Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A Meshichist Gimmel Tammuz Essay - Analysis

Last year, I pointed out that the Five Towns Jewish Times accidentally published a messianist essay in honor of Gimmel Tammuz, and gave an analysis. The reason this type of thing can be accidentally published is that many meshichists, messianists, believe that the Rebbe is mashiach even though dead, or that he is not dead, yet believe that it is often counterproductive to publicize this fact explicitly among non-messianists. Yet they still want to spread the Good News. And so, a new art form is born, in which on the overt level nothing is explicit, but a careful reading reveals a messianist message.

This was borne out by last year's analysis. On to this year's essay, which was published by a self-confessed messianist who believes even after the Rebbe's death that the Rebbe is mashiach. It was posted on Aussie Echoes, under the assumption that it was non-messianist.

Before getting to the actual essay, it is important to establish the beliefs of the author, a Rabbi Yossi Krauss. This because we can establish two facts about him:
  1. He is a meshichist even after the Rebbe's death.
  2. He is willing to disguise these beliefs to appeal to a specific audience.
We have a transcript of a radio interview with Rabbi Braun.

We see he believes that he can get answers from the Rebbe by putting letters into the Igros:
Yossi Braun: Talk about coincidence and statistics. We mentioned the letters of the Rebbeh; where the letters of the Rebbeh work they’re currently in print, 26 volumes of the Rebbeh’s letters in Hebrew. Those 26 volumes cover almost every topic on the face of the earth. People have written to the Rebbeh the letter, and put it into a volume of his old communications.

Rachael Kohn: At random?

Yossi Braun: At random. So take a volume off the shelf, if you have the entire set, you just take any volume, stick in the letter right there, and then people have opened the book because it’s after all a book of advice, and then again, at random, there was a letter relating particularly to that experience. Now I’m not a statistician but I would imagine that the statistics of having the letter to talk about a personal experience, which relates to all the three reasons why I didn’t want to buy a house in a particular location, there were three reasons in my mind: I was going to move out of the Eastern Suburbs, and go to another location. There were three difficulties. One difficulty was very difficult for my wife in that location; the other difficulty would be difficult for my kinds; and another difficulty was myself. Three specific issues. Open up the Rebbeh’s book and the last day there was about a person moving and the Rebbeh says the place you’re moving will be very hard for your wife because of such-and-such, for your kids because of that or that, relating exactly to the particular, now that as far as statistics are concerned, I think that goes a bit too far. I will check through the index of the 20 volumes, it’s in 20 volumes, I didn’t find any other letter with nature. So I find that a bit difficult to stick that in the realm of coincidence.
And then, at the very close of the interview:
Rachael Kohn: Do you think it has promoted more goodness for the Lubavitchers, or has it divided them?

Yossi Braun: That’s a difficult question because in some instances, promoting more goodness and kindness, some people when they see the Rebbe as the Meshiakh, it encourages them, not only the Lubavitchers but even non-Lubavitchers if they see someone, a potential Meshiakh so to speak, that encourages them to increase and uplift their game. For other people that’s a bit too much of a radical message, and it might give them a negative message. I believe in every single place every individual who’s in charge of his own household should set the tone for his own place. For me to tell my children that the Rebbeh’s the Messiah, I don’t think any negative consequences come out of it, at this particular stage. For someone else, there might be something completely negative; there’s no set rule about that, there’s no obligation to identify the Rebbeh as the Messiah. There’s no musts to say that he’s the Messiah. It’s your decision, it’s my decision, it’s our decision. We see the criteria of the Messiah and I come to the conclusion, I say, ‘Hey! that fits my Rebbeh’, I might be very, very excited about that. I might start to share that example with others, or I might say, ‘No, maybe I’m not going to share that excitement with others.’ If they reach that conclusion, fine; if they reach a different conclusion, that’s fine too. So I think it’s really up to the individual.
Thus, he is a meshichist, who believes that the Rebbe is mashiach, but realizes that in certain contexts it is not advisable to start proclaiming this. Thus, one can be a meshichist and loudly proclaim it, or else on can choose "not to share that excitement with others."

Now, Gimmel Tammuz is the Rebbe's yahrtzeit, and a natural day for meshichists to declare that the Rebbe is alive, and is mashiach. On the other hand, if you want your essay to be carried by mainstream outlets, either in ignorance or complicit since there is plausible deniability, it pays to disguise the message somewhat. This is indeed what Yanki Tauber did last year in the Five Towns Jewish Times on Gimmel Tammuz. You can read my post about it.

On to an analysis of the essay by Rabbi Yossi Braun:
Rebbe Oh Rebbe!
Reflections for Gimmel Tammuz
By Rabbi Yossi Braun

My fingers are numb, the keyboard buttons are stiff and rigid, the mouse has frozen and the computer screen is staring me right in the eye appearing as one mass of blurriness. I want to scream and shout; tell the world his glory…

I want to give a message loud and clear in CAPS, BOLD AND UNDERLINED – Let my people know….
He wants to tell the world "his glory." Leave aside that this is something one might say about Hashem. What does he want to tell? What is this glory about the Rebbe?

Well, it certainly is oddly reminiscent of what he said in the transcript above about the Rebbe's messiah-ship:
"I might be very, very excited about that. I might start to share that example with others"
This is quite plausible the message he wants to spread loud and clear, in CAPS, BOLD, AND UNDERLINED, to let his people know. But then the ellipses, because he knows it won't be accepted.
But it’s not happening. The words have become stuck in my throat. And my fingers are not cooperating.

I just can’t. I’m at a loss for words.
Then,
I have zero answers and loads of questions, doubts, confusions and uncertainties.
This is the wrong day, date and occasion. No, I can’t come to terms with it. I hate it.
The most eloquent speaker, the most meaningful metaphor, the most moving story – it just doesn’t work for me.

No explanation can do justice. No theory can cure the wound.
There is this huge gaping hole in my heart and no rationale can fill the hole and bridge the gap. You just can’t mend a broken heart.
What is there to have questions, doubts, and confusion about? What is in need of "explanation" and "theory?" Well, for a meshichist, which we know he is, it is the fact of the Rebbe's (apparent) death.
But depression, melancholy and grieving is so off the mark too.

And “remembering his legacy” and “getting on with life” is just so amiss, so wrong and anathema to everything we stand for.
It’s called “losing the plot”. Missing the point. Totally off.

No, silence is not an option either.
Yet one should not grieve. And one should not move on and remember his legacy. This misses the point, for the Rebbe is mashiach. So silence is not an option.

So he cannot come out and say it, yet he also cannot be silent. He tries to find middle ground by saying it yet not saying it:
Something must be said. Related. Announced. And possibly even shouted from the hilltops.
But what is that “something”? How do we go about it? Where is the secret formula?
It doesn’t exist. There is no secret formula

Which brings me back to the beginning: My fingers are numb, the keyboard buttons are stiff and rigid, the mouse has frozen…..
Thus, he wants to spread his excitement, but how to go about it? There is no secret formula by which he can spread this message. Thus, this essay, which begins "My fingers are numb, the keyboard buttons are stiff and rigid, the mouse has frozen..." This essay is his attempt to spread the message.
We’re lost, confused and torn. Torn between reality and another form of reality. Between heart and mind. Between The Truth and our truth. Between the present and the future.
Here is where it gets beautiful. How are we lost, confused and torn? Well, we are "torn between reality and another form of reality." This is a popular refrain of meshichists. That in one reality, which is what appears to our deficient perception, the Rebbe is dead and not with us. Just like Moshe appeared dead in a vision before the sin of the Golden Calf. But there is another form of reality, "The Truth" as opposed to "our truth," in which the Rebbe is not actually dead. I am not making this up. This is what has been argued. And it is what Rabbi Braun is, in code, arguing for right here.

This is also the difference "Between the present and the future." At present, we don't see that the Rebbe is here with us and is mashiach, but soon! soon, we will all see, in the near future!

This is the meaning of "Between heart and mind." The heart wrenches from the Rebbe's death, yet the sechel of Torah tells him that the Rebbe is not dead and is still mashiach. As he continues:
Sure, we know and understand: the Rebbe is here like before. With us and in us. Nothing has changed.

Yet, the heart is still aching: nothing has changed yet so much has changed; so much is lacking and wanting.
Thus, nothing has changed. The Rebbe is here like before. That is what he knows and understands. Yet people cannot see the Rebbe since the Rebbe's histalkus, and it is hard to keep and promote the faith.

And here is where he gets explicit. How does he transition from what we know and understand about the Rebbe's death, and how the Rebbe is here like before?
Certainly, we believe with perfect faith, we acknowledge the fact that Moshiach is coming any second; it’s going to be something like never before. But, “we need some spirits ‘til we get to the bar”.
There you have it. The Rebbe is Moshiach, and he "is coming any second. And it’s going to be something like never before." What in the world does this have to do with the Rebbe's absence and the confusion? It is a non sequitur, unless the Rebbe is mashiach. And just as "so much is lacking and wanting," so too "we need some spirits ‘til we get to the bar," we need further encouragement in believing that the Rebbe, Mashiach, is still around, until he manifests himself overtly. In part, this is the purpose of his essay.

Thus:
Certainly, we believe with perfect faith, we acknowledge the fact that Moshiach is coming any second; it’s going to be something like never before. But, “we need some spirits ‘til we get to the bar”.

Rebbe Oy Rebbe! How we long to see your holy face again and draw inspiration from your holy countenance! If only we can hear your voice once again. One more time.
The transition once again from waiting with perfect faith for Moshiach, but longing to see him for encouragement, to longing to see the Rebbe's face again.

Then:
Shir Hashirim feels so relevant like never before.

Oh Rebbe! “Show me your appearance, let me hear your voice, for your voice is pleasant and your appearance is comely”.

I remember the farbrengens; I remember the Rebbe’s voice. How good were the days when “I delighted and sat in his shade and his fruit was so sweet to my palate”.

“On my bed at night, I sought him whom my soul loves; I sought him but I did not find him. I will arise and go about the city, in the market places and in the city squares. I will seek him…”

Hey. Wait a minute. I hear something. True. I’m in a deep slumber but my heart is awake and beating fast. It’s coming. Here it is.


Kol dodi dofek. My beloved is knocking: Open for me, my sister, my beloved….
I opened for my beloved, but my beloved had hidden and was gone. I sought him, but found him not; I called him, but he did not answer me”.
This is simply searching and longing for the Rebbe. Fine. But then:
A moment of truth, but it’s all gone. What now? So where do we go from here?

We all have those moments where it rings so true. Where we experience a glimpse of the future, a taste of “living with Moshiach”. Where we begin to appreciate our higher calling.
So you experience for a moment the Rebbe's presence, despite his death. For he was talking about seeking the Rebbe. As he says "we all have those moments where it rings so true." That is, special clarity that the Rebbe is mashiach. He writes "Where we experience a glimpse of the future, a taste of “living with Moshiach”."

He continues:
This was a moment which needs to be savoured. It was a moment where the heart has detected some of the brainwaves. It became in touch with The Truth. It has been washed, if only for a moment, with the Torah Truth.
He thus has returned to the themes he developed earlier in his essay, about heart vs. mind, and our truth vs. The Torah Truth. If you recall -- never mind, I will cite it again:
We’re lost, confused and torn. Torn between reality and another form of reality. Between heart and mind. Between The Truth and our truth. Between the present and the future.
Except now he has set up the future as the time of mashiach. And so, when he writes
This was a moment which needs to be savoured. It was a moment where the heart has detected some of the brainwaves. It became in touch with The Truth. It has been washed, if only for a moment, with the Torah Truth.
that the heart has detected the brainwaves, he means that the heart, which felt the Rebbe's lack, is for a moment aware of the Rebbe's presence. Which for a meshichist has much different meanings than the metaphorical. It has become "in touch with The Truth" instead of "our truth" -- that is, that the Rebbe is still present. As he said before, reality and another form of reality.

He continues:
“Behold, he is standing behind our wall, watching through the windows, peeking through the lattices”.

We ought to take those fleeting moments of inspiration and invest them. Build on them. ACT ON IT.
How so?
Create an ongoing dialogue between your heart and mind. The gap can be bridged and will be bridged. You can sync your heart with the reality of Torah. Align your emotions with the promise of a future.
That is, you can sync your heart (which denies the Rebbe's presence) with the quote unquote Torah reality, rather than the real reality, and thus become a meshichist. Thus again the heart and mind. And align emotions (heart) with "the promise of a future" -- namely, of messianic times, as he wrote above "we experience a glimpse of the future, a taste of “living with Moshiach”."

He concludes:
It works. Action is the place where heart and mind can meet.

Through “following in his footsteps”, learning about Moshiach and keeping his directives, it will happen. It will be for real. In this world. B’gashmiyus mamosh. And imminently, very very soon.

“The sound of my beloved, behold, he is coming, skipping over the mountains, jumping over the hills”.
Thus, all these actions - which are messianic in nature and intent (learning about Moshiach to bring mashiach), it will be "for real." What he was referring beforehand as reality. B’gashmiyus, a physically manifest and perceivable Rebbe. (Mamosh is used by some to refer cryptically to Menachem Mendel Shneerson.) And it should happen imminently, very soon.

He -- which is used earlier clearly to refer to the Rebbe -- is coming, skipping over the mountains. And this immediately following that mashiach is coming "imminently, very very soon."

This is obvious even without knowing from beforehand that the author is a meshichist. Sometimes the subtext needs to be pointed out, though. And sometimes people will be in denial even after it is pointed out. And even after it is also pointed out that the author has confessed to being a meshichist. In which case it is a waste of time to argue.

As I said in my initial reaction to this article, Blech.

3 comments:

yitz.. said...

it's very possible you are correct in your assessment..

but:
1) What's the point? Only you and he really get it everyone else is in the dark... even in hindsight the article isn't clearly meshichist..

2) The exact same article is readable al pi haPshat as a Hassid yearning for and missing his Rebbe and trying to live the message his Rebbe left him with. (the comment about him still being here with us is easily understandable according to the pshat in the Tanya)

3) Why spend time dissecting something that is so poorly written?

(in case you're wondering I'm not chabad and not meshichist)

joshwaxman said...

:)

in terms of (1), it is not only me and the author who really get it. Not "everyone else is in the dark." other meshichists who are looking for it, and people with good reading comprehension skills, will get it.

the reason I had to painstakingly dissect each paragraph is just for people who somehow do not see it, for whatever reason.

what is the point *for him*? because to honor the Rebbe on Gimmel Tammuz, "Something must be said. Related. Announced. And possibly even shouted from the hilltops." As he writes, "I want to scream and shout; tell the world his glory."

i would guess the article was written so poorly and disjointed exactly because he is trying to convey a hidden message while retaining an overt message for plausible deniability. The same scattered, disjointed style was used in last year's essay by Yanki Tauber, for the same reason.

Even on an overt level, this article evinces, and promotes, an unhealthy attitude of Rebbe and Mashiach-centered, rather than Hashem-centered Judaism. And that is bad for the movement, especially because the meshichists are more likely to find support and comfort, but even if not so.

3) Why dissect it? Because it was a very popular essay, forwarded from person to person, reposted on a blog, and carried by Shturem.net, which apparently tries not to publish meshichist writings. You don't think it is important to point out and combat this nonsense where it occurs, and is given free pass?

(and no, I did not think you were chabad or meshichist.)

Anonymous said...

I know Yossi Bruan personally. I don't think the problem is at all if he is a messanic or not. I don't think there is any halakhic problems in being a closest believer or screeming from the hilltops in the way you put it. Yossi Bruan is the leader of a very messanic congragation which shares its shul with a Ashkenazi/Lakewood-style shul. He has a clear internal conflict of interest. Attacking him is no solution. The problem must be solved with proper understanding of halakha.

I do think there is a major danger of saying "that’s a difficult question because in some instances, promoting more goodness and kindness, some people when they see the Rebbe as the Meshiakh, it encourages them, not only the Lubavitchers but even non-Lubavitchers if they see someone, a potential Meshiakh so to speak, that encourages them to increase and uplift their game. "

It is very late and I doubt that many will see this post so I wont explain my self but I will quote a Gemara for my case:
"Bar Koziba reigned two and a half years, and then said to the Rabbis, 'I am the Messiah.' They answered, 'Of Messiah it is written that he smells and judges: let us see whether he can do so.' When they saw that he was unable to judge by the scent, they [the rabbis?? - ed.] slew him."
(This does not fit with the Midrash of Bar Kochba with saying they is the Romans in which case the story gets a lot more complex.) See the what the danger the rabbis saw.

To quote the chacham tzvi "where were our rabbis."

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