Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Rav Yaakov Emden and Opponents of the Rebbe and Chabad: Like Korach and his Edah?

In a Mishna in Avos:
כָּל מַחֲלוֹקֶת שֶׁהִיא לְשֵׁם שָׁמַיִם, סוֹפָהּ לְהִתְקַיֵּם. וְשֶׁאֵינָהּ לְשֵׁם שָׁמַיִם, אֵין סוֹפָהּ לְהִתְקַיֵּם. אֵיזוֹ הִיא מַחֲלוֹקֶת שֶׁהִיא לְשֵׁם שָׁמַיִם, זוֹ מַחֲלוֹקֶת הִלֵּל וְשַׁמַּאי. וְשֶׁאֵינָהּ לְשֵׁם שָׁמַיִם, זוֹ מַחֲלוֹקֶת קֹרַח וְכָל עֲדָתוֹ:
And so naturally, anyone who feels he is being wronged and the target of an unfair attack will classify the machlokes as the latter, rather than the former.

In an Anonymous comment last week (please choose a pseudonym) on parshat Korach, someone wrote:
Somone Showed me a funny comment from Rav Yonasan Eibeshutz as we all know Yackov did not want to mentioned But said Rav Yonasan I have myown Yackov Reb Yackov Emden.
If i Remeber the sefer I will post it.
This is very funny. Meanwhile, while some might allege that Rav Yaakov Emden was acting out of jealousy for the position, I think that he honestly believed that Rav Yonasan Eibeshutz was a closet Sabbatean. (And there is some good evidence that he was correct in his allegations.) But by saying this, the strong implication is that this is a machlokes Korach vaAdato.

Related to this, there was a first page essay in the Five Towns Jewish Times in honor of Gimmel Tammuz asserting that those rabbis and others who opposed the Rebbe and Chabad were simply troublemakers, who wanted a fight. And that they are to be compared to Dasan and Aviram. Thus, a small sampling:
Professional Rabble-Rousers

These four incidents paint a fairly accurate picture of Dasan and Aviram’s characters. They were not idealistic adversaries, disputing Moshe for ideological reasons; the fact is that they quarreled between themselves too, independent of Moshe. Nor were they driven by envy, seeking the power and prestige possessed by Moshe; the fact is that they fought Moshe long before he became a leader.


If They Only Knew…

This Thursday, June 25, the third of Tamuz, marks the 15th anniversary of the passing of one of the great leaders of our generation, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn.

One of the most outstanding features of the Rebbe was the way he dealt with those who opposed him. Sadly, some individuals in the Jewish world never missed an opportunity to criticize the Lubavitcher Rebbe, to denigrate him and scoff at him. Some individuals even made it an important mission to sow hatred against him and his movement among their students. Motivated by ideology, ignorance, envy, or arrogance, these people made his life difficult. And yet, the Lubavitcher Rebbe never ceased to love them and seek ways to terminate the animosity and separation. The Rebbe never made peace with the fact that “some Jews just won’t get along with each other.” He loathed disunity among Jews and sought every opportunity to foster mutual respect and affection.

I always remember thinking that if the Rebbe’s opponents would only know how much he cared for their well-being, they could never harbor negative sentiments toward him.

I am not making a statement that all those, or any of those, who opposed the Rebbe or Chabad beliefs, were or were not rabble-rousers. Still, it is interesting how these patterns emerge.

Similarly, we see that in the time of the Shabbetai Tzevi controversy, people had to account for the opposition of some very frum-seeming rabbis against their mashiach. The answer was that these rabbis, deliberately or innocently, had something spiritually wrong with them, were the erev rav, etc., an idea which manifests itself nowadays. (The erev rav are associated with machlokes shelo leshem shamayim according to Tikkunei Zohar.)


Yosef Greenberg said...

/I think that he honestly believed that Rav Yonasan Eibeshutz was a closet Sabbatean. (And there is some good evidence that he was correct in his allegations.)


joshwaxman said...

let me preface this with a statement that even if he was, he was a brilliant tzaddik; and that one can and should still learn torah from him.

for one good reason, see this comment, which discussed Rabbi Dr. Leiman's discovery:

kol tuv,

Yosef Greenberg said...

I see.

Is it possible that this was a "confession" extracted from the students in the French court?

That R' Ya'akov Emden believed so is understandable. (He seems to have been quite a paranoid person.)

However, R' Yonasan categorically denied this. Was he lying?

If yes, he probably had good reason for doing so. But it would mean that one can be a Shabbatean and remain Torah-True. Because it does seem that he remained true to the ikkarim.

I'm not sying that because R' Yonasan was a heretic I can also be. What I'm saying is that since we know (?) that he was no heretic yet had these beliefs, that can somehow work together.

joshwaxman said...

i leave that up to the historians. how did French courts conduct themselves then, and how much credence to we give to them? but presumably they had the amulet before them. why are we assuming that a French court would deliberately falsify evidence to intervene in a dispute like this.

but since i don't see it as something that needs to be "answered", i am willing to accept this. this aside from the various proofs Rav Yaakov Emden puts forth in his various sefarim.

years back, my chavrusa suggested to me that we cannot pay heed to such evidence, since the gedolim "paskened" that he was no heretic, for we learn his Torah. but you cannot pasken historical reality.

"However, R' Yonasan categorically denied this. Was he lying?"
I'll do you one better. The Pnei Yehoshua intervened in the dispute, having Rav Yonasan Eibeshutz swear benekitas cheifetz that he was not a Sabbatean kabbalist. This is not merely lying, but making a false oath.

Unfortunately, the Pnei Yehoshua was not an expert on the beliefs of the Sabbateans. Many of them -- meaning even the frum righteous ones -- believed that in this time immediately before mashiach, it was a positive thing to keep the Torah in public but violate it in all sorts of ways in private. As such, a closet Sabbatean would consider it meritorious to lie, and to take a false oath.

(he would still be a tzaddik in the sense of not a malicious fellow out for his own personal gain; though he would be deeply mistaken about what one's conduct should be in his era.)

"If yes, he probably had good reason for doing so. But it would mean that one can be a Shabbatean and remain Torah-True. Because it does seem that he remained true to the ikkarim."
How do we know this? There is in fact a "problem" with Sabbatean kabbalah in that they worked Shabbetai Tzevi into the Godhead -- into the Sefirot. IIRC, they made him into Tiferes. If he was a closet Sabbatean and a heretic in this manner, then I am not so sure that he remained true to the ikkarim.

though of course one can argue this. can one believe the Rebbe is the physical manifestation of Hashem on earth and yet remain true to the ikkarim? i would guess that many Lubavitch would assert so.

even earlier than that, many will assert that there is no conflict between the ikkarim and belief in Sefirot. all sorts of things are arguable. though who says the Rambam's ikkarim are the beginning and end of Judaism.

kol tuv,

Yosef Greenberg said...

I concede; I don't know enough Shabbateaism to argue coherently.

I the problem you cite does seem correct. (Working him into the Sefirot.)

My fingers were itching to mention Lubavitch before but I held back. You started it! :)

Practically anything can be theoretically worked into the ikkarim. I wonder if I can apply the Lubavitch methodology on Yoshke what would happen.

Yeah, I also deliberately didn't mention "rambam", only "ikkarim". You can't pounce on that.

You once had a post on this, IIRC. I think it was on questioning the divinity of the Torah.

joshwaxman said...

i cannot really claim to be an expert on Sabbatean kabbalah myself -- i took a course in grad school on Sabbateanism with Dr. Elisheva Carlebach, but am no expert. especially since i don't know enough standard kabbalah to get a real context.

though i trust my teachers, who i do consider knowledgeable enough in these matters.

in terms of Chabad, indeed. :) i think a better knowledge of the history of messianic movements would serve them well.

i don't recall the post on the divinity of Torah. i'll try to root around for it.


Michael said...

Reading your link to the R. Eibushutz I would like to comment on the Rav Kaduri and Yehoshua. I do know that there is a self-proclamed student of R.Kaduri, the Journalist Yehoshua Meiri. My hunch is that he is behind the publishing of this Petek.

Michael said...

Here is a link to Yehoshua's website and resume.


He was some kind of Mossad agent and worked for Ariel Sharon before becoming a BT. I remember him running for the Herut Party two elections ago., without much success.

joshwaxman said...

i agree with you about this.

i would also add to what i wrote there that earlier, Rav Kaduri spoke of adding a vav to a person's name, making him a candidate for mashiach. see here:


Michael said...

Isn't it strange that everytime there is some sensational coverage of R.Kaduri ZTz"L this Meiri guy is involved.

Yosef Greenberg said...



From back in '05



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