Chabad Lubavitch

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Belarus, where Lubavitch originated
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (1902-1994) the seventh Rebbe of Chabad Lubavitch.

Chabad-Lubavitch (or Chabad Lubavitch) also known as Chabad, Habad or Lubavitch, is one of the largest branches of Hasidic Judaism and one of the largest Jewish Orthodox movements worldwide, especially in the United States and Israel. Chabad (חב"ד ) is a Hebrew acronym for "חכמה Chochmah, בינה Binah, דעת Da'at" ("Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge"). Lubavitch, taken from the Russian Любавичи, meaning "town of brotherly love", is the name of the town that served as the movement's headquarters for over a century. Today there are over 200,000 adherents to the movement. [citation needed]

Its adherents, or Chasidim (Hasidim), known as "Lubavitchers", or "Chabadniks", are Orthodox Jews belonging to Hasidic Judaism as defined by the Chabad traditions. Like all Hasidim they follow the teachings and customs of "Chasidut" ("Hasidism") as taught by Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer (1698-1760) who was known as the Baal Shem Tov ("master of a good name"), based on the earlier Kabbalistic works of Rabbi Isaac Luria (1534-1572) (also know as the Arizal). Chabad-Lubavitch's siddur ("prayer book") and its Jewish services (i.e. when they daven or pray) are set up according to the rites established by the Arizal. One of the more popular editions of the prayer book is the Chabad-Lubavitch siddur Tehillat HaShem.

Founded by Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi in the late 1700s, it has had seven leaders or Rebbes. Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (1902-1994) was the seventh leader and the son-in-law of Rabbi Joseph Isaac Schneersohn (1880-1950).

The leaders of Chabad-Lubavitch

The movement originated in Belarus in Eastern Europe, then part of Imperial Russia under the Tsars. Chabad traces its roots back to the beginnings of Hasidic Judaism. The founder of Hasidism, Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer (1698-1760), known as the Baal Shem Tov, started his nascent movement in Medzhybizh, Ukraine. His successor was Rabbi Dovber of Mezeritch (d. 1772), his leading disciple, who was well-versed in the Lurianic Kabbalah and developed the movement further.

Portrait of Shneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1812) founder of Chabad-Lubavitch and author of Tanya and Shulchan Aruch HaRav.
  1. Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi (1745–1812), son of Boruch, was the youngest student of Rabbi Dovber of Mezeritch and founded the Chabad dynasty within Hasidism. He defined the direction of his movement and influenced Hasidic Judaism through his two most famous works the Tanya and the Shulchan Aruch HaRav. Tanya is primarily mystical and expounds upon the Zohar. The Shulchan Aruch HaRav is an authoritative work on Jewish law that is often quoted in subsequent works such as the Mishnah Berurah and the Ben Ish Chai. Rabbi Dovber of Mezeritch asked him to write the Shulchan Aruch HaRav so it is widely used by all Hasidic dynasties, but some chapters were lost in a fire. The names "Schneersohn" and "Schneerson" began as patronymics by Rabbi Shneur Zalman's descendants. The first form of this name was "Shneuri" (Hebrew for "of Shneur"). This was later changed to "Schneersohn".
  2. Rabbi Dovber Schneuri 1773–1827, son of Rabbi Shneur Zalman. Known as the Mitteler Rebbe. His most famous works codified and categorized mystical pursuits such as the various states of meditation within prayer.
  3. Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn 1789–1866, grandson of Rabbi Shneur Zalman and son-in-law of Dovber, known for his responsa named Tzemach Tzedek. He also collected, edited and annotized many of Rabbi Shneur Zalman's works including mystical homilies on the prayer book in Siddur Mikol Ha'Shanah and on the weekly Torah portion in Likutei Torah and Torah Ohr.
  4. Rabbi Shmuel Schneersohn 1834–1882, son of Rabbi Menachem Mendel.
  5. Rabbi Sholom Dovber Schneersohn 1860–1920, son of Shmuel. He is known for founding the Tomchei Temimim yeshiva network and his opposition to secular political Zionism.
  6. Rabbi Joseph Isaac Schneersohn 1880–1950, only son of Sholom Dovber. He was the first Lubavitcher Rebbe in the United States.
  7. Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson 1902–1994, (his family name does not have the "h" of "...sohn" as he was a cousin from a different branch of the family), sixth in paternal line from Menachem Mendel and son-in-law of Joseph Isaac. He was successful in expanding the ranks of Chabad and spreading Hasidic Orthodox Judaism in general. Even after his death his personality occupies a central place in the movement's philosophy and certain groups regard him as the Moshiach, a situation that continues to generate much controversy within the Jewish world.

Other notable descendents of the Chabad dynasty include Israel's third president Zalman Shazar and the brothers Grand Rabbi Michel Twerski, Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twerski and Professor Aaron Twerski.

Origin of name


The names "Chabad" and "Lubavitch" each have a history. Chabad is a Hebrew acronym for Chochma ("wisdom"), Bina ("understanding"), and Da'at ("knowledge"), that was chosen early on by its founder, the first Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi. Chabad Hasidism teaches that the name "Chabad" reflects the intellectual accessibility of the mystical teachings of the Kabbalah. In the seminal Hasidic work, Tanya, Rabbi Shneur Zalman defines "Chabad Hasidism" as "מוח שולט על הלב" ("mind ruling over the heart/emotions"). Lubavitchers consider Chabad Chasidism to be different from other forms of Hasidism which they refer to as "Chagat" which refers to the emotional attributes of Chesed ("kindness"), Gevurah ("power"), and Tifereth ("beauty").

Chabad is sometimes written as Habad in English and in all the phonetic equivalents of the name in all the countries they operate in. Thus, as an example, Jabad is the Spanish form, particularly important to the Jews of Latin America, most notably Argentina, which has the largest concentration of Spanish speaking Jews anywhere in the world and therefore has a large Lubavitch presence as well.


Lubavitch is the name of a small town in Belarus (in then Imperial Russia) meaning "town of love" in Russian. It was Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi who founded the movement, but his son established court in Lubavitch, and the name stuck. In Hasidic Judaism, a dynasty normally takes its name from the town in Eastern Europe where it was born and originated. The followers of Lubavitch place great emphasis on the value and meaning of their group name and town of origin. They say that this evokes, symbolizes and embodies who they are.

History of the movement

In 19th and 20th century Imperial Russia Chabad had a large following and had a sizeable network of yeshivoth called Tomchei Temimim. Most of this system was destroyed by Bolshevik governments and the Nazi invasion in 1941. Rabbi Joseph Isaac Schneersohn, who was the Rebbe then, was exiled to Warsaw, Poland. With the lobbying of many world leaders, Jewish and non-Jewish (among them the U.S. Department of State) on his behalf, and reputedly with the help of Admiral Wilhelm Canaris head of the Abwehr, he was finally granted diplomatic immunity and given safe conduct to go via Berlin to Riga. He eventually moved on to New York City where he arrived on March 19 1940.

Rabbi Joseph Isaac Schneersohn's son-in-law and cousin Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (hence the similarity in their name, being differentiated by the "h" in "sohn"), who had been living in Berlin and Paris, France, since 1933, escaped from France in 1941 and joined his father-in-law in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, New York City. Presently, Chabad can be found wherever there are Jews. The worldwide headquarters of the Chabad movement is at 770 Eastern Parkway (the number of a street address) in the neighborhood of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, referred to as "770" by Lubavitchers who deem the number to have great mystical significance.

Chabad today

Postage stamp released by Israel honoring the worldwide Chabad-Lubavitch movement.


Following the initiative of the previous Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, spurred on the movement to what has become known as shlichus ("being emissaries [performing outreach]") after becoming Rebbe in 1950-1951. As a result, Chabad shluchim ("emissaries", sing. shaliach) have moved all over the world with the mission of helping all Jews, regardless of denomination or affiliation. They assist Jews with all their religious needs, as well as with physical assistance and spiritual guidance and teaching. The ultimate goal is to encourage Jews to learn more about their Jewish heritage and to practice Judaism.

The movement, motivated by Rabbi Schneerson, trained and ordained thousands of rabbis, educators, ritual slaughterers, and ritual circumcisers, who are all accompanied by their spouses who are equally motivated and highly educated in Judaism. Typically a young Lubavitch rabbi and his wife, in their early twenties, with one or two children, will move to a new location, and as they settle in will raise a large family who as a family unit, will aim to fulfill their mandate of Jewish outreach, education, and religious revival of Judaism. They may be joined by other Lubavitch families and together they will carefully seek out and search for and recruit Jews they have identified and contact them and start the process of encouraging them to observe Judaism, encourage Jews to strengthen their commitment to Judaism. All over the world Lubavitchers assist and support the religious needs of tens of thousands of Jews worldwide. In jest, emissaries have commented on various occasions that "wherever there is Coca-Cola, there is Chabad" [1]. Chabad specifically does not involve itself in conversion to Judaism by non-Jews and generally refers interested parties to other courts of Jewish law.

Chabad Houses

A Chabad House or Center is a form of Jewish community center under their own religious auspices, often serving as the nerve center of all the educational and outreach activities of a shliach(emissary) rabbi and his colleagues or allies in any given community. Often until the community can support the building of its own building for a Chabad house, the "Chabad House" is located in the shliach's home, with the living room being used as the "synagogue". The term "Chabad House" originated in California with the creation of the first such outreach center on the campus of UCLA by Rabbi Boruch Shlomo Cunin.

There are presently over 4,000 Chabad centers[2] (including Chabad synagogues as well as non-Chabad synagogues that have hired Chabad rabbis) in 70 countries serving the needs of the local Jewish communities worldwide.

Mitzvot campaigns

Chabad is also remarkable in its openness to non-Orthodox Jews; in fact, it aims to attract them to do mitzvot and believes this part of the process to bring the Messiah. This practice is called "mivtzoim" - meaning "campaigns" or "endeavors".

At one time, Rabbi Schneerson issued a call to every Jew: "Even if you are not fully committed to a Torah life, do something. Begin with a mitzvah ("commandment") - any mitzvah; its value will not be diminished by the fact that there are others which you are not prepared to do". He believed that even one act of goodness and kindness is incomparable.

Rabbi Schneerson also suggested ten specific mitzvot - that, because of their centrality to the Torah's guide to life, are ideally suited for a first experience of the mitzvah connection.

  1. Lighting candles before Shabbat and the Jewish holidays by Jewish women and girls.
  2. Putting on tefillin ("phylacteries") by Jewish men and boys over the age of 13.
  3. Affixing a mezuzah ("[small Torah parchments on] doorposts") on the right-hand doorposts in the homes of Jewish people.
  4. Torah study on a regular basis.
  5. Tzedakah ("[giving of] charity")
  6. Purchasing Jewish religious literature such as a Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), a Book of Psalms and a siddur ("[Jewish] prayer book").
  7. Adhering to kashrut (the dietary laws)
  8. Loving one's neighbor like oneself
  9. Proper Jewish education, meaning religious Torah education.
  10. Observing the laws of niddah ("Family purity").

In addition to the above campaigns, Rabbi Schneerson emphasized spreading awareness of preparing for and the coming of Moshiach (the Jewish Messiah). Some of the points stressed in his teachings include:

  • The responsibility to reach out to (love) every fellow Jew, regardless of background or affiliation.
  • The belief that each independent act of goodness and kindness can impact the balance of light and good in the world.
  • The need to encourage and provide strong education for every child, Jew or non-Jew, built on the foundations of morals and ethics.
  • Belief in the imminent coming of the Jewish Messiah (Moshiach) is a fundamental Jewish belief as explained by Maimonides.
  • The Era of Redemption (the Geulah), is the culmination of the spiritual work since the Creation of the world.
  • Jews prepare and pave the way for the coming of Moshiach and the Geula by doing acts of goodness and kindness.
  • Non-Jews have seven categories of commandments, called the Noahide Laws that they should become aware of and practice. Chabad has been a prime force in the dissemination of awareness of these laws, and several Noahide communities have sprung up as a result.
  • The importance of opposing any discussion concerning concession of territories in the Holy Land of Israel, or otherwise strategically vital territories to Arabs or anyone else, as such concessions endanger the lives of Jews in Israel. (In fact, Rabbi Schneerson often explained that such concessions endanger more Arab life in the long term as well.)

Often, when asked what remains to be done to bring Moshiach (the Jewish Messiah), Rabbi Schneerson answered that we need to perform "acts of goodness and kindness", now a popular catchphrase. He desired that Moshiach awareness be an essential part of everything we do (he belived that it was encouraged by Jewish law) and thus it is unusual for any Chabad function to take place without mention of the desire for the immediate "final redemption".

Outreach activities

  • Chabad has set up an extensive network of camps around the world, most using the name Gan Israel, a name chosen by Rabbi Schneerson for the first overnight camp. There are 1,200 sites serving 210,000 children—most of whom do not come from Orthodox homes. Of these, 500 camps are in the United States.
  • In recent years Chabad has greatly expanded its reach on university and college campuses. They serve hundreds of college campuses worldwide and have 85 full-service Jewish Student Centers. The warmth, dedication, and family presence provided by Chabad has received much praise from faculty and students alike. Professor Alan Dershowitz has stated "Chabad’s presence on college campuses today is absolutely crucial". And "We cannot rest until Chabad is on every major college campus in the world" [3].
  • In addition, the over 4,000 Chabad Houses serve as an address for virtually any Jewish need in most cities in the world.
  • Distribution of Jewish religious literature. Kehot Publication Society (the Chabad publishing house) has incited this by translating books into 12 languages and giving discounts.
  • Mitzvah tanks (mobile booths for outreach activities) are operated in busy areas.

Customs of Chabad

Portrait of Rabbi Berke Chein, a Russian-born Chabadnik, wearing a Kasket - a Russian cap, in front of Chabad-Lubavitch World Headquaters in New York.

Chabad has specific minhagim ("customs") that distinguish it from other Hasidic groups. For example, most Chabad Hasidim do not wear shtreimels ("fur hats") worn on special days and occasions. However, many Lubavitcher Hasidim in Jerusalem continue to wear the shtreimel, as it is an old custom observed in Jerusalem. Many Chabadniks from Russia continued to wear the Kasket, a Russian cap, even after their arrival in the United States or Israel.

American Chabad Hasidim pronounce Hebrew according to the Ashkenazi dialect, with the Hebrew vowel cholam sounding somewhat closer to /ey/ than the Modern Hebrew /o/ and the Ashkenazi /oi/. However, many native Israeli Chabad Hasidim pronounce Hebrew according to the Modern Israeli Hebrew dialect.

Like many other Hasidic groups, Chabad attaches importance to singing Hasidic Nigunim ("tunes"), either with or without words and following precise customs of their leaders. However, they do not sing traditional Sabbath zemirot ("hymns"), unlike virtually all other Hasidim and most other Jews in general.

Chabad customs are often in accordance with the traditions of Kabbalah, similar to the customs of other Hasidim and many Sephardic Jews. Many examples of this can be found in the wordings of the daily prayers, as printed in the popular Chabad Siddur Tehillat HaShem. One well-known example is the wording for the Kedushah section in the musaf prayer, which, according to the Chabad tradition, commences with keser ("crown") in accordance with Kabbalistic sources, in contrast to the Lithuanian Ashkenazi custom of commencing with na'artizecha ("we [shall] glorify You").

Influence on the Jewish world

Chabad pioneered the post-World War II outreach movement which spread the message of "authentic Judaism" to many assimilated Jews worldwide, leading to a substantial number of baalei teshuva ("returnees" to Judaism") [4]. The very first Yeshiva/Rabbinical College for such "baalei teshuva", Hadar Hatorah was established by the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Chabad was one of the first Jewish outreach organizations to use the World Wide Web as an outreach tool. [5] [6]

Chabad has had a notable influence on Haredi entertainment. Singing Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach began his outreach work as a representative of Chabad (he later moved away from the formal movement) and popular singers such as Avraham Fried, reggae artist Matisyahu and children's entertainer Uncle Moishy attract sizable crowds on their tours and have popularized many melodies for various Jewish occasions.

Chabad's ideology, according to some scholars, has dramatically influenced non-Hasidic Jews' practice as well, specifically with regard to Jewish outreach issues. [7]


Sixth Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch Joseph Isaac Schneersohn (1880-1950) left, with his son-in-law and successor Menachem Mendel Schneerson (1902-1994), right, the last Lubavitcher Rebbe, in a slightly edited picture.

History of controversy

Since its inception, Hasidism was the focus of much controversy within the Jewish community. The founder of Hasidism, Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov was a populist preacher and Kabbalist virtually unknown to the accepted rabbinate at the time. His subsequent growing popularity and novel interpretations of the Torah and halakha ("Jewish law") caused a growing backlash. Those who opposed the followers of the Baal Shem Tov were also known as mitnagdim (lit. "opposers") (an unofficial term that has no particular standing in Jewish law.) Hasidism was falsely accused of idolatry, false messianism and laxity in observance of halakha. This opposition was led by Rabbi Eliyahu Kramer, known as the Vilna Gaon.

After the death of the Baal Shem Tov's successor, Rabbi Dovber of Mezeritch; Hasidim split into many groups. Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi is believed by Chabad Hasidim to be the rightful heir and successor to Rabbi Dovber of Mezritch. During the life of Rabbi Shneur Zalman], the controversies between the Hasidim and Mitnagdim intensified in many ways. The issues involved in the disagreements were the rules for ritual slaughter and the conduct and phrasing of prayers, but rapidly involved many other aspects of Jewish life. As a result, Rabbi Shneur Zalman and his followers were subjected to bans and persecution, however it quieted down during the lives of his son Dovber and granson Menachem Mendel. Rabbi Shneur Zalman was arrested for treason which was based on a libel and he was proven innocent. His subsequent release on 19 Kislev (which is also the day of his teacher`s passing) is celebrated by Chabad Hasidim as the "New Year of Hasidism" and is viewed by Chabad-Lubavitch as "divine vindication" of the movement. (The file of Rabbi Shneur Zalman`s arrest was dug up recently from the Russian archives by individual Chabad Hasidim.)

The controversies between Chabad, other Hasidim and the mitnagdim ended during the tenure of the grandson of Rabbi Shneur Zalman, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn who was universally respected for his great Talmudic brilliance. However, controversies sprang up in the end of the life of the sixth rebbe Yosef Yitzchack and partially during the life of the past rebbe.

Controversy during the seventh Rebbe's life

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the seventh Chabad leader, took the reins of the movement shortly after World War II and became the Rebbe of the Chabad-Lubavitch dynasty following the death of his father-in-law in 1950. At the speech where he accepted leadership, he proclaimed the defining theme of his tenure. He stated that his purpose as the seventh Rebbe and the Chasidim as the seventh generation, was to complete the work of bringing the Shechina back into this world and bringing the Jewish Messiah. He further stated that the previous Rebbe had not finished this work, but because of the unusual character of his self-sacrifice was still present to lead the charge in bringing about the Messianic Age:

"Beyond this, the Rebbe will bind and unite us with the infinite Essence of God... When he redeems us from the exile with an uplifted hand and the dwelling places of all Jews shall be filled with light... May we be privileged to see and meet with the Rebbe here is this world, in a physical body, in this earthy domain - and he will redeem us" (Basi L'Gani 1951).

In the years preceding his own death, particularly after the end of the Persian Gulf War (1990–1991), Rabbi Schneerson announced that the world is on the threshold of redemption and the coming of the Jewish Messiah.

Rabbi Schneerson denounced the traditionally insular or assimilationist way of life espoused by many Jews in the United States. He encouraged growing untrimmed beards, that married women should cover their hair in public and other overt signs of religiosity. His followers held public Hanukkah celebrations, encouraged all Jewish men and boys over 13 to put on tefillin and perform other observances in public and made themselves highly visible in their Jewish observance and stretched their influence by actively courting politicians and powerful philanthropists. In some cases, Chabad zeal for religiosity in public caused a backlash from both liberal and traditional factions of the Jewish establishment, who, for example, sometimes questioned and challenged the need for public displays of the Hanukkah menorah.

Chabad teachings about the relationship between God, the Rebbe and his followers

Based on the teachings of Rabbi Isaac Luria, the Baal Shem Tov and the Ohr ha-Chaim, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi taught in the name of the Zohar that "He who breathed life into man, breathed from Himself". Therefore a person's soul is "truly a part of God above". [8]

According to kabbalah, a tzadik ("saintly person") is someone who has completely nullified himself and his desires to God's will. His soul, which like every Jewish soul is part of God, is revealed within him more than it is in people who have not completely nullified themselves to God. However, Judaism does not believe in the tzadik being like God.

In 1951 Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson said a similar statement about the role of a rebbe -- (Lekutei Sichos Vol 2 pg 510-511) regarding the practice by Hasidim to have a Rebbe act as an intermediary with God on their behalf, by explaining that:

"the Rebbe is completely connected with his Hasidim, not like two separate things that connect, rather they become completely one. And the Rebbe is not an intermediary which separates rather he is one that connects. Therefore by a Hasid, he with the Rebbe with God are all one... Therefore one can not ask a question about an intermediary since this is the essence of God Himself, as He has clothed Himself in a human body".

In recent years some critics, notably Rabbi Dr. David Berger, Rabbi Chaim Dov Keller and others, expressed their concern that this is a Chabad innovation that "deifies" the Rebbe, which would be contrary to accepted Judaism. Chabad writers counter that these reactions are based on misunderstandings of Kabbalistic terminology used by Rabbi Schneerson, and that similar expressions can be found throughout non-Chabad Hasidic and Kabbalistic literature.


During the later years of his life Rabbi Schneerson's teachings were interpreted by many to mean that he was claiming to be the Messiah. The development of this messianism and its impact on Chabad in specific — and Orthodox Judaism in general — has been the subject of much discussion in the Jewish press, as well as within the pages of peer-reviewed journals.

There are various expressions of the Messianic message:

  • Some express the belief that Rabbi Schneerson was the best candidate for the Messiah in his generation, but now say that people were mistaken to believe that he was the Messiah. Rather, he could have been the messiah if God willed it to be so, but it was not to be. As such, the Messiah will come nonetheless in the person of some other great leader.
  • Some emphasize the belief that the classic meaning of death does not apply to a truly righteous person such as Rabbi Schneerson. [9] In this view Rabbi Schneerson never "died", and is still alive in some way that ordinary humans cannot perceive. He will reveal himself in a more obvious way to proclaim his messiahship (see e.g. Rabbi Levi Yitzchack Ginsberg, of Kfar Chabad Yeshiva, in his book Mashiah Akhshav, volume IV, 1996). Many Chabad Hasidim refuse to put the typical honorifics for the dead (e.g. zt"l or zecher tzaddik livrocho, "may the memory of the righteous be for a blessing") after Rabbi Schneerson's name. They rely upon the Rebbe's statement that the world has entered new period in its history and that, contrary to what has happened in the past, the leader of the generation will not be hidden "even through burial", but that he would remain alive until the revelation of the Messiah. (See Dvar Malchut, Parashat Shoftim, 5751).
  • Rabbi Dr. David Berger, a Modern Orthodox academic, claims that there are people who argue that Rabbi Schneerson will literally return from the dead amidst a general bodily resurrection of the dead and will be proclaimed as the Jewish Messiah. According to Dr. Berger, Chabad Hasidim have developed an extensive literature of prooftexts attempting to show that this is what previous rabbinic literature actually meant. Dr. Berger also asserts that a few Chabad followers hold Schneerson to be "God incarnate" and that they "worship" him as such. This belief runs contrary to Judaism and has been universally condemned.

Vociferous opponents of Chabad were some of the prominent roshei yeshiva (deans of Talmud colleges), such as Rabbi Elazar Shach, dean of the Ponovezh yeshiva in Israel.

The most vocal critic in the Modern Orthodox camp has been the voice of Rabbi Dr. David Berger {cite}. He urges the Orthodox community to distance itself from Chabad {cite}, but has received little support. At the request of Berger {cite}, the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) resolved through a consensus that:

"In light of disturbing developments which have recently arisen in the Jewish community, the Rabbinical Council of America in convention assembled declares that there is not and has never been a place in Judaism for the belief that Mashiach ben David (Messiah son of David) will begin his Messianic Mission only to experience death, burial and resurrection before completing it."

Additonally, the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva University and major leader in the Modern Orthodox community, Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm, has gone on record criticising the messianic tendencies within Chabad.

Longtime critics Allan Nadler (2001) and Rabbi Chaim Dov Keller (1998) warned that Chabad had moved its focus from God to Schneerson to the point that they "worship him", but their criticism did not have the impact that Berger's work and subsequent campaign.

In contrast, Dr. Berger's claims have been attacked as false and misleading by several books written in response to his claims.

  • David Singer, Director of Research for the American Jewish Committee, wrote a lengthy criticism of Dr. Berger at, stating, among other things, that Berger has "emerged as a would-be Torquemada on the Orthodox scene, demanding a policy of 'intolerance' and 'exclusion' toward those he deems to be heretical to Orthodoxy". [10]
  • Rabbi Ahron Soloveitchik expressed concern for voices attacking Chabad. He urged that there not be unnecessary controversy, demanded respect for Chabad, and expressed praise for its work and stated that its beliefs are not outside the realm of Orthodox Judaism.
  • Rav Eliyahu Shmerler, Tzanzer Rosh Yeshiva, signed a document saying that he believes that the Lubavitcher Rebbe is Moshiach even now. (Dalfin, Chaim, "Attack on Lubavitch")
  • Rav Yaakov Yosef, Rav Ovadia Yosef's son, signed a document saying that he believes that the Lubavitcher Rebbe is Moshiach. (Dalfin, Chaim, "Attack on Lubavitch")
  • Rav Hirshprung, Av Beth Din of Montreal has said that the belief that the Lubavitcher Rebbe is Moshiach is totally valid. (In a signed letter dated 13th of Iyar 5757 (1997) Printed in the "Algemeiner Journal". (Dalfin, Chaim, "Attack on Lubavitch"))
  • AdMo"R Aaron Leifer, Grand Rabbi of Nadvorna-Safed, signed a halachic decree along with over a hundred others declaring the Lubavitcher Rebbe to be the Messiah, and urging Jews to recite "Yechi Adoneinu Moreinu v'Rabbeinu Melech HaMoshiach L'Olam Va'ed" ("Long live our master, teacher and rabbi, the annointed king forever"). (, linked below)
  • Moshe Idel, the Max Cooper Professor of Jewish Thought at Hebrew University, considered the world's foremost academic authority on Kabbalah [11], or Jewish mysticism, disagrees with Berger's key point, that Judaism abhors the idea of a messiah who rises from the dead, arguing that the late King David is considered in Jewish literature as a leading candidate for the post of Messiah (Yanover).
  • Likewise, Professor Aviezer Ravitzky, chairman of the department of Jewish philosophy at Hebrew University, strongly disputes Berger's claims that new Chabad teachings amount to heresy; however he does not believe that such beliefs are correct. In regards to those who wait for Schneerson to return from the dead as a messiah, Ravitzky stated "Torah does not prohibit a person from being stupid".

References and further reading

  • A Faith Grows in Brooklyn, photographs and text by Carolyn Drake. National Geographic February, 2006. For the online version click here..
  • Berger, David. "The Fragility of Religious Doctrine: Accounting for Orthodox Acquiescence in the Belief In A Second Coming," Modern Judaism, Vol. 22, p.103-114, 2002
  • Berger, David. The Rebbe, the Messiah, and the Scandal of Orthodox Indifference, Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2001 (ISBN 1874774889)
  • Dalfin, Chaim. Attack on Lubavitch: A Response, Jewish Enrichment Press, February 2002 (ISBN 1880880660)
  • Fishkoff, Sue. The Rebbe's Army: Inside the World of Chabad-Lubavitch, Schocken, 2003 (ISBN 0805241892)
  • Frumer, Assaf. Kol Hanikra Bishmi (Hebrew)
  • Hoffman, Edward. Despite All Odds: The Story of Lubavitch. Simon & Schuster, 1991 (ISBN 0671677039)
  • Keller, Chaim Dov. "G-d - Centered or Rebbe/Messiah - Centered: What is Normative Judaism?", Jewish Observer, March, 1998
  • Lessons in Tanya
  • Mindel, Nissan. The philosophy of Chabad. Chabad Research Center, 1973
  • Nadler, Allan. Last Exit to Brooklyn: The Lubavitcher's powerful and preposterous messianism. The New Republic May 4, 1992.
  • Nadler, Allan. A Historian's Polemic Against 'The Madness of False Messianism' The Forward Oct. 19, 2001.
  • Neusner, Jacob. A Messianism That Some Call Heresy. Jerusalem Post October 19, 2001
  • Pavzener, Avraham. Al HaTzadikim (Hebrew). Kfar Chabad. 1991
  • Prager, Dennis. Irresponsible Slander Moment Magazine 2002
  • Rapoport, Chaim The Messiah Problem; Berger, The Angel and the Scandal of Reckless Indiscrimination Chaim Rapoport 2002
  • Riemer, Jack. Will the Rebbe Return?. Moment Magazine February 2002.
  • Schneerson, Menachem Mendel. On the Essence of Chasidus: A Chasidic Discourse by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson of Chabad-Lubavitch. Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch, 2003 (ISBN 0826604668)
  • Schochet, Rabbi J. Immanuel. G-d Centered or Machloket-Centered: Which is Normative Judaism? A Response to Rabbi Chaim Dov Keller of Chicago. Algemeiner Journal.
  • Schochet, Rabbi J. Immanuel. Mashiach. Sichos In English.
  • Schochet, Rabbi J. Immanuel. The Professor, Messiah, & Scandal of Calumnies. [12].
  • Shaffir, William. When Prophecy is Not Validated: Explaining the Unexpected in a Messianic Campaign. The Jewish Journal of Sociology. Vol. VII, No.2, Dec. 1995
  • Singer, David The Rebbe, the Messiah, and the Heresy Hunter [13]
  • Student, Gil. Can the Rebbe Be Moshiach?: Proofs from Gemara, Midrash, and Rambam that the Rebbe cannot be Moshiach, Universal Publishers, 2002, (ISBN 1581126115). online version
  • Weiss, Steven I. "Orthodox Rethinking Campus Outreach", The Forward Jan. 20, 2006.
  • Yanover, Yori. Attack on Chabad Is Called Unredeemable The Forward January 18, 2002

See also

External links

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