Friday, November 19, 2010

Redemption Day and Iggeret HaKodesh

The Sea of Galilee (Kinneret) and the Golan Heights 
on the other side of the shore.

Photo: Miriam Woelke


Chassidut Chabad was celebrating "Redemption Day" on Wednesday this week. When I asked what "Rdemption Day" actually means, it took some Chabadnikim a longer time answerin my question. Some were saying that it is the birthday of Yahrzeit of the Mittlerer Rebbe (the second Lubavitcher Rebbe) and others said that the 9th of Kislev is the day when one of the Rebbes was released from the Russian prison.

The Chabad Meshichisten in Zfat (Safed) were wildly waving there yellow Meshiach flags but in Tiberias, people were very much down to earth and Chabad didn't even open its center at the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). However, the Ge'ulah and Meshiach have not yet arrived but prepare yourself for another Chabad celebration: Kislev 19th.

A Chabad woman in Zfat tried to convince me to believe in the Rebbe as Meshiach. When I quoted her the rule of the Rambam (Maimonides, 1135 - 1204) that a dead Jew cannot be Meshiach, she said that we just have to believe. "Forget about you common sense and simply believe", she said. 
No, I wont.

I also learnt that many Chabadnikim still communicate with the seventh and last Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson (passed away in June 1994). How ?
With the Iggeret HaKodesh (Iggrot HaKodesh) book. Usually it is included in the big Tanya book and it works like this: You write a question on a small piece of paper and then stick the note into a random page of the Iggeret HaKodesh. The sentence where the note is on, tells you the Rebbe's answer to your question. In case you don't understand the Passuk in the Iggeret HaKodesh, you should ask a professional advisor from Chabad.

Let us all have a great Shabbat and pray for Meshiach. We need him and it doesn't really matter whether it is the Lubavitcher Rebbe or someone else.


  1. Many people are "shoked" by that, but using the Igros or writting a letter to a deceased Tzadik is not something new nor a Chabad invention.

    The commentators of the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 179:4) mention that it is permissible to open a holy book and find an answer, and this is even called a "minor prophecy" (see Shach ibid.). This means that there is no prohibition. There is a similar method of opening the Tanach, and locating verses which answer particular questions. This is called "Goral Ha-Gra" – the lottery of the Vilna Gaon.

    There is the famous story about the Tzadik of Jerusalem – Reb Aryeh Levin – in which he used the "Goral Ha-Gra. During the Israeli War of Independence, a group of thirty-five soldiers was sent to provide additional defense for the Gush Etzion Settlements. All in the group were tragically killed. After the war, the bodies were discovered but the Chief Rabbinate of Israel was unable to identify twelve of the corpses. Reb Aryeh Levin used the Goral Ha-Gra – which involves using a particular format of the Chumash, flipping the pages back and forth until eventually a particular verse is chosen. In each case, the verse chosen clearly identified a fallen soldier with a particular body (See "A Tzaddik in Our Time: The Life of Rabbi Aryeh Levin," pp. 111-117).

    The "Goral Ha-Gra" was also used by Ha-Rav Aharon Kotler when he wanted to immigrant to Israel from Russia, but HaRav Moshe Feinstein was greatly urging him to come to America in order to strengthen Judaism there. The verse which came out in the "Goral" was "Hashem said to Aharon: Go meet Moshe in the desert" (Shmot 4:27). He understood this to mean: "Hashem said to Aharon" – this was a hint to his name HaRav Aharon Kotler. "Go meet Moshe in the desert" – Go meet HaRav Moshe Feinstein who is in the spiritually desolate desert of America. HaRav Kotler indeed went to America and established the yeshiva in Lakewood, New Jeresy, one of the largest yeshivot in the world today (see the book "Ha-Gaon," p. 1118 by Ha-Rav Dov Eliach).

    And it is related in the book "Lev Eliyahu" (vol. 1, p. 35 in introduction) that HaRav Elya Lopian used the "Goral Ha-Gra" (he once told his students that he received this "Goral" from the Chafetz Chaim) before he moved to London. The verse which came out was: "I will descend with you to Egypt and I will surely bring you up" (Bereshit 46:4).

    There is therefore no prohibition in acting this way, but that does not mean that it will work. Reb Aryeh Levin, HaRav Aharon Kotler and HaRav Elya Lopian were Torah giants and holy individuals. It depends on who performs it. It is possible to ask any question in the world through the "Igrot Kodesh" but that does not mean that everyone will receive a true answer. Although this is a minor prophecy, not everyone is suited to receive it.

    It is related that Rav Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik – the Brisker Rav – who was a completely righteous person – once tried the Goral HaGra. He opened the Chumash, landed on the verse: "You shall be wholesome with Hashem, your G-d" (Devarim 18:13) and he stopped (HaGaon, pp. 1126-1127). Similar, it is written in the book Orchot Rabbenu (p. 218), Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky said that this father – the Steipler Gaon – was not in favor of using the Goral HaGra for two reasons: 1. We do not know exactly how to do it. 2. You shall be wholesome with Hashem, your G-d." Therefore, someone who acts this way does not perform a transgression, but this is not the way of the Torah. If you want to know the answer to a question you have to exert effort or take counsel with a Torah scholar.

  2. B"H

    I am familiar with the "Goral HaGRA" but Rabbi Levine didn't use it on a daily basis. I think that there is a difference between the Goral HaGRA and asking a dead Rebbe for advice.

  3. And what's that difference?

  4. B"H

    The difference is that Rabbi Levine used the "Goral HaGra" for other purposes and dind't ask a dead Rebbe for advice. He alo only used it once, as there was no other choice to identify the bodies but he didn't use it on a daily basis with all kinds of questions.

  5. It's not because some people use it as a talisman that it's bad. And yes, some people use it to ask questions they know they wouldn't dared asking the Rebbe if he were still alive. That's their problem. Many people, even non-Chabadnikim and Rabbis you would never suspect, use the Igros when they occasionnaly have a question they would have asked the Rebbe. And they are many genuine stories about the Igros. I disagree with your argument that some people used the Goral HaGra because it was the only way to find an answer to their question. Re-read the story with HaRav Aharon Kotler. It could have used other means (asking another Rov for instence), but he decided to use to Goral HaGra to see if he should join HaRav Moshe Feinstein zt'l in America.

    The words of our Gedolim are eternal and a integral part of the Torah. If the words of the Rebbe are a part of Torah, so there is no difference between Goral HaGra and the Igros. Like Moshe Rabbenu who is dead some centuries ago but whose words are eternal, the same with any tzadik who dipart from this word. But of course, the best is to ask a Rabbi who is well alive and nobody said otherwise. But to say that Igros is forbidden for those who want to use it to have an answer us unfair. You can disaprove such thing and it's your right, but it is not halachikly forbidden neither is it adviced.

  6. B"H

    First of all, I didn't say it is halachically forbidden and, secondly, I was referring to Rabbi Aryeh Levine when I said that he apparently had no other choice but using the "Goral".

    Unfortunately, in some cases, the Iggrot have become a status of personal advice from the Rebbe and some Chabadnikim use it on an almost daily basis. e.g. Whether I should do this or that ?
    Then they feel like asking the Rebbe for advice, and this is bad, as the Rebbe is dead.

  7. Each of the Chabad Rebbeim have Igros and the reason for their publishing was that its advice can help others.

    The Rebbe made it clear that not just every Chabad Chasid but every Jew must have a Mashpia.

    You mentioned Tanya and the Igros that were added at the end. Like I mentioned each Rebbe's Igros are published.

    The Rebbe Rashab said that Tanya was published because the Alter Rebbe couldnt advice everyone personally and when you learn Tanya it is as if you are conversing with the Alter Rebbe himself.

    Consulting the Igros every day makes no sense and I dont even consult it at all as I have nothing of that magnitude that needs answering that a mashpia or posek cant help.

    What could you ask on a daily basis?

    Should I daven Shachris this morning? Should I go to work? Do I need to eat food today? I mean what kind of questions would you ask on a daily or even monthly basis.

    Questions of illness C"V!!, shiduch, parnasah might warrant it but to each is own.

    Im curious about your last comment

    "Then they feel like asking the Rebbe for advice, and this is bad, as the Rebbe is dead."

    Every igros is a response from the Rebbe based off a situation the writer is facing and the response is based on Halacha and Kabbalah. Do people bring mamash Shilahs to the Igros? Like is this chicken treif, is my wife niddah, I have no idea but that is obvious narishkeit to do so.

    By your standards seeking advice from any Sage that is dead is a problem and how would we function then?

    If you believe that the advice of the Rebbe isnt based off of Halacha and that it somehow violates it, that is a whole different topic but since that is obvious narshkeit a well without a source to it, then we are back at the beginning.

    You find it weird that Chabad uses the igros to connect with their Rebbe.

    I can respect that.

    Its bad,wrong,etc. While your opinion, it has no factual foundation aside from the knee jerk emotional reaction of something not understood or foreign.

    I know you mean well, but lets be informed and learned about topics we discuss.

    Gut Voch!