Hello Rabbi. I very much enjoy your clarity of halacha. I have a question for the Rabbi.
Do all of Chabad believe that even though the Rebbe ztl is niftar, he is going to come back to life and is the Moshiach, or is it only a small group from Chabad that never learned the halacha that Moshiach can not be a person that passed away, as that could easily run the risk of avodah zara chas vi shalom….
And if they think that the Rebbe ztl is Moshiach, then why not the Baal Shem Tov, Ha Ramchal, or even Moshe Rabeinu….
Unfortunately, this issue has caused other frum Yidden to think that Chabad Yidden are simply nuts and run the risk of being oved avodah zara chas vi shalom.
Looking forward to hearing back for the Rabbi on this.
I almost never get involved in these questions as they usually lead to controversy and Machlokes, and is one of the many ways that the Satan and Yetzer Hara accomplishes sewing hate and discord amongst Frum Jews, under the cloak of religious zeal. This I say irrelevant of the questioners affiliation, whether he be a Misnagid, Litvish, or a Chabad Chassid, and irrelevant of what angle he asks from. It’s discussion is also a cause of much Bittul Torah and a distraction from us being proactive Yidden in doing the Avoda that we need to do in performing and spreading Torah and Mitzvos. I believe the mere discussion and involvement in these matters, irrelevant of whether one is for or against, is simply not the intent of Hashem or in accordance to the wishes of the Rebbe or Gedolei Yisrael. I know many people will disagree with me on this, as they enjoy spending time arguing on the virtues of their claims, or the invalidations of the others. Although, I am sure that a Jew who is a true Oveid Hashem, after making a true Cheshbon Nefesh will understand the points that I have made, and that more often than not the discussion of this issue is Atzas Hayetzer, coming from ego, Yeshus, tribalism, politics, and a desire to escape real and true Torah learning. I view spending time on this subject, irrelevant of the side of the argument, as pure Bittul Torah.
Nonetheless, being that some people will not suffice with a general negation of discussion on the subject I will document for you here a few points regarding your questions.
- I don’t know your religious affiliation, but as a rule of thumb, I suggest that everyone focus on fixing the religious issues in their personal community and religious sect, rather than look for the issues of other sects. Once again, the Yetzer Hara loves it when people look for discord and reasons to invalidate others who belong to a different sect than you. Normally, the people in the sect that was attacked don’t really improve when they see other sects attacking them, and on the contrary, strengthen themselves even more in their ways. Taking a lesson from history, the opposition voiced against the Chassidim by the Misnagishe camp has in many ways only strengthened them and not weakened them. Better that they just ignore the issue, and let the Rabbanim of each group focus on fixing the issues of their group, rather than everyone focusing on fixing everyone else, while not leaving time or energy to fix their own home issues.
- All Jews are required to believe in Techias Hameisim. Thus, all Jews are required to believe that the Rebbe, together with all other Tzadikim, Viyisrael Kulam Tzadikim, will return in the time of the resurrection. Unfortunately, not all Frum Yidden are aware of this pinnacle matter of our faith, and the belief in Techias Hameisim must be spread and emphasized, as all the 13 attributes of faith. One who does not believe this is ruled to be a heretic r”l.
- Regarding the Rebbe being Moshiach, I have no idea what all Chabad Chassidim believe. Many however amongst Chabad do believe that he will be Moshiach, and I am sure that there are some who do not.
- There are sources, and interpretations in Torah which point at both Moshiach not being able to come from the dead, and sources which point that he may come from the dead. I see no issue with people believing in either side of the debate, which are both sources in Torah. I do see an issue with people performing intellectual and halachic dishonesty by ignoring the sources that are unlike his view, and invalidating anyone who sides differently than they. I see issue with people taking this valid Halachic debate and turning it to source for Machlokes and invalidation. This is clearly the work of the Satan garbing a cloak of piety.
- Whether or not one believes that it is Halachically correct to believe that the Rebbe can be Moshaich, I know of no reason or source in Halacha for stating that people who believe that the Rebbe will become Moshiach transgress Avoda Zara. As the Rambam writes, it is a grave sin to accuse people of Avoda Zara erroneously. Avoda Zara is not transgressed by believing in a false Messiah, but only if one worships a foreign deity. In the times of the Rambam, a certain Gadol Beyisrael falsely accused an entire group of Yemenite Jewry of idolatry due to a certain sin that he thought that they were doing and the Rambam vehemently fought against this individual writing furiously in the gravity of his sin for false accusations.
- I don’t see why a philosophical and Halachic belief that the Rebbe will be Moshiach is considered “nuts.” It is all too common for us to call derogatory names for anyone who takes a position different than we. People need to learn intellectual tolerance, and tolerance for people who follow a different view in halacha. At best, the matter is a Halachic error, but nothing to be called crazy about. [Perhaps you are confusing this matter with those who believe that the Rebbe is still alive. This indeed is a different subject, which I will now address:]
- Most people who proclaim that the Rebbe is alive are normal people, and not mentally imbalanced in any other area of life. At best, they are professing a crazy idea and believing in a farce legend, but nothing more. Once again, here too the frustration with their outrageous belief should not lead us to a false conclusion, and nonintellectual invalidation that they themselves are crazy. There are many otherwise normal people in the world who believe in what we would call crazy ideas, but still remain within the realm of normalcy. We must separate crazy people, from the crazy ideas of normal people. Furthermore, they base their idea on sources in Torah and beliefs in the words of Chazal and the Rebbe about the life after life that Tzadikim experience. While they may be choosing to understand these statements of Chazal in a different way than others, and are making much too much noise about their seemingly outrageous beliefs, I do not believe it reaches the bar of defining them as crazy, and focusing on their craziness is once again the petty works of the Satan of causing discord and tribalism. Furthermore, even from the perspective that they are voicing crazy ideas that have been taken out of context from Chazal, at best it is a minor Halachic mistake without much Halachic ramification or severity, as it does not transgress any fundamentals of our belief, and does not cause them to transgress any Halacha in Shulchan Aruch, and is simply a crazy belief and nothing more. For example, Lehavdil, if somebody believed that JFK is still alive would he transgress a Halachic or Torah edict, and should he be defined based on that as a crazy person? All in all, while we may not concord at all with the crazy notion that they believe in, and may rightfully argue that they are making a fool of themselves in spreading such ideas, it should not be viewed as anything more than a wrong idea. They are still beautiful people who can contribute to society, and Torah and Mitzvos and the Frum world irrelevant of this belief.
- Regarding why not believe that the Baal Shem Tov or Ramchal be Moshiach. I would say that they are following the dictum of the Talmud Sanhedrin which states that people would believe that their own Rebbe is Moshiach, and hence that is why they choose to believe in their Rebbe. However, from a technical perspective, if we follow the approach in Halacha that Moshiach could be from the dead, then indeed it could be anyone.
- Regarding “causing other Frum Yidden to think that Chabad Yidden are simply nuts and run the risk of being oved avodah zara chas vi shalom.” While it is true that some Frum Yidden unfortunately view Chabad in this matter, I believe that they are also to blame for being too quick to invalidate, having too little tolerance, and not placing the matters that unite Frum Jewry on the forefront of their minds and rather focus on our points of disagreement. As I already said there is no intellectual basis to call someone nuts just because he may have the above erroneous beliefs, and there is certainly no justification in halacha, and on the contrary is a great sin, to accuse them erroneously of idolatry. Together with that I agree, that both sides of the camps, the instigators and invalidators are not doing Ratzon Hashem in their instigation and invalidation, and that is why that I have already stated, that in my view, the entire idea of spending time on this subject is nothing more than Bittul Torah and the works of the Satan.
Let us all, Sephardim, Ashkenazim, Chassidim, Misnagdim, Litvish, Chabad, respect and tolerate each other despite our disagreements and learn to focus on the so many matters of Torah Judaism that unites us. Not to look for ways to invalidate other groups, not to put down the Gedolim or Minhagim of others and spend time on invalidating their philosophies, even if we have real complaints. We should all focus on learning the Torah that unites us and spend time giving critique to ourselves and our own community that we can influence and not the community of others.
In my work as a Rav, I have the pleasure of trading Torah knowledge with people, scholars and Rabbis, of all communities, whether they are Chabad, Litvish, Sephardi, or Chassidish, or Datal, and from the aspect of Torah I honor and respect them all equally as each one is part of a vibrant and needed faction of Kelal Yisrael. I am sure if we all added in tolerance, acceptance, and focus on that which unites, we would nullify the reason of the exile which is Sinas Chinam, and usher the ultimate and complete redemption.
P.S. In light of the above clarifications, I will not engage in any further discussion or backs and forth of proofs and sources on the merits or invalidation’s of the above statements, as I have already stated I believe the involvement in this subject does not come from the side of Kedusha, irrelevant of position that one is trying to proliferate or negate. I am well aware of the various books that authors have dedicated to the defense versus opposition of the above topic, and will not be further entertaining the merits of their words or arguments, not because I disagree with them necessarily but because I am too busy focusing on the subjects of Torah that I believe G-d desires us to be involved in.