Sunday, September 02, 2012

Interesting Posts and Articles #381

1. Over at Mi Yodeya, I earned the following badge for answering this question:

I'm not so sure this is something to be proud of.

2. A Queens woman searches for a purse-nabber. Funny that I'm linking to a blog in Eretz Yisrael about this local issue.

3. Rationalist Judaism on the El Al ticket fiasco and rationalism.

4. At the Gematriot blog, why there is no better time to start Daf Yomi. Mostly nonsense, going on for pages and pages, but at least it is nonsense with a positive end result.

5. At COLLive, a new book takes on messianics [sic?]. Here it an image:

6. And at Hezbos in your Backyard, posts decrying those Lubavitch who are not overt meshichists.

7. Related to this, I don't know what to make of Tidbits of Torah. In comments there and elsewhere, they are very much in favor of this belief in mashiach from the dead which, in ways, often borders on idolatry. And meanwhile, on their blog, Tidbits of Torah, they describe how they are geirim, and used to be, respectively, an "ordained a pastor in the Methodist Church" and a "Christian minister in the African American community both in Chicago and Los Angeles for 14 years". Is this just switching from one false messianism and idolatry to another?

The reason I point it out is that so many of the discussions on the English Geulah blogs are framed by people with outside influences, be they "Noahides", baalei teshuva, gerim, or Christians.

8. At Frum Satire and DovBear, Great Moments in Marketing:

9. At Fink or Swim, Can Judaism Survive the Internet?

10. Here at parshablog, check out my running commentary on Ki Teitzei.


in the vanguard said...

My parshablog friend; I really do not decry Lubavitchers who are non-Meshichists. I merely tell you what I think is the role of today's Lubavitchers, as emissaries of the Rebbe. I do NOT denounce them for seeing things their own way. I say only why this meshichist does as he does. It could be it is I who does not understand the Rebbe's words - because the Rebbe wrote and spoke volumes, and I admit I know little of it.

Lubavitchers, on the whole, are very accepting Jews, no matter who the Jew they meet, because so many of us know full well what it means to have been on the "other side". So as a rule we are - as the Rebbe himself was exemplary - an "easy-going" group of Jews.

I say this only, again, to point out I do not DENOUNCE or DECRY my peers. I merely justify what yours truly is doing. And, unfortunately, I don't get enough COMMENTS to sense the progress I hope I'm making.

But here I see you misread my intentions, if you refer to this article, I think (or its follow-up):

By the way, I had my very good friend in mind as I wrote those words, a friend who I speak to on an almost daily basis out of sheer friendship. Still, I don't think he was interested in reading my article.

in the vanguard said...

Whereas for your comment, "this belief in mashiach from the dead which, in ways, often borders on idolatry" - I think you respond too harshly. After all, the gemora does ask the question that could be understood to suggest Moshiach can arise from the dead.

I wrote about this in a brief article here:

and would hope I could get, perhaps from you or your readers, if not from mine, an opinion of my take of that gemora.

Perhaps I said it there or not, but the fact that Moshiach can at any moment be given the job to redeem, he has to be up and around for that possibility to be practical; I.e., he has to be alive in body too!

BY THE WAY - The gemora suggests, or actually it's Rashi on that daf, who explains why Rabbi Yehuda or Daniel were primely qualified exemplary Messianic examples, for Moshiach also has to be SUFFERING as his Jewish counterparts remain in Golus. This suffering of our redeemer, too, is something the christians got FROM US and not the other way around!

Kol tuv!

joshwaxman said...

The belief often borders on idolatry because of the way it manifests in present day, coupled with assertions that tzaddikim are beyond death; and coupled with citations from Zohar to say that the specific person in question is "atzmus umehus" belevush gashmi; or coupled with magic methods of communing with the deceased; and coupled with a Judaism which is Rebbe-centric rather than Hashem-centric.

"Concealed", btw, is not the same as dead. (Shabtai Tzvi has a better claim to "concealed".) And that same Rashi in Daniel says concealed for an additional 45 years. Are you relying on Rashi for the first point, but rejecting the specifics? Or are you indeed waiting for specifically 45 years after the Rebbe's passing?

you have an interesting reading of the gemara in Sanhedrin, but i am unconvinced that that was what Rashi was saying. i think he used past tense because of talking about people who lived in the past.

Thus, I would say there are two explanations of the gemara, according to Rashi:

(1) He can be *patterned* after either figures from the past, meaning major Biblical characters like Daniel and king David, who are larger than life; or after Rabbinic figures with leadership of the Jewish community and close ties to the government, like Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi.

(2) He can actually come from the dead. However, if from the dead, then we are talking about a known Biblical candidate, namely Daniel. (I would personally go against Rashi and extend it to other Biblical mashiachs such as Chizkiyahu or, as the Yerushalmi puts it (and perhaps the very next statement in the gemara citing Rav), King David himself.) However, when looking to the dead for a candidate, one should most decidedly NOT look to candidates such as Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi, who is a rabbinic rather than Biblical figure. (Or the Lubavitcher Rebbe, zatzal.) Only if it is from the chayim is it Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi.

There is also a difference between concealment and death.

Joe in Australia said...

There is a specific prohibition against embarrassing a ger or giyoret by reminding them of their previous lifestyle, and I think your question about the authors of the Tidbits of Torah website might fall under that prohibition. That being said, I think it's fair to point out that the vanguard of the Meshichist movement - the ones who are the most extreme in their public displays of faith - generally do not have a substantial intellectual connection to the Jewish tradition. The citations I have seen that justify Meshichist beliefs have been on the level of proof-texts, not substantial works of scholarship. I very much doubt that the people bringing the S'dei Chemed, for instance, would generally have recourse to it.

joshwaxman said...


Indeed, in the first draft of this post, i made reference to it and connected it to item #1.

the authors of Tidbits of Torah explicitly reference their previous lifestyle as a talking point on their website. and i don't think it *can* be off-limits, if we want an honest assessment of where people are coming from, and where they are promoting (deliberately or accidentally) as authentic Judaism what is really the former idolatry. i've always understood this as the real meaning of the gemara's statement of kashim gerim ke'sapachat.

in the vanguard said...

Josh - Some Tzadikkim are beyond death - as plenty of gemora examples exist. That you want them to stay within the pages of the gemora and leave them there when you close the book - that's your problem. Similarly for Moshiach. If you daven 3 times a day, and bench, and all those yearnings for Moshiach every day - if you want them kept shut inside your siddur, well, buddy, that ain't Judaism any more.

As for Shabtai Tzvi - I know nothing about the guy. Nor want to. I take the words of the Rebbe, and work from there.

And since YOU can "personally go against Rashi", then - with such wise sages I cannot even old dialogue!

in the vanguard said...

Joe in Australia:

I want to tell you this anecdote. It happened shortly after Gimmel Tammuz when the Rebbe's door was open for a short time during which times we could go in and daven there. The one thing that struck me upon seeing the not-so-big library therein was - that he there had so many volumes of the Sdei Chemed, like the size of a Encyclopedia Brittanica, lehavdil.

Like I said to Josh, this that I hold close to my heart has NOTHING to do with my own creations. It ALL has to do with what the Rebbe was telling us. It behooves you to search the Rebbe's works, more than relying on our interpretations of them, because, after all, our observations derive from "not substantial works of scholarship".

in the vanguard said...

Joe in Australia;

One other thing I react to, that you say, of Meshichists, "the ones who are the most extreme in their public displays of faith - generally do not have a substantial intellectual connection to the Jewish tradition."

I'll have you know you are dead wrong! My ancestors derive from the notable Ziddichoiver chassidim. Unless, of course, you mean by "substantial intellectual connection" - those outside the circle of Misnagdim.

Rather than trying to DEPICT US - would it not make more sense, if MOSHIACH is in fact what we are discussing, to look straight into the Rebbe's words FOR YOURSELF? How convenient it is to relieve yourself of that obligation and just label us as Shabtai Tzviniks or whatever, as long as the committment to Moshiach can remain at arm's length from you.

joshwaxman said...

1) "Some Tzadikkim are beyond death - as plenty of gemora examples exist"

Please list five besides Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi.

Plenty of gemaras are allegorical, and the Rambam labels as fools those who would interpret them literally.

Thus, it is not the case "That you want them to stay within the pages of the gemora and leave them there when you close the book - that's your problem".

This is even setting aside the question of yeridas hadoros.

2) "Similarly for Moshiach."

I daven three times a day, and I daven for so much more than Mashiach. For many Lubavitchers, Judaism begins and ends with Mashiach.

There is also a difference between hoping for mashiach and positively identifying a specific person as mashiach.

3) As for Shabtai Tzvi

Perhaps you should learn. Those who fail to study history are doomed to repeat it. You are caught within the movement in the present day, and lack perspective.

4) "personally go against Rashi"

Yes, one is allowed to come up with a chiddush in a gemara, and this is part of the study of Torah, rather than something to be ashamed of.

5) The Sdei Chemed, by the way, says no such thing. In his book of responsa, someone wrote this TO him, and he responded without addressing the point. In the grasping at straws for any minority opinion to justify the new kvetch, this was interpreted to mean unqualified support.

kol tuv,

in the vanguard said...

Rabbi Ahron Halevi Soloveichik, זצ''ל, knew the Sdei Chemed too, and he thought differently than you.

See here:

joshwaxman said...

firstly, one can look up the Sdei Chemed inside, to see if what i am saying is true or not. the Sdei Chemed never said it, and quoting a letter from a Gadol that says otherwise does not change what it says in the Sdei Chemed. it is not a matter of "interpreting" the Sdei Chemed.

secondly, here is what Rav Soloveitchik had to say about that letter:

To my great dismay. . . publications affiliated with the Lubavitch movement have persisted in stating that I validate their belief that a Jewish Messiah may be resurrected from the dead. I completely reject and vigorously deny any such claim. As I have already stated publicly. . . such a belief is repugnant to Judaism and is the antithesis of the truth. My intent in signing the original letter . . . was merely to express my opinion that we should not label subscribers to these beliefs as heretics. Any statements in that letter which imply an endorsement of their view were not shown to me at the time I signed and I once again repudiate any such ridiculous claim.

The ignorant misinterpretation of the Sdei Chemed would thus be one of the statements in the letter written by others and which were not shown to him at the time that he signed.

kol tuv,

Joe in Australia said...

Josh, have you got a source for the alleged citation in the S'sdei Chemed?

And "in the vanguard", with respect: I have read what the Rebbe ZTz"L wrote, and it's very different to what Meshichists are promoting.

joshwaxman said...

The great and holy scholar, Rabbi Chiam Midini, in his work Sdei Chemed (Peyas HaSadeh, Maareches "Alef", os Eyin), elaborates on this, and connects this Talmudic statement to an earlier one (ibid 98a) referring to the prophecy of Daniel: "If the generation is fortunate the Moshiach will come from the dead, i.e. on "clouds of heaven," and then everyone will accept him with no reservations. But if not he will come from the living, i.e. riding on a donkey (lit. "chamor", which also means "physical" in Hebrew)".

and the debunking:
Now for the second "source." In his encyclopedic work Sdei Chemed, Rabbi Chayyim Chizkiah Medini (1832-1904) transcribes a lengthy letter he received from an obscure rabbi. At one point in the letter the rabbi states that Moshiach might come from the dead, and cites the gemara in Sanhedrin as a source for this. But the Sdei Chemed doesn't concur with the rabbi's suggestion anywhere, and it should be clear to anyone with even a passing familiarity with the genre of published rabbinic correspondence that quoting the full text of your correspondent's letter doesn't mean that you agree with every word of it you don't respond to. Yet not only do Lubavitchers take for granted that the Sdei Chemed agreed with everything written to him-and even endorsed it all-they present the words of the obscure rabbi to unsuspecting audiences as if they were the very words of the Sdei Chemed himself.

Moriah said...

Josh, you may find this video interesting.

'Why the Jews reject Christianity' by YY Jacobson:

joshwaxman said...


Thanks. I also discuss that Baal HaTurim and the woman, in this post.

kol tuv,

joshwaxman said...


In terms of the point that he makes at the 37 minute mark, realize that Rabbi Jacobson is a Lubavitch Rabbi. And that the gemara can be understood in other ways than he said. And that the Rambam, in Hilchos Melachim, whom Rabbi Jacobson does not mention in this regard, shows that we do indeed reject Christianity (and Jesus as mashiach) for this reason. The Rambam wrote:

"But if he does not succeed to this extent, or is killed [neherag], it is known that he is not the one the Torah promised."

kol tuv,

in the vanguard said...

This rebuttal quotation of yours that alleges to be attributed to Rav Solovietchik derives from Berger, who carries a heavy grievance against Lubavitch - hardly a creditable source for such information. What's more , the wikipedia page for this "proof" states, "In 1994, Soloveichik had told The Forward that Schneerson can't be the Messiah".

Say what? He TOLD the Forward. Why would he want to TELL them something like that? Why not WRITE it? (Why would any religious person turn to The Forward anyways - to express anything? That paper is a liberal anti-religious paper.)

Furthermore, the letter Berger got from a "a friend" ought to have been published - somewhere at least. Why wasn't it? Let's see the signature on the rebuttal.

Why would a great rabbi bother to write to the Jewish Press that which he wrote, and sign his name to, when, according to Berger, he spoke differently to The Forward two years earlier?

Do you take this great Rav, who not only on his own merit stood tall, but also comes from a most prominent lineage of giants, to be so fickle? Or are you saying he had a gun to his head? Or - that is was a forgery? And if the latter, why did he not brandish a threat to Lubavitch to remove that forgery from his namesake, when he received the letter of thanks from Chabad rabbis shortly after his letter appeared in the Press?

And if you still think it a forgery, why not hold the same suspicion to Berger's non-published, non-signed letter?

joshwaxman said...

so your answer is to be motzi shem ra that Rabbi Dr. Berger has invented evidence? (how do you know it is non-signed, as you assert?)

did you speak to a student of Rav Aharon Soloveitchik, as I did?

i am saying that people manipulate Gedolim all the time, and this does seem to be such a case. they went to an elderly and sick man, late at night, something like 11:30 PM, and misled him as to the actual contents of the letter. he wanted to make *peace* but he did not want to endorse the beliefs as valid. and then they ran with it, and he did not want to make controversy. he told those close to him (such as students and his friend), so that they would know.

this scenario accounts for all the available evidence, is quite plausible, and accords with what i heard from a talmid.

i doubt you will accept this though, because your mind has been made up from beforehand. i weep at the ziyuf hatorah involved in all this.

in the vanguard said...

Josh - thanks for answering my last comment on my own blog - so my readers can see it. I rewrite it here because most of your readers would never visit my blog.

Josh, you ask, "how do you know it is non-signed, as you assert?"

Because it could have ended all speculation, right then and there.

Dr. Berger's is a long and public story.

Are you not the one is Motzi Shem Ra by building on what you heard from a "talmid" against Chabad chassidim? Was the talmid there? And is wikipedia your additional source to make poo-poo of the Rav's letter?

Was the Rav's 11:30 pm YOUR bedtime? Maybe the chassidim were invited, and did not barge in? Maybe the Torah spoken was invigorating rather than oppressive, as you suggest?

Why assume the Rav was just an ordinary person, meek-minded from age, and easily manipulated? Was his illness merely a physical constraint or was he mentally deficient too?

If he was mentally deficient, then why did Berger take his testimony? And if he took it - buddy - WHY DID HE NOT SHOW IT, for you and me to see? Huh?

Weep, my friend, from ziyuf haTorah, which you so strongly defend. But do it in a way where Torah can be proud of you.

joshwaxman said...

"Because it could have ended all speculation, right then and there."

It would not have ended all speculation. People would still say it a ziyuf, or doesn't exist.

There was no basis for saying it was not signed. You just MADE UP that detail, and cited that made up detail as evidence. And you have no evidence to back up the allegation.

Dr. Berger's is a long and public story. And since you are a Lubavitcher, you assume that that is a negative story. I don't see it as such. Has this long and public story included falsifying evidence?

"Are you not the one is Motzi Shem Ra by building on what you heard from a "talmid" against Chabad chassidim"
I won't identify this student, who does not want to be drawn into it. But he knew Rav Aharon well and this is what he told me. But it is not motzi shem ra, I think.

To be dan lekaf zechut, I think that what happened was that Rav Aharon wanted to make peace, and some over-eager Lubavitcher, tasked with writing the letter, added a bunch of things that he thought were totally legit, and failed to make the distinction in his own mind between not heresy and 'the Rebbe is mashiach'.

"If he was mentally deficient, then why did Berger take his testimony"
There are different levels of 'mentally deficient', as you put it. What I was saying is that one can *trick* an elderly man late at night into signing things which are slightly different than what he intended to *sign*, but which was written by another party. That is different from being able to compose a letter to a friend detailing what had happened.

"And if he took it - buddy - WHY DID HE NOT SHOW IT, for you and me to see? Huh?"
I do not know whether the letter was reproduced in full, in photocopied form. One can imagine many reasons a private letter to a friend, rather than one *explicitly* signed for public dissemination, would not be publicly reproduced. Without jumping to accusations of fraud, as you have done here.

All the best,

in the vanguard said...

You say, "I think Rav Aharon this" and "I think Rav Aharon that".

I showed a letter - signed. I made up nothing. I heard a speech in 770 in front of thousands by the individual present at the signing, during a grand farbrengen (don't remember the occasion) and I quoted from a published book the letter. I don't make things up, nor do I say I think the Rebbe this or that. He either said it, or he did not. Obviously you think Rav Aharon couldn't hold his own, in his old age, but we have no reason to think age had anything to do with it. They did not drag him out of bed, nor did they slam down his door. Chassidim wanted a scholarly opinion so they can convince the likes of you as well. That, and only that, was their innocent motive, not an imposing threatening stance as you make it out to be.

You can quote Berger. We consider the guy unknowledgeable, certainly not representative of Chabad. You can quote Y.S. too, whose book you display, but do Chabad justice by now displaying the book "תמת ישרים תנחם" which destroys him, and shows why the latter is dead wrong and how he duped the two haskamot he got. This is his 2nd attempt at using his wits, and, like the 1st, gets knocked out again. He's 0 and 2.

Look. Rabbi Soloveichik signed the letter and you don't like it. That's all there is to it.

Now get this. Chabad, most of us anyway, believe the Rebbe to be alive. Only WE do not see him. It is OUR חסרון. To get my drift, if you at all care to, please read here:

where the idea is discussed of
יקים לנו את סכת דוד הנופלת

כל טוב

joshwaxman said...

you showed a letter, explicitly written by another person, signed.

where the details of the letter contradicts previous public statements (e.g an interview) of the individual. and where the students of the individual say it does not reflect his thoughts, and that it was the result of trickery. and where a personal letter written by the individual says that he does not subscribe to the belief.

but you are committed beforehand to the conclusion, which biases you towards a specific conclusion.

i don't really care that you misinterpret sources and reality to believe that the Rebbe is alive. people believe foolish things. Tom Cruise believes in evil octopus aliens.

kol tuv,

in the vanguard said...

How easily you douse Jewish thoughts of pure intent with goyish mud. But for someone who can trump Rashi and feel justified, as Korach "took on" the Moses of his generation, anything is possible. You may say mine are misinterpretations; But to refer to Tom Cruise oversteps your good intentions. Do you read articles about Tom Cruise, or watch or listen to him? That says much about your "broad-mindedness" - in a negative light! You've tried before to insult me. This is not the way to make a point, as much as you think thereby you enhance your argument.

As for my misinterpretation, tell me but ONE, just ONE, sichah, ma'amer or igeret of the Rebbe that you read from start to finish.

In fact, I challenge you, Josh: Give me one scenario, just one, how YOU think Moshiach can come to manifest. Now that would be an eye-opener. Maybe you've thought of such a scenario, inasmuch as you profess to believe in Moshiach and ANTICIPATE him (for otherwise your davening ain't worth a hill of beans).

Please refrain being a disgrace.
Having said that, I wish you, little DY and all your loved ones, kol tuv.

joshwaxman said...

i laugh at the amaratzus involved in believing that saying a chiddush in a gemara which is not in accord with Rashi, something many many rabbis have done, is an aveira.

in terms of "ANTICIPATING" moshiach via a specific scenario, I think you misunderstand what the Rambam means, and what davening means, by hoping for moshiach's arrival. I wrote a fairly lengthy post addressing just this misconception here.

And even if I *didn't* fulfill that, are you saying that my thanking Hashem / asking Hashem for parnassa isn't worth a hill of beans? Thanking / asking Hashem for health? For peace? For rain? Trust a meshichist to make all of Judaism only about mashiach!


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