So, here's the deal. One of the finalists in this year's Israel Ministry of Education-sponsored International Bible Quiz is a Messianic Jew from Pisgat Zeev.
Some Religious Zionist rabbis, including Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, have called on Jews to boycott the quiz because participation grants legitimacy to Messianic Judaism.
A secular civil rights organization backing the messianic student asks an interesting question…
…as the Jerusalem Post reports:
Calev Myers, founder and chief counsel of the Jerusalem Institute of Justice, an advocacy group that represents members of the Messianic community, said that the rabbis' call to boycott the quiz was a show of weakness.
"If the participation of a Messianic Jewish lady is enough to shake up those rabbis' world, it shows the weakness of that world," said Myers.
"Why should they have a problem with a young woman who knows how to quote from the Bible?
"It is about time that they stop having a monopoly over determining who is a Jew. The beauty of the Jewish world is the diversity. If you can still be considered a Jew even if you believe that the Lubavitch Rebbe [Menachem Mendel Schneerson] is the messiah, the same thing should hold true if you believe Jesus is."
How does Rabbi Aviner respond to the Dead-Rebbe-Messiah question?
Rabbi Dr. David Berger has new edition of his anti-Chabad-messianism book in print. The forward contains a story about Rabbi Aviner's reaction to Chabad messianism.
Rabbi Aviner opposes this dead-rebbe-messiah theology, to be sure, but he still accepts Chabad messianists as normative Jews, fully inside the fold, without question.
At first Rabbi Aviner did this in the way many rabbis do – by omitting information that would force them to be harsher on Chabad than they choose to be. Rabbi Berger called Rabbi Aviner on this and documented (through the Hebrew edition of his book) enough information that should have caused Rabbi Aviner to judge Chabad messianists the way he judges Messianic Jews.
What did Rabbi Aviner do?
According to Rabbi Berger, he punted again, twice:
In an essay following Rabbi Aviner’s receipt of the Hebrew edition of my book, which apparently persuaded him that, by the usual criteria, real avodah zarah [idol worship] exists within the [Chabad] movement, [Rabbi Aviner] went so far as to redefine avodah zarah so as to exempt Chabad hasidim from its strictures: people who observe peaceful relations among one another, as Lubavitch hasidim (allegedly) do, are by definition not worshippers of avodah zarah. It is hard to think of a more striking illustration of a principle that I enunciated in the Hebrew edition: ‘“The foundation of foundations and the pillar of wisdom” [the opening phrase of the first section of Maimonides’ code] is that Chabad hasidim are good Jews. One may sacrifice everything, even the Jewish faith itself, on the altar of this principle.’ To my considerable relief, Rabbi Aviner has now apparently retreated from this position (which I would like to think was never more than rhetoric) and resorted to the more standard assertion that the worshippers of avodah zarah are an inconsequential minority.
It is worthwhile noting that Rabbi Aviner is a big supporter of West Bank settlement, as is Chabad, and both Rabbi Aviner and Chabad have worked hand-in-hand to oppose any territorial withdrawal by Israel.
It may be that Rabbi Aviner values Chabad's help with resisting territorial compromise more than he values keeping non-Jewish theological concepts out of Judaism.
Or it may be that, like many other Orthodox Jews, Rabbi Aviner is doing just what Rabbi Berger says he is – arguing from his conclusion. Chabad can never be outside the pale – therefore any law or fact that appears to cast them out must be reinterpreted or explained away.
Rabbis could have made this same choice 2000 years ago. If they had, many of the Jews worshiping in synagogues near you, perhaps even in your own synagogue, would be believers in Jesus.
To my knowledge, Judaism does no posses a tradition that these early rabbis erred in expelling Jewish believers in Jesus. In other words, it would seem that, when faced with similar circumstances, today's rabbis should follow the lead of their predecessors. But they do not.
I don't think this reflects on Chabad's kashrut. I think it is just another in a long line of examples that show that the rabbinic system is broken beyond repair.
And, truth be told, as long a Jew keeps the commandments (or violates them mistakenly), if he believes in Jesus as his messiah, as the "Son of God," as a near-wholly divine figure, he is doing nothing different from what much of Chabad does.
To say one is not kosher because rabbis ruled it unkosher 2000 years ago, and then to say the other is kosher because rabbis today have not ruled it unkosher is disingenuous and begs the question.
The framework was set 2000 years ago. From then through 1994, any Jew accepting the messianiship and/or near-divinity of a deceased "messiah" has been expelled from the Jewish community. This happened repeatedly, especially during the Shabatai Tsvi debacle.
Rabbis from outside Chabad should clearly state why Chabad is exempt from 2000 years of precedent. Not doing so does not in reality kasher Chabad. It may mean that Jews who eat Chabad meat or drink Chabad wine have done so accidentally, so to speak, and are absolved from punishment as a result. But it does not change either the nature of Chabad's theological error or the effect that error has on others – including you, including your children, and including your future grandchildren.