Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Chabad: Pros & Cons


I have been in touch with Chabad for many years and going to the group's Shiurim was my first contact with Chassidut. Chabad Rabbis were always praising their Chassidus as the most intellectual of all groups. I heard this opinion many times when I was still looking into other groups. Especially into Satmar. However, I have never become a Chabad member, as I like to be "free" and go a little here and there. I am not such a firm person following only one Rebbe.

Chabad for me was always like a home or a shelter because the Shluchim are just everywhere. When I was in Germany or in Brussels for Pessach, one e - mail to Chabad and I was invited. There didn't exist a "We are booked" or "You cannot come". Chabad has space for every Jew and one doesn't even have to dress up too much. As far as I am concerned: Chabad is the only group where a woman can walk in wearing pants.

(There is one Chabad place in Jerusalem where you may be told by the Shaliach that you are not welcomed and may be even told to leave. I was told by other Chabadnikim that this particular person does have a problem but I don't know how Chabad is dealing with it)

Once I went to the Chabad Synagogue in Rashi Street in Bnei Brak. Still outside a asked a little boy for the women's entrance and he showed me a door men and women use. However, inside the behaviour was very different from all the open - minded Chabadnikim I have had experienced so far. Or in other words: I found it very strict. It was Kabbalat Shabbat and there were only two more women. The men prayed downstairs and we were sitting at the Ezrat Nashim upstairs. Then the service was interrupted and the men took an hour for studying. Not in Hebrew but in Yiddish. This was very unusual for me hearing a Chabadnik talking in Yiddish. Most Shluchim (many English speakers among them) I have met so far sometimes even struggle with Hebrew let alone knowing Yiddish.

There are things I like about Chabad and there are things I don't like.
Too many Shluchim only know about their own Chassidut but have no idea about Bobov, Belz, not even about the Peshis'cha movement. Chabad only !

Once I was at an English speaking Chabad event and an elderly Israeli woman wanted to tell a story of one of the Vishnitzer Rebbes. A younger Chabad Ba'alat Teshuva basically told her that the Vishnitzer story is not really appropriate and shut this woman up.

What drives me mad, and I think I started hating this during my time in Zfat a couple of months ago, that every Chabad Ba'al Teshuva feels the need to teach TANYA. No matter how much he knows. Even if he hardly knows anything. Sometimes it even sounds as if they were making up their own opinions if they have nothing else to say.

Me and some other visitors were forced to participate in evening classes which only consisted of TANYA. We were told that those are the rules and this is it. If we are there, we have to participate. In order not to, I sometimes walked around downtown in order to escape the same teachers. Every weekday the same teachers and after a while we knew exactly what they have to say. The question is how much can you take. The result was that we regulars stopped going and looked for all kinds of excuses. Until today, on Facebook or in e - mails, we keep on making jokes about that time. How we escaped a guy called Tuvia or a Rabbi with a Ba'al Teshuva Yeshiva. When I left Zfat I could hear any word but not the word TANYA anymore. 

When I visit Zfat, I will go back to that place but not for a Shabbat. One or two weekdays is enough but I just can't suffer from those young Ba'alei Teshuva in their early twenties who think that they know everything and everyone coming to this particular place is such a secular Jew knowing nothing and they can push him around. 

Maybe I should get to know more of the old original Chabadnikim ...:-) 


  1. "Maybe I should get to know more of the old original Chabadnikim"

    There are plenty of places where you could find that: Bnei Brak, Lod, the Geulah neighborhood in Jerusalem (which has a very large Chabad community with Shtreimel, long peyos and Yiddish speakers only), Kfar Chabad, Paris, Antwerp, Los Angeles (in California, where Chabad has its own neighborhood with more than 150 Chabad families), and of course, last but not least, Crown Heights. In all those places, you will see that Chabad is not only about Tanya, and that we can be as strict as any other chasidic sect. And of course, you will have the opportunity to speak or hear Yiddish (even Sephardic Lubavitcher in Paris speak Yiddish) and learn something else than Tanya (Halakhah, Shulchan Aruch, Zohar, Gemarah, etc. In all those places I mentioned, you have daily classes on many different topics. But you need to be very knowledgeble in chasidus. But the best of all is Crown Heights. And in Eretz Yisroel, the Chabad community in Geulah neighborhood).

  2. B"H

    I just know the Beit Midrash in Ge'ulah. A Chabad library very close to the Brisk Synagogue.

    I think that women are allowed into the library but have a special section. At least I should check out whether the section includes the Talmud and chassidic teachings.:-)

  3. B'H

    You have the Yeshivat Torat Emet in Yirmeyahu Street and the Tzemach Tzedek Shul in the Old City, which are two places where you can find old-school Chabadnikim. I think it may be the only two places where you could have some issues to identify a Lubavitcher, as many of them wear shtreimel and the Yerushalmite levush. And they generally don't accept outsiders. All their classes and farbrengen can be watched here: http://video.chasidut.net/ If you want to know more about Chasidus Chabad (other than through the Tanya), it's a good website. There are only two important things: to be knowledgeble in Chassidus and in Yiddish.

  4. B'H

    "Too many Shluchim only know about their own Chassidut but have no idea about Bobov, Belz, not even about the Peshis'cha movement. Chabad only !"

    Do Satmar, Belz, Gur, Belz, Toldos Aharon, Bobov, etc., promote other Chasidus than their own? I don't think so! There is a difference between "knowing about others" and "promoting others". Of course they know about others, but when you have bread in your basket, you won't go to your neighboor to ask him for more! Every chasidic group acts like that! Every chasid is proud of his chasidus and his Rebbe.

    But, I agree with you that there is nothing wrong about talking of others who are not from you chasidus. But teaching from other chasidus is not appropriate. The day you will hear a Satmar quoting the Lubavitcher Rebbe's teachings, call me! It won't happen, as EVERY chosid quotes and teaches from his Rebbe and from his chasidus. It's not something that is specific to Chabad only! The only Chasidim who learn other chasidus than their own on a regular basis are the original Breslovers, who accept the teachings of all the Tzadikim as per Rebbe Nachman's instruction.

  5. B"H

    Its no so much a matter of promote but having some knowledge. According to my experience, Chabad Rabbis only mention the Ba'al Shem Tov, the Maggid and the Alter Rebbe. So far, I haven't heard about the Seer of Lublin, Nikolsburg or Lizhensk. It always ends with the Alter Rebbe and, of course, the descendants of him.

  6. B'H

    The Rebbe's writings are full of references to many non-Chabad tzaddikim, as the Rogatchover Rov, the Chozeh of Lublin, Rabbi Amram Blau and many others. On one occasion, on Rebbe Nachman of Breslov's yahrzeit, the Rebbe gave a special Sicha about Rebbe Nachman's teachings. And in my community, we are taught many interesting stories about tzadikim from other chasidus and even some Litvakim Rabbis. So, I think it depends where you go and who is the Rabbi in charge of the synagogue. And the Rebbe himself, by quoting all those Tzadikim taught us that it was not forbidden to quote or to speak about non-Chabad Tzadikim and Rebbeim. But the reason why many (not all) Lubavitchers don't do that is simply by fear of damaging their hiskashrus to the Rebbe. And for the same reason, Lubavitcher generaly avoid singing non-Chabad niggunim. But when you are certain of your hiskashrus to the Rebbe, there is no danger in reading and quoting from non-Chabad Tzadikim, nor in singing non-Chabad niggunim (I really like the niggunim in Belz, Bobov and Munkatz, eventhough I really think that ours are better)

  7. B"H We are closer to Moshiach than ever. The Jews are all together in Israel and America and we forget that Lubavitch and Satmar were a month long dangerous journey.

    As a Lubavitcher BT with Lubavitcher Parent BTs who left chabad and came back after 5 years of serious hiskashrus to a hungarish chassidic sect, I think I have an interesting perspective.

    When someone is studying to be a doctor, first he learns the basics. He gets a general idea of how the body works and then he moves into his specialization. If he is going to be a brain surgeon, he doesnt spend time learning about the heart or the food or the lungs.

    This is a Chabad Chasid or any Chasid. Chagas Chassidus (anything non chabad) deals with emotion and connecting to the tzaddik. While most Chassidic groups know their Sfas Emes, Degel Machne Efraim, and Noam Elimelech, and Kedushas Levi, but I dont think many Bobov Chassidim are going to be bucky in the writtings of the current Satmar Rebbe or the previous Vihiznitz Rebbe.

    You cant even learn all the Chabad Chassidius in a lifetime. The Rebbe alone had 10,000 mamamrim and sichos.

    When Moshiach comes all this "worldly connection" feeling will be gone.

    Until then you need to find a path. A way to connect to Hashem. If Chabad Chassidus works go for it but you have to go all or nothing.

    Chabad Chassidus is the most intellectual Chassidus that doesnt mean the Chassidim are the most intellectual :-D

    No other Chassidic Group has Seforim like the Mittler Rebbe's Shaari Teshuvah and Shaari Yichud.

    They most certainly dont have the Thousands upon thousands of Maamarim and Sichos

    What group has the kuntres on how to pray like the Rebbe Rashab and Kuntrus HaTefillan?

    I rejected Chabad and the meshugas for 5 years trying to find a way to connect to Hashem. Unless you are born into a Chassidim group and get a connection from your father and his father you will go nowhere in your Avodas Hashem.

    Chabad and Breslov are the only real ways for a person with no mesorah to connect to Hashem through Chassidus. My best friend is Breslov and I love learning that chassidus with him.

    Note that Chabad and Breslov are the only ones publishing Chassidus on a mass scale.

    This is the way it is, like it or not.

    I ate at Satmar tables and no one told stories about the Belzer Rebbe.

    What is an original Chabadnikim anyway? Someone thats 100 years old?

    A Lubavitcher is someone who LIVES Chabad Chassidus and connects to Hashem. I cant judge anyone who runs around Moshiach this and that but if you want to know how to be the best Chasid look to the Rebbe

    The Rebbe is truly the Nosi HaDor and no one will pass him in greateness till moshiach. He was also the greatest Chasid of all when his father in law was Rebbe.

    Gmar Chasima Tova and may Moshiach pull us out of Galus NOW!

  8. B"H

    Thought you might be interested in seeing this video I saw on Crown Heights info today:


  9. It is very interesting. Its very sad. Its very a lot of things. Crazy? Insane? Creepy? Yes x3.

    Its hard for some people to grasp the reality that the Rebbe is physically gone and that you wont see him till Moshiach comes and Techiyas Hameisim happens. Some never got to see him or even remember seeing him as 75% of that line is under 25.

    Still. There are worse and much more evil things going on in the world.

    For every negative you find in Chabad there is an equal and greater positive force in the world that Chabad is leading the way in.

    Your link doesnt have much to do with the topic which seems that Shearim is bother that Chabadniks only learn Chabad Chassidus.

    What Chassidus were you trying to discuss with a Lubavitcher that he didnt hear of anyway?

    Divrei Yoel? Sfas Emes? Shem MiShmuel? Degal Machne Ephraim? Kedushas Levi? Noam Elimelech?

    Seeing as the Rebbe quotes from a few of those seforim, its answer again why they would never look anywere else than the over 150,000 pages of Chabad Chassidus.

    Have you ever tried to count all the Maamarim and Sichos and Igros from the Alter Rebbe to the Rebbe? Its massive.

    If you worried about all that really important non Chabad Chassidus and actually learned it in depth you would come to realize that it is all contained in Chabad Chassidus in some form and they dont need to leave the Chabad realm of learning.

    that doesnt mean you cant learn it really well.

  10. B"H

    I went to countless Chabad Shiurim within the past 14 years or so, and most Chabadnikim were entirely referring to Chabad literature except for the Baal Shem Tov and the Maggid.

    My problem is that Rebbe Shneur Zalman picked up the teachings of the Maggid but interpreted many things in his way. According to his understanding.

    First of all, the Alter Rebbe had never met the Baal Shem Tov and how does he know the exacr interpretation ?

    You may argue that even the Maggid taught the Baal Shem Tov ideas and changed them according to his understanding. So, why not the Alter Rebbe too ?

    Nevertheless, I still have a problem with all that changes despite the fact that today, no one really knows all the real teachings of the Baal Shem Tov.

  11. A good shuir giver isnt going to name off every source especially when learning Chassidus. If you look at maamarim and sichos, the sources section of the page is sometimes longer than the actual maamar or sicha itself. The shuir giver has to gauge what sources are worth mentioning as the only purpose of mentioning a source is so that the people listening will actually go look it up.

    If you take the Rebbe's sichas and maamarim as an example you will see that from 1950 till 1990 the amount of sources almost doubled because the concepts the Rebbe assumed people knew from Tanach and Gemara and Midrash and Zohar. The new generations didnt know and they needed those sources to understand the Chassidus.

    Have you learned the "Essence of Chassidus"? This sicha from the Rebbe explains what Chassidus is.

    Its not a chiddush, its not some new Torah innovation. Chassidus brings together the entire PARDES (Pshat, Remez, Drash, Sod) of Torah into a condensed format so the most esteemed school to the simplest Jew can get something out of it, get inspired, and connect to Hashem.

    There is a reason why the Baal Shem Tov never wrote anything down as his purpose was connecting the simple Jew who couldnt even read let alone understand anything. Simple Prayer and Emnuah were his mission. All Chassidus agrees that the Baal Shem Tov met with Moshiach and was told when his teachings will overflow and spread out he will come.

    Chabad came to create a certain way of approaching Torah using just that Wisdom, Understanding, and Knowledge.

    The Polish/Ukrainish/Hungarish approach was Chagas Chesed, Gevurah, Tiferes.

    Both Derechs work and that is why there are large groups in both camps.

    The BESHT gave over everything he needed to give to the Maggid and we all know what the maggid says from his own seforim. Just like Judaism has developed over thousands of years, Chassidus has developed as well. It has gotten more profound, more in depth, and spanned the entire Torah. The foundation is still the BESHT and everyone agrees with that.

    The Alter Rebbe did the same thing that every great scholar did. He looked to the past, took things into account, and then made decisions that would connect his own generation to Hashem and Torah.

    What are we trying to understand here?

    Why Chabad Chassidim dont learn any other Chassidus besides Chabad?

    I gave answers above that must not be satisfactory and for that I apologize. I believe that everything from Chagas Chassidus is found in Chabad chassidus and there is no reason to go anywhere else.

    Besides the "Rishonim" of Chassidus (Noam Elimelech, Kedushas Levi, Etc.), no Chassidic group is learning the current Chassidus of another group. Please find me some instance that contradicts that and I will rescind my comments.

    The idea that no one knows the Derech of the Baal Shem Tov is nothing new. Reb Yoel of Satmar said the same thing 35 years ago.

    To say the Maggid didnt transmit the Baal Shem Tov's teachings properly has zero grounds and lacks any sources outside of the twisted distortion of the haskalah movement who must destroy Chassidis (its biggest threat) in any way possible.

    Maybe Chabad Chassidus doesnt speak to you, maybe the Chabad lifestyle doesnt work for you.

    With all of this personal feeling aside, the idea of Chabad Chassidus "not learning" any other Chassidus besides their own stems from the possibility that you in fact dont know much about Chassidus in general.

    Maybe you could start writing more about this amazing Chassidus that Chabad isnt learning instead of using your blog as a goyish style tabloid that exposes the flaws and injustice of the Orthodox Jewish world.