The new compass that points to Jerusalem and "defies" the laws of nature has been exposed as fraud. As Rebel Jew notes, the Observant Astronomer did some research into the compass, marketed by, among others, Torah Educational Software and endorsed by leading rabbis (a.k.a., gedolim) including leading anti-Slifkin agitator Rabbi Moshe Shternbuch. This is what he found:
I have located what is apparently the patent application in question. The inventor is indeed Moshe, but he now apparently lives in New Jersey. It is listed as a "Novelty Item". As one of the anonymous commentators speculated, it is indeed a standard compass with the magnetized needle hidden and another, non-magnetized, needle suspended above it set to point east. At point 14 it points out that similar devices could be made for other locations ". For example, a compass indicating South can be marketed in Finland and Russia," etc. At point 16, it is designed to "appear to defy the laws of physics" by minimizing the space for the magnetized needle.
So, it will only work from one location. It does not point any more accurately to Jerusalem than any other compass. It just saves you having to turn 90 degrees.
In what appears to be an attempt to impose Sharia law in the US, a gang made up of members of Lewis Farrakhan's Nation of Islam has allegedly trashed liquor stores, committed arson and kidnapped a store employee. Why? The store Muslim-owned stores sell liquor to blacks.
Oh, and what gave these geniuses away? Maybe this:
Investigators said it was too soon to say whether the vandals were connected to Monday's fire and kidnapping of clerk at the same store ransacked by a gang of black men in suits and bow ties three days earlier.
Chabad's front organization the Rabbinical Center of Europe and ZAKA have blocked DNA testing on newly discovered Holocaust remains. The testing would have given closure to surviving family members still seeking information of their lost relatives.
This is perhaps the greatest misuse of halakha in our lifetimes. Only truly ignorant men would deprive these families of closure, and these murder victims proper burial in Eretz Israel or in family plots wherever they may be.
The bones of 34 Jewish inmates discovered in a mass grave in a military camp in Germany will be reburied in the camp, a spokesman for the Rabbinical Center of Europe (RCE) told Haaretz yesterday.
RCE sources said genetic tissue and DNA tests will not be held due to the objection of ultra-Orthodox circles, including the Zaka emergency rescue and recovery organization.
It does not appear, therefore, that establishing a blood relationship between the victims and their relatives living in Israel will be possible.
Israel Police estimates that at least 20 families are related to the victims, as reported in Haaretz yesterday. …
A spokesman for the RCE, an umbrella organization affiliated with Habad, said the reburial ceremony is scheduled for December 15, and European and Israeli public figures would be invited. An 85 year-old Dutch citizen, one of the camp's only living survivors, is also expected to attend the ceremony.…
Rabbi Aaron Feldman, Rosh Yeshiva of Ner Israel in Baltimore, was an early supporter of the now-banned "Zoo Rabbi" Rabbi Nosson Slifkin. He wrote a disgusting essay distributed several months ago in which he blamed Rabbi Slifkin for the damage done to the reputations of the foolish rabbis (known as gedolim) who banned him. Why? Rabbi Slifkin's defense was to tell the truth, cite his sources and point out the errors of the rabbis who banned him. He did this so well that the gedolim looked bad.
Just another reason why Orthodoxy is no longer a viable or accurate representation of Judaism. Sad.
"We do not believe in the rule of the heretics, and disregard their laws."
The Jerusalem Post and Ynet are reporting Rabbi Sholom Dovber Wolpe, the most popular Chabad rabbi in Israel, has published a new book arguing against Religious Zionism. The book, based on the Rebbe's teachings, is creating quite a stir in Israel. Rabbi Wolpe, deemed a "rebel" by "official" Chabad for his open endorsement of the late Rebbe's "messianship," is also planning a museum based on the Yad VaShem Holocaust Memorial Museum to commemorate what he calls "Sharon's destruction of the Jewish communities in Gaza and the evil people who took part in that crime against humanity". Rabbi Wolpe's "theology" is mirrored by another wildly popular Israeli Chabad rabbi, Yitzhak Ginsburgh, who has been arrested several times for incitement.
The Jerusalem Post report starts here. (Ynet follows at the bottom of the post.)
In Between Light and Dark, Wolpe states, in an I-told-you-so way, that the disengagement proved Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the last Chabad-Lubavitch rebbe, was right about rejecting Zionism as a way of hastening the messianic era.…
Wolpe was instrumental in organizing anti-disengagement demonstrations before the Gaza pullout. Two weeks ago Wolpe organized a rally under the slogan 'we won't forgive, we won't forget' that drew thousands to the Jerusalem Convention Center [Binyanei Haumah].
"If this is redemption how could something so horrible happen?" asked Wolpe rhetorically. "The disengagement is God's way of saying that only the messiah, not the state will bring redemption."…
Rabbi Yehoshua Magnus, a spokesman for Rabbi Avraham Shapira, one of religious Zionism's most senior and respected spiritual leaders, said that Shapira and his many followers have not budged in their belief that the state of Israel has inherent holiness.…
Magnus said that although Shapira appeared on the same stage during a post-disengagement rally with Rabbi Yitzhak Ginzberg, another Chabad rabbi who rejects the religious Zionist idea that the state is a vehicle for redemption, he opposed Chabad's anti-Zionist theology. "For Rabbi Shapira the state is a religious entity."
Arel Cohen, secretary for Rabbi Zalman Melamed, rabbi of Beit El and a staunch opponent of disengagement, said that Wolpe's and Ginzberg's ideas are rejected by even the most extreme religious Zionist settlers.
"Rabbi Melamed always makes a clear differentiation between the state, which is a vessel that God, in His incredible loving kindness, gave us to bring the redemption, and the government, which is full of evil people. We don't thing we should be throwing the baby out with the bathwater," he said.
Melamed agreed to appear with Ginzberg and Wolpe at demonstrations under the banner 'we won't forgive [perpetrators of the disengagement], we won't forget' because, explained Cohen "Rabbi Melamed thinks they have a healthy way of thinking.
"They don't have the sickness some people have of hugging soldiers who come to kick you out of your house," said Cohen referring to more moderate religious Zionist rabbis such as Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, who have been attacked by Melamed for not encouraging religious soldiers to refuse IDF orders to evacuate Gaza.…
Yigal Amitai, a Yitzhar spokesman, said … while Chabadniks believe that only the rebbe can bring redemption, religious Zionists believe that a Jewish state, perhaps not this one, will eventually help usher in the messianic era.
Rabbi Yehuda Rubin, a Chabad emissary in Elon Moreh, a settlement, like Yizhar, that is located near Shechem, said that he read and agreed with Wolpe's book.
"But I won't put it in my synagogue library. It would only make people angry."
Rubin said that Chabad Hassidim oppose much of religious Zionism's theology.
"The rebbe prohibited his emissaries and Hassidim from saying the part in the prayer for the state of Israel that talks about Israel being the 'beginning of the burgeoning redemption'. He said this was a dangerous belief because it fools people into thinking that we don't need a messiah. He likened it to believing that darkness is light."
Still, for tactical reasons Rubin said he refrained from discussing the rebbe's views on these issues with residents of Elon Moreh unless he was specifically asked.
Wolpe said he has not decided yet whether he would translate his book into English.
"The rebbe told me twenty years ago that the time was not ripe to translate what he says against Zionism and the state of Israel into foreign languages. He did not want goyim to know that he talked badly against other Jews. "It gives strength to evil forces."
In the meantime, while he decides whether to translate his new book, Wolpe is keeping busy. He is raising money for a museum modeled after the Yad VeShem Holocaust Memorial that would commemorate what he calls "Sharon's destruction of the Jewish communities in Gaza and the evil people who took part in that crime against humanity".
Rabbi Wolpe's continued misuse of the Holocaust is troubling, as is the acceptance on the hard right (Chabad included) of the Disengagement=Holocaust, Sharon=Hitler theology he popularizes. It has been condemned in the strongest terms by Yad VaShem. Yet Rabbi Wolpe persists.
He also endorses violence against the State and the army (see the Ynet article below) and labels Prime Minister Sharon – whom he equates with Haman, the arch-enemy of the Jewish people – a "false messiah"
Rabbi Wolpe asks: "If this is redemption how could something so horrible happen?" asked Wolpe rhetorically. "The disengagement is God's way of saying that only the messiah, not the state will bring redemption."
So, why not say this, Rabbi Wolpe? "If this is redemption how could something so horrible happen? The Rebbe's death is God's way of saying that the Rebbe was not the messiah, and we know only the messiah can bring the redemption. It is time for us to move on."
But, of course logic (and truth) have nothing to do with Rabbi Wolpe's – or Chabad's – theology. Period, end of story.
Ynet's coverage begins here:
In new book, Rabbi Shalom Dov Wolpe says Israel should be replaced with ‘true Kingdom of David,’ calls on followers to refrain from praying for Jewish state’s wellbeing. ‘We are now in exile,’ he says
By Efrat Weiss
In a new book entitled "Between Light and Darkness," Rabbi Shalom Dov Wolpe, a leader of the Chabad Chassidic sect that believes its chief rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson is the messiah, says religious Jews should view the secular government as an "administrative body, like the British government who controlled Israel before the country’s establishment.
Wolpe also says, "The religious Zionist public should prove that the State is unholy, and cannot serve as a means for achieving salvation. It must not pray for the country's wellbeing. We are now in exile and are waiting for the kingdom of the house of David."
Wolpe's call represents a sharp change from traditional Chabad-Lubavich thinking and match similar calls by some segments of the national-religious
community to disengage from the State in reaction to the Gaza disengagement. While Chabad, like most ultra-orthodox groups, has always been reticent about secular Zionism, group members serve in the army and have rejected insular approach of other orthodox groups in favor of engaging the secular world in order to encourage Jews to observe the mitzvoth, or commandments.
Sharon a 'false Messiah'
The cover of "Between Light and Darkness" carries a picture of the lit Temple's Menorah, and underneath it a darkened picture of the Knesset's building.
In the book itself, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is referred to as a "false Messiah" and as Haman, the historic nemesis of the Jewish people.
The bulk of the book is dedicated to the disengagement plan and to the uncertainties it spurred within the religious Zionist public.
"So many prayers were said from the bottom of the heart in the last year, in a bid to prevent the eviction and destruction," Wolpe writes. "The heart must wonder, why did God do this to this land? How is it possible that such a wicked man like the prime minister was able to jump over so many political hurdles, until he achieved his goal, the crime of the withdrawal" he asks, and answers:
"It is we that gave him the power. We determined that him, his state and his government are the beginning of our salvation. We blessed him before an open bible every Saturday. With such powers, it is no wonder that the false messiah storms forward without stopping, while taking his devotees and the rest of the Israeli people down to the abyss with him."
‘Replace Israel with true Kingdom of David’
According to Wolpe, the pullout was a sign from God that there is no relation between the existence of the democratic state and salvation, and that the religious public should therefore cease to believe in the holiness of the State and its institutions.
Referring to the religious Zionist teens who forcefully attempted to prevent the disengagement, Wolpe writes that "the Orange youth prays only for one thing: That the current rule, which is called 'the State of Israel' is abolished and replaced with the true Kingdom of David."
In the post-pullout period, Wolpe's ideas are not a rare sight among the rightist public. In a conference held in Jerusalem a few days ago, the participants wholeheartedly supported the principles expressed in the book, and thousands danced to the words of the song, "we do not believe in the rule of the heretics, and disregard their laws."
Ha'aretz reports Israel's leading playwrite, Yehoshua Sobol, has written a play about two haredi men who lead double lives, secretly exploring the secular world. Three of the play's stars are former haredim who left the fold. One describes his real life exit this way:
Segal wanted to flee from that jail [the haredi world], and to do it quickly. His escape took him on a circuitous route to a Chabad yeshiva in Kiryat Gat, but the sense of imprisonment remained. The prohibition on talking with girls continued, the daily immersions in the mikveh (ritual bath), with its smelly water, disgusted him. He would fall asleep during prayers. But there was also a ray of light: The Chabad custom of trying to persuade secular passersby to put on tefillin (phylacteries). "This was a way to meet secular people and see girls," he explains.
The Jerusalem Post's coverage can be read here.
Chabad has agreed to join the Shas campaign for the new Knesset. Ha'aretz reports:
Members of the Chabad Hasidic movement will assist Shas in the upcoming elections campaign, the ultra-Orthodox party said Thursday.
Shas spokesman Roi Lachmanovitch said that the agreement between Shas and Chabad was reached through MK Amnon Cohen, who is close to billionaire and Chabad member Lev Leviev.
Lachmanovitch said Chabad members will help with field work at the Shas election headquarters, and will not be involved in a national campaign as it was in 1996, when it used the pro-Netanyahu slogan, "Bibi is good for the Jews."
Leviev's influence in Chabad is mainly limited to those who have a moderate diplomatic worldview. However, other streams of Chabad, spearheaded by the youth, oppose Shas because its spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef had ruled that Israel may give back land in return for peace.
Chabad officials said Thursday that they believe most Chabad followers will vote for Yisrael Beitenu, headed by Avigdor Lieberman.
I wonder if Leviev's escapade with Shas supporter and Sefardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar had anything to do with this unlikely deal being reached.
Rabbi Alfred Cohen, editor of the Journal of Halakha and Contemporary Society, and the Chabad Center in Wayne, New Jersey are both caught illegally screening the movie Ushpizin without paying its distributor or filmmaker or receiving permission. Rabbi Cohen claims to have sought permission before the screening. Chabad does not. Both settled out of of court:
The Chabad Center, in Wayne, N.J., thought the film would make a perfect draw for its Dec. 10 Melava Malka, a dinner celebrating the Sabbath. "You are cordially invited Saturday night to Café Chabad for a private screening of the acclaimed 'Ushpizin' and a Middle Eastern buffet dinner," the invitation read. The admission fee wasn't for the movie but covered the cost of the meal, said Michael, the director of the center, who declined to give his last name.
"What's the difference between showing the movie to 25 people in my home or showing it at the synagogue?" he asked. Advised that DVDs contain a strict prohibition against publicly exhibiting the product, he said he hadn't read the fine print.
On Tuesday, Chabad arrived at a settlement. The event will go ahead as planned, but Picturehouse will get a percentage of each ticket sold — as in theaters.
"I'm not interested in a fight with anybody," Michael said. "I'm the chaplain of the Passaci County prison. You think I want people to visit me there? I'm happy. They're happy. Everything is fine."
As Chabad's 'chief rabbi' of Russia Berel Lazar meets with noted antisemites Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Dmitri Rogozin (the heads of two Russian nationalist parties that disseminate anti-Semitic propaganda) to a storm of Israeli protest, Russia moves further away from democracy on a related front:
The lower house of Parliament gave preliminary approval to legislation that would require tens of thousands of Russian organizations to register with the Ministry of Justice. It would also impose restrictions on their ability to accept donations or hire foreigners and prohibit foreign organizations from opening branches in Russia.…
Although some of the bill's supporters defended it as an effort to bring order to the registration of 450,000 private groups, others have said it was aimed at preventing foreign efforts to support political opposition movements, like the [pro-democracy] one that swept to power after the "Orange Revolution" in Ukraine last fall. The legislation follows sharply worded remarks by President Vladimir V. Putin and the director of the Federal Security Service, the K.G.B's successor, that foreign organizations often undermined Russian interests.…
"Let us resolve the internal political problems of Russia ourselves," Mr. Putin said this summer, criticizing nongovernmental organizations involved in what he called political activities.
Mr. Putin has long faced criticism for strengthening his political authority, despite his avowed commitment to democracy, and the legislation prompted still more criticism.
"This is the last sector of civil society that has not fallen under government control," Aleksandr B. Petrov, the deputy director in Moscow for the international group Human Rights Watch, said at a news conference held Tuesday in hopes of persuading the Parliament to reject or at least amend the legislation.
The critics of the law say that Russia's restrictions would go beyond those imposed on nongovernmental organizations by most of the developed world, including the other members of the Group of 8, of which Russia is a part.
A legal analysis by the nongovernmental groups says that the law would put Russia in line with [repressive] countries like Turkmenistan …
Earlier this year, the director of the Federal Security Service, Nikolai Patrushev, accused Western organizations - including the Peace Corps and the British medical charity Merlin - of being fronts for espionage. "Under the cover of implementing humanitarian and educational programs in Russian regions, they lobby for the interests of certain countries and gather classified information on a wide range of issues," Mr. Patrushev told members of Parliament in May, referring to private organizations.
His remarks prompted unusually strong public rebukes from the United States and Britain, but the legislation he called for at the time became the basis for what Parliament adopted Wednesday despite a further outpouring of criticism once the bill appeared on the agenda. It passed by a vote of 370 to 18. Three members abstained, while 56 did not vote.
President Bush raised the subject during his meeting last Friday with Mr. Putin in Pusan, South Korea.…
Two former members of Congress, John Edwards and Jack Kemp, who together are overseeing a task force about American policy on Russian issues for the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote to Mr. Bush last week urging him to protest "in the frankest possible terms."
"It would roll back pluralism in Russia and curtail contact between our societies," they wrote.…
This also explains the expulsion and ban of Moscow's non-Chabad chief rabbi Pinkhas Goldschmidt, and Lazar's complete silence on the issue. Lazar, it seems, has never met a dictator he didn't like. Thugs like the company of other thugs. Chabad should be ashamed.
Sefardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar's son has admitted to kidnapping and assult charges. His mother, Rabbi Amar's wife, has admitted to knowing about the abduction and attack as it was happening and then doing nothing to stop it. Ha'aretz reports:
Meir Amar, the son of Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, on Wednesday admitted under a plea bargain to charges of abducting his teenage sister's 17-year-old suitor. In the deal between Amar's attorneys and the State Prosecution, 31-year-old Amar also admitted to charges of abduction, extortion, physically abusing a minor and illegal incarceration.…
Under the deal, Amar will also pay the complainant NIS 35,000, and the Chief Rabbi's family has promised to help the boy's absorption in a yeshiva, a difficult task since he had decided to turn to the police.…
As part of the same bargain deal, the rabbi's wife, Mazal, retracted her previous denials and admitted on Wednesday that she knew of the abduction and did not report it to police. She will, nevertheless, not be convicted.
Several months ago, Rabbi Amar visited the Former Soviet Union. Traveling with Lev Leviev, the Chabad-backer and oilgarch who pays for most of Chabad's activities in Russia, and Berel Lazar, Chabad's "chief rabbi" of Russia, Rabbi Amar was scheduled to visit a non-Chabad yeshiva. He did not show up. Staff and students waited in assembly for hours as they were assured by the Chief Rabbi's staff that he would be arriving shortly. He never did. He also never explained his absence or apologized, a source close to the yeshiva told FailedMesiah.com.
Moscow's chief rabbi, Pinkhas Goldschmidt has been banned from Russia for almost three months. At first, we were told his visa expired. Then there were rumors of a fight between Rabbi Goldschmidt and Chabad supporter Vladimir Slutsker, who headed the Russian Jewish Congress until his removal three weeks ago. Now the JTA is reporting that Russia's Internal Affairs Ministry has deemed Rabbi Goldschmidt an enemy of the state and permanently blocked Rabbi Goldschmidt's return to Russia.
Rabbi Goldschmidt's 'crime'? Russia does not say, but it would appear to be a combination of the following: Supporting democracy, opposing Putin's return to Stalinism, and not being Chabad. (All three are legal in Russia. None, however, are good career moves.)
In this sordid saga, one voice has been conspicuously silent – Chabad's 'chief rabbi' of Russia and Putin lackey Berel Lazar – who has not spoken up in support of Rabbi Goldschmidt. Lazar is a thug. It's time he was treated as one.
Earlier FailedMessiah.com coverage here.
Bloghead coverage here.
Menachem Butler has found a tremendous online video of daily life in Munkatch, Hungary in 1933. It opens with the wedding of the Munkatcher Rebbe (the leading anti-Zionist, along with the 6th Lubavitcher Rebbe, of his day) and then switches between shots of secular and religious life. (It may be the first singing of Hatikva is actually a protest outside of the wedding.)
(Also posted on Mentalblog.)
Any information on the above poster? A reader sent this in. It is supposedly posted around Israel. Readers?
The headline reads: "The Messiah the Rebbe of Lubavitch He is the King of Kings, the Holy One, Blessed is He, and higher than this."
The close reads: "Long live our Lord, our Teacher, our Rebbe King Messiah forever more."
Just when you may have thought the scandals surrounding Orthodox Jewish Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff couldn't get any stranger, comes this sordid tale of mobsters and murder. Read it at your own peril.
Don't be surprised if these scandals eventually bring down the Republican party.
Oh, and is all this bad for Jews? You bet it is.
Jack Wertheimer's disingenuous article on the declining American Jewish population is now online.
Wertheimer, an official of the failing Conservative movement, blasts his more liberal peers in the Reform and Reconstructionist movements for espousing attitudes that reduce rather than increase the Jewish population. But Wertheimer writes nothing about the failings of his own movement in this regard, and does not note that the mass desertion from Conservative Judaism came about because of the movement's own failures. Those formerly Conservative Jews now (occasionally) fill the pews of the Reform congregations whose message Wertheimer so despises.
But the real problem with Wertheimer's piece is his whitewash of Orthodoxy. Wertheimer touts the high birthrate – but he is silent on the enormous number of Orthodox Jews on welfare and on the failing Orthodox communal institutions that survive only by raising funds from decidedly non-Orthodox Jews. Further, the average Orthodox family has yearly tuition bills (K-12) in excess of $60,000 per year. Many families take second and third mortgages to pay these bills. Others are forced to homeschool or to hit up relatives – especially non-Orthodox ones – for donations.
Wertheimer notes that in less than one generation the majority of affiliated Jews in North America will be Orthodox, and that they will demand (and get) their fair share (figured by population, not donations) of the communal pie.
What he does not note is that pie will continue to shrink. As things now stand, sometime toward the end of the first twenty years of Orthodox dominance, the continued hyper-birthrate of the Orthodox will cause a communal meltdown, with need for services far outstripping the financial resources needed to pay for them.
And then, what?
Unless Orthodox Jews enter the workforce in large numbers with sufficient training to earn salaries high enough to pay for tuition bills far in excess of the average American household's income, our demographic boom will turn into a spectacular bust. If history is any lesson, the attrition from the Jewish community will be staggering.
Poverty does not attract or retain members. Neither does self-serving Jewish leadership of any denomination, whether they sit in Lakewood or JTS.
Then we have the increasing phenomenon of attrition from Orthodoxy, from the hallowed streets of Lakewood, Williamsburg, Boro Park and Crown Heights. Dissatisfaction with the communities that Wertheimer extols is clearly on the rise, and, unlike earlier generations where Orthodxy's loss was the Conservative or Reform movement's gain, those who leave seem to leave all organized Jewish practice. Wertheimer seems unaware of this, as well.
An honest look at the Jewish community will show that no amount of child marriages and increased social indoctrination will solve our problem.
Do you want to stem the attrition from Judaism? There is only one answer, and it is the most difficult solution of all. Fix what is broken – Judaism itself.
From today's New York Times:
The basic objections to evolution - the ones trumpeted by the proponents of so-called intelligent design - are essentially the ones Darwin described in the sixth chapter of "Origin." They have been given a new language, and new examples have been adduced. But Darwin did a surprisingly good job of forestalling his critics. He showed that most of the objections to his theory, then as now, were based on a misunderstanding of the evidence or the nature of his argument, or were owing simply to the fact that so much remains to be discovered about the workings of life on Earth.…
Darwin presented the strongest, most detailed argument and evidence for evolution that he could. He also carefully presented the strongest objections to his theory that he could. Under a century and a half of close examination, his theory has grown more and more solid - with refinements, of course. Under the kind of scrutiny that Darwin bestowed on himself, the notion of intelligent design vanishes in a puff of smoke like the bunkum it is.
"I do not attack Moses," Darwin once wrote, "and I think Moses can take care of himself."
He could, if the fundamentalists and the so-called 'gedolim' would let him.
The statue of Feliks Dzerzhinsky, the man behind the Soviet Union's Red Terror and the founder of what would later become the notorious KGB, has been returned to a place of honor in Vladimir Putin's Moscow, in front of the Interior Ministry:
This is the man who in 1917 founded the Cheka, the Extraordinary Commission, which terrorized the nation with the arrests and brutal executions that became known as the Red Terror. This invention was the precursor of the secret police and spy network, the K.G.B., that stood as a symbol of barbarism in the 20th century.
Sadly, restoring the Dzerzhinsky statue was not all that shocking. It is one more step backward, like the state's increasing control over the media, like the removal of the president's political enemies by mock trial. Civic organizations are under fire, and President Vladimir Putin is paying unnecessary court to Uzbekistan's despotic and bloody government. Mr. Putin, who has just shuffled his cabinet again, is also said to be narrowing his choice for his successor in the next putative election - setting off a wave of speculation hard to distinguish from the old Kremlinology of who stood where on Lenin's Tomb at the big parades. If Mr. Putin does step down as promised, running against his chosen one could be a very dangerous venture.
Stalin's statue was similarly "rehabilitated" ten months ago.
Lower East Side shuls rebound. The Villager reports:
While a strong Orthodox community continues to thrive around the Grand St. co-ops and the Bialystoker Synagogue, ancient shuls from Delancey to Houston St. stand like lonely outposts of a bygone era. As younger Jews flock to the blocks their great-grandparents or grandparents might have fled the minute they could afford to, Orthodox rabbis are hoping some of them will be attracted to local services.
“I want to build a shul where everyone is welcome,” said Rabbi Azriel Siff of Chasam Sofer, quick to add he means an Orthodox congregation. “I want to build a community center where for anybody who has any issues Jewish related, the place is going to be 80 Clinton St.”
Chasam Sofer synagogue, the area’s oldest functioning shul, is finally finishing a 30-year renovation process begun by the congregation’s wealthy benefactor, Moses Weiser. It has hosted daily minions (a gathering of 10 men for prayer believed to be a commandment) consistently over the past decades, even through periods when it had to pay people to show up at 7 a.m. The temple no longer has to struggle to muster the required quorum of 10 men, and a consistent showing of 20 to 30 worshipers now attend Shabbat services, said Siff. The Stanton St. Shul, a much smaller tenement synagogue around the corner, is also attracting more attendees, but still struggling to combat decrepit building conditions like a leaky roof.
“I’ve seen kids in T-shirts, ski caps and green hair in that place,” said Laurie Tobias Cohen, director of the Lower East Side Conservancy, describing some men who joined recently. Even with some more worshipers, though, the Stanton St. congregation is still pleading for monetary support for repairs.
“We call it a boutique synagogue. You might have to RSVP. There might be a roped line. It will totally be a scene. But it’s all kosher,” explained Dovi Scheiner, a thin, 28-year-old [Chabad] Orthodox rabbi dressed casually in black pants and an untucked white button-down, with tallith strings hanging down from his waist.
The Israel Antiquities Authority has again warned that the wall surrounding Jerusalem's ancient Old City is in danger of collapse:
The survey showed 11 sections of the stone wall needing attention, most of them located along the northern stretch, which flanks the Muslim quarter, and the southern stretch, which skirts the Jewish quarter.…
"The examination shows that the signs of cracking and crumbling, which are evidence of structural problems, have increased and become more widespread," the report said. "New cracks were also revealed in the southern wall (of the mosque compound), which shows evidence of movement in the entire wall."
Another 29 sections of the wall, extending a total of 1,280 metres, are also in danger of collapse, but the threat is not quite so imminent, the report said.
A 'lost' novel by Vladimir Jabotinsky has just been translated into English. Jabotinsky was in many ways a modern Jewish prophet, who spent the pre-Holocaus years traveling throughout Europe urging Jews to leave while there was still time. He was opposed on religious grounds by the gedolim (Orthodox Jewish rabbinical leaders), who for the most part commanded Jews to remain in Europe. Often thought of as right-wing idealogue, Jabotinsky was far more nuanced a character than that.
As Sandee Brawarsky of the New York Jewish Week reports:
A passing reference in Ruth Wisse’s “The Modern Jewish Canon” led to the rediscovery and translation of a remarkable novel by Vladimir Jabotinsky. “The Five” — written in 1935 and published a year later in Paris as “Pyatero” — has been reissued in its first-ever English edition, translated from the Russian by Middlebury College professor Michael Katz and published by Cornell University Press.
“The Five” is a novel set in turn-of-the century Odessa, unfolding the story of a colorful upper-middle-class Jewish family and its path of assimilation. An autobiographical tale, it’s also a romantic portrait of the cosmopolitan city Jabotinsky loved and a life that is no more.…
A master of multitasking, Jabotinsky studied law, served as a foreign correspondent for Odessa newspapers, campaigned for Zionism across Europe, helped found the Jewish Legion during World War I as well as the Haganah, Irgun and the militant youth movement Betar and also wrote a fragmentary autobiography in Russian, Yiddish and then Hebrew, “The Story of My Life.” But, according to Katz, “The Five” provides “a glimpse of his own life that is more honest (less ideological) than his autobiographical writings where he was trying to explain his own path to Zionism.” …
Jabotinsky was prolific. He translated Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” into Hebrew, as well as 10 cantos of Dante’s “Inferno,” and he also translated Chaim Nachman Bialik’s “Songs and Poems” into Russian. He wrote several plays, some staged in Odessa, and through the 1920s and 1930s he published articles in the Yiddish press in Warsaw and also in the New York Jewish Morning Journal. His novel “Samson the Nazarite” is laced with his philosophy of Jewish history. Historian and sociologist Jerome Chanes points out that Jabotinsky even gets a writing credit in the 1949 Cecil B. DeMille film, “Samson and Delilah.”
In Israel, one is paid for most every job based on one's level of education, not one's actual level of performance or experience. The higher one's degree, the higher one's salary. Therefore, academic fraud is both a significant crime and a growing problem in Israel, especially as haredim try to enter the job market with few marketable skills and no academic degrees. (Yeshiva and seminary education does not count.) The problem is by no means limited to haredim. That being said, a Member of Knesset (parliament) from the haredi Shas part has just admitted in court to obtaining a degree through plagerism and using fraud. Ha'aretz reports:
A lawmaker from the ultra-Orthodox Shas party admitted on Thursday in court that he fraudulently obtained his academic degree, under the terms of a plea bargain worked out with the Tel Aviv prosecutor's office.
MK Yair Peretz, who received his psychology bachelor's degree through a correspondence course at the U.S.-based Burlington College, admitted that he turned in a paper that he did not write as his thesis.
At the end of his hearing, he said that "70 percent of degree-holders in Israel have turned in papers they didn't write."
Peretz said he turned in other students' papers after changing the names on them to his own, as if he had written them himself.…
Peretz enrolled in Burlington College in Feburary 1998, and received his diploma only three months later in May 1998.…
PETA protested Rubashkin's animal cruelty at Kosherfest yesterday in New York. According to PETA's Matt Prescott:
We were only able to be inside with our "body screen TV" (a wearable, portable video player) for a few minutes, but throughout the whole thing (inside with the TV and outside as well), we really reached a lot of people. So many people were shocked at the footage and had no idea how cruel Agriprocessors is and said they wouldn't be buying their products anymore. We also gave out lots of leaflets right around the Agriprocessors' table (and even managed to sneak a few stacks of leaflets onto their tables). Needless to say, they were none too pleased.
Why were they only able to be inside for a few minutes? Matt Prescott answers our question:
Security escorted us out as we weren't allowed in with the body screen TV.
No surprise there. Anyway, the industry does not want Jews to see the evidence against Rubashkin. It's bad for business.
Ha'aretz reports on pig abuse in Israel:
It felt like we had arrived in hell. A powerful stench was discernible half a kilometer away. A little closer, you hear the moans and screams. And inside - overcrowding and filth. Here, several kilometers west of the Galilee village of A'ablin, is where all of Israel's commercial pig farms are concentrated.
The sties are closed buildings. At one farm, the overcrowding ranges from tolerable to extreme; at another it was horrendous. The pigs were stuck to each other, barely able to move. Other farms raise animals in crowded conditions, but pigs particularly suffer, being the most intelligent among livestock.…
The inhumane treatment begins at the pregnancy stage. At some farms the sows are kept throughout their pregnancy in small isolation cages that prevent even basic actions such as turning around. Breeding sows are penned up in these cages for most of their lives.
The delivery cages are also extremely narrow, supposedly to prevent the sow from crushing her litter. After 23-30 days, piglets are weaned and transferred to a pen.
Within their first 30 days, male pigs are neutered to control the size of the herd and to prevent the strong smell of pork from non-neutered male pigs.…
According to attorney Yossi Wolfson, a member of the Health Ministry committee and an animal rights activist, the farms belonging to the association perform the castration by pulling the testicles - without anesthesia or painkillers.
A spokesman for the breeders' association said in response: "Great improvement has been made in recent years in the pigs' welfare. In the past, the pigs lay on the ground in their own filth, medical care and hygiene conditions were unsatisfactory. Now the pigs are bred on raised platforms that are washed down daily and kept clean. The feeding system is modern and controled. The pigs are under close veterinary watch. The cages are clean and ventilated in summer, and in the winter they have heaters."
While pigs are not kosher animals and rabbis therefore have no say in the pig raising business, it is telling that rabbis have not protested the tzaar baalei hayyim (cruelty to animals) involved in pork production. Rabbis are also silent on tzaar baalei hayyim in the kosher meat packing industry and were the enablers of Rubashkin's notorious throat-ripping shechita. While forcing Jews to observe humrot (extra stringencies) with regard to the kosher status of industrial cooking vessels and other acana, they ignore Biblical commands regarding treatment of living things – and they should be ashamed – but they are not. This is the problem of today's Orthodoxy in a nutshell.
GadolHador was the best (and the funniest!) blog on Jewish thought and Judaism's interface with the modern world. While Maven Yavin promises to be a very good blog, we're all still rooting for GodolHador's return. Come on, GH! We miss you!
Holding signs that read, "Cruelty Is Treif: Boycott AgriProcessors," PETA members and supporters will protest against AgriProcessors, the world’s largest glatt kosher slaughterhouse, at Kosherfest on Tuesday. One person wearing a body screen TV will show graphic undercover footage of the mutilation of conscious cows who writhe in agony in pools of their own blood while other activists hand out leaflets to conferencegoers…
What’s PETA’s beef with AgriProcessors? An undercover investigation at the company’s Postville, Iowa, plant last year found that workers were shocking cows in the face with electric prods, ripping their tracheas and esophagi out of their throats while the cows were still conscious, and then dumping the animals onto a concrete floor, where they stumbled and tried to get up as blood poured from their throats.…
The Humane Methods of Livestock Slaughter Act requires that cattle be "rendered insensible to pain" before they are shackled, hoisted, or cut but recognizes properly performed kosher slaughter as humane. According to the Orthodox Union, kosher law requires that the "trachea and esophagus of the animal are severed with a special razor-sharp, perfectly smooth blade, causing instantaneous death with no pain to the animal."
"There’s nothing ‘kosher’ about torturing animals," says PETA campaigner Benjamin Goldsmith. "If you’re buying or eating meat, you’re supporting cruelty to animals -- no matter what assurances you have been given by the government, the meat industry, or religious authorities. What we found at AgriProcessors was the worst of the worst, so we’re urging retailers and consumers to boycott AgriProcessors."
It is now 10 months since the USDA investigated AgriProcessors, and the USDA has still not released its report on the investigation. Perhaps the next PETA protest should be held in Washington, D.C.
Should consumers boycott Rubashkin as PETA suggests? Watch the videos linked below and decide for yourself.
To view footage of Rubashkin slaughter, click here (5 min. version) or here (much longer version). Selected posts on the AgriProcessors scandal are linked on the left sidebar of this page. All posts, including this one, can be read here (but do so in reverse order, starting from the bottom of the page).
Yehudi Menuhin's son has been removed from his father's foundation for espousing "neo-Nazi" views. Lord Menuhin, Lord Isaiah Berlin and the Rebbe were all equal Schneerson cousins. All are direct descendants of the Alter Rebbe. Menuhin's father was, like the 5th and 6th Lubavitcher rebbes, a noted and very public anti-Zionist.
[This begins what is planned to be a series of posts on reactions of segments of the Jewish world to the post-Rebbe messianism of the Chabad movement.]
A large number of Chabad defenders contend that, because Chabad is "doing so much good" by "inspiring people to do mitzvot and come closer to Judaism," the theological "quirks" of the movement – like its belief in the "second coming" of the "messiah," the late Rebbe who was while alive, is now in "concealment" or in what "only appears to be death," and will be soon revealed to all as, the messiah – can be overlooked.
The Rebbe, it is argued, inspired a mass return to the practice of traditional Judaism. Someone who has caused this good cannot be the source of evil. Additionally, the Rebbe is followed by thousands of rabbis. Someone with that type of esteemed following cannot be the cause of sin.
The point I am making is not that Shabbatai Tsvi and the Rebbe are to be equated.
The point I am making is this: All the good deeds and the best of intentions in the world do not prove messianship. Only the completion of the specific deeds codified by the Rambam and accepted as halakha (law) can do that.
As the Rambam specifies, these deeds – the ingathering of the exiles, rebuilding of the Jerusalem Temple, and ushering in the era of world peace, among others – must be completed. If the presumptive messiah dies before completing these acts, he is not the messiah promised by the Torah:
"But if he did not succeed [in building the Jerusalem Temple, etc], or if he was killed, he is not this one the Torah promised us – he is instead like all proper and righteous kings of the House of David who died. The Holy One, Blessed Be He, only set him up to test the people by him: "And from the seekers of wisdom there shall stumble, to purify among them and to clarify and to brighten until the time of the ending, for there is yet to the set time" (Daniel 11:35)." [Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Melakhim, Chapter 11.]
This halakha (law) rules out the messianship of Jesus, Shabbatai Tsvi, and dozens of lesser-known Jewish "messiahs." And it rules out the Rebbe, as well – no matter how many Jews he inspired, and no matter how many good deeds he did.
Rabbi Moshe Rubashkin's torched Allentown, PA mill is about to be siezed by the city after the "property owner" refused to pay for the site's cleanup. But who really owns the property? As the Allentown Morning Call reports:
Allentown officials are preparing to seize and sell the Montex Mills property that was ruined by fire and turned into a contaminated wasteland in April.…
[Redevelopment Authority Executive Director Mike Rosenfeld] said the owner of the properties, Skyline Industries of Brooklyn, N.Y., recently transferred 11 of the 12 parcels to another entity, Southside Redevelopment LLC, also of Brooklyn.
Rosenfeld said he doesn't know whether the two entities are connected, but he suspects they are.
The 12th parcel, contaminated with industrial chemicals, remains in Skyline's name, Rosenfeld said, and presents a challenge. It needs to be cleaned of its environmental contamination, and the building must be demolished before the land can be sold, Rosenfeld said.
''The 11, we can sell. The last one is a mess,'' Rosenfeld said. ''We will probably have to spend $1 million just to clean it … and it has to be razed. That will cost hundreds of thousands.''…
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sent a Tampa, Fla., contractor to the site to clean up dangerous chemicals and highly flammable powdered aluminium after obtaining a court order allowing it to enter the property.
Skyline Industries did not respond to the government's request that it do the cleanup. The EPA plans to try to force the company to pay for the $200,000 cleanup, but has had difficulty confirming the identity of the owner.…
A source close to the case told FailedMessiah.com that Skyline Industries – the property's "mortgage holder" – is controlled by members of the Rubashkin family. Rabbi Moshe Rubashkin "defaulted" on his "loans" just as Allentown was about to sieze and sell the then-intact but rundown property for back taxes and fees. Skyline Industries then gained "control" of the property, thwarting the city's efforts. Soon after, the property burned in the first of what would become several arsons. Now, just as the city is about to sieze the property from Skyline Industries – which is reported to be controlled by the Rubashkin family – Skyline transfers all but the most heavily damaged parcel to Southside Redevelopment, a company Allentown believes is also connected to the Rubashkin family.
Rabbi Moshe Rubashkin is president of the Chabad-Lubavitch controlled Crown Heights Community Council and a convicted felon. For more on Rabbi Rubashkin and his family, see the links at the side of this page.
Thursday's election of millionaire industrialist Vyacheslav Kantor as acting president of the Russian Jewish Congress could pave the way for the return to Moscow of the city's [non-Chabad] chief rabbi, Pinhas Goldschmidt, Jewish sources in the Russian capital said Friday.
Goldschmidt was deported from Russia six weeks ago after authorities claimed his visa had expired.
Kantor will replace [Chabad supporter] Vladimir Slutsker, who has agreed to assume responsibility for the RJC's foreign and interfaith relations.
Russian Jewish sources assessed that Kantor's appointment to the post and the compromise reached with Slutsker have significantly boosted the chances of Goldschmidt's return. Since his deportation, the rabbi has been in Israel, while the governments of the United States, Switzerland (Goldschmidt is a Swiss citizen) and Israel have been working behind the scenes on his behalf.
On a visit to Israel two weeks ago, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov promised his counterpart, Silvan Shalom, that the matter would be resolved soon.…
Previous posts on this sad incident can be found here.
Chabad has a tremendous new project called the Tefillin Bank, which provides new tefillin to any (male) Jew who wants and needs them.
What YU, Modern Orthodoxy and haredim will never understand is how much good will projects like this buy. Because these groups do little (and many do nothing) to help Jews outside their groups, Jews outside of the Orthodox world don't care about them. And not caring about translates into not listening to the advice of the leaders of the Orthodox world. And that translates into a world Judaism dominated by Chabad – including its "second coming" doctrine – probably within the next 20 years.
This – and the refusal of the Orthodox world to do anything about it, either to reach out with love, or to fight Chabad's deviant theology – is the greatest indictment of Orthodox leaders like YU's Hershal Schachter and Agudath Israel's Novominsker Rebbe – and of Orthodoxy itself – possible.
Conference Weighs Rebbe's Legacy
By Steven I. Weiss
November 11, 2005
The late Lubavitcher Rebbe was the subject of a groundbreaking three-day conference at New York University this week, a generally laudatory program that could set the tone for how the charismatic leader and his movement will be presented in future academic settings.
"What we are really going to do [with this conference is] set off a mode of research," said the event's organizer, Lawrence Schiffman, a Judaic studies professor at New York University. The conference, he added, was "in certain ways a communal research project."
Several of the sessions featured basic introductions to the rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, and the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement's basic rituals and slogans, including its trademark declaration: "We Want Moshiach [Messiah] Now." Many presenters also offered detailed explications of Schneerson's thought. These were based on a review of his extensive writings, which are relatively unfamiliar to Jews outside of Lubavitch circles.
Most speakers steered clear of any criticism of Schneerson's theology or leadership. In fact, one of the Lubavitch movement's harshest critics, Queens College history professor David Berger, received as much criticism as Schneerson himself.
Organizers did not invite Berger, whose 2001 book, "The Rebbe, the Messiah and the Scandal of Orthodox Indifference" (Littman Library of Jewish Civilization), is the most prominent attack on the Lubavitch. Berger has argued frequently that the Lubavitch movement has put itself beyond the pale of Orthodox Judaism by allegedly encouraging followers to see Schneerson as the messiah and to worship him as if he were divine. As a result, Berger said, Orthodox rabbis and organizations should boycott Lubavitch rabbis and institutions.
Professor Shaul Magid of Indiana University Bloomington said in his presentation that Lubavitch assumptions about Schneerson's immortality can find root in Jewish sources from the pre-rabbinic, pre-Christian era. "David Berger is right that it is not Orthodox, but he's wrong that it is not Jewish," Magid said, adding, "An indictment of heresy against contemporary Chabad is an indictment against the entire system of Chabad, as well as perhaps Kabbalah generally."
Schiffman defended the decision not to invite Berger, saying, "I think he'll be the first to tell you that he's not interested in approaching this topic from an academic perspective."
Berger told the Forward, "I have good reason to believe that I was not invited because of the controversial nature of my involvement in this matter, and a reasonable case can be made that a fierce partisan is not an appropriate participant in an academic conference." But, he added, "At the same time, one has to be careful of partisanship on the other side that obscures the problems -- to put the matter moderately -- that mark the aftermath of the rebbe's career."
The conference featured a mix of Lubavitch and non-Lubavitch scholars.
One Chabad participant, Chaim Rapoport, said the approach at the conference was quite different from what you would find at a Lubavitch Yeshiva. "The academic style, in essence, is the study of a subject -- it's very detached," Rapoport said in an interview with the Forward. "With the rebbe, there'd be a sense of awe" if his followers had run the program.
Despite the academic setting, repeated iterations of nonacademic assessments entered the discussion. For instance, Lubavitch scholars frequently answered questions posed to the non-Lubavitch scholars, basing their answers on personal experience and understanding as opposed to academic research. And a sense of awe was detectable in nearly all the presentations dealing with Schneerson and his work; there wasn't much criticism, not even from non-Lubavitch scholars.
Schiffman acknowledged as much, saying, "People are amazingly impressed by most of the record" of his work. "When you get a literature going [about Schneerson], maybe people will be more critical," Schiffman said. "You have to start somewhere."
The most critical assessment of the Lubavitch came in a presentation by Tufts University professor Stephanie Wellen Levine. Professor Levine had studies the Lubavitch community while living in it, and this lead to her 2003 book, "Mystics, Mavericks, and Merrymakers: An Intimate Journey Among Hasidic Girls" (New York University Press). In her presentation, Levine discussed the Lubavitch youth who had abandoned ritual observance. As she recounted the story of one young woman who had started seeing a non-Jewish man, a distinct murmur grew in the audience. One Lubavitch woman left the presentation so quickly that she forgot her purse.
Lubavitch messianism itself was criticized strongly by Rabbi Norman Lamm, chancellor and former president of Yeshiva University, in response to a presentation on Schneerson's esoteric thought. Lamm asserted that Schneerson's statements could be misinterpreted to
create a "distortion" leading to "moral nihilism." In an interview with the Forward, Lamm asserted that such open efforts to declare Schneerson the messiah would not have been tolerated before his death. "When he was alive, no one would have dared to discuss this," Lamm said.
While Lamm's presentation was an unexpected deviation into the topic of Lubavitch messianism, the topic was the subject of the conference's final session.
During the session, Naftali Loewenthal, a professor at University College, London, explained how a Chabad theology could exist that did not consider Schneerson to be the messiah. In another presentation at the final session, Professor Avrum Ehrlich of Shandong University made the case for why messianism was an essential element of Schneerson's thought and the Lubavitch movement's development.
None of the presenters at the conference attempted to define the Lubavitch movement's current understanding of messianism that has developed since Schneerson’s death or quantify how many Chabad followers believe that Schneerson is the Messiah.
"The fact of the matter is that there's no way to get the information in a reliable manner," Schiffman said. "The only way to get that information is by spending a large amount of money on a study, but even then, you don't know how to interpret what they're saying" because of the doctrines of esotericism within the sect.
UPDATE: New York Jewish Week coverage follows below:
Lubavitcher Rebbe Meets The Academy
Three-day conference at NYU explores philosophy, mysticism and messianism.
Debra Nussbaum Cohen - Staff Writer
Scholars probed the contributions of the late Lubavitcher rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, at a first-of-its-kind conference held earlier this week at NYU.
“Reaching for the Infinite: The Lubavitcher Rebbe – Life, Teachings and Impact” was more apt a title for the conference that took place this week at New York University than even its organizers may have realized.
Trying to convey the impact of the late Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson in two dozen or so 20-minute academic presentations, which were delivered at the conference held Sunday through Tuesday at NYU’s student center on Washington Square, was a little like reaching for the infinite with arms only inches long.
This was the first-ever academic conference devoted to the life and work of Rabbi Schneerson, who led the Chabad movement from 1951 until his death in 2004, and helped it grow into the largest Jewish outreach network in the world. Held under NYU’s auspices, the meeting was funded by Chabad supporters George and Pamela Rohr, and Craig and Deborah Cogut, and attended by up to 150 people at a time, ranging from Lubavitch chasidim to Reform rabbinical students.
The conference’s organizer, Lawrence Schiffman, said in an interview that he hoped “to create an intellectual discourse that didn’t exist before” on the rebbe. Schiffman, a Dead Sea Scrolls expert and chairman of NYU’s department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies, explained that “the rebbe is a major phenomenon in modern Jewish life.”
There may be no other 20th century rabbi as influential, recognizable — or controversial — beyond his own religious community as Rabbi Schneerson, whose reputation has been somewhat diminished by the controversy surrounding the insistence by many of his followers that he is the messiah, a dispute that has divided his chasidim.
Speakers’ approaches and topics varied widely. Some focused on esoteric aspects of the rebbe’s particular take on kabalistic ideas, some on his Torah scholarship and others on his involvement with politics, both domestic and Israeli, or with art, music and psychology.
Several speakers were Lubavitch chasidim in academia, and others, including Schiffman, can be described as friends of the non-messianist leadership faction of Lubavitch.
While Chabad’s most reviled critic, Brooklyn College professor of history David Berger, was purposely left off of the panel, another longtime critic of messianist aspects of the movement, Allan Nadler, a professor of Jewish studies at Drew University, was invited to participate. His presentation, “Mitnagdic Opposition to the Rebbe,” wandered into opposition by other chasidic rebbes as well, and delved into how it played out in Israeli party politics.
Rabbi Norman Lamm, retired president of Yeshiva University, who spoke on “The Rebbe, Mysticism and Philosophy” on Tuesday, was the first to address Lubavitch messianism head-on.
In speaking for the first time in public about the rebbe, there was much he lauded, asserting that “his genius lay in his exquisite combination of high intellect and his ongoing concern about each and every individual Jew, not only his own group.”
But he also sharply criticized the messianic thrust that the public face of the movement seems to be increasingly taking.
“I do not believe that the rebbe thought himself to be moshiach. But I do think he considered himself a possible candidate,” said Rabbi Lamm. He decried the movement’s “over-emphasis on messianism” and castigated those who now say that the rebbe is the messiah but simply concealed from view.
“To continue this myth of his being moshiach is utter ridiculousness,” he said. It is easy for the messianically-oriented “to distort” the rebbe’s teachings and say “that the rebbe is part of the God-head. That is completely heretical and quite dangerous,” he asserted. “I wonder if this distortion could and should have been avoided by responsible leadership of a movement that has not lost its vitality.”
Naftali Loewenthal, in the conference’s final session, ardently defended his movement from the messianists in a paper titled “Chabad, the Rebbe and the Messiah in the 21st Century.”
He protested their reductionist, myopic focus and called their opponents, who run many of the movement’s institutions, “the spiritual elite” of Lubavitch.
“There are attempts by moshiachists to define the rebbe as just one theme,” said Loewenthal. “But even his messianic thrust was not one-dimensional.”
He said “every Jew has a role to play in the quest to make the world a dwelling place for the divine.”
Several speakers mentioned the difficulty in fully grasping the rebbe’s depth and inner personality. With the rebbe, “you pull the veil aside and there’s another veil,” said Elliot Wolfson, a professor of Hebrew and Judaic studies at NYU. “Even when you open up one avenue to understanding him, there’s another one to open. There is always another veil.”
William Helmreich, a professor of sociology and Judaic studies at the City University of New York, may have best summed up the rebbe’s complexities when he used his presentation on “The Rebbe’s Relation to Jewish Communal Organizations and Religious Movements” as an opportunity to portray him as a man of paradox.
For example, the rebbe seemed “flexible yet his official stance was opposed to contamination by the outside world. He had friends in every denomination but opposed cooperation,” he said.
Helmreich also adroitly plucked from the range of positions, campaigns and views the essence of what made the rebbe successful. In his view, it was the fact that the rebbe communicated that “each mitzvah has value unto itself.”
In other words, performing a mitzvah was not simply a first step, but something of infinite inherent value whose worth could also echo in higher worlds.
“The rebbe sought mitzvahs, not membership, from the Jews he met,” said Helmreich. “It is this focus on mitzvahs that is Chabad’s greatest contribution.”
Alan Brill, a rabbinic expert on Jewish mysticism and associate professor of Judaic studies at Yeshiva University, spoke about “The Rebbe as a Modern Thinker.”
The rebbe believed “that Judaism changes, that revelation is continuous and progressive, therefore our age deserves new approaches in order reach everyone. He asserts that we are not Godless moderns based on the Enlightenment, but that now God is closer than he ever was before.” The rebbe’s goal, he said, “was to bring 20th century Judaism away from materialism. It was rare in 20th century religion to describe America as full of meaninglessness, neurosis and laziness,” as the rebbe did, Brill said.
“In America at a time of assimilation,” said Brill, the rebbe saw that “more important than the four sons at the seder was to reach the fifth son, who was not there.”
Jeff Shandler, an associate professor of Jewish Studies at Rutgers University and a maven of American Jewish culture, spoke about the rebbe and media.
Unlike all other chasidic rebbes and fervently Orthodox rabbinic leaders who have recently banned use of the Internet, Rabbi Schneerson saw “technology as not inherently corrupting, but containing the potential to be integrated into Judaism’s spiritual mission.”
And indeed it was video of the rebbe that provided one of the conference’s most compelling moments, during a presentation on the rebbe’s relationship to music by Mark Kligman, a professor of Jewish musicology at the Reform movement’s Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.
When he played old videotape of the rebbe, from 1973 and 1980, singing a Lubavitch niggun (wordless melody), everyone in the conference room was riveted. Because it took that grainy black-and-white footage of the rebbe singing, and hundreds of his followers around him responding as one, to finally reveal what all the academic presentations simply could not: the power of the rebbe’s charisma.
Aish HaTorah has an article arguing against vegetarianism, in part by praising Judaism's treatment of animals:
… At the same time, the Torah stresses compassion for animals. Indeed, the Jewish forefathers are known affectionately as the "Seven Shepherds," and the Talmud describes how God chose Moses for Jewish leadership based on his tender care for flocks of sheep.
Here are some examples of Jewish legislation regarding the ethical treatment of animals:
1. It is prohibited to cause pain to animals - tzaar ba'alei chaim. (Talmud - Baba Metzia 32b, based on Exodus 23:5)
2. One is obligated to relieve an animal's suffering (i.e. unburden it), even if it belongs to your enemy. (Exodus 23:5)
3. If an animal depends on you for sustenance, it is forbidden to eat anything until feeding the animal first. (Talmud - Brachot 40a, based on Deut. 11:15)
4. We are commanded to grant our animals a day of rest on Shabbat. (Exodus 20:10)
5. It is forbidden to use two different species to pull the same plow, since this is unfair to the weaker animal. (Deut. 22:10)
6. It is a mitzvah to send away a mother bird before taking her young. (Deut. 22:7)
7. It is forbidden to kill a cow and her calf on the same day. (Leviticus 22:28)
8. It is prohibited to sever and eat a limb off a live animal. (Genesis 9:4; this is one of the "Noachide" laws that apply to Jews and non-Jews alike.)
9. Shechita (ritual slaughter) must be done with a minimum of pain to the animal. The blade must be meticulously examined to assure the most painless form of death possible. ("Chinuch" 451; "Pri Megadim" - Introduction to Shechita Laws).
10. Hunting animals for sport is viewed with serious disapproval by our Sages. (Talmud - Avoda Zara 18b; "Noda BeYehuda" 2-YD 10)
To deal casually or cavalierly with the life of an animal is antithetical to Jewish values.…
Rubashkin violated half of these laws. His rabbis, the OU, KAJ and Chabad all approved. Not one rabbi from Aish HaTorah spoke out against Rubashkin's throat-ripping and other abuses. Not one. Remember that well.
After reading this article on Aish.com, I thought it important to reprint a more accurate version here:
ABRAHAM WAS WRONG
by Rabbi Nechemia Foofersmith
A CHILLING EXPERIMENT
Do you think basically good, mentally healthy people could murder innocent human beings?
The film "Obedience" documents a chilling experiment done at Yale University some years ago by Dr. Stanley Milgram. It paints a sobering picture about human nature.
Volunteers are told they're participating in an experiment on how punishment affects one's ability to learn. They are introduced to a man who will attempt to memorize a list of words. In an adjacent room where he can be heard but not seen, this man is strapped to a chair, his arm hooked up to electrical wires. Every time he makes a mistake in memorization, the volunteer is asked to push a button that will give increasingly strong electric shocks. Just before they begin, the man warns the volunteer of his heart condition.
(Unbeknownst to the volunteers, this man is in fact Milgram's collaborator in the experiment. No actual shock will be given.)
The experiment begins. A few mistakes in memorization -- and the volunteer administers some shocks. The volunteer nervously laughs as he hears grunts of pain. The experiment's administrator, a man in a white lab-coat, encourages him to continue with intensifying shocks.
As the dosage increases, screams come from the adjacent room, accompanied by desperate pleas to stop the experiment. He cries this is hazardous to his heart.
Yet this volunteer -- and the majority of other volunteers -- continue to give electric shocks to the point where they believe they've severely harmed the man. In many cases the volunteers continue to give deadly shocks even after the screams fall silent. When the laboratory administrator instructs the volunteers to continue giving shocks, they submit to the authority figure rather than defy him.
The experiment demonstrates that you don't have to be sadistic or deranged follow irrational or corrupt leaders. You can be completely normal and just not be independent enough to question the morality of what you are doing. Why, you can even be a haredi, just like me!
CONDITIONING AND MORAL RESPONSIBILITY
No one is born and raised in a vacuum.
Why should a 17-year-old haredi youth be criticized for blindly following our gedolim? After all, he has been socially conditioned right from the start to act like a sheep. He has never been exposed to any other belief system. All his friends are sheep!
Yet the world does criticize us haredim for this. But why? If everyone is affected by social conditioning, how can anyone be morally responsible for his or her actions?
ABRAHAM: THE FALSE PARADIGM OF INDEPENDENCE
Abraham, the father of the Jewish people, confronted these issues head-on.
A young Abraham examined the physical world and, relying on his best scientific judgement, reasoned there must be a single Creator of the universe, rejecting his upbringing. He discovered monotheism for himself and embarked on his mission to educate mankind, risking his life in the process.
After many years of faithful commitment, God finally speaks to Abraham for the very first time:
And God said to Abram, Lech-Lecha ... Go for yourself -- away from your land, from your birthplace, and from the home of your father, to the land which I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you and make you famous... (Genesis, 12:1,2)
God's initial command to Abraham is riddled with difficulties. Obviously one cannot leave his land without leaving his father's house and birthplace. Let the text simply say, "Leave your land and go to the land which I will show you."
Furthermore, one first leaves his father house, then his birthplace and then his country. Why list these in reverse order?
The Torah's primary message here is not Abraham's physical departure from his country. Otherwise it would have sufficed to say, "Leave your country." Abraham's challenge was to make a spiritual departure, to leave behind the influences, practices, and emotional support of his family and society in order to become truly independent.
These three boundaries (country, birthplace, and father's house) represent three different spheres of influence upon each individual, in ascending order of intensity.
Abraham is first commanded to leave his country -- to break away from the idolatrous influence of his land. Then his birthplace -- to abandon the customs and mores that are instinctive. Finally, he is challenged to shake loose from the most intense bond of all -- his father's house -- his primal source of identity and self-esteem.
Surmounting this challenge is Abraham's first step in the development of spiritual independence. This is the meaning of the Hebrew term lech lecha -- to go to yourself. God is telling Abraham to strip away the outside influences in order to emerge as a true individual.
Of course, both God and Abraham were wrong.
ABRAHAM WAS WRONG
Rabbi Yehuda says: The entire world stood on one side, and Abraham stood on the other side. (Midrash Rabba, Genesis 42:8)
This fierce independence labels Abraham the first Hebrew, a term derived from the word "side." Abraham stood alone on the other side.
The key to independence? Break out of the confines of society and re-examine the foundations of your convictions. This is the primary challenge for anyone on the road to becoming a true thinking individual. Because without verifying the validity of ingrained values, one can never know if his positions are correct.
If we follow Abraham's incorrect example, we haredim who follow gedolim like sheep are responsible for our actions, despite our social conditioning. But, instead of recognizing the necessity to question our society, we chose to remain passive.
God's first command to Abraham, and to every human being, is to become independent. So it may appear as if we need to develop the intellectual and moral courage to live by what is true. Without it, it would seem, we are nothing more than a submissive product of society.
But, again, Abraham was wrong.
Author Biography: Rabbi Nechemia Foofersmith is the co-editor of Raishut.com and director of Research and Development for Raishut In The Name Of Torah in Jerusalem. He is the author of Follow Like Sheep: The Purpose Of Jewish Existence and Sheeple: An Autobiography. He lives in Jerusalem with his ewe and his small flock of lambs.
The Jerusalem Post is reporting Bnei Menashe aliyah has been halted due to pressure from the Indian government.
Supposedly, the Indians object to the conversions of the Bnei Menashe – deemed by Sephardic and National Religious rabbis as being from the lost biblical tribe of Menashe – done just before departure to Israel. This conversion process was implemented because Israel's Foreign Ministry refused to facilitate Bnei Menashe aliyah. Conversion makes the Bnei Menashe eligible for aliyah under Israel's Law of Return, circumventing the Foreign Ministry.
So, is this another case of the Foreign Ministry overreaching and making its own law? I do not know.
But I do know the Foreign Ministry did everything in it power to stop Ethiopian aliyah, until pressure from the US in late 1984 made that stand (almost) impossible. And it did so again with the Falashmura.
If software engineers and scientist with MIT degrees were suddenly found to be descendants of the lost tribe of Menashe, do I think the Foreign Ministry would be delaying their aliyah? No way. And that is the point.
Gil Student continues to descend further into haredi madness. For those tracking the NYU Rebbe conference (post 1, post 2, post 3 – same graphic for each post) you may want to keep in mind that the first rabbi to tout Gosse's 1857 theory of a world created old, with fossils implanted in the earth, etc., was Menachem Mendel Schneerson. As Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan noted, there is no classical Jewish source to support Gosse's theory and, worse yet, it makes God a liar.
Steven I. Weiss reports on Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm's response (at the NYU Rebbe conference) to the presentations of Eliot Wolfson, Moshe Hallamish and Alan Brill:
My main concern in reaction to this admirable presentation of the arcane thought of R' Menachem Mendel Schneerson, is how easy it is to twist it into a radical messianism that is now taking place in meshichistic circles in Brooklyn and especially in Kfar Chabad. Let me recap two of the salient points in the paper and ask whether it might have been better for the Rebbe's "secret of secrets" to be kept secret if only for the spiritual welfare of his flock. […]
Early in his paper, Professor Wolfson avers that "the secret of the secret"…is that "in its most inwardness, the soul is conjoined to divinity…the soul is consubstantial with God," and refers to this as "an insight that significantly closes the gap separating the human and the divine, a gap that is typically assumed to be a basic tenet of Biblical and rabbinical Judaism."
While this is not alien to Kabbalistic thinking, the idea of yichud refers to unification with the sephirot, never — to my knowledge — with the ohr ain sof itself. The adept must therefore steer a careful course between depicting the highest stages of religious consciousness and the erasure of the ultimate gap between God and man. […]
Is this not easy to distort into justification that the Rebbe as Messiah is part of the Godhead? …is it not easy to find in this concept a "source" for a kind of Sabbatian antinomianism and moral nihilism — especially if one believes moshiach has arrived, in the form of Rabbi Schneerson?
I wonder if this distortion could and should have been avoided by responsible leadership of a movement that has not lost its vitality. And that too is a serious question: is the continued vitality somehow connected to the underlying esoteric theology of the movement in its most radical form?
Weiss reports that Wolfson's reaction to this was that Rabbi Lamm's presentation was not "academic." So Weiss retorted to Wolfson:
But I proposed that it is academic, at least as far as moral philosophy is an academic subject, and Wolfson replied "you're right."
Wolfson's "unbiased," "academic" remarks about the Rebbe follow:
“Menachem Mendel Schneerson is larger than life,” said Elliot Wolfson, a professor at NYU and scholar of Chasidism. “To speak of him is fraught with danger.”
And yet that’s precisely what a cadre of academics and scholars of Chasidic thought are attempting to do this week as they tackle a variety of themes related to the Rebbe and his legacy. Coming to NYU’s Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies, from as far as Australia, Israel and the U.K., the academics are presenting at a conference billed “Reaching for the Infinite, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Life, Teachings and Impact.”
A collaborative effort by Professor Lawrence Schiffman of NYU, Professor [and Chabad rabbi] Naftali Loewenthal from the University of London and Professor Elliot Wolfson, the conference will examine the various facets of the Rebbe as scholar, mystic, leader and teacher.…
Anticipating the magnitude of the enterprise, Professor Wolfson suggested in his [opening] remarks, that the more one learns about the Rebbe, the more they understand how much more is yet to be known. Indeed, trying to get to know the Rebbe, he said, is ultimately an attempt of “Reaching for the Infinite.”
Something is very rotten in NYU.
NYU is hosting the first academic conference on the Rebbe in the US. Bar Illan held a similar conference three years ago.
The Forward's 'report' from the Bar Illan conference was filed by Yori Yanover, a man with close emotional and financial ties to Chabad. Yanover's report smeared Rabbi Dr. David Berger. Worse yet, nowhere did Yanover or the Forward note Yanover's ties to Chabad or Yanover's previously held anti-Berger views. (Yanover has compared Berger's work to Nazi propaganda and has written worse about Berger himself.)
So, who is covering this year's NYU conference? Steven I. Weiss, the reporter who strongly downplayed Chabad messianism in his coverage of the Rebbe's 10th yartzeit 16 months ago. Weiss is also on record as believing Chabad references to a living Rebbe ("Yechi adonaynu moreynu v'rabaynu melech hamoshiach l'olam voed!" , "The Rebbe, shlit'a", "The Rebbe, he should live many long and happy days", etc. ) to be allegorical and therefore not a problem halakhicly.
Weiss is blogging from the conference and has this to say about Allan Nadler, the only* presenter who can reasonably be called a critic of Chabad:
Is Israeli Politics Ever Out Of The Discussion?
Yesterday, Allan Nadler presented a paper on Mitnagdic Opposition to the Rebbe that quickly became about how the various ultra-Orthodox groups came into conflict, with Israeli politics as part of the conflict; that’s when my eyes glazed over.
At the end of the talk, back into consciousness, Yaakov Ariel of North Carolina — an Israeli — contradicted Nadler not on anything that explicitly furthered knowledge of the main topic, but about Israeli politics.
My eyes glazed over again.”
Nadler is the only critic of Chabad presenting. Weiss has just admitted to ignoring him. (It makes one long for the return of Seth Lipskey.)
So, how academic is this "academic" conference? This is what Eliot Wolfson, one of the three conference organizers has to say:
“Menachem Mendel Schneerson is larger than life,” said Elliot Wolfson, a professor at NYU and scholar of Chasidism. “To speak of him is fraught with danger.”
And yet that’s precisely what a cadre of academics and scholars of Chasidic thought are attempting to do this week as they tackle a variety of themes related to the Rebbe and his legacy. Coming to NYU’s Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies, from as far as Australia, Israel and the U.K., the academics are presenting at a conference billed “Reaching for the Infinite, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Life, Teachings and Impact.”
A collaborative effort by Professor Lawrence Schiffman of NYU, Professor Naftali Loewenthal from the University of London and Professor Elliot Wolfson, the conference will examine the various facets of the Rebbe as scholar, mystic, leader and teacher.…
Anticipating the magnitude of the enterprise, Professor Wolfson suggested in his remarks, that the more one learns about the Rebbe, the more they understand how much more is yet to be known. Indeed, trying to get to know the Rebbe, he said, is ultimately an attempt of “Reaching for the Infinite.”
Rabbi Berger was not invited, apparently because Schiffman, Wolfson and Lowenthal (a Chabad rabbi) consider him to be a "polemecist" against Chabad. Yet those who are academic polemecists for Chabad – like Schiffman, Wolfson, and Lowenthal – fill the schedule. The Rebbe's only biographer was also not invited. (He's on the outs with Chabad.) Schiffman admits to liking his work but, he's not an academic, so no invite.
Bias? It seems so.
This is the best brief treatment of why Genesis is mythology. It should be mandatory reading for all Jews, especially all 'gedolim.' Say, maybe the kanaim could translate a some of this for them!
Search this site with Google:
The New York Times: "The legal conflict has revealed a deep tension within the Orthodox community that has been reported in the Jewish weekly press, and has been the almost exclusive topic of discussion on some Orthodox Jewish Web sites like failedmessiah.com and unorthodoxjew.blogspot.com in the months since Mr. Hikind brought up sexual abuse."
The New York Times: "In Postville, residents were dismayed by a report posted on a Jewish Web site, FailedMessiah.com, saying that Sholom Rubashkin held a celebration in Postville last week after he was released from detention on $1 million bail."
THE COLUMBIA JOURNALISM REVIEW: "[Jeff] Abbas passed the video to Shmarya Rosenberg, a blogger in St. Paul, Minnesota, who has provided some of the best coverage of the raid and its aftermath; a few days later, the video was referenced in The New York Times."
The Forward: Postville’s City Council initially voted to support the idea of a community benefits agreement, but later voted to withdraw support for such an agreement — a development first reported on the blog Failed Messiah.
Samuel Freedman in the Jerusalem Post: "[T]the scandal of Agriprocessors has been chronicled from Stephen Bloom's book Postville to Nathaniel Popper's investigative reports in the Forward to Julia Preston's coverage in The New York Times to the muckraking blogger FailedMessiah.com."
Religion In The News: "So authoritative has Rosenberg become that he is now regularly quoted by the Register; and his site has been referenced by the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and both the Forward and the JTA."
Tablet Magazine: “If you’re Jewish and you were married five years ago, you have not confronted the problem that exists today,” Rosenberg says. “The problem is much worse for anyone who isn’t Orthodox. As the Haredi strength grows and their control grows, that’ll become clearer.”
Religion Dispatches: "The best collection of articles I’ve found can be perused at failedmessiah.com, the blog of Shmarya Rosenberg, who, with the perspective of insider turned disillusioned outsider, has been probing the nuances and hypocrisies of the ultra-Orthodox establishment since 2004."