Wednesday, August 03, 2005

My [non-chassidishe shechita] Beef With Chabad

Here it is.
The big controversial post you all've been waiting for.
"STEG BASHES CHABAD"! (oooh....)

Let's get this party started. What we have here are a series of anecdotes of my interactions with Chabadians (Lubavitchers), with a bit of philosophy added. As you will see, much of my interactions with Chabad have been negative. I tried for a few years to be accomodating and try to see their point of view, but it just didn't work. I even went on a shabbaton in Crown Heights, and visited their world headquarters. But unfortunately, the more I got acquainted with what their point of view actually seems to be, the more I wanted nothing to do with their movement.

I'm Shaking

One Sukkos during college, my brother went out to the suka in back of the local Chabad House, where they had conveniently set up a table with an etrog and lulav to shake. The high-school-age son of the Chabad rabbi and rebbetzin was out there, and seemed to be in a bit of a rush trying to help people shake the lulav. My brother knew what to do from previous years (after all, we've been shaking lulavs our whole lives), but just needed a few seconds to recall exactly how to do it. While he was searching his brain for the proper pattern of shaking, "Guy" (that's what we'll call the son) started giving him directions that just didn't sound right, so my brother said (all quotes are paraphrased), "Hold on, I'm trying to remember my family's custom; that's not how we do it." To which Guy responded, "well that's how the shulchan oruch says to do it."

At that point, in my brother's words, i think that my custom's probably older than the shulchan aruch / but i just graduated from jewish high school / and i'm all smart / so i want to look it up in the shulchan aruch as a little learning thing.

So "Guy" goes inside, brings out a Shulhhan ‘Arukh + Mishna Berura, they find the correct section and begin researching. And the researching consisted of Guy finding the proper place, glancing at it, and then poking at it repeatedly and saying that it's saying what he's been saying. And then he left. After he left, my brother continued to work through the words of R' Yoseif Karo and R' Yisrael Mei’ir Hakohein Mi-Rodin, and realized that they were describing not Chabad's custom, but his own!
Shulhhan ‘Arukh « Orahh-Hhayim « section TRN"A « laws 9, 10
This ni‘nua‘ (shaking) means that one moves their arm in front of them forwards, shaking there three times in moving away and three times in moving back; and afterwards tilting the hand to one side, and doing the same thing — and similarly for every side of the four directions, and up and down.
[Then R' Moshe Isserliss explains that it's the moving back and forth which constitute the 'shaking'.]
The 'shaking' is done circling around rightwards: east, south, west, north.

In R' Yisrael Mei’ir Hakohein Mi-Rodin's Mishna Berura, he explains the same sequence of shaking — starting facing east, and then proceeding clockwise, followed by up and down — and goes into more detail.

Neither of them mention the AR"Y's custom (which Chabad follows) — south, north, east, up, down, west — although it is cited in two other commentaries: Be’eir Heiteiv and Sha‘arey Teshuva.
*Sha‘arey Teshuva, interestingly enough, quotes "the rabbis of Italy" who hold by the same system as R' Karo — circling around rightwards — but understand it to mean in a counterclockwise order!

After this, I thought about it, and came to the conclusion that "Guy" must have been remembering reading his custom in Chabad's "Shulhhan ‘Arukh", which was written not by R' Yoseif Karo in Safed in the late 1500s, but by the founder of Chabad, R' Shneur Zalman of Liadi, 200 years later. So I found a copy of that, and found the correct section, but it was lacking in directions for how to shake a lulav. Eventually the source was found: it was in the Chabad siddur. "The custom", "the way it's done", which Guy was so insistent was codified in the more-or-less universal law code of the Shulhhan ‘Arukh, wasn't even in their "Shulhhan ‘Arukh" — it was a note in the uniquely Lubavitch siddur.

And Wet

There's this Chabad rabbi who used to be the assistant rabbi of a Chabad House, and is now the rabbi of a [non-Chabad] synagogue. Let's call him... "Driver". You'll see why later. Anyway, Driver invited me and a number of other friends over to his house for shalishudes (se‘uda shelishit) one Shabbos afternoon. After the meal was over and we were about to bentš, he started passing around a washing bowl for mayim ahharonim. Now, I'm sure that I had heard of the custom of washing not only before a meal but afterwards also, but I wasn't familiar with it. No one I had ever eaten with had done it, and so I was interested in learning about it. As the washing bowl headed my way, I asked Driver, "So, where does mayim ahharonim come from?"

His answer?
"It says in the Shulhhan ‘Arukh you have to do it."
Now, I don't know what he was thinking, but where I come from, when someone asks you "where does this come from?" they're not making an appeal to authority — they're asking for understanding and explanation. They're asking minayin? as it's used in the Talmud. "From where do we learn this? What Tanakhic or Talmudic sources exist for this practice? How is it done in different communities? How did it evolve from the time of the Gemara until today?"

So he didn't satisfactorily answer my question. His idea of what a question is seemed completely different than mine. And since I didn't want to cause conflict, I just did it.

Afterwards I looked it up.

And I found out that, yes, it's true that the Shulhhan ‘Arukh declares that mayim ahharonim is obligatory. However, hundreds of years before R' Yoseif Karo, the Ba‘aley Hatosafot had declared the practice non-obligatory and unnecessary on behalf of Ashkenazic Jewry, due to the fact that what they saw as the primary reason for the practice had become no longer applicable to Jews living in a changed geographic and economic situation. And although there had been Ashkenazic authorities who disagreed with the Tosafot, their rationale had stood the test of time as a valid Ashkenazic opinion.

Maybe Driver was referring to his "Shulhhan ‘Arukh"?

And Scruffy By Choice

Another story about my brother.

It was the period of Sefirat Ha‘omer, and in a friendly conversation with him and our friend "Magz", the assistant rabbi of a Chabad House (let's call him... "Weaver") told them that it was absolutely 100% forbidden to remove hair from one's face, at any time of the year. Completely asur. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. Except for one single heteir given in extraordinary circumstances, that allows men to shave for business reasons — and is only around 150 years old. And since there are laws against religious discriminaton in the USA, Magz should just let his beard grow all year long and not complain about it being itchy, since he can't lose a job over it.

This was news to both my brother, who remembered learning about the permissiblity of shaving in halakha class in high school, and Magz, who although lacking in formal Jewish education, had many other observant and learnèd friends who shaved. So my brother, Magz, and Weaver all got on the computer and did a quick online search. But they couldn't find anything definitive either way.

A few days later, my brother goes and looks up all the sources. Mishna, Gemara, Mishneh Torah, Mishna Berura... and he finds that in all of them there's a distinction between forbidden methods of facial hair removal, and permitted methods of facial hair removal. So he takes the sources, and brings them to show to Weaver, who was shocked. It then took him around two hours to prove to Weaver that if all of these halakhic sources say that there are permissible ways to remove hair from your face, they can't all be joking!

Weaver, however, wasn't completely convinced. In my brother's words, he accepted the halacha as the halacha, but said that the pshat of "lo tashchit" means that shaving, even in a halachicaly permissible way, is against the "spirit of the law".

But Not Drunk

So, one weekday morning I made the mistake of accepting a ride with Driver back from shul to the neighborhood we both lived in. It was not that long before Purim, and Driver asked me what my plans were. So I told him that since I'm not a big fan of smelly piss-drunk people, I was going to avoid the college and Chabad and instead go to the Purim se‘uda of the local shul.
DRIVER: But it's a mitzva to get as drunk as possible on Purim!
STEG: According to some people (i.e. many great halakhic authorities over the centuries), all you need to do is drink a little and then go to sleep; or drink slightly more than you would normally. According to some, you don't even have to drink at all.
DRIVER: Yeah, well, some people also work on Shabbos and eat on Yom Kippur.

WTF— Huh?
Did he just call the Hhafeitz Hhayim, the Me’iri, the Ran, Rav Efrayim and other well-accepted Torah scholars brazen sinning heretics? I think he just did...

I ended up seeing him on Purim, and he was completely trashed. And he claimed that he only does it because of the obligation. That's a little hard to believe, though, since I've seen him just as drunk and out of it on Simhhas Torah, when no such obligation exists.

Nor Soulless

Once upon a time, I was at Weaver's for a Friday Night dinner. His 'devar tora' (which amounted to reading some old essay of his rebbe's) mentioned the doctrine of multiple souls — the idea that every individual has a number of different souls, including Animal and Human levels. So I asked him if that was the official Chabad cosmology, that everyone has multiple souls; after all, the Rambam said that each individual only has one soul, which just happens to perform various different functions depending on whether it's a human's human soul, a cow's cow soul, or whatnot.
I was wondering why they chose one theory of souls over another.

He had no idea that the other theory even existed, and couldn't quite conceive of the idea that Maimonides would explicitly disagree with the opinions of his rebbes.

According to Chabad philosophy, as expressed in their "Written Torah" (their words not mine), the Tanya of their first rebbe, Shneur Zalman of Liadi, not only does everyone have multiple souls, but even among human beings our souls are qualitatively different. According to him, Non-Jews have purely evil souls. However, there's nothing in the Tanakh, Talmud, or other early Jewish literature that supports that claim (He "proves" it by quoting a rejected opinion in the Gemara as authoritative, and it doesn't even say what he wants it to say). The Torah says, instead, that we were all created in the "Image of God". And the Mishna explicitly states that claiming any kind of intrinsic superiority over the rest of Humanity is a violation of God's plan of creation, when it says:
Why did God create the human race from only one original individual? ...In order to promote peace among humanity, so that no one could tell anyone else, "My Daddy's bigger than your Daddy!"...
— Mishna, Sanhedrin 4:5

And I Follow My Ancestors

Open up the introduction to the Hebrew-English edition of Chabad's siddur. It talks about how the original Nusahh ha-AR"Y was created by the Qabbalist R' Yitzhhaq Luria in order to form a special "comprehensive gate of prayer" that anyone could use to guarantee that their prayers got to Heaven. And how no records of his original text survived, and many kabbalists and early hhasidim tried to reconstruct it, until the First Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch, Shneur Zalman of Liadi, restored it and published it.

I have no problem with that. Our prayers have changed over time, that's obvious. If people want to go grafting pieces of the traditional texts of different Jewish cultures together in order to form one unified nosahh that could serve mixed communities, more power to 'em. If they want to edit their own ancestral texts for grammatical correctness or poetic beauty, that doesn't bother me either.

What the intro to Chabad's siddur does, however, is go on to quote early hhasidic leaders who claimed that this new text isn't an extra style, to be used in addition to the traditional siddur texts of Ashkenaz, Sefarad, Aram Soba, Romaniote, or whichever else — it's a replacement. We all need to throw out our old sidurim that we inherited from our ancestors, and start using this newfangled hybrid text because otherwise, they pretty much say outright, our prayers might not even be able to reach God.

I've encountered this attitude from Chabad books and people many times — the rejection of "Traditional Judaism" as unfulfilling, and the need to replace it with something new and improved: Chabad Chasidism.

Where does this attitude come from?

Maybe from here:
It's part of a letter supposedly written by the Ba‘al Shem Tov, where he says:
I asked Moshiach, "When will you come, master?" And he replied, "By this you shall know: it will be a time when your teachings become publicized and revealed to the world, and your well-springs have overflowed to the outside. [It will be when] that which I have taught you — and that which you have perceived of your own efforts — become known, so that others, too, will be able to perform mystical unifications and ascents of the soul like you. Then all the evil klippos will be destroyed, and it will be a time of grace and salvation."

In other words, the messiah will only come when the Ba‘al Shem Tov's teachings are embraced by the world. The Torah wasn't enough. Sinai wasn't enough. We've all just been going through the motions, wasting our time and not getting anywhere because the ultimate Goal — mashiahh, tiqun ‘olam, the fulfillment of all our prophecies — has been impossible to reach without this New Revelation of Hhasidism and (especially!) Chabadism.

Which I guess explains why most of the Lubavitchers I've met have barely any knowledge at all outside of their own movement. It makes sense that they're unfamiliar with R' Soloveitchik and R' Shimshon [ben] Refa’eil Hirš, as the leaders of a competing conception of contemporary Judaism (a.k.a. Modern Orthodoxy). But R' Yoseif Karo? The RM"A? Maimonides? It also explains why R' Shneur Zalman of Liadi called his halakhic work "Shulhhan ‘Arukh", appropriating the name of a previous generation's halakhic code. This is what happens when you believe that your own movement — your immediate 4 amot — is the be-all and end-all of Judaism. It's all very logical — if all of history depends on you spreading the Good News, you're going to spend your time learning the "prophetic" essays of your semi-divine Rebbe, and not worry so much about all the outdated and useless halakhic and philosophical opinions of a bunch of rabbis who don't really matter anyway, in the grand scheme of things.

This is my beef with Chabad, the negative impression I've gotten of their movement and their ideology. I know that there are good Lubavitchers out there, such as one Chabad House rabbi my brother knows who "never implies that other people's Halakhic Judaisms aren't good enough" and "also gets along respectfully and jokes around with the [Conservatives] and the [Reforms]; he never implies they're bad." But I missed meeting him the last time I was in his area. So I'm stuck with the ones I know, who, for instance, were horrified that anyone would want to arrange a mínyan where they can daven their own ancestral nusahh, and didn't see the light and benefit of becoming one with the New World Order.


Blogger Lipman said...

"Chasidism" is reform.

Chabad is reform.

"Chareidism" is a new thing as well.

Shmee*, even Chodosh oser min hatôre is a chidesh.

Things change, but some changes are inside Judaism, and others aren't.

*I suspect the etymology of Gee! is connected to the tole.

8/04/2005 7:54 AM  
Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

Steg, I have had very similar experiences in my (marginal) interactions with Hhaba"d. I try to avoid them like the plague.

Do you know about Chabad's insistence on special "Chabad" ritual items? They insist on 400-dollar "Chabad Esrogs", 1000-dollar "Chabad Tefillin", expensive "Chabad Shofars" (which every Chabadnik must own, even if he [she?] does not know how to blow shofar [or, even if she is not obligated in the mitzva?]). What is this mishegass about?

And then there's the thing about bor `al gabbei bor miqwa'oth: from what little I know, other Jewish groups consider these miqwa'oth pesuloth, or at best bedhi`avadh. But Chabadniks insist that these are the only kosher miqwa'oth. Thus, they invalidate all the miqwa'oth of the other groups. This, at least, SEEMS to be a legitimate halakhic view (although I know nothing about the topic); the special "Chabad ritual items", on the other hand, seem to be sheer closedmidnedness (or ignorance?), and it is those that REALLY piss me off.

8/04/2005 9:09 AM  
Blogger ADDeRabbi said...

Excellent points. A few other points:
1) They will only reccomend Chabad yeshivot. If you've ever heard stories coming out of the Yeshivot in Kfar Chabad, you'll be horrified by this fact.

2)>"...had become no longer applicable to Jews living in a changed geographic and economic situation" . Much simpler that that, in fact - Jews began using UTENSILS.

3) Re: shaving, I once heard the following joke.
Chabadnik to Gushnik:
"After 120 yrs., R' Lichtenstein will get to the gates of heaven and they ask him, "Yid! Vey iz dein bort?!" (Jew! Where's your beard?).
Gushnik responds:
"When you get there they'll ask, "Bort! Vey iz dein Yid?"

4) I recently saw that the standard Chabad bentcher contains 'Ha-Rachaman hu yevarech es adonainu moreinu ve-rabbeinu', but that line alone is not translated into English.

5) I've gotten along well with the Chabad Rabbis at the last two places I've lived. But I haven't been able to engage either in substantive discussions about Yahadus, and I've found their close students to be incredibly closed to alternatives. It makes me wonder if those I know are simply better tacticians.

6) They're heard of RYBS because he was once at a farbgrengen at 770, there's a picture to prove it, and they take it as the Rav's acknowledgement of RMMS's 'special' status.

As R' Elya Svei said, "A Yid Berger zokt gut!"

8/04/2005 9:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At the college I went to in NY, the line "....adonenu morenu etc." was translated in the local Chabad house bencher.

On a related note, I've seen in Chabad benchers (and one or two others) an optional phrase to include in "...Kemo shenitbarchu avotenu Avraham Yitschak veYaakov bakol mikol kol, ken yevarech otanu [BENEI BRIT] kulanu yachad bivracha shelema..." It seems to be there to specifically exclude non-Yidden from being blessed by God. (in fact, in one bencher I saw the explicit instructions "Im nochri babayit, mosifim:")

Needless to say, this disturbs me. Anyone have comments on where that comes out of?
-Alan Scott

8/04/2005 9:51 AM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

It sounds like your talking about Chabad's propensity for religious hegemony. This is well know and rightly bothers a lot of people.

That said, whatever the motivation Chabad is there when one needs Jewish direction.

PS I love that you wrote R' Shimshon [ben] Refa’eil Hirš.

8/04/2005 9:58 AM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

And one more thing: the Shulhan Arukh ha-Rav is taken quite seriously as a valid halakhic source. The Baal Hatanya was no slouch, but I digress.

8/04/2005 9:59 AM  
Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

Fred wrote:

the Shulhan Arukh ha-Rav is taken quite seriously as a valid halakhic source

Ironically, Chabadniks themselves rarely pasqen by this well-thought-own halakhic work (or so I have heard). They pasqen by a book called Minhaghei Hhabad, and of course Siddur Tehillas Hassheim (BASED ON the Siddur of Reb Shneur Zalman).

I heard once that Reb Shneur Zalman wrote Shulhhan `Arukh Ha-rav in order to prove to R. Hhayyim Volozhiner that Hhasidhim know how to lern, too. If so, he accomplished his purpose admirably (though perhaps not well enough to convince R. Hhayyim Volozhiner). But do Chabadniks even study S`A Ha-Rav, or are they too busy reading poroshas hasshovua` 27 times. (You see, you have to read it once for CHITTA"S-- or, as we misnaggedhim call it, CHATTA"S-- but that one time doesn't count as one of the two times that one has to read it for shenayim miqra we-ehhadh tarjuum, because that's a separate obligation. Oh, and there are about 25 other "obligations" for which one must read the parasha, and none of them count for each other. Mishegass. Though if they're bright, they must become very beqi'in in the Pentateuch. Kol hakkabhodh.)

8/04/2005 10:24 AM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...


I think it's more the attitude of the reform that gets to me. I can respect Conservativism's Egalitarian streak, because their reform is based around the idea of being nice to people; Chabad's "spread the Good News" reform, on the other hand, isn't being very nice to people.


Where did you hear about the mandatory expenses? It sounds really hard to believe; I'm pretty sure i've seen chabad houses selling normally-priced esreigim, tefillin, etc. — or are these mandatory expenses only within the movement?


re2) So you're saying that the Tosafot's claim that "we don't got no melahh sedomit here in Ashkenaz" isn't the main reason? That even if they had Dead Sea Rock Salt (i have a funny story about that, i should remember to tell yall about it) it wouldn't matter because they weren't touching it with their hands?

re5) Sounds like the arguments over who's a yehhinik and who isn't — and who is, but just doesn't want to admit it outright for image reasons.

"A Jew Berger says good?"

Alan Scott:

I seem to remember reading that it comes out of a prohibition somewhere on "giving gifts" to Canaanites/Non-Jews/Polytheists/Idolators (interpret as you see fit). Asking God to bless someone would be a gift. There're discussions at Frumteens about it... i think their Moderator tells people not to compliment Non-Jewish co-workers because of it.


The only problem is that when "Chabad is there when one needs Jewish direction" they don't give out Jewish direction — they give our distinctly Chabadian direction, and ignore (whether on purpose or through ignorance) the whole rest of the Jewish religious tradition.

re "RŠ[b]RH") I remember finding that out a while ago, but only being reminded of it when someone pointed it out on their blog. But now i don't remember who it was, was it you?

I've seen the Shulhhan ‘Arukh of Liadi referenced frequently in non-Chabad halakhic works. I just find it hard to judge it on its own halakhic merits, getting past the fact that it stole R' Karo's book's name as well as was written by the founder of Chabad and author of the Tanya (and everything that goes along with that)


I was in a Chabad House once when it was פרשת וישלח and they were reading these premade Chabadian introductions to each ‘alíya. When they got up to the ‘alíya involving the word hhitat, the intro they read mentioned that fact, explaing that "ĦT"T is the three things we learn that bring us blessing: hhumash, tehillim, and tanya."

Btw, i blame Chabad for now, whenever i hear "Tanya" i think 'book' instead of 'person'! ;-) :-P

8/04/2005 11:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah that Frumteens Moderator is crazy... DovBear and Godol HaDor thrashed him mightly so no need to recap.

Seems strange to class God's blessings as "a gift" we're giving them.

Plus, Avraham Avinu was promised that "all the families of the Earth would be blessed by/through him/his decendents". I feel like there's no more explicit method of that then by including them in our prayers.

8/04/2005 12:10 PM  
Blogger Mar Gavriel said...


The expensive special "Chabad ritual items" may be only for people within the movement. I don't know. I'm not an expert on Chabad, and don't plan to ever be one.

8/04/2005 12:27 PM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

" I just find it hard to judge it on its own halakhic merits, getting past the fact that it stole R' Karo's book's name as well as was written by the founder of Chabad and author of the Tanya (and everything that goes along with that)"

I don't think "stole" is accurate. Did the Shulhan Arukh steal the names of his 4 sections from the Arba Turim?

Secondly, I'm not sure what you mean by "goes along" with the Tanya. I happen to not be a big fan of chassidishe/ kabbalisticisms (or maybe a cautionary fan), but Tanya was historically very well regarded.

If you are referring to general weird mystical stuff, I remind you that R. Yosef Caro himself was about as "weirdly mystical" as you can get and then some. Plenty of halakhos in the SA are based on kabbalah, demonology etc. The Shulhan Arukh is what it is, take it or leave it (Teimanim left it).

8/04/2005 12:27 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

The Shulhhan ‘Arukh appropriated the structure of the Arba‘ Turim — but it didn't then go and call itself "the Arba‘ Turim", it has its own name.

What "goes along with the Tanya" is Antigoyist bigotry. When i'm looking for authorities i trust to tell me how to run my life, someone who slanders more than 99% of the human race by calling them *fundamentally and intrinsicly EVIL* is not someone i'm going to trust.

I have nothing against Mysticism as a method of attempting to understand and approach God. It's when a certain type of it gets promoted as The One True Jewish Cosmology (tm) that it starts to get on my nerves.

8/04/2005 1:16 PM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

Okay, I get that. It's in the Talmud too (shh!). I don't think Tanya is fundamental in any way, so I am not wedded to it and don't need to make apologetics for it. But suffice it to say that if you're going to give purity tests for figures departed then you're going to be left with very few sources you can totally respect. Suffice it (for me) to say that the Tanya emanated from an environment in which the brotherhood of man wasn't something Jews could readily feel (and arguably still can't).

Gore (vomit) Vidal wrote of "the great Gentile-hating Dr. Maimonides". Now I'm not going to dignify his remark, but surely you'll admit that Rambam said things that hardly conform with your own views about brotherhood and all that? Yet even if he was "Gentile-hating", that didn't stop Aquinas and Muslims philosophers and other gentiles interested in great thinking from learning from him.

I think its a mistake to reject a person of centuries ago because of an ideological disagreement.

As for the plagiarizing of the title, I still disagree. It is evident that he wasn't trying to surreptitiously pass his work as the actual SA, even if the legacy of the title is that mistaken Chabadniks of today confuse the two.

8/04/2005 1:26 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

My point is that the Talmud doesn't say what the Tanya does. The Talmud (and Rambam, for that matter) says a number of not nice things about Non-Jews, but it never says that either 1) their souls are fundamentally different than ours, or 2) they're metaphysically and thoroughly Evil. That's the difference.

I don't think that R' SZ of L was trying to pass his halakhic work off as the Shulhhan ‘Arukh; i just think that it's likely that he was trying to replace the original with his own, just as he wanted to replace all of the siddurs with his own.

8/04/2005 1:32 PM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

Nu, so you arbitrarily decided that this not nice thing (in Tanya) is beyond the pale but those not nice things (in Talmud, Rambam etc) aren't.

Hey, there is a long tradition of trying to replace codes with updated ones. What do you think the SA himself was doing? Or the Mishna Berura?

8/04/2005 1:44 PM  
Blogger AMSHINOVER said...

To your 1st tale:so if you don't like the way they wanted you to do it go to the litvish outreach house,oh they don't have one?sorry.(also i have minhagim of my own that litvisha yeshiva tried to negate with"...but it says in shulchan orach..."when they really meant mishna brura which is minhag radin.)
to story 2,and you've never met an asshole outside of chabad?(btw myim achronim comes from many places in shas 1 of which is a story,that cannot be effected by time.
to #3 it is not against the spirit of the law,but it is NOT the spirit of the law.still,whats your beef with chbad per se?
#4 still waiting to hear why chabad?i had the same story happen to me in rabbi wein's yeshiva.
#5 finally an issue.the baal hatanya does NOT say the are evil,but that their souls come from the klippah shano noga.and yes that means they posses a lesser soul.BTW the litfish nefesh hachaim says the same and that you can tell who has a lesser soul by how smart someone is.quess he never met koichi tanaka.
#6 agreed
#7 it has always been to contention of kabblah that redemption depends on the learning of mystic the zohar states yad ramah in unkoles is behris golee,rosha tavos b'rabbe shimon bar yoche we will be redeemed,chassidim said the rosha tavos =rebi yisrael ba'll shem.this steams from the fact that these org. are founded post-macabre erasin jewish history(ari after 1492,chassidus after 1648-49,chabad after 1945)

8/04/2005 1:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mississippi Fred McDowell (Miss Fred?) --

The difference I believe is that the Tanya makes the contention that non-Yidden are intrinsicly evil, selfish and hateful *by definition* and by dint of their very existence as non-Yidden. (mis-quoting the Gemara, btw)

Just about everyone else will criticize non-Yehudim and say all sorts of things about their personalities and actions, but it was never assumed that this was intrinsic, that inferiority and a lack of the potential for holiness were indemic to them by nature. It was always clear that non-Yidden were the way they were because of their false religions (hence "Oved Kochavim u-Mazalot) which is why you get numerous Rishonim starting to distinguish between monotheists and polytheists, and between idol worshippers and worshippers of abstract gods, and religions that contain ethics and religions that are just bribing the forces of the world. About the Rambam, btw, his great teacher (Aristotle) was not a Yehudi. So he clearly didn't believe in racialism of the Tanya sort.

8/04/2005 2:00 PM  
Blogger AMSHINOVER said...

mar gavreal
bor `al gabbei bor miqwa'oth is not really minhag chabad in fact rabbi schneerson wrote many teshvos saying it was not required,though it is a great way to keep the bor and mikva attached,also i buy italian esrogim every year and they run the same price as eretz yisrael except on shmitta year.

8/04/2005 2:00 PM  
Blogger AMSHINOVER said...

mar gaveral
i have fights every morning in shul,when i say amen not brech hu in kaddish or when i sit to put my tefflin on or when i change my yarlmuka for shachris or when i don't wear a jacket under my talis or when i say kaddish after alanu though both my parents are alive(BH)from the litfisha olam i daven with...

seem to be sheer closedmidnedness (or ignorance?), and it is those that REALLY piss me off.

8/04/2005 2:05 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...


I pretty much agree with everything Alan Scott said when it comes to the Tanya. My point is, the Gemara and others say uncomplimentary things about Non_Jews. The ideal expressed by the Mishna i quoted, though, is human equality. So if i have a choice between a Mishna that promotes siblinghood (or "equal cousinhood") among the human race, and SZoL (and other late Kabbala-based philosophers), who makes extremely negative and unproven assertions about 99%+ of humanity that violate the Mishna's ideal, I'm going to go with the Mishna.

And from everything else they do, the replacement of earlier practices *and other people's practices* for new ones that they made up, just feels a bit too much like Supercessionism for me.


1. First of all, it wasn't me, it was my brother (and not in a "i have a friend with a problem..." kind of way ;-) ). And the problem isn't them giving directions their way, it's the portrayal of their way as The Only Way, and the purposeful ignoring of evidence to the contrary.

2. I've met assholes outside of Chabad. This is just my "my problems with Chabadianism" post. Hey, my friend Magz who i lambasted in my anti-racism post isn't Chabadian.

3. The problem there was that the Lubavitch rabbi involved didn't even know the law. Once he was finally convinced as to what the law actually is, he just made up excuses. That's a fine philosophy — if he wants to hold that the ideal is non-shaving, that can make sense. But coming out milekhatehhila thinking that that is halakha lema‘aseh when it's never been that way is just (seemingly philosophicly-motivated) ignorance.

4. Someone called the authorities who hold that pissdrunkenness on Purim is unnecessary 'brazen sinning heretics'?

5. Quote from Tanya:
כי בישראל נפש זו דקליפה היא מקליפת נוגה, שיש בה גם כן טוב והיא מסוד עץ הדעת טוב ורע. מה שאין כן נפשות אומות העולם הן משאר קליפות טמאות שאין בהן טוב כלל
For in the [case of the] Jew, this soul of kelipah is derived from the kelipah called “nogah”, which also contains good; [This kelipah] is from the esoteric “Tree of Knowledge” [which is comprised] of good and evil. The souls of the nations of the world, however, emanate from the other, unclean kelipot which contain no good whatever... and he goes on to 'quote' the Gemara.
If Nefesh Hahhayim gives you an objective criteria for judging people's souls as superior or inferior based on smarts, that's better than automaticly categorizing whole classes of people as having "purely evil souls". I tried learning Nefesh Hahhayim once, but i found it too alien (and the hhevrusa i was learning it with moved away); he seemed to be saying that God is nothing more than a Rube Goldberg contraption where our actions pull strings in one way and then God automatically outputs tugs on other strings back down to us. If i misunderstood (or am exaggerating it), please correct me!

7. Mystic ideas in general, or one person's new revelations in particular?

Could you give some more background on the minhag controversies you encounter in shul? I guess this isn't the same shul you go to on Shabbos :-) .

8/04/2005 2:45 PM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

"So if i have a choice between a Mishna that promotes siblinghood (or "equal cousinhood") among the human race, and SZoL (and other late Kabbala-based philosophers), who makes extremely negative and unproven assertions about 99%+ of humanity that violate the Mishna's ideal, I'm going to go with the Mishna."

Hey, me too. But you're turning Chabad into a kind of bogey man, in part, because of this.

8/04/2005 2:57 PM  
Blogger AMSHINOVER said...

the posek does say chesed leoomos chatas,the good of the nations is sin.posek?i don't need a posek to tell you goyim like cigarettes kill.

8/04/2005 3:09 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

Considering that they want everyone to believe exactly what they believe, i feel sufficiently scared to bogeymanify their movement for those beliefs of theirs that look immoral to me.

That's also why Chabadian Messianism (which i originally was going to address, but decided not to) scares me so much. Chabad is already so 'outreach'-oriented, their messianics even more so. And i really don't want my descendents a few hundred years from now getting burned at the stake because they won't worship R' M.M. Schneerson.

8/04/2005 3:09 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...


Check out the actual Gemara discussion as to the various interpretations offered for hhesed le’umim hhatat (Mishley 14:34). I think the most peshat answer is the one that reads hhatat, logicly, as the name of the sin-expiating sacrifice.

My point is that just because Romans destroyed the Beit Hamiqdash, and Germans committed one of the most horrific mass murders in human history, it's a complete non sequitur to therefore claim that all Non_Jews are by definition evil.

8/04/2005 3:16 PM  
Blogger Mar Gavriel said...


It sounds like you have legitimate complaint against all those Litvakim who give you a hard time about you practices.

i say amen not brech hu in kaddish or when i sit to put my tefflin on or when i change my yarlmuka for shachris or when i don't wear a jacket under my talis or when i say kaddish after alanu though both my parents are alive

None of these issues are discussed in the Gemara, and therefore, מדינא דגמרא, there's no problem with acting in either way with regard to these practices. Are the Litvakim upset that your practices disrupt the minyan through their discordance, or are they trying to argue that you are a hhoTei who doesn't keep halakha?

8/04/2005 4:02 PM  
Blogger AMSHINOVER said...

no, they say you're nuts where did you make that up from i have people call me all sorts of names,not that i mind.i usally respond to them with a remark about their mothers vocation,it's just that the MB has left them with ni braidkiet about the rest of yahadus

8/04/2005 4:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amshi -
check it out
"chesed leumim chatat"
every drash in that sugya that took "chatat" to mean "chet" was discarded.
the winning drash took "chatat" as what it says: "chatat".

8/04/2005 4:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Miss Fred -
(you're not offended right?) :)

I think the reason that Chabad's idea about non-Jewish souls is so disturbing to me at least (as a person who is not Steg, maybe he thinks the same) is because I have a hang-up about people doing good things for me, or liking me.

I really don't like it when someone likes me because of something they think I'm not. Maybe they're an anti-Semite who doesn't know I'm Jewish. Maybe they have an irrational dislike for people from NY, and don't know I'm from NY. It doesn't even have to be something real. They can hate Chinese people for no reason - and I know that had I been Chinese (nothing I have any control over) they would have hated me.

I don't want love like that, and it seems to me that a large part of Chabad's "love every Jew" vigor which motivates the insane lengths they go to on behalf of their Rebbe to reach out to Jews and help us, is entirely based on the fact that *We're not Goyim, and they hate goyim*. Loving your family is one thing, and it's beautiful. But true love of your family shouldn't have to come with (be inspired by?) hating the neighbors down the block! It's like rooting Against the away team instead of roting For the home team! It's ugly.

And it makes me feel really creeped to accept that kind of love.
-Alan Scott

8/04/2005 4:38 PM  
Blogger PsychoToddler said...

Absolutism is always bad.

8/04/2005 4:43 PM  
Blogger AMSHINOVER said...

-Alan Scott i love you,come here and give us a big fat wet kisss
(feel really creeped out now?)

8/04/2005 5:56 PM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

"Miss Fred -
(you're not offended right?) :)"

Nope. :)

I hear what you are saying and I hear what Steg's been saying.

I just feel like being a melitz yosher for Chabad in this thread. :)

8/04/2005 6:14 PM  
Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

Wow, Steg-- 33 comments on a post. Ashrekho, u-ma ttov hhelqokh!!

Halwai that I should get such threads! (I have posted a few potential thread-inspirers on my recent post entitle "A shtikl toyre, un a shtikl leytsones. Anyone who reads this message is enthusiastically encourage to visit that post, and to comment.)

8/04/2005 6:32 PM  
Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

Sorry-- make that "32 posts".

(Although now, with this post, it truly is 33.)

No, I did not plan to make this mistake and publish this follow-up, which made the mistake true. Or, at least, if I did, it was unconscious, rather than conscious.

8/04/2005 6:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amshi -

please, this is a family blog
let's take this to godol hador's place ;)
-alan scott

8/04/2005 8:39 PM  
Blogger Yoshi said...

I understand some of what you're saying, having (some) similar experiences. Most of my experiences with Chabad have been good, however.

What do you think of Breslov?

8/04/2005 8:40 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

First of all, i guess they were right! Controversy DOES attract more comments! ;-) I should piss people off more often!


Go ahead! That way there'll be even MORE comments on this post! Muahahahaha!!!!


Thanks! I'll go check it out after i finish responding here.


Well, there are the guys who sell the booklets. They're really pushy. But a funny story:
Once i got a nice calendar from those guys, and it had all the halakhic times and stuff. It was very useful. But then the next year, i ran into another Breslov pamphletmonger, and he didn't have any calendars. So i was like "oh okay just give me whatever then" and i gave him some tzedaqa. I didn't even look at the booklet. Then as i got home i was complaining that i wanted a calendar, and i don't need whatever this shiddukh or emuna booklet or whatever it is. And then i pulled it out. It was called (drumroll, please) "Don't Complain!"

The crazy Na-Nahh ones offend me, though. They go around graffitying their inane mantra on every available surface, including the Armenian Genocide posters the Armenians put up in their quarter of the Old City in Jerusalem! How disrespectful can you get?!

8/04/2005 11:51 PM  
Blogger ADDeRabbi said...

"Jew Berger says good" was apparently R' Elya's version of a 'thumbs up' for David Berger's book on Chabad.

8/05/2005 12:24 AM  
Blogger AMSHINOVER said...

2nd Adaraba rabbi,do you not know what sevi's feelings are about MOs?and bergers book is childish and without proof, the whole text is him decrying the issue without saying why halachically they are wrong.what's funny is the same people who printed it ,printed shapiro,so do th 13 ikarim matter or don't they?

8/05/2005 12:36 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

Doesn't R'Dr. Berger have a whole section in the back of his book where he goes into the halakhic issues of it?

8/07/2005 2:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: Bents and Hirs: OK, we know that "s" is sometimes pronounced "sh" in German, but these are just misspellings.

8/08/2005 3:31 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...


Are you not seeing the hacek marks (look like little "V"s) over the Ss in bentš and Hirš?

Š (S-haček) is a common convention in Semitic linguistics for representing the Hebrew letter shin ש and/or the "sh" sound it makes.

I wrote "bentš" and "Hirš" above as one-to-one transliterations for Yiddish בענטש and הירש

8/08/2005 3:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, did not see the marks :)
But still, Hirsch should be written the German way.

8/08/2005 4:03 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...


Maybe. But i see no need to write Hirsch the German way in the obviously Hebraic context of "Shimshon [ben] Refa’eil...". Maybe if i were using the English or German equivalents (Samson, etc.).

8/08/2005 4:27 PM  
Anonymous Joe said...


There are many legitimate complaints that can be made about Lubavitch. Instead you carp on minute observances and (lack of) interpersonal skills among a small sample of Chabad representatives.

Mar Gavriel,

Do you actually have a source for special "Chabad" ritual items. Aside from a common custom (not exclusive or universal in Chabad) of putting on Rabbeinu Tam Tefillin in addition to Rashi, this is the first I heard of it. BTW, you might get more readers to your BLOG if you permanently disabled the top rightmost letter on your keyboard. Most of us who are not regular scrabble players find your orthography jarring.

8/08/2005 5:41 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...


What i'm carping on is a general attitude towards Non-Chabad Judaism and Pre-Chabad Judaism which has expressed itself in the actions of pretty much all the Chabad individuals i've met, as well as in their literature. This is more than tactlessness — it's something they believe in.

8/08/2005 6:30 PM  
Anonymous Joe said...

it's something they believe in

I doubt it. Most Lubavitch people that I've met are very respectful to other jews. In a situation with Lulav, I personally saw the local chabadnik ask someone if he had his own custom for shaking the lulav. I frequently daven in chabad shul using my own sidur. I have never been asked to switch to using theirs. I have heard many of them spout that their nusach is the most correct etc., but that's not the same as what you are implying. Most Lubavitchers have very good relationships with other rabbis including M.O., Conservative, and Reform. Feel free to compare that with Lakewoodniks banning Rabbi Yosef Reinman. There are exceptions of course, and one of complaints I have with Chabad, is that they are too tolerant with unstable young men (often B.T.) who hang around their shuls spouting nonsense.

8/08/2005 7:10 PM  
Blogger BZ said...

Re drinking on Purim:

This letter appeared in the Harvard Crimson.

8/10/2005 10:07 AM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

Thanks, Bz!

I used to be very anti drinking on Purim, but although i still don't get drunk myself and don't like being around others who are drunk, i don't get all self-righteous against it like i used to. After all, getting drunk on Purim does have authorities backing it, at least in some form. I preserve my righteous anger for people who get drunk and disgusting on Simhhas Torah, for which there is no excuse!

8/10/2005 12:49 PM  
Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

I preserve my righteous anger for people who get drunk and disgusting on Simhhas Torah, for which there is no excuse!

That's right! Look, there a meimra in the Gemara which, according to its pashTus, legislates drinking `adh de-la yadha`. Take it or leave it. Personally, I try to fulfill Rava's meimra kifshuTo, but I certainly respect people who use Rabbana Efrayim et al. to legislate it out of existence. For certain groups of people (e.g. alcoholics), the meqilim on this issue are preventing potential complications, such as death....

Getting drunk on Simhhas Torah is disgusting; it is a zilzul to the concept of Yom Tov Sheni, to the festival of Shemini `Atsereth, and to kevodh hattora. I share your righteous indignation. It's especially disgusting when you see kids getting drunk on Simhhas Torah, though this can be disgusting on Purayya, as well.

8/11/2005 12:29 AM  
Blogger Lipman said...

The rabbi=baal koure of the shul where I used to live drinks vodka from a plastic cup in between parshes on Simches toure. Yes, on the almeimer. I'm quite sure he regards this a mitzve, or at least a hidder mitzve, and was proud that he duly made kiddesh before lay(n)ing.

8/11/2005 3:23 PM  
Anonymous Editor said...

I can understand why no one has tried to refute the lies and inaccuracies here.

Aside from some mild attempts from Miss. Fred.

My advice?

For those who have not already "written-off" Chabad, go ahead and peruse the publications yourself and find your local friendly Lubavitchers and decide for yourself whether there is something to be gained from them. Chabad is certainly not for everyone and of course has it's good apples and bad apples like every fruit tree...

8/20/2006 5:37 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...


There are no lies here.
These are all true stories.
If you think there are misrepresentations of Chabad beliefs here, take it up with the Chabad people who said them to me.

8/20/2006 11:19 PM  

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