Beyond BT

Spiritual Growth for Jews

Understanding the Essence of Chabad Outreach

Posted on | May 25, 2006 | By Guest Contributor | 90 Comments

This essay was originally published as Why can’t Chabad be more like “Mainstream Orthodoxy”? I found it fascinating and the author was gracious enough to allow us to publish here on Beyond BT.

Why can’t Chabad be more like “Mainstream Orthodoxy”?
Yechezkal-Shimon Gutfreund

There are people who, when they encounter Chabad, are troubled by the distinctiveness and differences between how Chabad operates and how other “mainstream orthodox” groups operate. Why do Chabadniks have to be so different from everyone else? Do they think they are better than everyone else? Are they just “perverse” and choosing to be different merely for the sake of appearing distinctive?

I have tried to answer this question on various occasions, and what I have learned from the experience is that sometimes it is better not to try to answer the question directly. No matter how good your material is, if you try to answer a confrontational question, you always looks like an apologist. Each answer proposed only arouses the natural skepticism of the listener. They think that you are trying to excuse and cover up what truly is a problem. In effect, one has already given their question some validity by acknowledging it and trying to answer it.

So let me try something different. I am just going to tell some stories and observations, and I will trust that you, gentle reader, are intelligent, mature, and enough of a truth seeker that you will discover, absorb, and draw conclusions that you yourself will feel have the correct balance of truth.

Recently, I had to travel to Monsey, New York. I hadn’t been there before and it was a new experience, with both its interesting and troubling components. For those of you unfamiliar with Monsey, it is sort of a 18th century shtibl 30 miles north of Manhattan, full of people with the dress and mannerisms of an 18th Eastern European Jewish town – with one major distinction: all the housing, cars, etc. are typical 20th century American suburban. Initially, one could think one was in any typical American suburban town, until one sees the people living there.

There are many different groups living in Monsey: Satmar, Belz, Ger, Modern Orthodox, Litvish, Yekke, the list could go on and on. The entire spectrum of Orthodox Jewry (and a goodly number of Conservative and Reform Jews as well). These people are raising their families with full-strength Judaism. They have created an environment where one can live a completely halachically observant life, and where the environment of the community itself re-enforces this lifestyle by making halachic Judaism the norm. Whereas orthodox Jews might stick out in other American communities, and have to struggle to nurture a Jewish environment – in Monsey it is part of the natural existence. One has to be impressed by the sincerity and dedication of the people who created that town.

There is also a growing Baal Teshuva community in Monsey. Either by attending one of the Baal Teshuva Yeshivas, going to a kiruv (outreach) event, or by being m’kareved (brought close) by a Monsey family, there are people who are impressed with what they see in the Jewish lifestyle that pervades Monsey and want to be part of it.

Parenthetically, it is interesting to note “Mainstream” Orthodoxy’s growth in interest in kiruv work. Initially, Chabad was almost entirely alone in trying to contact non-religious Jews. And until recently, Chabadniks were frequently castigated for taking time away from learning Torah to work with non-religious Jews. Today, the complaint has taken a different tone: not “why do kiruv” (since also all Orthodox do some form) but today’s complaint is the manner and form in which Chabad does things.

After numerous conversations with people running these kiruv organizations in Monsey, I noticed that there is a different emphasis in what the goal of this kiruv is. The issues in these kiruv organizations is how best to integrate and absorb new members: how to transform people who are far from Yiddishkeit and make them into Orthodox Jews. These rabbis and teachers are sincere, dedicated people, attempting to help people whom they see as lost and confused. Indeed, they are helping people who were once very alienated from their Jewishness see it in a new and more meaningful light – but their approach is not the Chabad approach. Why? Because Chabad does not do “kiruv” or outreach.

The term outreach is a translation of the term “kiruv”, which in turn is a contraction of the phrase: “kiruv ha’richokim” – bringing close those who are far away. The Rebbe never approved of this phrase. When someone would use this term, he would correct them saying: “ how do you know who is close and who is far?”

For more than 40 years the Rebbe – through countless talks filled with examples and illustrations – taught us a unique and distinctive approach to how one should talk to and approach another Jew. Any Jew. And even non-Jews. At this point in time, for those who are truly attached to the Rebbe, this approach is ingrained in our nature.

What was this approach? That every Jew (and even non-Jew) is a part of G-dliness (Man is created in the image of G-d, B’tzelem Elokim). He taught us that G-dliness is already there, and all one has to do is reveal it.

Without the Rebbe’s teaching one might look at things quite differently. One might think, “hey I am a pretty good person. I know a lot about Judaism. I know more than most other Jews. And when I look at the world I see that many people have confused value systems and ethics and need direction and guidance to become a better person. So, out of the goodness of my heart, I am going to go out and help them. I am going to be altruistic and do an act of kindness and teach those unfortunate heathens who are not as enlightened as me.”

And of course, this is exactly what irritates us the most about about “Orthodox” people. “Who do they think they are? Why do they think they are so much better than the rest of us? Let me tell you, they really aren’t so good. I can tell you lots of stories about how they did this and that.” Some people can spout these stories quite easily, because it helps assuage the feeling of inferiority and diverts attention from the insecurity that these “Orthodox” people can provoke, even if they say or do nothing other than exist.

The Rebbe changed the entire approach to “outreach.”. A person is not reaching out to someone on the “outside”. A Jew is already perfect. A Jew, just by being a a Jew, without doing any mitzvoth has more G-dliness than can ever be instilled by any practice. Practices, observances, are limited acts confined to this world – G-dliness is something that is utterly beyond this world, and cannot be affected by physical acts. A Jew’s Jewishness is a basic thing, which cannot be corrupted or diminished by any thing that the Jew might have done in this world. This derives from the fact that a Jew already possesses a degree of G-dliness which is utterly beyond this world. A Jew is a “chelek Eloka mimal” literally a part of G-d. And just as G-d is not affected by the occurrences and the world (we cannot harm Him, etc.) so to a Jew’s G-dliness is something infinite and untouchable.

This situation is the same when a Jew who knows more comes in contact with a Jew who knows less. One should realize that on a certain essential level, there really is no difference. The essence of both of them is the same – they are both Jews. And that commonality basically makes any distinctions insignificant. The mere fact of one’s Jewishness is something beyond any training or observance.

In fact, the whole reason why some Jews happen to know more about Judaism is so that they can share it with other Jews. Knowledge of Judaism comes from G-d. It is a gift. And the only purpose of this gift is to share it with those who need it. It belongs to to them already. The giver is only being given the opportunity to return this knowledge of Judaism to them. This is what the Rebbe taught: that it is not the giver who is doing the recipient a favor , but the recipient who is doing the giver a favor by allowing him to be able to give.

When one truly internalizes this outlook, when one has absorbed this perspective fully and clearly and integrated it into one’s being, then one will no longer be troubled by questions about the structure and format of “outreach” that Chabad does.

It doesn’t matter where the person is located (in the street, movie theater or even the bar), nor does it matter whether the person is intermarried or homosexual or anything else. What matters is that it is a Jewish soul. And every Jewish soul is complete and whole no matter what place or situation it is in. Place and situation cannot touch the pure essence of the Jewish soul – because a Jewish soul is something that is completely beyond the confines of this world. We really don’t know what a soul is, because we grasp everything with our limited physical and intellectual senses. And these can only grasp the limited projection of the soul that exists in this world. But the part of the soul that exists beyond the confines of this world – this we are unable to fathom.

A true emissary of the Rebbe appreciates that each person who walks into his or her Chabad House or whom they meet on the street is a Jewish soul beyond measure. The external appearance and situation is only that – externality.

The truth is that the person is already, in their true being, 100% complete. That is why a properly functioning Chabad institution feels so homey. Because from the first moment one steps into the door – one feels completely accepted. Not that one has to change, not that one has to grow, but already from the first moment one is already 100% accepted and complete.

And even if that person does not change or grow – it is not essential. Their Jewishness is already there. Unlike other outreach organizations, where one feels that one has to change to fit in, where the point of the kiruv is to bring in and transform the person from someone outside to an insider – Chabad says a Jew is already more Jewish than any amount of training can accomplish.

Of course, Chabad Centers do teach an enormous amount. Yes, there are classes, and all sorts of educational programs. But the point is different. These are not things designed to “integrate” one into the “Orthodox” community. There is no agenda to make one into a Jew who would feel comfortable in Monsey, Borough Park, or Bnei Brak, to make a person fit in so that his uncomfortable “foreignness” does not stick out.

Rather, the uniqueness and “foreignness” of each Jew is to be treasured. G-d caused a person to be situated distant from “mainstream” Jewish groups, so there must be something precious that G-d wanted the person to acquire when he was there.

Whatever education that Chabad does is not aimed at “re-engineering” the person but rather giving him or her better insight so that THEY THEMSELVES can decide where they want to go next. That is how one treats an adult. One trusts their sense of truth and correctness. If one tells an adult something, then one can trust the adult to understand themselves and the world well enough that they will act on whatever needs to be done. If they don’t act, then trust them that they either need more time, a better understanding, or have some other personal issue that needs to be addressed – and that they will take care of this – because they are adults.

Treating a person as an adult (Jewishly) means appreciating that the person already has a Jewish soul, and that the Jewish soul is attached to and seeks G-dliness. It is perfectly capable of finding and appreciating what is truly G-dly. Similarly, it can distinguish G-dliness from shtick. [What is shtick? One example might be a person who grew up in America in the 60's, yet when he becomes religious he takes on the speech mannerisms of Polish Chassidim so that he can fit into their Brooklyn community. That's shtick. Because what does that have to do with truly deepening one's Yiddishkeit? And the same thing applies to being able to recite Gemmora with a certain style of sing-song speech patterns].

Chabad “outreach” is the antithesis of shtick. Don’t try to take on the mannerisms of those who were brought up in those religious enclaves. You are fine as you are. Your Jewishness is fine as it is. There is no expectation that you have to transform yourself. In fact, we cherish an environment that is made up of a heterogeneous mix of very different people. But if you would like to learn more about Yiddishkeit, here are some things I think you will find interesting. I trust you completely, because you are a Jewish soul (and an adult). I trust that you will find the meaning that is personally relevant to you, and do a much better at it than if I tried to guess what you should find meaningful.

This, in essence, is what Chabad “kiruv” is about, and why it differs from what others do. This does not mean that others are not sincere, well-meaning, and selflessly dedicated to helping other Jews. No, not at all. It is just that the Rebbe taught a different way. He taught us a different way to unite Jewry. By uncovering the essential spark that is in every Jew, one accomplishes more than any amount of re-education and training.

Those of us who call ourselves Chabadniks appreciate and value this distinction. Others may not, and they are certainly no less admirable. The Chabad approach is not one that desires to transform the world into Chabadniks.

If others see value in the Chabad approach. that’s also fine, and they don’t have to change themselves and start acting or dressing like Chabadniks. They only need to act according to what they already sense is true. That is, if you come across someone who has less knowledge of Judaism, and you sense you have an insight or understanding that you can share with them – then by all means do it. Don’t try and transform him, just share something precious with them, and help uncover the spark of Judaism that is already there and only needs a little fuel (which you can provide) to help it burn more brightly.

This is what Chabad “outreach” is about – in a very practical and grounded way. And hopefully this short essay has helped illuminate and answer some questions about what we do and why and how we do it.

Comments

90 Responses to “Understanding the Essence of Chabad Outreach”

  1. David
    May 25th, 2006 @ 8:20 am

    I have to respectfully disagree. I initially became frum via Chabad. At first they were happy that I was becoming more involved Jewishly, but at a certain point there was pressure to be Lubavitch: to daven nusach Ari, to follow their minhagim, and their halachic opinions. More than one person told me that as a BT, I had no right to follow other minhagim, even if I had a clear mesorah that this is what my family did. They said that every BT must be Lubavitch, and that only people who were raised with non-Lubavitch minhagim have any right to follow them. They eventually gave up on me when they realized that I wanted to be Orthodox without being Lubavitch. Another new BT I met was under the impression that there was no such and non-Chabad Orthodoxy, and was reluctant to go to non Chabad shuls, thinking them a slightly more traditional version of Conservative. Many times in Chabad shuls I have had people ask me, “Why are you not Lubavitch.” I have never had anyone ask me, why are you not Sephardi, why are you not Belz, etc…

    I’m not saying that everyone in Chabad is this way, but it is prevelant, and this attitude is, in my experience more common in Chabad than in other types of Orthodoxy or with other kiruv organizations.

  2. Mark Frankel
    May 25th, 2006 @ 8:52 am

    David,

    My interest in the article was mainly the non-judgemental attitude and the expressed goals in their the relationships. I hear your point that your experience did not quite match the ideals articulated in this article, but it might make sense not to focus on the deficiencies in this thread.

    I think it would be beneficial to look at the ideals expressed and see how the differ from our previous understanding, what are the obstacles to their implementation and what we can all learn from this approach and the many successes it has produced.

  3. Gershon Seif
    May 25th, 2006 @ 9:34 am

    It is wonderful that the writer has been made to feel that he is respected for just being who he is.

    I can’t believe, however, that any stream of Jewish thought, can actually believe that we are already 100% complete people as this articel claims is what Lubavitch philosophy believes.

    What of free will? What of a lifelong struggle to grow and improve? My understanding over the last 28 years has been that we always have choices and we are never complete.

    I can see how someone who hasn’t struck a balance between his achievements in the journey of life while staying humble, always remembering that he’s got much more to achieve, can come off as condescending. That is a terrible thing. Hats off to Lubavitch for making all people feel respected. In that area anyone doing otherwise has much to learn from Lubavitch. But saying “The truth is that the person is already, in their true being, 100% complete.” is confusing. True being, I assume means deep inside, ie. the soul. That may be true, but there’s work to be done here on earth. The soul interacts with this world and there are levels of greatness of people dependant upon their level of effort, dilligence in Torah study, and passing tests that God throws at us as you travel through life. We aren’t all the same.

  4. LC
    May 25th, 2006 @ 9:39 am

    More than one person told me that as a BT, I had no right to follow other minhagim, even if I had a clear mesorah that this is what my family did. They said that every BT must be Lubavitch, and that only people who were raised with non-Lubavitch minhagim have any right to follow them.
    The one time I asked a Chabad Rabbi about minhagim, I was told that unless I could explicitly trace from my father’s side someone who was certain of the minhag *in the family*, I needed to keep like “the world”, meaning in this case, the majority of Torah-observant Jews in America. The “family” minhag that I was not able to confirm was more lenient than the generally held opinion, followed by Chabad and “mainstream” the same.

    In certain things, one without a personal tradition IS supposed to follow the community, so in a Chabad community, I would expect to daven nusach ari, hold “sefirah” prohibitions until Shavuos, . . .

    I would agree with Mark that any individual experience may or may not match the philosophy; just like we ask non observant Jews to not judge Torah by those who dress like 18th century Polish nobility, keep Shabbos, and sin publicly in other ways. The ideas have significant merit even when the practitioners do not live up to the theory.

  5. El Cheapo
    May 25th, 2006 @ 9:56 am

    My personal experience is that (as with so many other things), these explainations vary widely by shliach.

  6. Mordechai
    May 25th, 2006 @ 10:38 am

    With all due respect, this article, though illuminating somewhat the Lubavitch approach, also shows serious problems with Lubavitch, and explains why many have problems with it.

    How can he say things like “A Jew, just by being a a Jew, without doing any mitzvoth has more G-dliness than can ever be instilled by any practice. Practices, observances, are limited acts confined to this world – G-dliness is something that is utterly beyond this world, and cannot be affected by physical acts. A Jew’s Jewishness is a basic thing, which cannot be corrupted or diminished by any thing that the Jew might have done in this world.”

    So is he saying that doing (physical) mitzvos and aveiros have no impact on a person ???

    He continues “This derives from the fact that a Jew already possesses a degree of G-dliness which is utterly beyond this world. A Jew is a “chelek Eloka mimal” literally a part of G-d.”

    Mainstream Jewish belief is that a human being cannot be G-d or part of G-d.That is a major point of contention between us and Christianity. If Lubavitch believes that, that is a very serious problem.

    “Place and situation cannot touch the pure essence of the Jewish soul – because a Jewish soul is something that is completely beyond the confines of this world.”

    However, the Rambam says that a person is influenced by his surroundings, the gemara has statements along such lines, and anyone with eyes can see that. Does Lubavitch (according to the author) know better than the Rambam and the chachmei hagemara ?

    “from the first moment one steps into the door – one feels completely accepted. Not that one has to change, not that one has to grow, but already from the first moment one is already 100% accepted and complete.

    And even if that person does not change or grow – it is not essential.”

    That is way out of line. That is what Marvin Schick criticized recently in an article. How can a non-observing Jew be honestly told that they are totally complete and needn’t change ? Perhaps that would be okay in Reform ‘Judaism’ – but Orthodox belief emphatically does not accept that.

    Re Lubavitch allegedly not being condescending to BT’s – I think that is not accurate. There is condescension there too, just that they are a bit better at hiding it.

    The writer of the article has either been duped himself by Lubavitch propaganda, is deliberately obscuring the truth, or a combination of the above.

    The seal of Hashem is truth. We should not use deceptive practices in outreach and we shouldn’t let articles like this go unchallenged either.

  7. Mark Frankel
    May 25th, 2006 @ 10:47 am

    I think Gershon and Mordechai have pointed out some of the obvious problems with the article.

    Could it be that the point is that there is an element of perfection in every Jew and every non-Jew and that is what we must relate to on a day to day basis.

    It is similiar to recognizing there is a perfection to the world because Hashem created it, and there are also imperfections that we must correct.

    Perhaps the Rebbe felt that Jews should be totally accepting of each person and focus on that which is perfect in every person (some aspect of their soul), because if we look at the imperfections we will fall back to a judgemental and corrective stance, which won’t be productive.

  8. Gershon Seif
    May 25th, 2006 @ 10:54 am

    MArk, if that’s all that this is about, I’m cool with that. The ALter of Slabodka spent all his years encouraging people by telling them they had greatness in them waiting to come out.

  9. Steve Brizel
    May 25th, 2006 @ 11:08 am

    The article is IMO a nice rationale for Chabad’s modus operandi and description of its hashkafah. Yet, one can raise the following concerns:

    1) When we speak about Gdolim and Tzadikim who are in the Olam HaEmes, we use the terms ZTL or Zcus Yagein Alein at the very minimum. The absence of such a term by the esteemed author raises the issue whether and why he and many Chabadnks don’t use the term ZTL with regards to the Rebbe ZTL. Is that because of the well documented messianist aspects of its hashkafa that many Gdolim found objectionable long before R D D Berger and R G Student wrote their critiques?(The recent litigation between the messianists and the non messianists over who could have access to 770 and other issues shows that the movement is indeed very split between these factions.)

    2) The writer admits that Chabad is not so much into kiruv and transforming a person’s life into a BT. IOW, Chabad views itself as a port of entry for BTs who are attracted to Chabad or exposure for those who do not become full fledged Chabadniks, and a no committment intended or expected exposure for any Jew seeking to explore their faith. Obviously, all kiruv begins with a non judgmental means of helping a Jew explore their faith, but one can differentiate between Chabad and many other kiruv movements as to the ultimate goals of the kiruv process-is it becoming Shomer Torah UMitzvos, recognizing the centrality of Torah, Avodah and Gmilus Chasadim or is it a one time exposure to a Shabbos meal or performance of a mitzvah? The author clearly believes that Chabad’s methods work. That is his opinion, but IMO, he was incorrect to assume that all other kiruv movements specialize in time travel back to Eastern Europe. It is a simplistic analysis that would not explain the presence of BTs who are college educated, professionals and who are kovea itim LaTorah or Talmidei Chachamim.

    3)The author seemed oblivious to the fact that Chabad is well known for draining community resources where shuls and yeshivos are established in order to establish its own network.FWIW, I found the author’s description of Monsey ironic, especially when compared with Crown Heights-which would fit many of the adjectives that the author applied to Monsey.

  10. Mark Frankel
    May 25th, 2006 @ 11:22 am

    Gershon, I’m just theorizing, maybe somebody more familiar with Chabad hashkafah will verify whether I’m on the right track.

    I’m a big proponent of Slabodka mussar and it’s focus on the greatness of man, but lets leave that for another thread for now.

  11. Bob Miller
    May 25th, 2006 @ 11:30 am

    The article that started this discussion reminds me of “what do you believe, me or your own eyes?”

  12. Mark Frankel
    May 25th, 2006 @ 11:31 am

    Steve, we’re really trying to focus on the positive and what we can learn from their hashkafah regarding outreach.

    Also I think the author clearly stated the validity of other kiruv paths in these paragraphs

    “This, in essence, is what Chabad “kiruv” is about, and why it differs from what others do. This does not mean that others are not sincere, well-meaning, and selflessly dedicated to helping other Jews. No, not at all. It is just that the Rebbe taught a different way. He taught us a different way to unite Jewry. By uncovering the essential spark that is in every Jew, one accomplishes more than any amount of re-education and training.

    Those of us who call ourselves Chabadniks appreciate and value this distinction. Others may not, and they are certainly no less admirable. The Chabad approach is not one that desires to transform the world into Chabadniks.”

  13. Avrahom-Moishe
    May 25th, 2006 @ 11:57 am

    B”H

    The replies here are very interesting and convey many things both literally as well as “in-between” the lines…..

    It seems that the most of the important point has been missed here:

    What is our attitude when we go out & do “kiruv”?

    Let me relate by sharing/paraphrasing a story:

    A shilach of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe [the "Rayatz"] once came back from an excursion in “kiruv”. He was so delighted to what he found:

    He found Jews of all types of background and stations in society but shared the commonality of being completely ignorant in Judaism. As the shliach began to share Torah insights, offer tefillin, shabbos candles, mezuzahs, etc – these were all received enthusiastically. However, how did he describe these Jews and their reaction?

    “They were like letters of a sefer Torah that had become pasul – with a little “ink”, they had become restored!” i.e. the shliach was the “sofer”, the “ink” was the Torah & mitzvos he brought & the “restored” letter was the glow & warm reaction to hearing Torah & doing mitzvos – sounds like a good mushal, right?

    The Rebbe Rayatz became very serious and stated [to paraphrase:]“A Jew can never become “pasul”; rather than comparing them to letters in the sefer Torah – all Jews are like the letters engraved in the luchos. Sometimes these engraved letters can become covered over with dust, mud, etc & the letters are not readily apparent. However, a Jew is part & parcel with Hashem; they can never willingly separate themselves from G-d – as the Chazal state “A person does not sin unless a spirit of folly enters into them”. Our job is to help remove the dust, mud etc. and reveal the intrinsic connection that every Jew has with Hashem”.

    Perhaps looking into Tanya Chapter 2 & looking up the Torah sources brought [both from nigleh & nistar] there will help resolve the comments & questions about “being a part of G-d”, “being perfect” [i.e. - understanding that statement in it's proper context], “but the Rambam says…” etc.

    Also – there was little mention or reaction to the pioneering work that Chabad opened the door to the whole concept of “kiruv”…

    Does Chabad have its issues?

    Of course – doesn’t everybody & every group?

    Our job is to look for the good & learn from the good in everything….

    Hope this helps…
    -am

  14. Steve Brizel
    May 25th, 2006 @ 12:02 pm

    Mark-In the interest of preserving shalom bayis on this blog and having pointed out several considerations that are well known within the Torah world, I will not comment further on this issue.

  15. Mike
    May 25th, 2006 @ 12:04 pm

    Rabbi Gutfreund: Three thousand years ago we swore to God at Mount Sinai that we would observe His commandments, and in return God swore that we would forever be His people, so it boggles the mind that Chabad considers a Jew who lives his life as a gentile, ignoring every one of his Jewish responsibilites, to be the “perfect Jew”, whom, unlike other Kiruv organizations, Chabad has no overt agenda to change.

  16. Tzvi N
    May 25th, 2006 @ 12:45 pm

    Can we give the guy a break already? As anyone who knows me can attest, I am about as far from a Lubavitch fan as you can get (mesora from my rebbeim). But if Chazal say we can learn something from the Bavliim, the Parsiim, and even from cats and ants, presumably there is something positive we can learn even from Chabad :-).

    It is not foreign to mainstream Jewish thought to consider the neshama that is in every Jew to be connected to HaShem. Let’s just take that at face value.

    The lesson here is, then, as Mark is trying to say, that when we first encounter a Jew, we should not be judgmental or focus on what they’re doing wrong, but instead focus on the fact they are a Jew, have a pintele yid somewhere deep inside, and we should befriend them just for that reason. And keep it up. Too often we give up on someone if we don’t see them “making progress” in terms of learning or observance.

    (Whether Chabadniks do it any better is really beside the point.)

    Plant a seed — you never know what may grow or when. You may even be inoculating someone from the missionaries … but that’s a different thread, isn’t it?

  17. Akiva
    May 25th, 2006 @ 12:48 pm

    Mark actually pinged me for some input, so here goes…

    Several people have missed the point of what was quoted from the Rebbe, which is an essential chassidic concept (though the author may have been a little too liberal in presenting it).

    Every neshoma, every soul, at it’s deepest level, is tightly connected to the deepest levels of G-d. Therefore, every Jew has great intrinsic value in the simple fact of his existance as a Jew.

    We don’t dump on a Jew or consider him ‘lower’ because his circumstances weren’t as good as ours or have the learning opportunities ours have had. That ‘innocent’ neshama, from the standpoint of never being exposed to Jewish learning, isn’t of any less value than the neshama of the talmid chacham.

    To use Rabbi Brody’s language from his shiur at BeyondBT in Passaic, was there no room for another neshama in Boro Park or Bnei Brak?

    Is that Jew of less value because he wasn’t born in to an observant Jewish home? Frankly, that neshama may be on a much higher level that it can take the challenge, with a chance of success, of being born outside a Torah community and immersed in a non-Torah upbringing.

    So do you walk in looking down on all the poor ignorant masses that you’re about to share your deep Torah knowledge with, you who were raised in Boro Park, served chalal yisroel milk from childhood, licked honey off the alef beis at 3, had rebbe’s and rosh yeshiva’s directing you from the day the sandek held you, or do you rejoice that these neshama’s are overcoming their challenges by coming to you, and be so thankful that Hashem Yishborach has given you the opportunity to help them on their path?

    Chabad philosophy (not always practically realized as best as it could be, this being a lowly world where we’re all challenged) is that you cannot measure the value of a neshama or a mitzvah, and for that neshama with it’s unique challenges to perform that mitzvah may be far greater than you can imagine, even greater than the learning of the talmid chacham.

  18. Ruby
    May 25th, 2006 @ 12:54 pm

    Mark, this article is very reminiscent of another guest post, Rabbi Cardozo’s article on “The Permanent Preciousness of the Secular Jew”. You are clearly intrigued by the non-judgementalism, and seeing the positive in the non-observant Jew, which are at the core of both articles. No one can argue with that as an attitude and a value. The problem is that that exemplary value is taken to an extreme in each article in a way which many of us find objectionable and have trouble getting past. In this article it is the attitude “…that the person is already, in their true being, 100% complete…. Not that one has to change, not that one has to grow, but already from the first moment one is already 100% accepted and complete. And even if that person does not change or grow – it is not essential…”, as commented earlier.

    In seeing the positive in the articles about seeing the positive in people, you are doubly ahead of the rest of us…

  19. Avrahom-Moishe
    May 25th, 2006 @ 1:06 pm

    B”H

    “The problem is that that exemplary value is taken to an extreme in each article in a way which many of us find objectionable and have trouble getting past. In this article it is the attitude “…that the person is already, in their true being, 100% complete…. Not that one has to change, not that one has to grow, but already from the first moment one is already 100% accepted and complete. And even if that person does not change or grow – it is not essential…”, as commented earlier.”

    Perhaps there wouldn’t be so much “which many of us objectionable and have trouble getting past.” if these views/approaches (Chabad or otherwise) were veiwed from their sources in Torah, taken in their appropriate context (as opposed to what is being done here)…

    see previous reply #13 above…

    Is this BT forum for grinding one’s personal axe or for growing and inspiration?

    just a question…
    -am

  20. Rabbi Dovid Schwartz
    May 25th, 2006 @ 1:07 pm

    The author first writes:

    “In fact, the whole reason why some Jews happen to know more about Judaism is so that they can share it with other Jews. Knowledge of Judaism comes from G-d. It is a gift.”
    And then:
    “That is how one treats an adult. One trusts their sense of truth and correctness. If one tells an adult something, then one can trust the adult to understand themselves and the world well enough that they will act on whatever needs to be done…. they will take care of this – because they are adults.”

    I sense an internal contradiction here. The metaphor for a gift is most often used to explain tsedoka=philanthropy. The notion being that the wealthier are Gabboay Tsedoka- treasurers of HaShem’s bounty, and are expected to effect a redistribution of wealth equitably and compassionately. Either we consider non-Torah Observant Jews to be poorer or, as some have argued on this blog, (see comment 14 form the post The Myth of Self-Actualization January 19th, 2006 by Rabbi Yonason Goldson) spiritually immature vis a vis more observant/Torah Learned Jews. Either way, while it is inarguable that in light of the vicissitudes of the last 2 ½ centuries of Jewish History every right-thinking Observant Jew interacting with a not-yet Observant Jew must gratefully acknowledge that “there but for the Grace of G-d go I”, the very notion of giving a gift implies a presumed Chiluk Madreaigos= pecking order. To wit;” I am rich and (s)he is poor hence I have something of value to offer” or; “I am mature and experienced and (s)he is naïve and under-informed or misinformed hence I have some wisdom to impart”.
    The very respect that we ALL have for the Jew’s exalted soul and the inherent retsonenu la’asos retsonkha =”our desire is it do Your will” that informs such a soul, contends that the only possible reasons for imperfect adherence to Mitzvah observance are outside influences (Se’or Shebe’eesah and Shibud Malkhius) that have retarded the non-observant Jews spiritual maturation/ wealth acquisition.

    Mordechai writes in 6: “Mainstream Jewish belief is that a human being cannot be G-d or part of G-d. That is a major point of contention between us and Christianity. If Lubavitch believes that, that is a very serious problem.”

    FYI the Ba’al HaTanya zy”a did not invent the term “chelek Eloka Mima’al” although he may be credited with popularizing this esoteric term. As long as one considers Sisrei Torah AKA Kabalah part of mainstream Judaism so is this term. How to square it away with (or whether it even presents an apparent contradiction to) other fundamental Ikray Hadas such as the unity of G-d and His non-corporeality is way outside the scope of a blog. But the term itself is decidedly non-traif and in Chasidic Kabalistic literature speaks to the quintessence of unique Jewish Identity.

  21. David Linn
    May 25th, 2006 @ 1:12 pm

    I am no expert on Chabad’s outreach/kiruv (or whatever you want to call it) philosophy.

    I can see a problem with viewing every Jew as 100% complete as opposed to (what I thought was Chabad’s angle on this) every Jew having the tremendous potential to become 100% complete and therefore we shouldn’t judge them if they are not there yet but should help them along the path one mitzvah at a time.

    I vividly remember some young chabad boys visiting my bungalow colony, 25-30 years ago. Sure, we thought they were strange (we thought any frum Jew was strange) and we wondered why they wore their hats in 85plus degree weather. At the same time, I also vividly remember my father agreeing to put on tefillin since he didn’t feel judged. There’s tremendous zechus in that.

  22. Ruby
    May 25th, 2006 @ 1:14 pm

    Growing and inspiring.

    I have no axe to grind with Chabad. In fact, if the guest article would’ve been Akiva’s comment #17, I wouldn’t have any issue at all. Who are we to judge? Only Hashem can. I agree. THIS article, however – in my opinion – de-emphasized growth –

    “but already from the first moment one is already 100% accepted and complete”.

    Accepted – certainly. Complete?? Where’s the growth??

  23. Mark Frankel
    May 25th, 2006 @ 1:16 pm

    Ruby, I don’t think I’m ahead of anybody, but I do think judgementalism is a big issue within the observant community and certainly between observant and non-observant. But at the same time I think we do need to make judgments all the time.. which school, which community, which spouse…so I try to spend a lot of time in the grey areas thinking about this.

    As a person who wholeheartedly believes that the essence of Judaism is growth, I also have some difficulty with the “no growth necessary” approach.

    Perhaps we really need to have that attitude that some aspect of the person is perfect as they are (some part of the soul) to create the love and the bonds necessary. Those bonds will lead the person to change, but if change is your motive you won’t create the deepest bonds.

    Think of the midrashim about Aharon when he embraced people, did he really love who they were at that point, or was it just a kiruv technique. I think it is possible to say that he loved the person and saw an aspect of perfection exactly as they stood at that time.

  24. Mordechai
    May 25th, 2006 @ 1:25 pm

    Let’s be honest about it. There are significant differences between Lubavitcher theology and standard orthodox theology. Writing ‘see chapter x in tanya for an explanation’ does not cut it, since in the absence of canonization, Tanya is not universally accepted within orthodoxy and some of it’s ideas remain matters of significant dispute, to this day, despite the determined efforts of it’s partisans to ignore and obscure that fact.

  25. Rabbi Dovid Schwartz
    May 25th, 2006 @ 1:25 pm

    Clarification:
    When I used the rich/poor mature /immature model and the loaded phrase “pecking order” that was not to say that the poor –immature are not giving more than they get. It is a symbiosis. “I have learned much Torah from my Rebbeim but most of all from my students” “More than the donor does for the poverty-stricken the poverty-stricken do for the donors”

  26. Rabbi Dovid Schwartz
    May 25th, 2006 @ 1:37 pm

    Maybe I am hypersensitive but as a non-Chabad Kiruv worker I found the terms “reeducation” and “reengineering” (when describing non-Chabad Kiruv) loaded and offensive. Is the author implying that patient and loving prodding of our not-yet observant brothers and sisters towards more Limud HaTorah and Mitzvah Observance is of-a-piece with Stalinists and the Khmer Rouge dispatching their “reactionary” and “Capitalist-Roader” opponents to Gulags and killing fields to become good socialists?

  27. Avrahom-Moishe
    May 25th, 2006 @ 1:38 pm

    B”H

    I am confused by how several posts have construed the author of this article & that the “essence of Chabad outreach” is a:

    “…“no growth necessary” approach. ….”?

    btw – does anyone here view the author of this article as the spokesperson for Chabad or an expert of Chabad activities — or should he be viewed as one “Chabadnik” offering their perspective?

    It certainly comes across as the former and not the latter.

    Do you want to know what the Chabad approach is? Why not hear/read it on video yourself directly from the Lubavitcher Rebbe:

    It’s entitled:
    “Challenge”
    The Rebbe’s relentless call for every Jew to never rest.”

    http://www.chabad.org/multimedia/media.asp?AID=132936

    Just the title alone should give pause as to what is being stated throughout this thread…..

    Hope this helps…
    -am

  28. Akiva
    May 25th, 2006 @ 1:40 pm

    Mordechai:

    While living in Monsey years ago, I used to daven mincha on Shabbos at a Litvish shul. After mincha I usually sat for the shiur, which I thought was on Tanya. It took me about 3 weeks to realize it was Nefesh HaChaim (from a student of the Gra), as I couldn’t tell the difference.

    At the levels we’re discussing issues, I disagree that there’s still significant dispute. It’s fair to say that within Chabad (as well as some other chassidic movements) these issues are dealt with more frequently and are considered more basic knowledge. (I do agree that quoting it that way, like it’s Gemora or Shulchan Aruch, is inappropriate given the audience).

  29. Avrahom-Moishe
    May 25th, 2006 @ 1:53 pm

    B”H

    Mordechai –

    Please re-read what I wrote in post #13.

    I did not say “Read Chapter 2 of Tanya”. It is quite apparent that this is a non-Lubavitch crowd – some of whom as you so eloquently put it:

    “Tanya is not universally accepted within orthodoxy and some of it’s ideas remain matters of significant dispute, to this day, despite the determined efforts of it’s partisans to ignore and obscure that fact.

    What I actually wrote was [due to the inability to highlight or bold text - I "capped" what I mean to emphasis - pls do not interpret the "caps" as yelling since that is not my intention here]:

    “….Perhaps looking into Tanya Chapter 2 & LOOKING UP THE TORAH SOURCES brought [both from NIGLEH & nistar] there will help resolve the comments & questions about “being a part of G-d”, “being perfect” [i.e. - understanding that statement in it’s proper context], “but the Rambam says…” etc……..”

    btw – did you read the FYI from Rabbi Dovid Schwartz in post #25 above?

    -am

  30. Rabbi Dovid Schwartz
    May 25th, 2006 @ 1:57 pm

    Dear AM+ Mordechai et al
    FYI my previous FYI was in comment #20 not #25

  31. Izzy
    May 25th, 2006 @ 2:10 pm

    Some folk appear to be disturbed by the wording “already 100% accepted and complete.”

    I’m not going to attempt to put words into the author’s mouth (so to speak), but, I will give my interpretation so that it might help to understand.

    1) “accepted” — By this, one may mean that there is no exclusion. We can accept differences. We may not appreciate them. We may not like them. But, we can accept them because we are not those persons. It was drilled into me many years ago that just because I’m doing something (learning, mitzvas, etc.) that someone else may not be doing does not mean that I am better, in any way, than them. No one can know how they themselves would react to the other person’s environment and upbringing. The important thing is to be bittul to another yid. As the story was told to me, Aharon had to walk up and to reach up to light the menorah, and this is how we have to look at another yid, that we have to reach up to their level, and, if we are successful, to light *their* fire, which will burn on its own.

    2) “complete” — Their soul is complete, and no thing that they have done or not done can break into that completeness. It might cover it up some (see the story from Avraham-Moishe above), but in itself, the soul is complete. This completeness means that no one should look at themselves as not being able to approach Hashem, or to make up for past errors or incompleteness of actions.

    3) “100%” — One should not think that there is some compromise in the (above described) acceptance or completeness. Once we begin to say anything less than 100% is valid, then we can get into the game of who is at what level. I’ve seen too many yidden turned away from yiddishkeit by the vagaries of the pecking order. This, BTW, includes those who claim “betterness” based upon learning, yichus, money, and probably many other things I have forgotten to list.

    4) “already” — As in the moshul about Aharon above, the Rebbe, zt’l, sent his shluchim out to be lamplighters. The yid we meet on the street or work cannot be made better by us, but, we can introduce a little flame by which the completeness of that yid can flame forth.

  32. Chaim Grossferstant
    May 25th, 2006 @ 2:26 pm

    Who is the Ahron and who is the menorah in the nimshal? Isn’t that alraedy a kind of pecking order?

  33. Gil Student
    May 25th, 2006 @ 2:40 pm

    Initially, Chabad was almost entirely alone in trying to contact non-religious Jews. And until recently, Chabadniks were frequently castigated for taking time away from learning Torah to work with non-religious Jews.

    I am not so sure that this is historically accurate. Certainly Modern Orthodox kiruv dates back at least to the 1920s and experienced huge success with the Young Israel movement and NCSY.

  34. Akiva
    May 25th, 2006 @ 2:49 pm

    Gil – it’s common in Chabad circles to declare Chabad outreach as the first, many times the only, and certainly the main impacting outreach.

    Of course, outside of Chabad circles it’s common to poo-poo any Chabad impact or to ignore their impact whatsoever (examples being recent books on historical Russian outreach during the Soviet era).

    I suspect neither is fair. I also think there’s been generally somewhat different targets (for example, I see NCSY and YI all over the NY metro area, and in other major Jewish concentrations, and Chabad often going to smaller Jewish areas).

  35. Bob Miller
    May 25th, 2006 @ 2:57 pm

    How would Chabad treat a member of a Chabad congregation who was frum in all respects but publically denied that their late Rebbe is or could ever be Moshiach?

  36. Tzvi N
    May 25th, 2006 @ 3:01 pm

    Why does this thread feel like a conversation with missionaries? (Ironic when that was yesterday’s conversation.) It started out as an innocent enough sounding post on some observations about how Chabad does kiruv, and now we’re drawn into a full-fledged theology debate between the Chabadniks and the mainstream orthodox.

    May I respectfully suggest this debate be taken elsewhere than BeyondBT?

  37. Mordechai
    May 25th, 2006 @ 3:03 pm

    I see that spinning is underway in earnest here to repair the damage caused to the image of Lubavitch by the article. However, all the spinning in the world will not change the facts.

    Mainstream orthodoxy doesn’t teach kids that they are a ‘piece of G-d literally’ as Lubavitch does.

    Tanya and Nefesh Hachaim are not the same, even if there are some parallels, just as the authors of the works were different, and led different schools. Let’s be honest and admit that Lubavitch differs from the rest of orthodoxy in significant ways. Why is there a reluctance of sonme to admit that ?

  38. Levi Brackman
    May 25th, 2006 @ 3:04 pm

    This article may not have made the point clear enough and seems to be somewhat misleading with regard the Chabad approach to Mitzvos. It is true that Chabd tries to see a Jew for the Pintele Yid rather than for his/her outward appearance and observance, however this does not in any way belittle that value of a physical Mitzvah, quite to the contrary.

    According to Chabad philosophy based on Kabbalah the only way one can reach Hakodosh Boruch Hu’s essence is through doing a Mitzvah.
    This is why Chabad put on Teffilin with people — by doing so we are enabling them to connect to the essence of the Divine.

    Chabad philosophy lays its stress on getting as many people as possible to do individual Mitzvos whereas other Kiruv orginizations focus on Making people completely frum. Although Chabad would like people to take on the entire package the important thing for Chabad is — not the outside appearance — but that they do Mitzvos and thereby connect to Hashem on a regular basis.

  39. Administrator
    May 25th, 2006 @ 3:15 pm

    Tzvi N,

    You beat us to the punch.

    Let’s keep this constructive and on point. That doesn’t mean we all have to agree but we do have to be agreeable.

  40. Avrahom-Moishe
    May 25th, 2006 @ 3:18 pm

    B”H

    Rabbi Dovid Schwartz – thank you for the correction….

    Akiva – I think you stated that pretty succinctly and fairly. Although the question needs to be asked – if so much “kiruv” was being done in the 1920 [btw - one of my fav. books is "All for the Boss" detailing the life and efforts of R' Yaakov Yosef Herman. He was not a "Chabadnik" - but unquestionably a pioneer!] – why did the frum or Torah world chastise Chabad for their “kiruv” programs? Obviously – it wasn’t about approach or technique [as it is being discussed here] but rather the whole concept was against the grain of “mainstream Orthodoxy”…..

    If the Young Israel movement and NCSY were so prevalent and common in “kiruv” then the whole concept should’ve been no big deal…

    perhaps I am digressing….speaking of which:

    Bob –

    ?!?!?!

    What does your comment have anything to do with this thread & where did anyone make that claim as to how they were treated [did I miss something?]? Is your comment:

    1) creating unity
    2) inciteful

    If you’d like to discuss Chabad, the Rebbe, Moshiach, etc – I think that is for another thread…

    -am

  41. Chaim Grossferstant
    May 25th, 2006 @ 3:20 pm

    Saw this beautiful uplifting quote by chance as yesterdays entry for

    http://thequotecollective.blogspot.com/

    Wednesday, May 24, 2006
    Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

    Marianne Williamson, [although it is often misattributed to Nelson Mandela]

    Makes a guy wonder. Seems you don’t have to be Chabad, Slabodka or even Jewish to appreciate people this way

  42. Bob Miller
    May 25th, 2006 @ 3:30 pm

    I called attention to the elephant in the room.
    Unity has to be based on truth.

  43. Avrahom-Moishe
    May 25th, 2006 @ 3:36 pm

    B”H

    “spinning”, “missionaries”, “theology debates”, “differs from the rest of orthodoxy”, “between the Chabadniks and the mainstream orthodox”, etc

    Hmmmmm…could this be 1 of the reasons why we are still in golus?

    Instead of encouraging each other, finding commonality, inspiration, etc – look at the overall tone of this thread [despite the efforts of some to make it a source of growth and inspiration].

    Just a thought….

    -am

  44. Mark Frankel
    May 25th, 2006 @ 3:41 pm

    Rabbi Brackman, Thanks for that clarification, it makes sense based on observation of Chabad practices regarding Mitzvah Mobiles, Lulavs at the mall, etc.

    I posted this article because I think Chabad’s non-judgementalism is the key to their success and this article gave me a clearer picture as to how they often achieve that worthwhile goal.

    I’d also like to point out that judgementalism is one of the 4 major reasons Aish cites as why people stay away from Torah Observant Judaism.

    Criticism and correction are important, as is evidenced by much of the Jewish online world, but may I suggest that we might get more mileage if we followed the advice of one the most popular sayings of Chazal:

    “Who is wise, He who learns from all people…”.

    For this thread, I’d like to suggest that we focus on what we can learn from Chabad, as opposed to any shortcomings or differences we may have.

  45. Chaim Grossferstant
    May 25th, 2006 @ 3:46 pm

    AM in comment 40:
    “Why did the frum or Torah world chastise Chabad for their “kiruv” programs? Obviously – it wasn’t about approach or technique [as it is being discussed here] but rather the whole concept was against the grain of “mainstream Orthodoxy”
    I think Mainstream Orthodoxy was a bit slower to recognize the transformation of the typical secular Jew from Apikores/Turncoat/enemy to uneducated Tinok Shenishba. This IMHO was the result of residual bitterness leftover from pre-war internal Jewish Community/Kehila fights and rivalries. In the 40s and 50s People were not ready to make nice to the children of those they felt responsible for undermining their way of life and often leading THEIR siblings and children astray. Credit the earliest pioneers for having the vision to see that America was a new place and the 60’s were a new time.

    BTW mainstream antipathy for Chabad was running strong way before WW II and, as even Chabad was not doing much outreach then, had nothing to do with either the goals or the methods and approach. It would be easy to say that it was the residue of the Chasidic vs. Misnagid schism except that the antipathy was (and is) shared by many other Chasidic groups. This no doubt contributed to the jaundiced eye with which mainstreamers viewed early (even pioneering) Chabad outreach projects.

  46. Avrahom-Moishe
    May 25th, 2006 @ 3:58 pm

    B”H

    Mark –

    Here’s some suggestions what we can learn from the Chabad approach:

    1 – non-judgemental
    2 – self-sacrifice (in the face of lack of funding, limited resources, lack of time, and frequently at the expense of one’s own spiritual pursuits)
    3 – determination
    4 – despite whether it is popular or not
    5 – warmth
    6 – “..bringing the creations UP to Torah..” [Pirkei Avos](and not the Torah DOWN to the creations)

    Not even a drop in the bucket….

    -am

  47. Mark Frankel
    May 25th, 2006 @ 4:03 pm

    AM

    All successful outreach approaches that I have encountered encompass all of these. I think Chabads’ chiddush are their successes at point number one.

  48. Avrahom-Moishe
    May 25th, 2006 @ 4:20 pm

    B”H

    While #1 is a strong point / “chiddush” – the other points are not merely aspects that you will find blended into other approaches but rather are the hallmarks of Chabad.

    Many organizations buckle or move out with lack of funding – Chabad doesn’t. The whole Torah learning vs. “kiruv” is still a raging debate in non-Chabad circles.

    If we go back to Stalinist Russia – Chabad chassidim literally went to the firing squads or Siberia for something a “simple” as a bris, aleph beis, chedarim, mikvas etc. While revisionists are currently trying to minimize (or make it “50-50″) Chabad – Russian surviors will tell you differently….

    After Gimmel Tammuz (the histalkus of the Lubavitcher Rebbe), the world thought Chabad and Chabad Houses would “pack their bags”, “close shop”, “jump out the window” etc – instead – Chabad continues to grow stronger and stronger in their presence and influence around the world [look at the stats].

    How can that be?

    It is their dedication to those 6 qualities and of course as being chassidim of the Lubavitcher Rebbe [what does that mean? - perhaps for another thread?]

    Again – yes, other approaches incorporate the elements I mentioned – but they are not necessarily “branded” with them they way a rank and file Chabadnik is.

    Hope this helps…
    -am

  49. Mark Frankel
    May 25th, 2006 @ 4:25 pm

    AM

    As the Rebbe himself said, I think it’s important for Jews not to think they are better than others. Please don’t make that mistake and recognize the good in all those doing kiruv.

    Also, we don’t want this to become a Chabad bashing thread, as clearly there are problems in the movement. (And the argument that every movement has problems is weak, as not all problems are created equal.)

    The superior attitude you just displayed does not help people learn from the good. I think it’s important to point that out.

  50. Avrahom-Moishe
    May 25th, 2006 @ 4:39 pm

    B”H

    Mark –

    Where did I state or imply that Chabad has a monopoly or exclusivity on the items I mentioned?

    You asked what can we learn from Chabad – I stated it & clarified it [IMHO].

    If there is a worry about this becoming a Chabad bashing thread – I think its a little too late….

    As you mentioned – I was the first to state Chabad has its issues and I would be more than happy to discuss them. I am a baal teshuvah of 18 years, I former “Microsoftie”, was in Chabad prior and post “Yechi”, and a parent of 7 kids – K”H…I see plenty that makes me upset!

    However – if we are going to focus on the positive, that was my 2 cents.

    Hope that helps,
    -am

  51. Michoel
    May 25th, 2006 @ 4:54 pm

    Gil in #33,
    That wasn’t modern orthodox kiruv. That was American Orthodox of the 1920s kiruv.

    Mark,
    Your insistence on keeping the blog up-beat and positive is admirable. But your posting this article “as is” and then demanding positivity, is like throughing red meat in front of a ravenous dog and then asking him to use a fork and knife. Maybe in the future you could summarize the ideas you find impressive and post them in your own name but giving credit to the original writer. The experience of many of us is that Chabad does the exact oposite of what this article claims.

  52. Chaya
    May 25th, 2006 @ 4:55 pm

    In response to the Marianne Williamson quote…Marianne Williamson is actually a Jewish convert to another religion, I am sorry to say. I believe a similar idea to the one quoted is found in the writing of, lehavdil, Rav AYH Kook, although I don’t know the source. How sad is it that Williamson and SO MANY OTHERS like her feel they must look outside Judaism for this loving approach? Any individual or movement that works to counter this painful distortion and broadcast the message of G-d’s eternal love is doing a service for klal Yisrael. I ask myself how I can be part of this effort today, instead of sowing discord and judgementalism.

  53. Michoel
    May 25th, 2006 @ 5:00 pm

    Avraham Moshe,
    Shalom Aleichem,
    you write:
    6 – “..bringing the creations UP to Torah..” [Pirkei Avos](and not the Torah DOWN to the creations)

    Please explain how that is so. Shuely Boteach? Mitzva tanks? Public menoras? Please explain. I don’t mean that as confrontational. I want to understand why our percpetions are diametrically opposed.

  54. Avrahom-Moishe
    May 25th, 2006 @ 5:06 pm

    B”H

    Michoel –

    [ROTFL] – [Whew!] – thank you for that graphic mushal – I couldn’t have described it better!

    All laughter aside – I think the question needs to be asked [again perhaps this is for another thread] Why is the reaction like “throughing red meat in front of a ravenous dog and then asking him to use a fork and knife”?

    This thread wasn’t entitled “What I hate about…”

    Even in disagreeing with certain points made – why should it be done in such a “bashing” or “attacking” manner? Can’t points of disagreement be made like a debate over Gemorah – passionately but with respect?

    just a thought…
    -am

  55. Mark Frankel
    May 25th, 2006 @ 5:10 pm

    Michoel – We’re not exactly “demanding” positivity, just asking that people not cross the line from questioning in search of understanding to bashing.

    I still think that Chabad’s non-judgementalism towards non observant Jews is their trademark and I don’t think the exceptions to that take away from the great work they have done with this attitude. I also think that was the clear main thrust of the article, although others focused on other aspects discussed.

    Avrahom – I agree. Let’s save the question of why Chabad evokes such emotions for another thread.

  56. Avrahom-Moishe
    May 25th, 2006 @ 5:12 pm

    B”H

    Micheol [Part 2 [sorry - I didn't see your reply before replying to Mark]] –

    Could you clarify your question i.e. why these things seems contradictory?

    If it was only in response to S. Boteach – I could understand [btw - he is a source of "controversy" within Chabad as well - "mainstream Chabad" doesn't exactly put their "seal of apporval" on him, his books, etc.]

    -am

  57. Chaim Grossferstant
    May 25th, 2006 @ 5:12 pm

    “In response to the Marianne Williamson quote…Marianne Williamson is actually a Jewish convert to another religion,”

    OY VEY! Chaya thanks for that enlightening and sobering info. No mention of her “yichus” on wikpedia. My bad. Also sad that we are losing such incredible human resources to shmad. (See yetedays post on the Missionaries are coming)

  58. Mark Frankel
    May 25th, 2006 @ 5:17 pm

    This article and this article indicate that she still considers herself Jewish.

  59. YM
    May 25th, 2006 @ 5:38 pm

    I attended a Chabad shul this past winter in Florida near where my parents live. My thought was/is that Chabad has filled the niche that used to be filled by Conservative Judaism a generation ago. Except its better, because the shul has a mechitza and is fit for a Jew to daven in.

    This shul has a sign at the entrance to their parking lot stating to the effect that it is totally against halacha for a person to drive on Shabbes and that the “management” does not condone it. Meanwhile, the parking lot is open and people do drive to shul. This is so much better than on one hand, making up halacha that it is ok to drive on Shabbat and on the other hand, blocking the gates of the parking lot so that the shul goers are forced to park on the street. The bottom line is that when a person is ready to observe halacha, he or she isn’t going to drive to shul.

    I like the Chabad approach – I think they are doing more l’maiseh to bring people to Torah than anyone else is.

  60. Avrahom-Moishe
    May 25th, 2006 @ 6:03 pm

    B”H

    There’s been alot of interesting posts but here is the bottom line:

    1 – the spokesperson for Chabad is not Agudas Chassidei Chabad, its not the Chabad shluchim, its not me and its not the author of this article; the only spokesperson for Chabad is the Lubavitcher Rebbe. If you want to know why Chabad this & that – there are over 200 seforim [many are available in English] recording the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s Chabad stance on any given subject.

    2 – regardless of whatever a person’s experience is with whatever Chabadnik, shliach etc. – people are people – with all of their strengths and character flaws. Just like you would judge Judiasm or Torah based on the acts of an individual [although their is the concept of "kiddush/chilul Hashem"] – if you want to judge Torah & Judiasm – you have to learn Torah & live a life of Judiasm.

    So too is it with Chabad – its not the people -learn the Chabad Chassidus and then make your statements….

    May we all continue in our efforts to help our fellow brothers and sisters thereby meriting the complete Redemption – may it be NOW!

    -am

  61. Steve Brizel
    May 25th, 2006 @ 6:28 pm

    One point to all-one cannot find a better description of the importance of and the elements of the mitzvah of Talmud Torah than in Hilcos Talmud Torah of the SA HaRav. There are points of convergence between the Nefesh HaChaim and Tanya-despite the diametrically opposed hashkafos of their authors on many issues. RYBS always liked to use the Likutei Torah to explain the Yamim Noraim. That hardly means that either RYBS or RAS did not have a skeptical view towards many aspects of Chabad, its hashkafa and derech.Clearly, the element of “no progress required” is what it differentiates it from many kiruv movements.

    As R Gil pointed out, Chabad’s claims that it was the only entity that ever did kiruv or did so effectively is hsitorically questionnable, at the best. FWIW, NCSY has never been limited to the NY Metropolitan area.As far back as the late 1960s, it had regions all over the US and Canada. Today, the West Coast region of NCSY is one of its strongest regions . NCSY also has separate programs within public schools known as Jewish Students Clubs which are the initial impetus for many teens to start their explorations and search for an approach to Judaism in the 21st Century.

    As far as as Ms.Williamson is concerned, IMO, one can maintain without any difficulty that she is a mshumad, despite her claims to the contrary.

  62. Avrahom-Moishe
    May 25th, 2006 @ 6:49 pm

    B”H

    Steve –

    “Clearly, the element of “no progress required” is what it differentiates it from many kiruv movements.”

    Anyone who thinks that’s the derek of Chabad is either:
    1 – ignorant
    2 – misinformed

    “Clearly” you did not read my post #27:

    “Do you want to know what the Chabad approach is? Why not hear/read it on video yourself directly from the Lubavitcher Rebbe:

    It’s entitled:
    “Challenge”
    The Rebbe’s relentless call for every Jew to never rest.”

    http://www.chabad.org/multimedia/media.asp?AID=132936

    Just the title alone should give pause for thought as to what is being stated throughout this thread…..”

    To be blunt – you are just spouting rhetoric…

    hope this helps,
    -am

  63. Mordechai
    May 25th, 2006 @ 7:25 pm

    “Hmmmmm…could this be 1 of the reasons why we are still in golus?

    Instead of encouraging each other, finding commonality, inspiration, etc – look at the overall tone of this thread [despite the efforts of some to make it a source of growth and inspiration].”

    I have a better one. Look at the Talmud (gemara). It’s full of arguments – instead of encouraging each other and focusing on the positive, the Rabbis are always arguing. Contrast that to Tanya, where one just reads the words of the author, without so many arguments. Could the fact that some of us still learn gemara and keep all those old arguments alive be the reason we are still in golus ? Maybe we should censor the gemara and remove all the arguments or just learn Tanya and forget about gemara ?

  64. Michoel
    May 25th, 2006 @ 7:32 pm

    AM,
    This paragraph below (and others like in numerous forums) are why the conversation has such a “bashing” tone.

    “And of course, this is exactly what irritates us the most about about “Orthodox” people. “Who do they think they are? Why do they think they are so much better than the rest of us? …”

    Chabad is THE BIGGEST in the looking down on other drachim department. They look much better at non-religious Jews then they do at other frum Jews who have made an intelligent choice to NOT be Lubavitchers. The overwhelming feeling one gets from MOST chabadnikim is that Chabad is THE authentic yiddishkeit. Toras HaBaal Shem was revealed. The Litvaks missed the boat. The true expression of Toras HaBaal Shem is Chabad. The other chasidim missed the boat. I have heard such things myself many times.

    I have spent Shabbos in the highly insular Monroe. The Satmars had the greatest derech Eretz. “You learned in Chaim Berlin? What do they hold?” “Here, please, we use a cli sheni to make coffee. There are plenty of cups! (said with a smile.) I have davened many times in New Square. Again, you live Baltimore? Shalom Aleichem! One kanoi came over and told me that the have a very strong minhag to say “keitz m’shichei”. Immediately another bochur appoligized for him. I have gone to many functions in modern shuls. I am not saying that there is not pirud, but the basic attitude all over is “An ehrliche yid is an ehriliche yid.” Only with Chabad is there is there such a degree of “us” and “them”.

  65. Avrahom-Moishe
    May 25th, 2006 @ 7:33 pm

    B”H

    Mordechai –

    What world are you living in? How do you look yourself in the mirror when you espouse such remarks?

    Have you ever learned Tanya? [obviously not - you would much rather spout off rather than say something of value].

    Do you know why it’s called “Tanya”? Because it begins quoting Gemora & goes into a whole shaleh v’taria in nigleh to understand that gemora…

    But of course, we all know Chabadniks don’t learn nigleh, or Torah – right?

    Do you realize how you sound?

    -am

  66. Avrahom-Moishe
    May 25th, 2006 @ 7:37 pm

    B”H

    Michoel –

    Did you read post #60?

    Show me where the Lubavitcher Rebbe takes the stance that you just outlined….

    -am

  67. Michoel
    May 25th, 2006 @ 7:44 pm

    AM,
    So then you agree with me that the strong majority of Lubavitchers are misrepresenting the Rebbe’s teachings, correct? So why do you ask about the bashing tone? Those being bashed are making a chillul Hashem and misrepresenting their Rebbe. You should join me in the bashing!

  68. Avrahom-Moishe
    May 25th, 2006 @ 7:49 pm

    B”H

    Micheol –

    No, I did not agree with you….

    Join you in the “bashing”? What is this -“Amona”?

    Since when does the Torah say you “bash” a fellow Jew? Love a fellow Jew I’ve heard…..

    -am

  69. Michoel
    May 25th, 2006 @ 7:56 pm

    OK, your right about that. I sincerely apologize. Please be mochel me. Sometimes emotional topics and too much coffee could do that too me. I strongly feel that the substance of my criticisms in #64 are accurate.

    Michoel

  70. Avrahom-Moishe
    May 25th, 2006 @ 8:05 pm

    B”H

    Michoel –

    Ok – mochel….

    Here’s the point:

    Expand your scope beyond Chabad – think of any given group within the frum world – you don’t see people doing things, saying things that make your hair stand on end?!

    But if we give in to that feeling – the Sutton, the Yetzer Hara just became our best friend….

    The Baal Shem Tov says – “if you see something in another Jew that evokes a feeling of hatred or anger in your heart – that has been shown to you by Hashgocho Protis to show that you have a kesher to that behavior somewhere on your level – and it needs tikun.

    If we see something seemingly inappropriate – and it evokes feelings of rachmonos, a desire to help, ahavas Israel – that has been shown to you by Hashgocho Protis to show that you have the ability to help…”

    -am

  71. Michoel
    May 25th, 2006 @ 8:06 pm

    I will think about it. Thanks for being mochel.

    I have to run.

    Mochel

  72. Steve Brizel
    May 25th, 2006 @ 8:21 pm

    Avraham Moshe-The article that we have been discussing clearly stated that Chabad outreach, as opposed to other movements, has no expectations of enhancing or changing a Jew’s religious level .While Chabad played a heroic role in Russia, IMO and WADR to Chabad, the six elements that you listed for us can be found in any kiruv enterprise ranging from NJOP to NCSY to Aish and Ohr Sameach. I don’t see any of these groups wilting for a lack of funding now or in the near future.

    FWIW, I also understand R Brackman’s formulation of Chabad outreach much more than the author of the article. I always wondered why Chabad stressed the mitzvah of Tefilin until I saw the statement of the Talmud in Rosh HaShanah about someone who never wore Tefilin and Brachos about the unique attributes of Tefilin vis a vis Klal Yisrael. One need not go thru Toras Niglah to appreciate such a mitzvah campaign.

    Yet, I sense that I am not the only person who has raised a legitimate query about Chabad and to have been dismissed as if no questions about Chabad that address hashkafic issues can be tolerated . IOW, despite its well known non judgmental attitude towards the unlettered and unobservant, many Chabadniks view any discussion on the issues that we have raised as beyond the limits of civil or intellectual discourse.

  73. Avrahom-Moishe
    May 25th, 2006 @ 8:29 pm

    B”H

    Steve –

    RE: the author of this article – did you read post #60 as well as what I stated to you about someone who thinks that?

    FWIW – so do I….

    Actually – I am waiting for a legitimate query to be raised [which should be started in another thread] – see post #50. What I’ve seen instead is alot of emotionalism rather than intellectual discourse…

    You can argue Gemorah passionately – but respectfully – that has been sorely lacking in this thread…

    -am

  74. Motty
    May 25th, 2006 @ 8:31 pm

    “Do you know why it’s called “Tanya”? Because it begins quoting Gemora & goes into a whole shaleh v’taria in nigleh to understand that gemora……-am”

    The gemara gives various sides of arguments. Does Tanya give the side of the Misnagdim adequate representation ? How can you compare it to the open and frank presentation of opposing views in the gemara gemara ? Do Lubavitcher shluchim today ? I don’t think so. I was once at a shiur of a campus Lubavitcher shliach. I said over a vort from Rav Schach. You should have seen how he reacted – as if I would have said over something from Jews for J lihavdil.

  75. Avrahom-Moishe
    May 25th, 2006 @ 8:43 pm

    B”H

    Motty –

    What does Tanya have to do with the giving “the Misnagdim adequate representation”? The Tanya is about becoming a Benoni based on the pasuk in Devarim 30:14. Does the Chovos Levovos give “the Misnagdim adequate representation”?

    Are you perhaps aware that Rav Schach isn’t exactly a friend of Lubavitch or has said positive things about them? You honestly couldn’t think of any other dvar Torah to say from any other source?

    In the secular world they call it “PC – political correctness”; in Torah they call it “Derek Eretz” – it’s also known as the 5th Shulchan Aruch – “common sense”.

    -am

  76. Steve Brizel
    May 25th, 2006 @ 9:02 pm

    Avrohom Moishe-Your comments ilustrate my point. You are engaging in a form of intellectual “rope a dope’ wherein you either dismiss the messenger, belittle the problem or accuse anyone with a legitimate question of lacking Ahavas Yisrael instead of dealing with the issue as a means of avoiding discussing the question. It is highly ironic that both R Shach ZTL and R D D Berger reached the same conclusions from wholly different hashkafic perspectives.

    Re your comments in #50, we all know that the Rebbe ZTL was a Gadol who wrote prolificly , profoundly and whose views on issues on kiruv were very important for anyone either who was involved in kiruv. Yet, as R Shach ZTl and R D Berger have pointed out, there was a strong streak of encouraging messianism within the lifetime of the Rebbe ZTl that has simply mushroomed in a fashion that can only concern anyone concerned with the future of Chabad and the rest of the Torah world. The simple facts are that Chabad as a whole has not addressed the issue and is extraordinarily defensive in its reaction to anyone who raises this issue.

  77. Chezky
    May 25th, 2006 @ 9:12 pm

    So when speaking about saving Jewish neshomos from assimilation dont think about Chabad cause they are there just to make a Jew married to ‘goiteh’ feel good even how he is, GOD loves him etc……
    We’ll see in twenty years or less if this derech is right…all I see now is their own mosdos falling apart and thier children droping out in huge numbers. (exept for the children of the shluchim they have a special siyata dishmaya, so you gotta be a shaliach in order to keep your chidren frum)
    I’m afraid the mainstream Orthodoxy will have to establish in a few years Kiruv orgs for thier own children.

    One more point, if thats their approach, where is thier love to other chasidim like Belz, Bobov, and the Litvaks, why do they have such disdain for them arent they at least like a secular Jew??!!

  78. Avrahom-Moishe
    May 25th, 2006 @ 9:18 pm

    B”H

    Steve –

    If you call blowing off ignorant & inaccurate presumptions and sinas chinam as “engaging in a form of intellectual “rope a dope’ wherein you either dismiss the messenger, belittle the problem or accuse…etc” – well if that’s the way you see it – we can agree to disagree…

    I lost you – what conclusions did they come to regarding the Chabad approach to “kiruv” and what does that have to do with Mark’s statement in opening this thread about what POSITIVE things we can learn from the Chabad approach?

    The truth is – I would LOVE to get into a thread/discussion about R. Berger, Chabad, Moshiach, etc. – if someone starts the thread – however that hasn’t happened yet…

    The sad reality here is – when Mark asked for something positive WAY back in Post #45 – only 1 or 2 people [besides me] stepped up to the plate.

    I am not naive but shell shocked at some of the inciteful, foaming at the mouth sentiment that I’ve read…could you imagine the torrent waiting and the venom that will be spewed if that thread is opened?!

    However – let’s be don l’chof zechus & hope we can have a intellectual discourse on the topic – like I said – open the thread & I’ll be glad to comment….

    I don’t call that being defensive – do you?
    -am

  79. Avrahom-Moishe
    May 25th, 2006 @ 9:26 pm

    B”H

    Chezky –

    You don’t really believe what you are saying do you? Perhaps you should take some time to educate yourself?

    At best pls consider the concept of “love a fellow Jew”……

    -am

  80. Michoel
    May 25th, 2006 @ 9:30 pm

    “inciteful, foaming at the mouth sentiment”

    AM,
    That is a big overstatement. No one is foaming. They are disagreeing, sometimes in strong terms.

  81. Avrahom-Moishe
    May 25th, 2006 @ 9:33 pm

    B”H

    Michoel –

    Wasn’t it you who gave the mushal:

    “is like throughing red meat in front of a ravenous dog and then asking him to use a fork and knife.”

    I WISH this was only “strong terms” of “disagreement”…..

    -am

  82. Michoel
    May 25th, 2006 @ 9:41 pm

    Maybe you are readin my mushel in a way that wasn’t inteneded. I found the way that the author accuses the Orthodox world of doing EXACTLY what I have found Chabad does all the time, to be very irking. I don’t run around looking for fights with Chabad. I do think that gross misrepresentation should be answered. I know quite a few Chabadnikim that I like very much personally. I politely avoid discussing hashkafos when they try to make me frum.

  83. David Linn
    May 25th, 2006 @ 9:43 pm

    In marriage, in friendship, in discussion, in life: It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.

  84. Avrahom-Moishe
    May 25th, 2006 @ 9:51 pm

    B”H

    Michoel –

    ok – its your mushal – thanks for the clarification…

    I agree with you [& Steve for that matter] about gross misrepresentation, answers to problems etc.

    However,

    That’s not the point of this thread!

    Like I wrote in post#54 – this is not “What I hate about…”

    Like I wrote in post# 78 – I would love to talk about it…

    but this post is about learning positive contributions of Chabad!

    Haven’t quite seen that contribution made yet…..

    -am

  85. Michoel
    May 25th, 2006 @ 9:52 pm

    The mushel was more intended for Mark. He valiantly responded to the first several negative posts with please for seeing the positive. I just wanted to suggest that he take a more nuanced aproach to highly controvertial subjects, instead of just throwing them and out, and then yelling that horses are loose.

  86. Avrahom-Moishe
    May 25th, 2006 @ 9:57 pm

    B”H

    Like David said – “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.”

    Controversial or not – look at the reactions in this thread – how old are some of the people posting here? Aren’t we adults? Where’s the intellectual discussion rather than the accusations, assumptions, ignorance and incitement?

    I am looking fwd to it when it happens…
    -am

  87. Motty
    May 25th, 2006 @ 10:04 pm

    Steve is right on the money re intellectual rope-a-dope some Lubavitchers engage in.

    When Lubavitch teaches people that every Jew is literally a piece of God, is it a big surprise when some Lubavitchers say that the late Rebbe is divine (chas vesholom) ? That is also very close to the Christian belief in the divinity of jc. After all, jc was a jew, so according to Lubavitch he was a piece of G-d, and perfect, as written above, no ? It’s high time that the problematic aspects of Lubavitch are addressed. When they were a small group, perhaps they could evade scrutiny, slipping under the radar screen, but now that they have grown in influence, and joined the major leagues, they have to be subject to the same scrutiny as other major players on the Jewish scene are.

  88. Michoel
    May 25th, 2006 @ 10:07 pm

    OK, so let’s discuss what the author says Chabad is about, and I’ll just ignore everything about this article that I find objectionable. I think his ideas have some merit. One could imagine that such an approach would raise our view of what a Jew is and that could lead us to see great things in him which could lead him to see the greatness of his own Yiddishe self.

  89. Michoel
    May 25th, 2006 @ 10:13 pm

    We can for sure learn from Chabad how to be m’kaim “hevei az c’nemer”. It takes a lot of courage and conviction, as well as belief in the inherent sanctity of all Jews, to go up to a completly secular person and try to get him to put on tefillin. I once even heard Rabbi Avigdor Miller praise this aspect of Chabad.

  90. Administrator
    May 25th, 2006 @ 11:34 pm

    We’re closing this thread and we hope we can continue working together on seeing the positive, being less judgemental, improving our constructive and respectful discussions and striving to unite the Jewish people.

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