In the last few months a series of published attacks on the
Chabad-Lubavitch movement has not only challenged its legitimacy as a Jewish
religious organization, but have also condemned Chabad-Lubavitch Chasidim as
idol worshippers, believers in Christian theology and Jews that need to be
excommunicated—expelled, from the organized Orthodox Jewish community.
The attacks have come cloaked in the name of "scholarship"
and "concern for Judaism"... However, they are the product of deeply flawed
research that is replete with inaccuracies. Beside their scholarly shortcomings,
these well-publicized attacks on Lubavitch seek to turn observant Jews against
each other [G-d forbid] while impugning and diminishing the efforts of
thousands, past and present, who have sacrificed their physical comforts, the
support and security of their religious communities, their freedom from
imprisonment, and even their lives, to bring the light of Torah and Mitzvoth to
Jews around the world.
I refer specifically to Dr. David Berger’s book, The
Rebbe, The Messiah and The Scandal of Orthodox Indifference. In summary,
Berger’s book asserts that many Lubavitcher Chasidim are idol worshippers,
believing in the Christian concept of the Second Coming. Even the non-Messianist
chasidim are to be condemned —- by not challenging this form of idolatry, they
are condoning it. Berger contends that the Rebbe himself instigated this false
messianism, and that Lubavitchers pray to him, believing he is G-d in human
form. Furthermore, Berger states that the leadership of Orthodox Judaism is
collectively guilty of allowing the Lubavitch Messianists (Moshiachistin) to
redefine Judaism’s age-old understanding of who can or cannot be the Mashiach.
Not Academic Standards
Although a prestigious publisher produced his book, the
material Dr. Berger presents lacks academic rigor and is fraught with bias.
Commonly accepted research methods dictate that a truth seeking investigator of
complex and historically significant socio-theological phenomena explore as many
primary sources of evidence as possible, using thorough and balanced methods.
How much more so would we expect that one, who identifies himself as an
observant Jew, would go to the greatest lengths possible before publicly
condemning the Lubavitcher Rebbe and the Chabad movement’s efforts to help speed
the coming of the Messiah.
During my phone conversation with Dr. Berger the evening of
November 8, 2001, it became evident that he used a sub-standard approach in his
investigation —- he never studied Chabad Chasidus, he did not have any in-depth
discussions with the Lubavitcher Chasidim whom he claims believe the Rebbe is
Mashiach and that a tzaddik is the essence of G-d in human form. Although he
hasn’t spoken one word to any of the principals to whom he attributes various
beliefs related to the Rebbe, he does not hesitate to convict them of apostasy.
It is not within the scope of this book to detail the
egregious theological mistakes and misunderstandings Berger has promulgated.
Interested readers are referred to relevant discussions by such Torah scholars
as Rabbis Hershel Fogelman, Pinchus Hirschprung, Emmanuel Schochet, Ahron
Soloveichik, and Sholom Ber Wolpo for thorough documentation of sources
supporting the premise that the belief that the Rebbe could be the Mashiach,
even after his passing on the third of Tammuz, is within the bailiwick of
normative Jewish theology.
In addition to responding to Berger’s accusations, this book
presents a comprehensive overview of Lubavitch history, offering the reader an
understanding of the origins of Lubavitch, its emphasis on love for fellow Jews,
and that faith in a Jewish leader as the presumptive Messiah is a traditional
We will explore historical episodes of challenges to our
rebbeim and Chasidim, showing that Berger’s criticisms are not just on the
Messianists of the 21st Century. They encompass the non-Messianists of Chabad
and the entire Chasidic movement, whose ancestors also spoke of their Rebbeim
Conclusions are Wrong
Dr. Berger comes to the conclusion that any Lubavitcher, who
believes the Rebbe is Mashiach or could be Mashiach even after his passing,
should be expelled from the Orthodox Jewish community. Berger’s call for an
all-out disassociation with Chabad-Lubavitch is a throwback to the 1700s, when
elitist Jews also called for excommunication of Chasidim, G-d forbid.
The accusations against Chasidim of the 1700s were proven to
be unfounded, and today many misnagdim have even adopted some Chasidic customs.
For example, some misnagdim wear a gartel under their jacket. In order to
receive the Rebbe’s blessing, some visit Chasidic Rebbeim with their children
who are getting married.
This attack against G-d fearing Jews, who have dedicated and
in too many cases, surrendered their lives for the dissemination of Torah and
mitzvoth, is nothing less than outrageous. In order that Jews everywhere are
properly informed, I will demonstrate how Dr. Berger’s premises, charges,
accusations, and conclusions are incorrect and destructive to the Jewish
As this book will elucidate, Lubavitcher Chasidim do not say
that the Rebbe is Mashiach in halachic terms, as described at length in the
Rambam’s Mishne Torah, Laws of Kings, 11:4. Rather, their belief is based
on the writings of the Rebbe and his predecessors, regarding the relationship
between chasidim and the Rebbe of their generation, the nasi, or leader
of the generation. There are Torah sources that validate this devotion; belief
that one’s rebbe is Mashiach does not violate halacha. There are no Lubavitchers
who believe the Rebbe is G-d, and Lubavitchers do not pray to the Rebbe.
Although I am a Lubavitcher chasid from birth, studied the
Rebbe’s teachings and spent many hours learning from Lubavitcher mashpi’im and
Chasidim, I state unequivocally that this book is only my opinion; I am not
writing on behalf of any Lubavitcher organization.