Rabbi Manis Friedman explains his position as Chabad tries to distance itself from Friedman's remarks.
NEW YORK (JTA) -- A prominent Chabad rabbi is seeking to clarify remarks in which he renounced “Western morality” and seemed to call on Israel to massacre Palestinian civilians.
"The only way to fight a moral war is the Jewish way," wrote Rabbi Manis Friedman in the current issue of Moment magazine. "Destroy their holy sites. Kill men, women and children (and cattle).”
Friedman's comments were a response to the question “How Should Jews Treat Their Arab Neighbors?” The question was posed to rabbis of several denominations, and the Friedman response was identified as “Chabad.”
Subsequently he said that the comments were solely his own and not those of any movement or organization. A Chabad spokesperson also emphasized that Friedman was not speaking for the organization.
Friedman, of St. Paul, Minn., also said that his published comments were “misleading” and were meant to address not how Jews should treat their neighbors but how they should act in a time of war.
“I attempted to briefly address some of the ethical issues related to forcing the military to withhold fire from certain people and places, at the unbearable cost of widespread bloodshed (on both sides!) -- when one’s own family and nation is mercilessly targeted from those very people and places!” Friedman wrote in a clarification issued through a Chabad spokesperson. “I apologize for any misunderstanding the words printed in my name created.”
In response, Moment editor Nadine Epstein said nothing was taken out of Friedman's comments save for some quotation marks and a short paragraph that did not alter the meaning of the controversial passage. She also said that Friedman was asked the same question as all the other rabbis and that he was invited to elaborate further on the magazine's blog.
“The question did not include a reference to 'during a time of war,'” Epstein said.
Interpreted as a call on Israel to carry out massive killings of Palestinians, bloggers seized on the Moment article, with several seeing it as a confirmation of what they view as Chabad's extremism.
Shmarya Rosenberg, an erstwhile critic of Chabad, wrote on his blog, FailedMessiah.com, that he had heard this “exact logic” from Friedman himself.
Rabbi Avi Shafran, the director of public affairs for the fervently Orthodox group Agudath Israel, called Friedman's comments “shocking and wrongheaded.”
“Divine commandments in the Torah that were intended for a particular time and place, as all the 'war commandments' were, are not properly applied to any other situations -- and throughout history never have been,” Shafran said. “Torah speaks to contemporary situations only through the judgments of the greatest religious leaders of the day.”
A noted author, speaker and educator, Friedman, who lives in St. Paul, Minn., is among the country's most prominent Chabad rabbis. He has appeared on CNN, PBS and the BBC, and been the subject of articles in major national publications, according to his biography.
A 1974 New York Times article article about Friedman's school, Bais Chana, described him as using “humble humor” in his interactions with young women who are returning to Jewish practice, many of them having dropped out of school or become hooked on drugs.
The theology is the theology of two people: The late Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson and the late Rabbi Meir Kahane.
Chabad and Kahane shared much with regard to israeli politics and inner city Jewish community security.
The only real difference is that Kahane was theologically Zionist while Chabad is not.
By that I mean Kahane saw messianic portent in the Jewish state, while Chabad does not.
In day to day life, there is no real difference between the two positions except in religious matters. For example, Chabad does not say Hallel on Yom HaAtzmaut, but Kahane did.
That means Chabadniks and Kachniks can and do stand side by side in the dusty outposts and remote settlements of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank). But on days like Yom HaAtzmaut, they make two minyans instead of one.