taught in their beis medrash. It’s not a pretty picture, especially during the Three Weeks.

But wait. This is only where the story begins. What strikes me as even more important is the extent of the backlash against these expressions of contempt for Judaism. Secular broadcasters donning tefillin, live on camera. Leftist journalists speaking of the horror of watching Jews voice contempt for their legacy, and for other Jews. Chabad tefillin stands reporting overflow crowds, and secular Jews volunteering to help them with their work. The pushback against the extreme seculars is usually – if not always – accompanied by appreciation and adulation for Chabad. Parts of the non-Chabad charedi press – not usually given to praising Chabad – comment on the goings-on by depicting the Chabad foot-soldiers as allies in a common cause.

The rest of us were wrong all along. We neglected to see what Chabad was really accomplishing with their tefillin booths. It had little to do with tefillin, and everything to do with conveying a simple but powerful message: We love you as brothers and sisters. You are worth our investing our time, energies and lives. Whatever you think of your level of observance or non-observance, we think that your being part of our people is important. Yiddishkeit belongs as much to you as it does to us.

That is what people have absorbed for decades. In part, it worked because more and more people travelled to parts of the world where their needs were catered to by selfless Chabad shluchim, who demonstrated their love for the Jewish people by devoting their lives to it.

The rest of us ignored Chabad’s model and created a competing one, which created a teshuvah revolution that changed the face of contemporary Orthodoxy. It operated on very different principles, and reached a very different audience. It offered classes, lectures, explanations, inspiration, and answers. To be sure, we learned that we had to be genuine in our concern for others, and effusive in our warmth. But we were interested in verifiable results: how many became Shomrei Shabbos in a given year. One major figure in Bnei Brak was quite explicit. Any kiruv that didn’t result in assuming the yoke of mitzvos was worthless.

What we built was an unqualified success – at least to the people it reached. Its products, and their children and grandchildren, fill our shuls, our schools, and our batei medrash. May the work of kiruv organizations continue to touch the neshamos of more and more Jews!

But it is a changed world. The vast majority of non-Orthodox Jews outside of Israel have assimilated even quicker than our own prophets of doom predicted. They don’t even have fond memories of grandparents who were somewhat observant. The religion of a growing number (Jews always need something to believe it) is wokeism; they have no room for G-d or even for Israel, except to distance themselves from it. We proceed at our own peril if we ignore the success of Chabad with its program for making other Jews feel important as Jews. They are the only ones who had a strategy of how to reach Jews who had no connection to observance at all. Outside of the frum population centers, they are the only act in town. We gave up on the Jews who live there, because we know we can’t survive without a minimum amount of frum infrastructure. Chabad didn’t and doesn’t demand that, and they are saving innumerable Jews from throwing in the towel.

I write all of this with firm bona fides as a “snag,” (as Chabad calls misnagdim), in no danger of going over to the Chabad side ideologically.

The good news is that the events of last week demonstrated how different Jews in Israel are from their cousins abroad. The backlash against the demonization of Judaism – may it continue to grow – tells us that we must make some adjustments in relating to our brothers and sisters who are not frum. Our form of kiruv should continue; we should also continue to take pride in the enormous contributions of our chesed organizations – which have also been spotlighted as part of the pushback. But we must find ways to interact more with Jews outside of our community, whether it is on the bus, waiting on line at stores, or shopping in the malls. Simply engaging in conversation with people whom we care about because they are our flesh and blood. Break down barriers. Erase stereotypes. It all starts with one-on-one interaction.

And thank Hashem for Chabad having opened our eyes to the opportunities in front of us.

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101 Responses

  1. david littauer says:


  2. Anonymous says:

    I go to a non-Chabad shul. I met a frum man there who became a baal teshuva after having tefillin put on him by Chabad at the Kotel. He found it to be a profoundly spiritual experience and it eventually lead him to a non-Chanda kiruv center in Los Angeles. It completely changed my opinion of Chabad and putting on Tefillin. It may not be “our way” of doing kiruv, but it is a special thing.

  3. Bob Miller says:

    #1 – We should all ask ourselves if Jews outside our own circles whom we meet, casually or otherwise, size us up as friendly people. If not, why not?

    • Neil Harris says:


      • Reb Yid says:

        The folks here only have to read the posts most commenters put up here on this very board when describing “other” Jews, often in the most unflattering terms imaginable.

    • RAM says:

      Reb Yid, for you the “others” who can be attacked are the Orthodox.

      • Reb Yid says:

        The “others” who are always attacked on this board, by both authors of posts and many of the commenters can be all kinds of Jews, no matter what their denomination (including Orthodox), who do not fit into the rather narrow reactionary and conservative world (political, social, religious, cultural) of those attacking them.

        And yes, I call this out when I see it–but I am not the one who is picking on other Jews to start with.

  4. Steve Brizel says:

    Chabad, despite the messianist aspects that are evident in some areas of Chabad, is the main port of entry for anyone unaffiliated with Judaism to begin exploring their committment as well as the port of entry wherre you can find kosher food, a Shabbos table and a shul in locales far distant from any major Jewish community . Chabad is fearless in their taking Mitrzvos out of the shul and Beis Medrash and placing them in the marketplace for other Jews to experience the same.

    • mycroft says:

      For those who affiliate with Judaism-even attending regional community day schools. The only Orthodox presence at all is often different Chabad houses.
      They welcome any Jew-no questions asked. Don’t fast Yom Kippur, not interested in davening-show up before and after for meals.
      They certainly are often the only source for anything representing anything close to an Orthodox ideology. They are not taking positions on the way up the job market-they set up an area and work with it.

    • Alex wonders says:

      Hard to take the comments of someone who quotes open orthodox rabbis in their articles seriously. המבין יבין.

  5. mb says:

    In the aftermath of WW2 the Lubavitcher Rebbe OBM in reaction to the Nazis that hunted down every Jew to murder them, he made it his business and convey to his followers to hunt down every Jew to love them!
    They still do it. God bless them!

  6. ben dov says:

    This article implies that Chabad’s approach to kiruv is the most controversial thing about them. There’s room to question that. I think it’s how they view their Rebbe: mashiach is certainly imminent, the Rebbe is mashiach, the Rebbe is either alive or death without complete success is no messianic impediment, 770 will be relocated to the Temple Mount, etc.

    BTW, I like much of their approach to kiruv.

    • Dov BEn says:

      The 1990s Just called. They want their anti chabad argument back.

      Though believing Mashiach’s imminence is 13 Ikkarim (denying that would be more problematic than the beliefs you attribute to Chabad). the Rebbe as Moshiach has been consistently becoming less of a focus in chabad for decades.

      The idea of 770 being relocated (chabad say to eretz Yisrael not temple mount) comes from the gemara (megilla 29 a)
      תניא, רבי אלעזר הקפר אומר, עתידין בתי כנסיות ובתי מדרשות שבבבל שיקבעו בארץ ישראל, שנאמר (ירמי’ מו, יח) “כי כתבור בהרים וככרמל בים יבא”, והלא דברים ק”ו, ומה תבור וכרמל שלא באו אלא לפי שעה ללמוד תורה נקבעים באר”י, בתי כנסיות ובתי מדרשות שקורין ומרביצין בהן תורה, על אחת כמה וכמה.

      You are welcome to exclude your own Beit Midrash, but the rest of us will be together with Chabad in Eretz Yisrael…

      • Bob Miller says:

        ” the Rebbe as Moshiach has been consistently becoming less of a focus in chabad for decades.”

        Less of a focus and also less of a belief?

      • ben dov says:

        Maimonides’s claim that the messiah must rebuild the “sanctuary on its site” would seem to be an insurmountable obstacle for those determined to believe in the Rebbe’s messianic status. The reason is obvious: He did not rebuild the Temple. Yet Chabad once again brought its creative interpretive powers to bear on the Mishneh Torah, the results of which were published in a 1991 pamphlet titled “The Lesser Sanctuary Is the House of Our Rabbi in Babylon.”58 Here the Rebbe was quoted as saying that ever since the shechina removed itself from the Jewish people, it has resided in the home of each generation’s leader, which constitutes the “primary lesser sanctuary that God provides for Israel during the exile in place of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.”59 In other words, the divine presence resides at 770 Eastern Parkway, Menachem Mendel Schneerson’s home. According to the Rebbe, the divine presence there “is more exalted than the divine presence in other synagogues and houses of study,” because it is a “very special (unique and singular) place that is a substitute for the Temple in Jerusalem… which holds the essence of the divine emanation and presence.”60 He goes on to explain that at the time of the redemption, “the divine presence will return to Jerusalem and will not remain where Israel was in exile… because the ‘lesser sanctuary’ will be uprooted from this place and relocated to the Land of Israel, TO THE TEMPLE MOUNT IN JERUSALEM” ”61 [emphasis mine, BD]


      • Nachum says:

        “Though believing Mashiach’s imminence is 13 Ikkarim”

        It is not. It is in the Ani Maamin, but the Rambam didn’t write the Ani Maamin, he wrote the Introduction to Chelek. There are places where the Ani Maamin (and Yigdal) do not accurately reflect the Rambam.

        In any event, the dispute is a bit more fundamental: To Chabad, Mashiach is central, e.g., “Do a mitzvah to bring Mashiach.” We don’t do mitzvot to bring Mashiach; we do them because Hashem commanded them (and, if you wish, because they’re good for us). Yes, Kaballah talks about tikkun and uniting the name of Hashem and so on, but that’s also very dangerous territory.

        “gemara (megilla 29 a)”

        There’s nothing there about the Beit HaMikdash, which of course doesn’t exist outside of Israel anyway. And talk of buildings flying is obviously a mashal- the Rambam himself says there will be no miracles in the time of Mashiach.

        Between you and me, all the talk of how the Redemption will be so miraculous has done more to keep Jews happy in Galut, expecting nothing less than a miracle to get them back to Israel, than anything else.

        And we don’t have to bring up the fact that the Rebbe could have very easily sent, or led, a hundred thousand or more chassidim to Israel.

        “770 Eastern Parkway, Menachem Mendel Schneerson’s home”

        770 was his office. He lived a few blocks away.

      • ben dov says:

        Mashiach’s imminence is nowhere mentioned in Rambam’s Ikarim.

        I said nothing about “emphasis” only the existence of a certain belief. I think that belief is more controversial among the Orthodox public than their approach to kiruv. If you think their approach to kiruv is their most controversial aspect, you’re free to disagree with me.

      • Yehoshua Kahan says:

        The 13 Ikarim do not demand that we believe that Moshiach is about to come. Indeed, if they did, then generation after generation were required to believe something that is empirically not true–Moshiach did not come in all those generations, all those millenia. The 13 Ikarim demand that we believe Moshiach will come, and yearningly look forward to it.

        Belief that someone who has been long dead is the Moshiach is indeed a problematic matter, to say nothing of those that believe him to be Hashem Himself.

        It has consistently become less of a focus? I don’t know about that. From looking around, I see quite a few who are still very intensely into this. I don’t know if the numbers are increasing or decreasing, but they have certainly not disappeared. Far from it.

      • Tal Benschar says:

        Though believing Mashiach’s imminence is 13 Ikkarim

        Not correct. This is what the Rambam does say:

        הַמֶּלֶךְ הַמָּשִׁיחַ עָתִיד לַעֲמֹד וּלְהַחְזִיר מַלכוּת דָּוִד לְיָשְׁנָהּ לַמֶּמְשָׁלָה הָרִאשׁוֹנָה. וּבוֹנֶה הַמִּקְדָּשׁ וּמְקַבֵּץ נִדְחֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל. וְחוֹזְרִין כָּל הַמִּשְׁפָּטִים בְּיָמָיו כְּשֶׁהָיוּ מִקֹּדֶם. מַקְרִיבִין קָרְבָּנוֹת. וְעוֹשִׂין שְׁמִטִּין וְיוֹבְלוֹת כְּכָל מִצְוָתָן הָאֲמוּרָה בַּתּוֹרָה. וְכָל מִי שֶׁאֵינוֹ מַאֲמִין בּוֹ. אוֹ מִי שֶׁאֵינוֹ מְחַכֶּה לְבִיאָתוֹ. לֹא בִּשְׁאָר נְבִיאִים בִּלְבַד הוּא כּוֹפֵר. אֶלָּא בַּתּוֹרָה וּבְמשֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ.
        In the future, the Messianic king will arise and renew the Davidic dynasty, restoring it to its initial sovereignty. He will build the Temple and gather the dispersed of Israel.
        Then, in his days, the observance of all the statutes will return to their previous state. We will offer sacrifices, observe the Sabbatical and Jubilee years according to all their particulars as described by the Torah.
        Anyone who does not believe in him or does not await his coming, denies not only the statements of the other prophets, but those of the Torah and Moses, our teacher.

        The Rambam says that it is not enough to believe in the future coming of Mashiach, but one must ALSO wait for his coming.

        The paraphrase in the Ani Maamin means the same thing — that the person should want him to come any day, not that he will.

        Anyone who feels comfortable in golus, and has no particular longing for geulah, acc. to this Rambam, is a kofer!

        (FWIW, I once said a pshat about why wanting the Moshiach is an ikkar. Generally, the ikkarim are beliefs one must have — like in Matan Torah, or Techiyas ha Meisim. But there is no requirement to long for anything. Why is this different?
        Because the coming of Moshiach is not merely a historical event, but the perfection of the world itself. Someone who thinks that Moshiach coming is merely some future historical/political event, does not really believe in what it is.
        I told this pshat to R. Aaron Soloveicjik, zt”l, who agreed with it.)

    • Yosef says:

      What’s wrong with those beliefs? The first two can be explained logically and the second two are according to torah (not that the first two aren’t)

      • Steven Brizel says:

        Take a look at the nnth Pererk of Hiilcos Teshuvah and the last Perek of Hilcos Melaqchim-Rambam does talk about what Ymos Moshiach are supposed to be like. IIRC, but I am certainly willing to be corrected, Rambam also talks about such issues in Igeres Teiman and as well as in Perush HaMishnat at end of Makos as to the potenial and power of all Jews fulfulling one Mitzvah Bshlemusha

      • Nachum says:

        “mashiach is certainly imminent,” is not logical. It is *possible*, and one hopes it is *true*, but “logical” is not the word. And it is not “according to the Torah”, as the Torah never says when Mashiach is coming. (Daniel says some numbers but admits he has no idea what they mean.)

        “the Rebbe is mashiach,” is certainly not logical nor even possible, considering that he is dead. It is certainly not “according to the Torah”, as the Navi makes it clear that Mashiach won’t die until he’s done.

        “the Rebbe is either alive or death without complete success is no messianic impediment”. See above. Not “according to the Torah”, and not factual in the former part.

        “770 will be relocated to the Temple Mount, etc.” The Torah never mentions 770, which was built in 1920 as a medical clinic and was shut down for illegal abortions (which is how Chabad got it cheap).

  7. Stephen Meyers says:

    This article helped me understand how Chabad has been so successful.

  8. mayer says:

    Everything Chabad does starts with one simple trait. Ahavas Yisrael, based on chapter 32 (lev) of Tanya which is the basis of chabad philosophy. If you can internalize that chapter, then you can be successful at bringing another Jew closer to his own self.

    • M. Shmei says:

      I would say the opposite:
      The basis of Chabad’s ahavas yisroel is Chabad philosophy.
      As you will see if you read Tanya 32.
      The main reason for chabad outreach is the chassidic philosophy of bringing G-dly light into every detail of the world – thus ushering in the redemption.
      Ahavas Yisroel is an outcome of this.

    • Neil Harris says:

      It’s a great article.

  9. Neil Harris says:

    This was beautiful to read, thank you.

  10. Beautiful op-ed about Chabad, the only ones who cared about my neshama enough to spend every Shabbos on a secular college campus with their young impressionable children. And I know that even if I hadn’t become frum but had only enjoyed some chicken soup and good times in a Jewish atmosphere, it would have been just as worth it in their eyes. The Rebbe said you can’t always judge just what impact your ahavas Yisroel might have, it’s not really something you can quantify.

  11. Nachum says:

    R’ Rakeffet, hardly a chassid, talks about how his uncle, who hadn’t put on tefillin since his bar mitzvah some sixty years earlier, was incredibly moved when a Chabadnik put tefillin on him at the Kotel.

    In my own family, I saw how Chabad basically adopted a completely unaffiliated cousin of mine, even found him a wife. (And she is another incredible story.) He never became a Chabadnik- he’s a “standard” serious Orthodox Jew- and I’m pretty sure they don’t care.

    I’ll say one thing about this particular story: The Chabadnik at the HaBima Theater, where this all began, must be an incredible human being. He was attacked, threatened with arrest, treated like dirt, and never lost his smile and his insistence that he loves everyone like a brother. I wouldn’t have that control.

  12. avraham shusteriss says:


  13. Moshe says:

    My sister a so called agnostic raised bais yaakov frum, takes her daughter to the local chabad for sunday school, holidays, events and such, who knows if one day my neice or her future children won’t themselves return or at the very least stay connected and perhaps even marry Jewish because of that.

  14. Yehuda says:

    Great ideas. But do that kiruv work with a bullet proof vest for when the ingrates stab you in the back for being nice to them.

  15. DK says:

    While this is a beautifully written article about the good that Chabad does, I dislike the negative attitude that pervades the post.

    Because one group was encouraged by their leader to do something and they took that as their Mitzvah and were successful at it does not mean that other’s who were not part of their circles were wrong for not joining them and even discouraging other’s from joining them.

    I don’t believe Rav Shach Zt”l was against Chabad because putting Tefillin on other’s was “goofy” but for other reasons altogether (I’m not getting into the Machlokes that is way above most of the posters here).

    But all that aside. While Chabad has been Mekarev thousands of lost Jews and putting Torah Jews in a good light, there have been plenty of other groups that have also been working overtime, just they aren’t in the spotlight.
    Rav Aharon Kotler built up the Torah world in the US. Rav Y. B. Soleveichik built up the Modern Orthodox world. There are various Chassiduses who are steeped in Chesed or in making their own cities and neighborhoods free from the influences of the non Jewish world. There were Rabbanim who kept Frum community’s Frum and away from the influences of the Reform movement and built Jewish day schools to ensure that the next generation with keep their connection to Judaism.

    In Israel as well there were and are community’s being built and Yeshivos and Girls schools being opened right and left. There were and are Rabbanim who are leading the struggle against the overreaching of the Israeli Government and Supreme Court.

    Yes, it’s nice to see a young Chabad Chassid bringing Jews closer, but that is only one aspect of the responsibility’s we have. Continuing the education and fighting to keep out the bad is also important, if not more.

    • danny says:

      Who are you arguing with? No one thinks that sitting and learning Torah isn’t important. No one thinks that going around putting on tefillin all day with people is the only “aspect” of Yiddishkeit. There’s a reason why the Rebbe encouraged going on mivtzoim specifically Friday afternoon AFTER morning seder and frowned on bochurim who went at times when they were meant to be sitting and learning in Yeshiva. Literally almost every sicha/maamor/iggeres from the Rebbe calls for MORE LIMMUD HATORAH.

    • Nachum says:

      With all due respect, keeping people frum pales in light of the fact that so few Jews in the US are, and so many in Israel aren’t.

    • Jacob L. says:

      DK: just a heads up – it is kind of offensive when you say “the torah world” and then separately “the modern orthodox world”, as if the MO world does not share torah values… (especially the segment of MO that the Rav was teaching)

    • Yosef says:

      Why can’t you take it if chabad is praised a bit?

  16. Danny says:

    I really appreciate this article. The integrity displayed when someone admits being wrong – especially in a public forum – is highly admirable. At the end of the day, it’s really not about being wrong, it’s about discovering what’s right.

    To be completely transparent, I am a Lubavitcher. I also didn’t grow up frum. I attended public school, reform school, conservative school, modern orthodox school, religious zionist yeshiva, litvish yeshiva and Chabad yeshiva so I’ve seen just about everything.

    The author writes: “It had little to do with tefillin, and everything to do with conveying a simple but powerful message: We love you as brothers and sisters. You are worth our investing our time, energies and lives. Whatever you think of your level of observance or non-observance, we think that your being part of our people is important. Yiddishkeit belongs as much to you as it does to us.”

    The message is true. Chabad believes that we as a Jewish community must treat every Jew as our brother or sister. Every Jew is worth investing time, energy and our life. Being a part of the Jewish people is important and Yiddishkeit belongs to all Jews. I do, however, disagree with the assertion that it has “little to do with tefillin.”

    In Likkutei Sichos vol. 6, pp. 271-275, the Lubavitcher Rebbe answers several critical questions about the tefillin campaign. Here is a summary of the first two questions and their answers (I highly recommended everyone to read all the questions and answers in their entirety and original language):

    Question 1: Of all the 613 mitzvos, why was the mitzvah of tefillin chosen?
    Answer: 1) The tefillin campaign was introduced in 1967 preceding the 6 Day War. The Gemara in Berachos 6a explains that wearing tefillin provides strength to B’nei Yisrael to the point that “וְיָרְאוּ מִמֶּךָּ – the will fear you.” It is for this reason that tefillin in particular was chosen as the mitzvah for the campaign. 2) The 6 Day War took place shortly before Shavuos – Matan Toraseinu – a time when we must restrengthen our commitment to limmud haTorah. In the beginning of Midrash Tehillim it brings “קיימו מצות תפלין ומעלה אני עליכם כאילו אתם יגעים בתורה יומם ולילה.” As such, tefillin is the ideal mitzvah!
    3) The Gemara in Kiddushin 35a brings “הוּקְּשָׁה כָּל הַתּוֹרָה כּוּלָּהּ לִתְפִילִּין – fulfilling the mitzvah of tefillin is equivalent to all the mitzvos of the Torah.” There are other mitzvos – such as tzitzis, tzedakah and Shabbos – that are compared to all the mitzvos (see Menachos 43b), but chazal use the lashon of שקולה in those cases. With tefillin the Gemara uses the lashon of הוּקְּשָׁה and from a hekesh we can actually learn halachos!

    Question 2: What are we really accomplishing by working so hard just to get a person to put on tefillin one time?
    Answer: 1) don’t just work hard to reach one Jew, work to reach many Jews! 2) The Rambam in Hilchos Teshuva 3:4 famously writes that everyone must view themselves as on a scale and they are evenly balanced with mitzvos and aveiros. Says the Rambam: “עָשָׂה מִצְוָה אַחַת הֲרֵי הִכְרִיעַ אֶת עַצְמוֹ וְאֶת כָּל הָעוֹלָם כֻּלּוֹ לְכַף זְכוּת וְגָרַם לוֹ וְלָהֶם תְּשׁוּעָה וְהַצָּלָה” Even ONE mitzvah is enough to tip the scale, but not just for this one person, לוֹ וְלָהֶם!
    3) The Gemara in RH 17a and Rambam in Hilchos Teshuva 3:5 explain that קַרְקַפְתָּא דְּלָא מַנַּח תְּפִלִּין will be judged as a sinner and won’t be able to tip the scale. They also must spend 12 months in gehenom. Saving a Jew from this is no minor feat! 4) The Mishnah is Avos 4:2 famously teaches Mitzvah Goreres Mitzvah. This mitzvah will surely bring about more mitzvos.

    (These summaries are my own so any possible mistakes, imperfections or inaccuracies should be attributed solely to me)

    So, it really is about the tefillin!

    Moreover, the word “mitzvah” comes from the words tzvasa (chibur). When a man with tattoos , ripped jeans, sandals and a ponytail or an upper middle class accountant from long island who can barely remember his Hebrew name puts on tefillin for the first time in his life – or even if he has put it on before – at age 56, the latent spark deep within him – his neshama – has been stoked. Perhaps this Jew’s one mitzvah weighs more on the scale of mitzvos than an entire life replete with Torah and mitzvos. The Baal Shem Tov teaches that a neshama might come into this world for 70 or 80 years just to do a favor for another. Maybe your entire life’s mission from Hashem was to get this person to put on tefillin? Maybe your entire life’s mission from Hashem was to elevate that specific location? Maybe your entire life’s mission was for a passerby to witness you putting tefillin on with someone else and that itself was enough to spark something deep within them.

    We are so careful about the mitzvah of pikuach nefesh when it comes to the guf, but what about the neshama? Would you ever think to mock a hatzalah volunteer running out of his office in the middle of a busy workday – and very possible losing a great deal of money – so go save someone’s life? Of course not! Would you think to mock a father of 8 beautiful children under the age of 12 running away from the Shabbos table to go save someone’s life? Of course not! This is no different. Hatzalah saves gufim and chabad saves neshamos.

    The Alter Rebbe in Perek 32 of Tanya explains that by meditating on the fact that all Jewish people are really one body and we’re all different parts of the one body – we can foster ahavas yisroel. It’s not so easy to love another unconditionally but do love yourself isn’t so hard! If you forgot to put on tefillin or didn’t know about tefillin, wouldn’t you want someone to let you know all about it?!

    Finally, the Rebbe brings the Smag (Mitzvas Asei 3). The Smag writes about himself he went around encouraging and helping people put on tefillin! Unfortunately, many don’t accept the Lubavitcher as an acceptable source. They need a non-Chassidic source to believe in something. Well, here it is. Would one think to cv’s mock the Smag for doing this? Of course not! Why can’t we follow in the ways of the Smag?!

    The bottom line is that it is about the tefillin and this has nothing to do with chabad. It has everything to do with Yiddishkeit. Tefillin and mitzvos are for all Jews, not just Lubavitchers. Lubavitchers have no copyright on helping other Jews put on tefillin or do other mitzvos. Imagine if every single resident of Lakewood helped someone put on tefilllin for the first time tomorrow! Imagine if every YU student spent an hour once a week putting on tefillin with people! Imagine if the Adirei Torah event would be followed by 10 minutes of walking around helping Jews put on tefillin! I honestly believe Moshiach would come.

    P.S. Yes, people really do become frum after putting tefillin on just once. I have personally put on tefillin with people who ended up becoming frum and it all started with the tefillin. No, we don’t care if someone chooses to become chabad, chassidish, litvish, daati leumi or modern orthodox. In Chabad, we truly don’t see those divisions. Labels belong on clothing, not on people.

    P.P.S. Regarding all of the comments about Chabad and messianism, etc – this is simply ridiculous. This has nothing to do with this article and you know that. Don’t pull the conversation away from the topic at hand. If you want to waste your time discussing it outside of this article – go ahead ! We in Chabad – whether we think the Rebbe is moshiach or not, alive or not, or whatever you think we think – are simply too busy working to bring moshiach to care about what anyone thinks of us.

    • Moshe F says:

      Amazing response. I find that so many people in the frum community have misconceived notions about Chabad. People tend to take an isolated incident or something they once heard in passing as being a proper representation of Chabad. Someone once told me that saw a fight in 770 so Chabad is crazy. I personally witnessed very intense fighting in Ponevezh, but I’m not naïve enough to believe all Litvish are crazy. I’ve also seen Modern Orthodox break Shabbos, but I don’t think all Modern Orthodox are mechalel Shabbos. The Gemara says that one who pasuls someone else is pasul themself. I don’t know who you are, Danny, but thank you for this most insightful comment. This changed my perception and gave me hard facts to consider. Hatlzacha!

    • Steven Brizel says:

      Excellent mkoris re Tefilin but the Gemara in RH 16 has very stong words about a person who never put on Tefilin. Perhaps that was also why Chabaf emhasizes putting on Tefilin for all Jews. It is also important to mention that on college campuses a Chabad house with a Chabad family and Shabbos and YT meals and Tefilos, etc is viewed as a far more welcoming pprt of entry for further exploration of Yiddishkeit than a Hillel house

      • mycroft says:

        It is also important to mention that on college campuses a Chabad house with a Chabad family and Shabbos and YT meals and Tefilos, etc is viewed as a far more welcoming pprt of entry for further exploration of Yiddishkeit than a Hillel house

        They are in far more campuses than any other Orthodox group and BTW they dont limit themselves to prestigious universities which many others implicitly bragging about their dealings with prestige while ignoring campuses of far more Jews

    • FYI says:

      “Finally, the Rebbe brings the Smag (Mitzvas Asei 3). The Smag writes about himself he went around encouraging and helping people put on tefillin! Unfortunately, many don’t accept the Lubavitcher as an acceptable source. They need a non-Chassidic source to believe in something. Well, here it is. Would one think to cv’s mock the Smag for doing this? Of course not! Why can’t we follow in the ways of the Smag?!”

      The Smag didn’t set up camp in public non-Jewish areas of peritzus (extreme immodesty), filled with people improperly dressed, as Chabad Lubavitch does, so leave his name out of this. His campaign was of a different nature. And that is just one difference. The Smag wasn’t party to the messianic promotion of Lubavitch either.

    • mb says:

      “Moreover, the word “mitzvah” comes from the words tzvasa ”
      No it doesn’t. It’s a lovely drasha, but linguistically incorrect. Besides, you are suggesting Aramaic predated hebrew.
      (This is not meant to take away from the rest of your passionate comments. Just a minor correction, especially for those that are being taught this.)

    • Calling out a distortion/deception says:

      “In the beginning of Midrash Tehillim it brings “קיימו מצות תפלין ומעלה אני עליכם כאילו אתם יגעים בתורה יומם ולילה.”

      Another distortion and deception.

      What it says there is that if people say we don’t have time to learn Torah (in the old days people had to work hard, in fields, and so on, so they were like an אונס due to being busy with parnassah), so HKB”H, so to speak says, put on tefillin and its as if they toiled in Torah day and night.

      It is not talking about people who waste time with tv, movies, social media, internet, and other nonsense, frivolity, and worse, that expression does not apply to them.

  17. Reality beyond social media clips says:

    It is sad to see that even people quite well-read, very literate, and astute fall for Chabad media stunts. A few videos of people putting on tefillin do not a mass movement of teshuvah make. Much of what you have been duped to believe is an overwhelming success of Lubavitch is media hype. Yes, the glitzy Chabad shluchim gathering in the fall is a media extravaganza, but as someone who lived so long in the vicinity of Hollywood, you surely know that big productions and fancy lights can be deceptive. The internet and social media has given Chabad myriads of new disseminators of their PR. But we need to look beyond the hype and flashy media, even if they may sometimes be viral, to see what the actual facts are.

    You want to see the great “successes” of Chabad-Lubavitch? I will give you three examples. Three very well-known boys from Brooklyn, raised Modern Orthodox, then went OTD, now big promoters of Chabad, while remaining non-Orthodox. Their names: Alan Dershowitz, Dennis Prager, and Joseph Telushkin. All have spoken for Chabad many times, whether in the media, at Chabad Houses, etc. But all remain OTD. Prager promotes apikorsus proudly, Telushkin is spiritual leader of a non-Orthodox Temple in CA (despite having being paid quite nicely by Chabad to write a book promoting their late Rebbe as like the leader of the generation: in Habad theology Nasi Hador)… They like Chabad Lubavitch because it praises and smiles (thereby giving a hechsher and haskamah in the eyes of masses) with and at them, despite their improper and dangerous deviations. That is not something we can endorse.

    If you are the Snag you claim to be you will know that there are more and better ways to kiruv than the tactics of Lubavitch. We know the famous mashal of the overflowing kos, given by our rebbeim, as our mesorah. Additionally, nowadays, with modern technology and communication, people outside and far from frum centers are able to access and connect to them with such methods, by viewing and hearing shiurim online, etc., and then visiting Torah Centers.

    • Steven Brizel says:

      Chabad is a port of entry into a deeper understanding and exploration of Torahand Mitzvos as well as understands modern media while being very aware of the fact that the Gemara has very strong words about a person who never put on Tefilin

    • Raphael says:

      Not sure what your point is, beyond the obvious fact that you gave a personal hangup about Chabad fir reasons that aren’t clear. Nobody in Chabad holds up Prager, Dershowitz or Telushkin as a religious model. Everyone in Chabad is willing to love every Jew (including those three) as brothers and sisters and encourage them to grow in their Yiddishkeit from whatever place they’re holding, without placing artificial and very unhelpful labels (such as “OTD” or “non-frum”) on anyone. The only “category” that matters in this context is that the person is Jewish. “Non-religious” or “non-orthodox” are artificial and ultimately arbitrary labels that do not describe the essence of any Jew, nor do they do much at describing the behavior of a Jew, which is complex, dynamic and must be evaluated on an individual scale, as the Rambam writes.

      • Chabad antagonism to opponents says:

        “Everyone in Chabad is willing to love every Jew (including those three) as brothers and sisters”

        Yeah, sure. Take a look what happens when someone brings up Rav Schach zt”l in their company. One can almost see smoke coming out of Lubavitcher ears, figuratively speaking. They hate Misnagdim (as R. Adlerstein said, Snags in their lingo), the traditional Orthodox who haven’t accepted their relatively new sect, to this very day, with a passion. They claim to love every Jew, but if fine Yidden oppose them on legitimate theological grounds, look out, there is a dramatic change in their demeanor. They “love” the poorly educated Jews (the proverbial lost sheep of Israel) who they target, but well-educated Jews who counter their teachings and claims are a different matter.

      • nt says:

        On the contrary, I saw posters for a gimmel tammuz event featuring Dennis Prager in my neighborhood. You can find the event promoted on

      • Ahavas Yisroel above all, though imperfectly says:

        @Chabad Antagonism to Opponents

        Litigating decades-old communal fights during the three weeks on the public internet is not a good idea, so I won’t.

        I’ll just point out to you and any other poster that regardless of any and all of the bad blood that exists between Chabad and any other community or leader, no Chabad shliach or shul would turn away a person or refuse to provide services or refuse to cooperate on larger communal issues on the basis of those disagreements. Lubavitchers may talk badly about their ideological opponents in private settings, and that is loshon horah and not OK, but that does not bleed into day-to-day communal work and inter-community interactions.

    • Alter Deitsch says:

      What’s the famous moshul of the overflowing kos?
      I’m Lubavitch, not familiar with it and curious.

      • nt says:

        Usually attributed to the Chazon Ish, the mashal goes: If you have a pitcher of water and empty cups, there are two ways to fill the cups. 1: Pour from the pitcher into the cups. 2: Put the cups around the pitcher, fill the pitcher, and let the overflow spill over into the cups. The first way fills the cups but drains the pitcher, but the second way keeps both full.

        The Litvish approach to Kiruv follows the second method. Make people who are real b’nei Torah, and let their example and influence reach others. For example, a Kollel yungerman I know just made a siyum on Makkos with his baal-habayis chavrusa, and an attendee came over to him to say he hoped his son would be able to do so one day.

        This is why in the Litvish world, the main form of Kiruv is putting Kollelim in communities. The positive example of people who put Torah and Mitzvos first elevates entire communities, from the already observant to the not so observant.

  18. Bob Miller says:

    Proponents of a kiruv-oriented group should never act as if the others are johnny-come-latelies invading their turf. I’ve come across examples of this foolish competitive spirit in two places already. The overriding need is to strengthen Yiddishkeit regardless of kiruv group affiliation.

  19. BG says:

    “It had little to do with teffilin”?! It has everything to do with Tefillin. Doing a mitzva connects you with G-d. Connecting Jews with G-d, one Jew at a time one mitzva at a time. This is Chabad.

    • Dovid says:

      Maybe there are several reasons for tefilin. It’s a mitzvah that can be fulfilled on (for example) a busy thoroughfare from dawn until dusk. The Gemara has a term “karkafta” for someone who went through life without ever donning tefilin. Not sure if there’s a term or status word for failing to fulfil any other mitzvah with a lifetime. Is there one for never reciting Krias Shema or taking lulav and esrog

      • Nachum says:

        It seems there was a time, I believe during the era of the Geonim at some point, where people simply stopped wearing tefillin altogether, and there had to be a big campaign to get them to start again. Maybe this is when it went from being all day to just during tefilla.

        (Karaites don’t wear tefillin, but I don’t think that had anything to do with it. I can think of a few reasons why the non-Karaites might stop.)

      • Without speculating about whatever sociological reasons there may have been, the chief claim (at least the one we find in the period seforim) is that tefilln require guf naki, and most people were not on the madregah to follow that properly

      • Nachum says:

        I imagine that was a major reason- or maybe people *thought* they weren’t on that madrega, or at least couldn’t remain so all day.

  20. Rabbi Dr. Insel says:

    Rabbi Schneerson ‘s tone reflected the antithesis of DK’s comments. He underscored that Limud Chassidut is not the exclusive privilege of any one particular orthodox group. As a student of Lithuanian giants in both Chutz Laaretz & in Eretz Yisraell, I was blessed to have an audience with the Lubavatcher Rebbi ZY”A . I have become a strong advocate of limud Torat chabad chassidut regardless of one’s orthodox orientation .

  21. Raphael says:

    While I enjoyed this well-written article very much, I would like to add two points that I think deserve more attention: 1) The far-reaching principle of mitzvah goreres mitzvah means that the path to doing many mitzvos in the future begins with agreeing to do just one mitzvah (such as putting on tefillin) right now, even if the person doesn’t recognize that performing this one mitzvah has the potential to eventually snowball into a long-term change in his lifestyle. 2) Consider the fact that the Rambam states that at every moment, each individual Jew (regardless of how he identifies or what his history may be) must consider himself and the entire world evenly balanced between good and evil, and that with his one next choice the individual has the ability to tip the scale and thus determine the fate of his own life and for the entire world. In the context of this teaching, the performance of even just one sole mitzvah by even one non-observant Jew who may potentially never (chas veshalom) grow in his Yiddishkeit still must be viewed as being potentially pivotal at that time to the life of that individual and to the fate of the entire world!

  22. Mike says:

    Posted this article to my local Chabad Farbrengen chat I think the community appreciated what R. Adlerstein had to say quite a bit. Its good to see the Mishpacha working together 🙂

  23. Yaakov Tzvi says:

    I write all of this with firm bona fides as a “snag,” (as Chabad calls misnagdim), in no danger of going over to the Chabad side ideologically.

    Gotta cover your bases, to make sure no one suspects you of becoming an undercover Chabad Chossid.
    In all seriousness, great article, really stresses on what is needed in our times.

  24. Standards and categories do exist in Judaism says:

    “Non-religious” or “non-orthodox” are artificial and ultimately arbitrary labels that do not describe the essence of any Jew, nor do they do much at describing the behavior of a Jew, which is complex, dynamic and must be evaluated on an individual scale, as the Rambam writes.”

    So would you say that Shomer Shabbos, Mechallel Shabbos, אוכל נבלות וטרפות, etc., are also artificial, and so on? The fact is that halacha does classify people in such ways, and Chabad Lubavitch has no authority to overturn millennia of our tradition. The Jewish religion has certain standards. If Chabad-Lubavitch deviates from them it is a different faith.

    • Raphael says:

      Well, if this isn’t a perfect example of a straw man argument. No, I didn’t and wouldn’t say that halachic classifications don’t apply, why would you even misunderstand my words that way? I clearly specified that I was talking about classifications that people use that have no halachic significance, such as “non-religious” and “non-Orthodox.” The general usage and application of these terms is done in an artificial and arbitrary manner that does not (and does not aim to) describe an objective measurable standard (of halachic significance or otherwise). It is clear to me that artificially classifying Jews in a pejorative manner that is not mandated by halacha is divisive and unhelpful and there is no valid Jewish tradition to do so, let alone for millennia.

    • Steven Brizel says:

      Obviously these are terms with Halachic significance as is a Tinok Shenisba–when Kiruv was in its infancy, many parents and grandparents who were not yet Shomer Shabbos still had some awareneess of fundamentals such as hearing the Shofar on RH, fasting on YK, recuiting brachos on Chanukah candles making a Pesach sederm and such life events as Bris Milah and Bar and Bas Mitzvah-that is no longer the case. Chuzuk and Kiruv was relatively easier in such an environment.

      As the heterodox branches wain, close buildings and punp up their numbers with patrolneal descent defined Jews, and defining Judaism solely as seeking social justice so as to appear woke, the challenge for all of Kiruv is to show the contemporary and timeless relevance of being a Shomer Torah Umitzvos ina very secular world in a non judgmental way.

    • Nachum says:

      Chabad aren’t responsible for the world changing in the last century.

  25. Toby Bulman Katz says:

    Tefillin for the guys, what do they do for the girls?

    This much I will say for Chabad: if you’re a young Lubavitcher who is not very intellectual and has no sitzfleish and who just can’t sit and learn for hours every day — you don’t get kicked out of yeshiva. They put you to work doing something useful. Drive a mitzva tank, put tefillin on random strangers, man a kiosk at the airport, whatever. Everyone has a job and a purpose.

    • I had intended to include the parallel campaign of giving out Shabbos candle to the gals

      • Nachum says:

        Going home to Jerusalem from work in Tel Aviv on Thursday, there was a Chabad woman- a teenager, I think- standing in the train station handing our candles. Many, many people took them.

        On Friday afternoons two Chabad women stand in front of the local secular high school as it lets out and hand out candles. Most of the girls take them.

        (The tefillin stand is across the [narrow] street- it would be too crowded if it was in front of the school, I guess- and a lot of the boys cross over to put on tefillin as well.)

    • mycroft says:

      Can’t forget especially just after his Yahrzeit the kiruv work that Rav Bulman did-especially in Southern Virginia.
      Sadly, I don’t believe wo him around there is almost anything there now in terms of kiruv in Danville and Newport News but he accomplished a lot not Chabad. Where is the non-Chabad kiruv now?

  26. Bayle Haber says:

    The founders of AJOP were not counting heads or brownie points. We were conveying the message you state; it is not only Chabadniks who want to express “ We love you as brothers and sisters. You are worth our investing our time, energies and lives. Whatever you think of your level of observance or non-observance, we think that your being part of our people is important. Yiddishkeit belongs ” to all Jews.
    With respect, Rabbi Adlerstein, you disrespect those who have and still do reach out to educate Jews about the beauty of Judaism. We don’t measure ‘success’ because that’s God’s calculation.
    I fail to see the need to bash some in order to praise others. אלו ואלו דברי אלקים חיים.

    • With all respect, there was not a whiff of bashing others in my praise for Chabad. Indeed, I emphasized the Elu V’Elu aspect of two different approaches.

      Ignoring the fact that the approaches are different doesn’t get us anywhere. I was also one of those founders of AJOP, and remember how different kiruv became in the decades that followed. This is not the place to discuss how kiruv became industrialized, and how donors insisted on measuring success by employing metrics like the number of people that a kiruv organization “made Shomer Shabbos” in the previous fiscal year. This is not the place, because it was already fully discussed in one of the most successful issues of Klal Perspectives that we ever published. We had huge buy-in, except from parts of the kiruv community and their donors. Readers are urged to refresh their memories there.

      None of this suggests in the slightest that there were not many, many people doing yeshivish kiruv who devoted their time, energies and lives to all Jews they encountered. One of the best examples of that devotion has been the Haber family

  27. Miriam says:

    Reading this article was wonderful! Reading the thread of posts was, for the most part, less than wonderful – and left me wondering how we will get to the ahavas chinom we need to bring moshiach now!

  28. Don't hide the other side of Chabad Lubavitch says:

    The comments section above (yes, right here, on this very page) provides a great illustration of one of the major problems with the Chabad-Lubavitch. One of the commenters, who identifies herself as a returnee, linked her name to a website promoting their late leader, who died more than twenty nice years ago, as Messiah. That shows what you what is involved here. The Habad kids out there may start with tefillin, but then they go on promoting their late Rebbe as Saviour, and other problematic things. If someone naively gives a hechsher, endorsement, support, funds to Lubavitch, they should realize that money is fungible, and that they are supporting Chabad Lubavitch imperialism and messianism. Therefore supporting them, even if there are some good deeds occasionally (a broken clock is correct twice a day), is not recommended. If you want to support Kiruv, there are many others in the field out there.

  29. g says:

    If you’re interested in interacting with non-orthodox Jews, having a connection with them, and showing avahas yisrael, I suggest some introspection in how you speak about non-orthodox Jews. The tone in this post, Cross-Currents, and much of the Orthodox media is quite negative and derogatory towards non-orthodox Jews, and we see it.
    – a non-orthodox Jew

    • Bob Miller says:

      Which aspects of Judaism appeal to you the most?

    • Rafael Araujoberg says:

      g- can you please explain what was derogatory about what Rabbi Adlerstein wrote here? Please let me know, as I don’t have your perspective on this.


  30. MK says:

    My brother was very close to Rav Gustman ZTL one once schlepped me (BH) to see him off at the airport when he was returning to EY.
    This is a recollection that I have shared.

    When I was at the airport seeing R Gustman off to EY, a Chabad shaliach approached him. It was the time that the Rebbe came out that young girls should also light Shabbos candles. The shaliach wanted to get his haskoma.
    He asked RG if he agreed. You could see that RG was an ish shalom and wanted to avoid a confrontation.
    (Those that were with him were ready to tell him off and tell him to respect those that don’t have that mesorah)

    RG smiled and said, “first of all you should know that I was a RY in Chabad and the previous Rebbe would wait for me to enter before beginning the fabreng! But you’re asking a shver shaila that I can’t answer al regel achas.”

    The shaliach didn’t give up and said that surely the RY has addressed the question in the past.
    Again, RG smiled and told him that he surely did, but R Yisrael Salanter used to smoke. And before every Yom Tov he would go through the entire sugya anew regarding smoking on Yom Tov.
    So he would need to go through the sugya again and can’t do it al regel achas!
    It was obvious to all that RG, kidarko, was being diplomatic. And that he had much more patience and Ahavas Yisroel than we had.

    His Ahavas Yisroel was obvious as I watched his interaction with every El Al staff member, male or female.
    Lots of smiles and lots of brachos!
    At one point the supervisor, realizing that RG was a VIP, approached and offered to bring him to the front of the line.
    I can still picture his response…
    “Chas V’shalom to go ahead of a fellow Jew!”

  31. benshaul says:

    “No, we don’t care if someone chooses to become chabad, chassidish, litvish, daati leumi or modern orthodox. In Chabad, we truly don’t see those divisions. Labels belong on clothing, not on people. ” – lies, lies, lies,…..
    Oh, if it were only true.
    I know a very respected senior figure in Chabad, who once told a Rabbi “the non-frum are better than the frum. The non-frum you can still make into chabadnikim, the frumme you can’t.” I could go on with stories of the exclusionary beliefs and actions of many Lubavitcher’s, vis-a-vis the rest of the frum world.
    However, it is worth noting that IMHO, there has been a shift within Chabad. I think much is due to the efforts of the “snag” world -who carried the yeoman’s share of the effort to free Rubashkin, along with Satmar askonim. From my perspective, that has opened up Chabad to the larger frum world in away that was not done prior. Just seeing the role Rubashkin plays in teaching emunah and connecting to various groups in the frum world is quite heartening. So perhaps Moshiach is on his way.
    We can certainly hope so.

    • DK says:

      Thank you for bringing up Rubashkin. What a beautiful story of the Achdus in Klal Yisroel! Warms my heart every time i think of him and what the one’s involved did to save him!

  32. Steven Brizel says:

    nt wrote in relevant part:
    ” the main form of Kiruv is putting Kollelim in communities.”
    that is true-but ask anyone inviolved in the start up of a Kollel if they will go to a community that has zero Jewish communal superstructure such as shuls, yeshivos, nearny shopping and a mikvah

    • mycroft says:

      Agreed-kollelim only exist where there is a good communal structure in the first place-thus they won’t exist in the vast majority of places where Chabad will go.

  33. Daniel M. Fordham says:

    I read this article and it was very nice. Thank you Rabbi Adlerstein.

    Seeing many of these comments conjures up an image of a toien who is losing a din Torah badly and resorts to yelling and name calling so as to have the final word.

    There is a crisis going on in Klal Yisroel that is not being addressed. It’s far worse than the shidduch crisis. It’s far worse than kids going off the derech. It’s far worse than kids not being accepted into our schools. It’s far worse than open access to technology. This is the crisis of a serious lack in ahavas yisroel. If ahavas yisroel would be addressed, there would be no more shidduch crisis, kids wouldn’t go off the derech, every kid would be accepted into school and technology would become a tool to promote Hashem. Do you know why? Because Moshiach would come! How can we expect Moshiach to come when all of these nasty comments are being posted? Whether they are right or wrong, they are written in a negative tone and they are unconstructive. Many of them are hypocritical! If one believes their Rabbi made a mistake, they don’t correct them outright. They are to suggest that perhaps the din is different. That is called being respectful.

    Many of these comments are hypocritical, illogical and completely unconnected to Rabbi Adlerstein’s article.

    One nice article comes out about Chabad and everyone has to chime in with their gripes? That is so unbecoming of the person writing the comment and so unbecoming of Klal Yisroel. This takes on a whole new level of sadness considering the fact we’re in the Three Weeks. Have we learned nothing? Many of the comments in this thread have left me very sad about what our future as Am Yisroel will look like if this is how we continue to act.

    There’s no heter for lashon hara, rechilus, motzei shem ra and onaas devarim when posting on a blog and hiding behind a pseudonym.

    There is a joke that goes like this: what’s the difference between a non-kosher and a kosher restaurant? At the non-kosher restaurants the waiters walk around asking if everything is alright. At the kosher restaurants, the waiters walk around asking if anything is alight. These comments bring this joke to life.

    Imagine if all the time taken to write these comments was spent learning Torah and doing mitzvos? Or, just not saying anything negative, for that matter. This world would be a little holier.

    You are welcome to judge me, disagree with me and dislike with that I wrote. But, please remember, every action we take should be prefaced with this question: Is this going to make Hashem proud of me?

    I could write more, but I regularly put on tefillin with several not-yet-frum Jews every Friday and I don’t want Klal Yisroel to lose out on this most incredible mitzvah. In fact, I work with the local Chabad Rabbi and local Aish Rabbi to go around putting on tefillin with people every erev Shabbos. I am the Rabbi of Modern Orthodox shul and we all have a beautiful relationship, rich with respect and admiration. Of course there are things we disagree on, but we focus on what we do agree on to draw us and the Jews in our community closer.

    • Bob Miller says:

      Rabbi Fordham,
      You can judge commenters less harshly. We’ve all had our own personal experiences with various rabbis, communities, and movements, which others in the blog world can’t begin to understand.

      • Chacham Echad says:

        If others “can’t begin to understand” why are you writting about them? Uou are COMPLETELY missing the point. A nice article about Chabad isn’t an excuse to trash Chabad in the comments. These comments are pathetic!!! Rabbi Fordham – thankk you!

    • Shaul Gindi says:

      Thank you, Rabbi Fordham for stepping in and saying what needs to be said!

    • c-l,c says:

      Rabbi Fordham,
      Beautiful sentiments but missing the boat?
      People comment because they CARE

      • HIllel Soloveitchik says:

        You missed the boat. How does caring excuse lashon hara? Just because you care doesn’t mean to can say irrelevant and nasty things. Come on. This is so ridiculous that it even needs to be spelled out. Mamosh just sad. It’s a rachmanus on those posting nasty comments. Does anyone here know it’s the three weeks?!!!!!!????

  34. Shades of Gray says:

    Rabbi Chaim Dalfin, a Chabad researcher, has written several books about the relationship between Chabad and other segments of the Orthodox world(I also think that as the Moshiach controversy ran its course, there have been opportunities for cooperation on public matters, such as regarding Rubashkin).

    These are R. Dalfin’s intriguing titles on the subject(see link below):

    A Lubavitcher In Boro Park
    Breslov and Chabad
    Chabad and Belz, Bobov, Ger, Vishnitz
    Chabad and Boyan, Klausenburg, Skwere, Stolin
    Chabad and Gedolim
    Chabad and Gedolim II
    Chabad and Mir
    Chabad and Ponovitz
    Chabad and Sephardim
    Chabad and Telz
    Gedolim Rebbes and Chabad
    Lakewood and Lubavitch
    Rabbi Hutner and The Rebbe
    Rav and Rebbe (R. Yosef Dov Soloveitchik)
    Rebbe and Reb Moshe
    Satmar and Lubavitch
    Torah Vodaas and Lubavitch


  35. Shades of Gray says:

    Chabad’s outreach methodology, described in this post, can also be used for “inreach.” Although, ironically, the Footsteps organization supporting people who have left the Chasidic community was founded by a dissatisfied Chabad young woman from Crown Heights, in terms of inreach, even one of Satmar’s youth have benefited from Chabad.

    Rabbi Avi Fishoff, who deals with at-risk kids, and whose video of Rabbi Gershon Edelstein’s response to his questions on the matter was widely seen, also spoke at a “Kinus Hashluchim” around the same time in 2017.

    R. Fishoff told a story of a Satmar chasid in his parenting group, whose son went to a secular college and left observance. The son was brought closer to Judaism because of a Chabad shaliach on campus who reached out to him, making the father very grateful. R. Fishoff concluded his address to the shluchim by discussing the incident:

    “I felt the footsteps of Moshiach. When I had a Satmar person, mit ah heavy accent, say b’rov am, “Bu-reech Hashem fahr Lubavitch !”, that’s how you bring Moshiach.”

    See video below titled “The House Is on Fire and Our Kids Are Inside!”(Minute 1:17:00):


  36. Michael Halberstam says:

    Thank you for articulating what we all feel even though we don’t realize it. Love for Hashem and his mitzvohs is expressed first and foremost by love for his people. Hashem promised Avrohom that he would be the father of a nation even before he told them what type of nation they would be

  37. Caren May says:

    I’m very confused reading your post, who are the “WE” & the “US”? I can’t relate to any of the WE or US statements & Im not officially Chabad or owner of any other clan title.

    • Gimme a break, Caren. You know darn well who “we” and “us” are. You’re surrounded by them. The mainstream yeshiva world. It was true when the campaigns started, and even more so today

  38. Caren May says:

    Reb Yitzchak, it has always been harder to live as the “other” & the balancing act between the “we” & “us”. , glad we are have been part of that club for decades!!!

  39. Michael Kaufman says:

    I think that most of us who are not Chabad would agree that if we all did but a fraction of what a Chabad individual does to reach out and be mekarev our fellows the status of Yiddishkeit in the U.S. – and elsewhere -would be the mirror image of what it is today.

    Who can not but regard with the greatest awe the mesiras nefesh of Chabad shluchim who, inspired by their Rebbe and genuine ahavas Yisrael, will go with their families anywhere and everywhere, light years distant from Jewish communities and all that means to them and their families, in order to give of themselves and help their fellow Jews and draw them close to Torah? How many of us would consider doing the same – or even allow any of our children to do so?

    As we approach Tish’ah B’Av it behooves us to detach ourselves from any entrenched sin’as chinam and take a moment to quietly express hakoras hatov to Chabadnikim everywhere, if only for their doing what we know deep in our hearts that we should be doing.

    • Mark says:


      While I have admiration for the mesiras nefesh and ahavas yisroel that chabad shluchim evince, I am not envious of them nor do I want to emulate them. They have made kiruv a focus of their avodas hashem and good for them. I’ve chosen to make limud hatorah the focus of my avodas hashem and that works well for me. Whether it accomplishes as much in the realm of kiruv as their efforts, I don’t know, nor do I care.
      There are many important aspects of avodas hashem and kiruv is one of them, but limud hatorah is definitely no less, and possibly far greater (תלמוד תורה כנגד כולם).
      The key is that every person should serve hashem to the maximum of his ability and always strive to make a kiddush hashem in all his actions.

  40. Yid says:

    Ahavas Yisroel doesn’t mean agreeing with the other’s position. It means allowing space for them. Recognizing that their neshama has inherent value.
    Perhaps we can learn from Rabbi Akiva’s students’ tragic (though well-meaning!) mistake, and respect that there can be multiple derachim in avodas Hashem, and that those who adhere to them can still be fine erliche Yidden. Even if I don’t agree and perhaps even take issue with their shita.

    Regarding areas of Lubavitch shita that some are mentioning to be apikorsus, it is know that great gedolim (Yeshivish, Chassidish, Modern Orthodox alike) were very close to the Rebbe and many even turned to him for guidance. Certainly much respect.
    Rav Moshe Feinstein is one such gadol who shared a relationship of mutual respect and admiration with the Rebbe. He referred to the Rebbe as הגאון הצדיק.
    Can any of us claim to understand Lubavitch shita vis a vis halacha better than Rav Moshe, to say that their are essential problems with their approach of kiruv, Moshiach, etc?
    Again, respecting Lubavitch does not mean becoming Lubavitch or even agreeing that this is the best derech that exists. But it does mean allowing enough space without bashing or ridiculing.
    Thank you Rabbi Adlerstein for the article and the opportunity to recognize the maalos of a group that may seem so different from your own.

  41. Mark –

    Limud Torah is indeed equivalent to all the mitzvos, and more power to you. But so is Shabbos, milah, tzitsis, tzedakah, and living in Eretz Yisrael. As we well know, the universe rests upon three pillars, one of which is Torah. Another is Gemilus Chasadim. Think of what a Ben Torah can accomplish by in addition to being concerned with his own learning he is also concerned with his fellow Jews, in accordance with Rav Akiva’s teaching that ahavas Yisrael is the great rule of the Torah. He draws them close to Torah – Talmud Torah, plus Shabbos, milah, tzitzis, tsedaka and iving in Eretz Yisrael. How much will it detract from your Torah learning to have one or two non-observant Jews at your Shabbos table? And, of course, one need not be a ben Torah to invite students, non-observant friends, work and business associates and others to join the family Shabbos and Yom Tov table. In fact, the experience will enhance the family Shabbos.

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