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Unread 12-23-2001, 02:53 AM   #1
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Messiah Indifference by David Berger

i just want to ask one thing, im sure u heard about this guy david berger (im not trying to get personal but i really think its a topic u should discuss.) he just came out with another book trying to bash lubavitch big time. i just thought u should educate ur readers about who this guy is and what his agenda is. Because i know that there are kids out there even many of my friends who were very taken aback by the things he said and really at loss for answers...i was wondering if u could address that...on a personal note, i happen to know who this guy is way before he became famous through his lubavitch bashing and i want everyone to know that its not something new with the moshiach issue or even after gimmel tammuz, this guy has been at it for years, prob before most of us who read this site were born... just thought that would add some perspective on where this guy is coming from.

thanks again!
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Unread 12-23-2001, 02:55 AM   #2
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I'll write about it as soon as I get to see the book.
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Unread 12-23-2001, 02:57 AM   #3
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thanks, i dont know if the book came out yet... but this is a quote from the book (from

"[Chabad] wins followers by programs of impeccable philanthropy, and uses those followers in a sectarian mission of false Messianism. Chabad Messianists present themselves as the true Judaism, teaching that their Messiah, now dead, will soon rise from the grave. To this, the Messianic Jews and Jews for J**** and even Episcopalian bishops respond, "Right idea, wrong man."
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Unread 12-23-2001, 02:58 AM   #4
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One thing about Dovid Berger: Since when did he become a Jewish authority to decide things about Jewish Hashkafa or Halacha?
What a website!
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Unread 12-23-2001, 02:59 AM   #5
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at the rate he's going, he's soon gonna become a "gadol"...
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Unread 12-23-2001, 03:04 AM   #6
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I got the book a few days before it was released (it was printed in the UK). I read a few chapters and then sent it back. I'd be embarrassed to even use the stuff for toilet paper!

You should see another book this same publisher is due to publish in July 2004..."Messianic Hasidism From Nineteenth Century Bratslav to Twentieth Century Habad"! - But that doesn't worry me...Moshiach will be well here by then!!
We Want Moshiach Now!
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Unread 12-23-2001, 03:05 AM   #7
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Posted on October 29, 2001 at

Reviewer: A reader from Los Angeles, CA

Berger, in his book, suggests that the international Chabad movement to promote Jewish awareness should be boycotted. In the course of his astonishingly boorish thesis, he suggests that the people that he refers to as "Messianic Jews" are in the majority of the Chabad movement - by virtue of the fact that there is "messianism" present in it's institutions.
I'd like to begin by pointing out the utter ridiculousness of that statement.

At the very inception of Chassidisism - now universally recognized as a legitimate sect of ultra-orthodoxy - the movement was faced with vehement opposition by the Mithnagdim.


Because of a small group of Chassidim, who - to their Rebbe's disapproval - engaged in an extreme form of worship, deemed inappropriate by their master and by most of their peers. This behavior was - imaginably - extremely conspicuous, and those who failed to look deeper saw it as being representative of the entire Chassidic movement.

The media has led the world to believe that the Orthodox is a group of greedy and self-centered people, intolerant of anyone who doesn't fit their behavioral requirements - to the point of throwing rocks at Jews who dare to drive on Shabbos.

Because of a small group - a true minority - in Jerusalem, that captures world attention and feeds the media's hunger for anti-Semitic material. A slightly deeper look will reveal what should be obvious - their behavior is not representative of Orthodox Jewry.

After the tragedy of September 11th, AMERICAN Muslims who had always been peaceful - and considered by OTHERS as being peaceful - now found themselves in need of round-the-clock protection.


Because a (relatively) small group of Islamic Fundamentalists with a warped philosophy managed to wreak havoc and destruction in our country. Would you suggest that their behavior is representative of all Muslims?

I was educated in Chabad schools, and NOT ONCE was I taught or encouraged by the school faculty to either verbalize - or even to believe - that the Lubavitcher Rebbe Z"L is the Messiah. These are the very schools that Berger claims are "shot through with Messianism". (I even had occasion to visit the Chabad Yeshiva of Kfar Chabad, where the "major columnist of the Beis Moshiach magazine" is often scorned for his messianic views and his approach, or at best - an object of amusement.)

In one of my earlier Yeshivos, which I attended during the year of the Lubavitcher Rebbe Z"L's passing, the students were strongly DISCOURAGED from any such references.
My father is a lawyer who - prior to his exposure to Chabad - was a completely assimilated Jew. He is now a staunch Lubavitcher - and he was NEVER told nor taught by those who "drew him in" that the Lubavitcher Rebbe is the Moshiach.

The instances that Berger refers to belong to a MINORITY within the Chabad movement. How dare he presume...

One other point that I'd like to make is to a gross historical error that Berger makes. He likens the Messianism in the Chabad movement to Shabbtai Tzvi, the false Messiah of the 17th century. What he fails to note is that neither Shabbtai Tzvi - nor his followers - were condemned for his messianic claims UNTIL he began TO DESECRATE THE TORAH and to encourage his followers to do the same. It was then that he was deposed and recognized for what he was - a false Messiah.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe Z"L, on the other hand, is wholly responsible for the resurgence of Jewish life and sincere Torah observance in countless cities throughout the world. He is the author of hundreds of books, which do nothing BUT encourage steadfast, unwavering Torah observance. This is the sole message that his emissaries attempt to convey.

A book could be written pointing out the book's stupidity and it's ignorance of Jewish and torah affairs, but - should Berger be legitimized with such a response? I feel silly enough writing this review itself, but - how could I remain silent...

When somebody takes their time and effort to write a "carefully researched" libelous diatribe, there's almost always some personal issue that is fueling their anger. I wonder what Berger's is.
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Unread 12-23-2001, 03:06 AM   #8
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Here we go again: A chossid will believe that what his Rebbe says is something which has powerful holy weight. If a person believes that the Lubavitcher Rebbe speaks with Divine inspiration, you must come to the conclusion that he referred to himself as Moshiach. I'd like to assume that most Lubavitchers are under this impression; the question that remains is whether that is an intrinsic part of relaying to people on first encounter. That is something which depends on each individual Lubavitcher. Some are more open with their belief, others are not. BUT NO one has the gall to suggest that the Rebbe is ch"v a deity!
Is "Expire" the opposite of "Inspire"? Does that mean that if you're not inspired, you're dead?
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Unread 12-23-2001, 03:08 AM   #9
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Rasi writes,

<<i just saw an article on jerusalem post online about a book called "The Rebbe, The Messiah, and The Scandal of Orthodox Indifference" bye David Berger...some of what is said in the article is a bit radical, more so than what youve been i was just wondering if you think its valid or if you disagree with any of it. please read and give feedback-im wondering if these r widely accepted views.>>

Moderator writes,


I saw the article. Its author, Jacob Neusner, is a well-known big Apikores and ignoramus. Almost nothing he says ever makes sense. (And he's written like 100 books - I am not exaggerating - so that's quite a feat!)

His position on Chabad Messianism takes the entire thing much too seriously. It is not a "danger to Judaism", certianly not one of the biggest we face. It is - and was, for much damage is already done - a danger to Chabad and its followers. They also distort Chabad's position, though it's bad enough without any distortions.


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Unread 12-23-2001, 03:17 AM   #10
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The Prof., The Messiah & The Scandal of Calumnies

The Rebbe - The Messiah - and the Scandal of Orthodox Indifference by David Berger. The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, Portland 2001;195pp.

Review Essay by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet

Rabbi Schochet has asked to inform the Shluchim & public NOT TO REPRINT OR PUBLISH IN ANY WAY the following essay without his explicit permission.


"When you hear something unseemly about another, be deeply grieved. For if the report is true, the one spoken about is not good. If the report is false, the one speaking is not good." (Baal Shem Tov)

This maxim comes to mind when reading Prof. David Berger's recent book in which he accuses a prominent Jewish-religious movement, Chabad-Lubavitch, of distorting Jewish tradition, false messianism, adopting ******ian doctrines, and indicts its followers as heretics and idolaters.

Dr. Berger starts with a description of the well-known messianic fervor of Chabad-hasidim, generated by the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, R. Menachem M. Schneerson. The author appears to accept the belief in Mashiach and the eager anticipation of the redemption he is to bring about. After all, this constitutes one of the thirteen principles of the Jewish faith defined by Maimonides. He takes issue, though, with the fact that hasidim identify the Rebbe as the awaited redeemer.

He is not disturbed by this phenomenon in the Rebbe's lifetime: "When the Rebbe was alive, messianic claims made for him were ill-advised but well within the boundaries of normative Judaism; indeed, no serious messianic claims have ever been set forth for a more qualified candidate." (p. 12) His problem is that many hasidim continue doing so even after the Rebbe's passing in 1994.

Citing Talmudic-Midrashic statements which aver that the redeemer may arise from the dead, these hasidim support their claim that the Rebbe may be resurrected in due time and then fulfil the messianic prophecies. To Dr. Berger that is absurd. He spurns the possibility that Mashiach may come from the dead, and dismisses the Rabbinic statements as "a rejected position" of a minute minority opinion which has no standing in Jewish law and thought. (pp. 41, 43-45, et passim)

He relies on mediaeval debates with ******ians when the Jewish side argued that J**** died before accomplishing any of the messianic prophecies and dismissed the notion of a "second coming" with a second chance as totally unfounded. Dr. Berger views this as the fundamental reason for our rejection of the ******ian savior. Thus "I do not believe that an isolated passage, even by a great rabbi, automatically legitimates a theological position against the weight of overwhelming contrary opinion... [and] is, I believe, invalidated by the weight of the entire Jewish polemical tradition." (p. 45)

In view of many retorts to his earlier articles on the subject, he senses the tenuousness of his opinion. Thus he backtracks by saying: "the core of my argument does not depend on this conviction" (p. 41); "the deligitimation of Lubavitch messianism does not depend upon this position" (p. 60). Now it is because "the essence of Lubavitch messianism rests on the claim that the Rebbe had begun the process of redemption and would soon return to complete it" (p. 42, et passim). He attributes this belief to " a large segment - almost certainly a substantial majority of Lubavitch hasidim" (pp. 2 and 127). He traces it to the Rebbe's declarations about the imminence of redemption and saying that the "metaphysical cosmic redemption process" of separating good from evil (Dr. Berger's English rendition of the kabbalistic concept of avodat habirurim) has been completed.

Then he proceeds to the charge of idolatry: "A significant segment of this movement now declares openly that the Rebbe is not only the Messiah but God" (p. 89), and that this belief "has entered mainstream Lubavitch" (p. 93).

The allegedly pervasive adoption of the messianic claims, let alone the idolatrous perception of the Rebbe, by what Dr. Berger assumes to be the mainstream or vast majority of Lubavitch, disturbs him profoundly. For numerous Lubavitch hasidim hold influential positions, as chief-rabbis, rabbis, deans and other religious functionaries, throughout Europe, North and South America, South Africa, Australia, and especially in Israel and Russia. To him this means that the future of historical Judaism is threatened, and he would like to see them cast out from their communities (ch. 12 and 14).

The book is essentially a personal memoir of his lonely crusade to awaken orthodox Jewry to this danger. It reprints his earlier articles, letters sent to leading rabbis, rabbinical bodies and others, to draft their support for his struggle to save Judaism. He is bewildered by the fact that his appeals have fallen on deaf ears (hence the title-component of "The Scandal of Orthodox Indifference"), with the measly exception of encouragement from Satmar hasidim, followers of Rabbi Eliezer M. Schach of Israel, Rabbi Yaakov S. Weinberg of Baltimore, Rabbi Chaim D. Keller of Chicago, and others who remain anonymous.

A ray of light appeared on Dr. Berger's horizon when he successfully persuaded one rabbinic group, the RCA (Rabbinical Council of America), to issue a resolution he composed: "There is not and never has been a place in Judaism for the belief that Mashiach ben David will begin his messianic mission only to experience death, burial and resurrection before completing it." (p. 69)

His joy was short-lived, for, in his words, "then the thunder-bolt struck": R. Aaron Soloveichik, the late dean of the Brisk Yeshivah in Chicago and of Yeshivah University, and a universally respected halachic authority, sharply criticized that resolution: "The belief held by many in Lubavitch... that the Rebbe can still be Moshiach... cannot be dismissed as a belief that is outside the pale of Orthodoxy. Any cynical attempt at utilizing a legitimate disagreement of interpretation coering this matter, to besmirch and damage the Lubavitch movement... can only contribute to the regrettable discord that already plagues the Jewish and particularly Torah community" (p. 70).

Dr. Berger casts aspersions on this letter, alleging that (a) it does not reflect the normative writing of R. Soloveichik; (b) it seems to contradict a communication he had sent to the Forward a few years earlier; and (c) it gratuitously condemns the RCA-resolution as a cynical effort to besmirch Chabad. He concludes that this letter, as well as a much stronger one issued a year later by the venerable chief-rabbi of Montreal, R. Pinchas Hirshprung (also universally respected as a Halachic authority), were issued under duress when both these sages were infirm. (p. 71)

These are the major points. The book is replete with repetitions. Judicious editing could easily halve it. Its host of anecdotal material and critical attributions hidden behind a cloak of anonymity has no place in a serious study. These are devoid of legal and moral value as they preclude validation. This brings us now to a critical appraisal of the arguments.


Dr. Berger employs a careless and troubling methodology:

1. He creates statistics to serve his purpose. Real or imagined anomalies are attributed to "large segments," "substantial majority" and "mainstream" of Lubavitch. No evidence is provided for these estimates, except for an occasional reliance on the notoriously exaggerated, or altogether invented, reports and claims of the messianist's faction major organ, Beis Moshiach. It is certainly strange that Dr. Berger, the great defender of the faith, relies on a magazine that he rightly accuses of publishing obscene and heretical materials.

On the other hand, he does not lend credibility to the official leadership of Lubavitch, which he admits to be decidedly non-messianist, and which claims "that the believers (i.e., messianists) are a very small number of marginal hasidim... who know how to make noise and intimidate" (p. 119). The fact that an overwhelming majority of Chabad emissaries throughout the world (Dr. Berger prefers to call them "missionaries," comparing them to Mormon missionaries - p. 118f.) attend the annual conventions organized by that leadership, and at mosta couple of dozen partake in the simultaneous one sponsored by the messianists, means nothing to him.

Dr. Berger quotes a pronouncement condemning messianist aberrations, issued by the Central Committee of Chabad Lubavitch Rabbis in the USA and Canada, whose members include most of the rabbinic authorities of Lubavitch. He is very happy with that published statement, but feels compelled to downplay it by branding that rabbinic body "far less important and influential than its ambitious title would indicate" and having "quite minimal influence on the large majority of Lubavitch hasidim!" (pp.101-102)

To be sure, on p. 119 he concedes that "statistical precision is elusive, dependent partly on the reading of minds." Moreover, on p. 117, he defines the "primary objective of this book to establish that anyone who proclaims the messiahship of the Rebbe stands outside the parameters of Orthodox Judaism," and adds: "From this perspective... the percentage of hasidim who affirm this belief is secondary"! Why, then, would or could Dr. Berger offer categorical numbers before and after pp. 118-119? The only solution to this puzzle is to conclude that either he is able to read minds, or simply invents numbers to produce ad hominem and ad populum arguments to influence his audience.

A telling sample of the professor's research is his citation of a letter by the "vice-president of the Chabad Community Centre in Oldfield Street, London N16" to prove the pervasiveness of messianism in England. He does not know or ignores the fact that this "Centre" is a breakaway group from, and shunned by, the London Chabad community, of a handful of messianists. Even its Shabbat and Holidays services attract no more than about 20 people, most of which are non-Lubavitch neighbours seeking the convenience of a nearby place of worship.

2. Dr. Berger received support from Satmar hasidim and deans of non-hasidic yeshivot. He concedes (pp. 7 and 32) that the Satmar support is suspect because of their long-standing feud with Lubavitch, based on the positive approach of Lubavitch towards the State of Israel, the philosophy of Lubavitch outreach to non-religious Jews, and other substantive ideological differences.

He fails to mention, though, that his deans fall into the same category as Satmar. These rabbis displayed well-documented hostility to hasidism in general, and Lubavitch in particular, decades before messianism arose and became an issue. Their offensive statements from the pre-messianic period match and exceed their later ones. Their attitudes demonstrate an obsession to r****citate the historical feud between hasidism and their opponents of more than two centuries ago, including the parroting of identical accusations and calumnies of Shabbatai Tzvi-ism, heresy and idolatry, as well as the technique of distorting or falsifying hasidic texts. This is readily seen when perusing M. Wilensky's classical Hasidim and Mitnagdim: A Study of the Controversy between them in the years 1772-1815 (Hebrew, 2 volumes, Jerusalem 1970) and the introduction to my The Testament of R. Israel Baal Shem Tov (New York 1998).

Indeed, on p. 85, Dr. Berger quotes "heads of non-hasidic yeshivas" who shrugged off a portion of his material "on the grounds that hasidism in general is idolatry." He does not believe that this was meant literally. It so happens that I am of pure Lithuanian, non-hasidic stock (Telshe and Kelm), the descendant of an unbroken chain of Lithuanian rabbis going back to the academies of the Vilna Gaon and R. Chaim of Volozhin. My parents never uttered critical comments against hasidism or hasidim, but I grew up in that environment and atmosphere with extensive contacts with deans of non-hasidic yeshivas. The cited comment is just one of many and similar ones that I heard in the 1950's, before I identified with Lubavitch. Like Satmar, they, too, condemned the Lubavitch outreach to the non-religious, though eventually changed their minds on that in the 1970's when they noted its extra-ordinary success and set out to compete with it.

The obscene comment by Rabbi Yaakov S. Weinberg, quoted on p. 115 and the jacket, had nothing to do with messianism. It is a typical sample of his repertoire starting, as I know personally, at least as early as the mid 1950's. To this, and the like, applies the Talmudic dictum: "He who disqualifies others is himself disqualified... he stigmatizes others with his own blemish." (Kidushin 70a)


Dr. Berger disqualifies the traditional statements that affirm that Mashiach may very well be a resurrected (or reincarnated) individual.

1. Beyond the general Talmudic-Midrashic sources, he acknowledges on p. 11 that "there exist some kabbalistic ideas (sic) about King David himself as the final redeemer" (thus obviously resurrected or reincarnated), but does not take it seriously. This is rather curious. As a self-professed orthodox Jew, Dr. Berger surely recites the standard liturgy of Hoshanah Rabba (seventh day of Sukot), which includes an ancient prayer composed by R. Eleazar Kaliri that affirms "a man has sprouted [i.e., Mashiach], Tzemach is his name, he is David himself!"

And what does he do with the statement of our sages that Moses will be the ultimate redeemer, based in part on Micha 7:15 and Ecclesiastes 1:9? This is certainly an endorsed view to the point that many rabbinic authorities felt compelled to explain how Moses, a Levite, could be Mashiach who must be of the tribe of Judah (see my Mashiach: The Principle of Mashiach and the Messianic Era in Jewish Law and Tradition, 3rd ed., New York 1992, p. 39). Their explanations readily resolve also the seeming contradiction of identifying Mashiach with David and Daniel, various Talmudic sages, and later Maimonides, R. Isaac Luria, the Baal Shem Tov, and the leaders of every generation.

2. Dr. Berger claims that the idea of a resurrected Mashiach is "a rejected position," regardless of its source. In his opinion, even a great rabbi's statement cannot automatically legitimate a theological position against the weight of overwhelming contrary opinion. Thus he negates a basic principle of halachic methodology, that in matters of conflicting opinions which do not affect actual practice, one cannot say who is right or wrong! (R. Shmuel Hanagid, Mavo Hatalmud; Rashi, Sanhedrin 51b, s.v. hachi; Maimonides, Sefer Hamitzvot II:133, and Commentary on the Mishnah, Sotah 3:3, Sanhedrin 10:3 etc.) That is precisely why Maimonides rejects any categorical claims on details relating to the order or procedures of the redemption, except for those that are firmly established (Hilchot Melachim 12:2).

Moreover, Dr. Berger implies that Maimonides erred grievously by legitimizing the opinion that the prophet Elijah may come after the appearance of Mashiach, which goes against the weight of overwhelming contrary opinion! (Hilchot Melachim 12:2; cf. R. Yehonathan Eibeshitz, Tumim on Choshen Mishpat I:3)

3. Dr. Berger relies heavily on arguments in mediaeval polemics. It is of major concern to him that "one of the defining characteristics of Judaism in a ******ian world will have been erased" by the possibility of a resurrected messiah (p. 31, and see also p. 35). In truth, of course, the Jewish faith is defined by its own tradition and not by its differences from ******ianity. Polemical debates, regardless of its participants, are neither definitive nor authoritative. The Talmudic rabbis engaged in such debates as well. Oftentimes they conceded that they rebuffed their opponents with "straw" or "broken reeds," i.e., that their responses were no more than polemical tactics and not their true positions.

A typical example would be the Jewish responses about "the suffering servant" of Isaiah 53. The polemicists follow the majority opinion of mediaeval Jewish exegetes that it speaks of the Jewish people, as opposed to the ******ian claim that it speaks of the messiah. This view is found also among some Talmudic rabbis. It does not negate, however, the validity of the pervasive Talmudic-Midrashic-Zoharic interpretation that the subject of that chapter is indeed Mashiach.

In this self-same context, Dr. Berger draws ammunition for his attack from the fact that ******ian missionaries now argue that the claims of messiahship for the Lubavitcher Rebbe support and vindicate the ******ian allegations of a "second coming." He ignores the fact that for the longest time they have claimed that authentic Jewish sources support and vindicate the messiahship of J****. They keep republishing books which cite numerous passages from Talmud, Midrash, Zohar, Jewish Bible-commentaries and other works, to validate their arguments. Are we now to erase these quotations from our heritage?

4. Dr. Berger questions the authenticity of the statements by R. Aaron Soloveichik and R. Pinchas Hirshprung, alleging that they were written under duress. To him this allegation is not disrespectful, for "it is the refusal to acknowledge what everyone knows to be the case that defames a learned rabbi by falsely describing an acutely embarrassing declaration as the product of his considered judgment and asking history to remember him as a defender of false messianism" (p. 71).

In other words, out of reverence for their memory he accuses these venerable sages to have violated the Biblical prohibition not to be afraid of any man (Deuteronomy 1:17)! Surely, if, Heaven forbid, such authorities can be pressured to validate heresy, it stands to reason that all their other pronouncements are void and meaningless. The allegation, therefore, is not simply disrespectful but undermines the very structure of halachic authority.

Dr. Berger contends that Rabbi Soloveichik's characterization of the vote on the RCA resolution as a "cynical effort to besmirch Lubavitch" is an altogether groundless insult. Yet Dr. Berger himself provides us with the "modicum of evidence" he said to be non-existent:

On p. 67 he reports that he was asked by the chair of the RCA Resolutions Committee to "reformulate the resolution to include some positive statements about the Lubavitch movement and the Rebbe. I was happy to comply." He added 2 brief sentences as a preamble (cited there). On p. 69 he relates that "fewer than a handful of participants expressed any substantive reservations" to the resolution. But then, "surprisingly, it was the added, laudatory material that provoked substantial opposition"! He claims that this was "largely because of a preference for a spare, unencumbered text." In other words, adding one sentence of 18 words, or the other of 20 words, or both, would have rendered the separate paragraph of the resolution, consisting of 56 words, "encumbered and unwieldy"! With all due respect, the suspicion of ulterior motives for the "advocates of brevity" who prevailed over Dr. Berger is more than reasonable.

For the record, I enquired with the immediate family of R. Aaron Soloveichik as to his position in this matter. They informed me that he regarded the attribution of messiahship to the deceased Rebbe as a shtut (folly) but definitely not heretical.

5. Dr. Berger laments the fact of so many Lubavitchers holding influential positions as communal rabbis, heads of rabbinical courts, and other religious functionaries, as a tragedy threatening the very survival of traditional Judaism. He wants them fired and cast out from the community.

Question: were these men appointed because they are Lubavitchers or because they possess all the requisite qualifications, including appropriate scholarship in Jewish law? Second question: is it conceivable that these rabbis are as knowledgeable in Jewish law and tradition as their antagonists? Yet Dr. Berger and his bed-fellows presumptuously arrogate to themselves the authority to act as the prosecutors, judges, jury and executioners.


At this point I am compelled to react to references to myself in the book.

On pp. 53-55 and 59-60, Dr. Berger refers to my response to an offensive article published by the aforementioned Rabbi Keller in the Jewish Observer which attacked messianism as well as hasidic teachings and practices. Dr. Berger's quotes me correctly: ******ians differ from the messianists because they believe that their savior was already the effective Messiah, and that the messianic redemption is already an established fact, though yet to move to a new stage with the ‘second coming.' This is not a matter of semantics but fraught with practical implications: that belief caused them to abrogate the Torah and mitzvot (even as the Sabbateans too changed halachah because of their belief). There are no such changes whatsoever among the messianists.

Dr. Berger then interprets my words. He claims that I appear to maintain that there is no objection to the belief that the Messiah will appear on what he calls the ‘eschatological scale' and die before completing his mission. In other words, he claims that I support the very opposite of what I actually wrote! His total distortion of my position staggers the imagination. My sole point was to distinguish between an actualized messiah (eschatological scale of actual redemption) and a potential messiah. An actualized messiah is what Maimonides calls Mashiach vadai, as opposed to his term of chezkat Mashiach (validly potential Mashiach). The reality of Mashiach vadai is established, as Maimonides states, by the fulfilment of messianic prophecies alone.

My reference to the ******ian abrogation of the laws is clearly to prove that they believed that J**** was the actualized messiah. In the words of Paul: "If righteousness is through the law, ****** died for nothing." (Galatians 2:21; and cf. ibid. 3:19ff.; Romans 4:14f., 10:4; et passim).

To claim that I define an established redemption "in terms of the abrogation of the Torah," and that "Judaism rejects only the sort of incomplete messianic mission that nonetheless achieves the annulment of the Torah" (p. 55) is utter nonsense. It violates the fundamental principle of the immutability of the Torah. No prophet, including Mashiach, can ever introduce innovations to the Torah. On the contrary: when Mashiach comes, "all the laws will be re-instituted in his days as they had been aforetimes... The essence of all this is that the Torah, its statutes and its laws, are forever and all eternity; nothing is to be added to them or diminished from them. Whoever adds or diminishes anything, or interprets the Torah to change the plain sense of the commandments, is surely an impostor, wicked, and a heretic!" (Hilchot Melachim 11:1 and 3)

To attribute to me the view that Judaism rejected the messiahship of J**** because he did not effect a true redemption, and therefore was not already the actualized messiah, but "did not rule out the possibility that he could still turn out to be the Messiah" (p. 54), is maliciously offensive. J**** is rejected a priori because he lacked at least two of the cardinal prerequisites stated in Isaiah 11:1-2, in that he was not a male descendant of King David and violated the Torah in several instances.

This clarifies also the Rebbe's statement, cited above and attacked by Dr. Berger, that the cosmic avodat habirurim has been completed. The fact that Torah-observance continues in the Messianic era also means that avodat habirurim continues then as well, albeit of a different kind and order. Evil and the spirit of impurity will be removed with the actual coming of Mashiach and the redemption, and not before (see Zechariah 13:2 et passim).

The Rebbe clearly speaks of the order requisite for the redemption. His pronouncement is no different in principle than one made by the universally acclaimed R. Israel Meir Hakohen (Chafetz Chayim) who more daringly stated (e.g., Ma'amar Tzipita Liyeshu'ah) that the ultimate prerequisite of teshuvah (repentance) has already been achieved. The Chafetz Chayim constantly insisted on the imminence of the redemption, urged the immediate study of the laws relating to the soon-to-be-rebuilt Temple, and was instrumental in his son in-law preparing a concise compendium of these laws (Avodat Hakorbanot). As a professional historian, Dr. Berger should at least have noted the astounding homogeneousness between the messianic activities and urgings of these two sages.

The ******ians misinterpreted Jeremiah 31:31ff. to arrive at their erroneous conclusion (see Hebrews 8:6ff., et passim). They may also have known about the Jewish teaching that "the commandments will be abolished in the future to come" (Nidah 61b). They did not realize, however, that this relates (a)only to the ultimate era after the general resurrection of the dead, (b) even then only to those to be resurrected, and (c)even then there is a dispute whether this will be temporarily or permanently. [For an acute analysis of this concept, see the Lubavitcher Rebbe's Halachot Torah shebe'al peh she'einan beteilin leo'lam (New York 1992), and also his Torah Chadashah Me'iti Teitze (New York 1991; both reprinted in Sha'arei Ge'ulah, vol.II, Jerusalem 1992).]


Dr. Berger also casts aspersions on my reference to R. Nachum of Chernobyl's belief that the resurrected Baal Shem Tov will be Mashiach, by questioning the veracity of the source (p. 59f.) He misses the point once again. The text I quoted was published by a very meticulous and erudite scholar, and gained approbations from numerous pre-eminent rabbis and authorities. Whether or not the report is historically correct is irrelevant. The import is that we are discussing a concept that is deemed fully valid and legitimate.

We noted Dr. Berger's juggling act. Originally he ridiculed and condemned the very possibility of a resurrected Mashiach. Then he moved to the new position that the real offense of the messianists is that they claim that the Rebbe had actually begun the process of redemption in his lifetime (thus was already Mashiach vadai, in actuality) and would soon return to complete it. Moreover, he states that I do not appear to object to such a belief.

Frankly, I am astounded. After so many years, and many discussions and debates with some of the most fervent messianists, I have never heard this statement of Dr. Berger's allegation. He offers no evidence whatsoever for its existence, leaving us to conclude that it is a figment of his imagination. Indeed, it stands in blatant contradiction to an unequivocal pronouncement of the Rebbe that the redemptive process starts, as ruled by Maimonides, with the actual fulfilment of the messianic prophecies, and not before (Likkutei Sichot, vol. V, p. 149).

In any case, it is mind-boggling how Dr. Berger makes the transcendental leap from a defense of the possibility of the Rebbe remaining a potential Mashiach to a defense of his novel redefinition of the messianists.

Ironically, I have no quarrel with the substance of the RCA resolution (redundant though it is) which rightly rejects the Berger-version of the messianist credo. At the same time, however, I fully endorse Rabbi Soloveichik's critique of it, for now it has been vindicated by Dr. Berger's own account of the proceedings.


The book is filled with numerous other errors and fallacies, too many to deal with here. Least among these are the careless inaccuracies. [For example: the "unknown individual born on the day of the destruction of the Temple" is said never to have been a leader at all (p. 59), when our tradition identifies him as an incarnation of King David (Or Hachamah on Zohar I:82b); Lubavitch is accused of constructing menorahs of an atypical sort "because every new religion needs a symbol" (p. 62), when that "atypical sort" is the shape prescribed by Maimonides (Menachot 3:7); or an alleged citation on p. 128, note 124, which appears nowhere in Chabad liturgy; and so forth.] The above, however, suffices to reveal the probity and reliability of the book and its author. His tendentiousness is revealed also by a typical Freudian slip. In the very first chapter (p. 5), he defines the birth of hasidism as "a movement of rebellion against the Jewish communal establishment." This is surely a curious statement for a would-be history-professor in the post-Graetz era.

This leaves but one more sensitive issue, the charge of idolatry.

Five years ago, an article appeared in Beis Moshiach with obscene and idolatrous statements that one is halachically proscribed from repeating even in critical context but cited in Dr. Berger's book. Then there were press-reports about a psychopath in Safed who twice tried to murder the local chief-rabbi, a well-known Chabad hasid and scholar, because the rabbi condemned and excommunicated him for making the same type of statements as appeared in Beis Moshiach. Perhaps there is another handful like them.

Regardless of these, the professional opponents of Lubavitch charged that movement with the heresy of idolatry already much earlier, as does Dr. Berger his book. Thus on p. 83 he writes: "such atypical manifestations deflect concern by convincing outsiders that the problem of avodah zarah (idolatry) is limited to lunatics; in fact, they are symptoms of a deep problem at the core." A large part of the book is devoted to reinforce that premise.

The common denominator between the "lunatics" on the one hand, and the mitnagdim (antagonists to Chabad) with Dr. Berger on the other, is their present reference to one and the same source: a comment by the Rebbe made in the spring of 1950. The Rebbe discussed the mystical concept of a rebbe-tzadik and said that a person like that is "[Divine] Essence and Being placed in a body." All the aforementioned take that to mean, perish the thought, "Divine incarnation" in a literal sense. In tandem they distort the Rebbe's words.

Our sages note that all passages the heretics cited for their heresy, have their refutation near at hand. For example, "Let us (plural) make man..." (Genesis 1:26) is deflected by the adjacent "God created (singular) man..." (Sanhedrin 38b) Even so, when Moses wrote the Torah and came to the verse "Let us make man," he said: "Master of the Universe! Why do You provide a rationalization for the heretics?" God answered: "Write! Whoever wishes to err let him err!" (Bereishit Rabba 8:8)

The same applies here. The abusers of the Rebbe's statement typically quote out of context. The phrase cited is an integral part of the following:

"There are those who ask: how can one ask [for blessings etc.] from a rebbe, which is tantamount to an intermediary?... In truth, however, Israel, the Torah and the Holy One, blessed is He, are altogether one. It is not just that Israel becomes bound up with the Torah and the Torah with the Holy One, blessed is He, but truly one indeed. Just so it is with the bond of hasidim with the rebbe: it is not a case of two entities becoming united, but becoming literaly altogether one. The rebbe is not an intermediary who separates, but an intermediary who joins together. With a hasid, therefore, he and the rebbe and the Almighty are one.

"(I have not seen this stated explicitly in hasidism, but it is a feeling. Thus whoever wishes to sense that, let him do so and whoever does not - I will not argue with him, let him remain with what he has.)

"The question of intermediary, therefore, does not apply, as this is Essence and Being placed into a body."

In the sequel the Rebbe cites several proof-texts from Talmud, Zohar and hasidic texts which aver theomorphic ascriptions to saints.

The "controversial" phrase in its full context makes it crystal clear, beyond any shadow of doubt, that a rebbe is not, Heaven forbid, identified with the Godhead. God, rebbe and hasidim are incontrovertibly distinguished one from another. In sound Talmudic-Midrashic tradition, the tzadik (saint) stands above the people and serves at best as in intermediary to bring the latter to a bond with God. The concept of intermediary is explicitly qualified to be of supportive nature ("an intermediary who joins together"), as opposed to, Heaven forbid, the ******ian concept of an indispensable intermediary ("an intermediary who separates") which violates a fundamental principle of the Jewish faith.

The distortion by the lunatic fringe of the messianists and the venomous mitnagdim who reject hasidism a priori, is no more than crude ignorance or pernicious mischief. "Whoever wishes to err, let him err!"

It should be noted, though, that the Rebbe appears to have anticipated this tragic malignity three decades before the birth of the lunatic fringe, and way before the "discovery" of his words by the mitnagdim in the 1980's: in the reprints of this discourse in Kuntres Yud Shvat (published in the 1960's), and in Sefer Hama'amarim Bati Legani (New York 1977, p. 277) he ordered the deletion of the "controversial" phrase!

[Incidentally, I am not clear about the phrase "I have not seen this stated in hasidism." In my Chassidic Dimensions (2nd ed., New York 1995, pp. 99-115 and 120-124) I analyze the concept of the rebbe-tzadik as an intermediary, tracing it to standard rabbinic sources and its extensive treatment in the classical hasidic texts (and note there also the explanation of theomorphic ascriptions). Perhaps the Rebbe meant that they do not use his specific formulation. Alternatively, he refers specifically to Chabad-texts.]

My final comment is on a lighter note. Dr. Berger wants Chabad hasidim excommunicated unless they are prepared to say "without equivocation: ‘The Rebbe is not the Messiah'." (p. 51) They are not to be hired unless they will first swear that "the Rebbe is not and will not be Moshiach" (p. 144).

This tragi-comical tantrum of Professor Berger, reminds me of an encounter with a fervent messianist, during the time of the Rebbe's final illness when the messianist group first dared to raise its head unbridled. I concluded the debate with a simple question: "Are you prepared to swear with a Torah-scroll in your hand that the Rebbe is definitely Mashiach?" In visible shock he hemmed and hawed, and remained silent. I offer the same challenge to Dr. Berger: "Are you prepared to swear with a Torah-scroll in your hand that the Almighty will definitely not designate the Rebbe to be Mashiach?"

No doubt, today one may find individuals, among both the extremist messianists and the mitnagdim, and most likely Dr. Berger himself, prepared to give such oaths. For their god is one who is made in their image and likeness and restricted to abide by their prejudices.

Dr. Berger's book chronicles a quixotic odyssey. He is aware that many, even among those sympathetic to his cause, regard his efforts as "symptoms of a personal idiosyncrasy" eliciting "musings about unhealthy obsessions." (p. 132f.) For his sake, we wish and pray that he consider this concern much more seriously.
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Unread 01-17-2002, 07:39 PM   #11
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Irresponsible Slander: Review by Dennis Prager

Chabad teaches Jews about Judaism—not about the Rebbe as Messiah.

David Berger, a Modern Orthodox Jew who is a professor of history at Brooklyn College, published an attack on Chabad in a recent issue of Commentary magazine. The attack was based on Berger's new book, The Rebbe, the Messiah, and the Scandal of Orthodox Indifference. As a great admirer of Commentary for more than 30 years, I read the article with much anticipation. It was, however, the only article I ever read in that journal that was unworthy of it. Not because the subject is unworthy of exploration and certainly not because any Jewish group should be immune from sharp criticism, but because Professor Berger built his case largely by quoting unnamed Chabad sources.

Nevertheless, the attack, as irresponsible as it may have been, is an important one that needs to be addressed. Professor Berger argues that if we are to take Judaism's beliefs seriously, all Jews (especially Orthodox Jews, whom he accuses of sinful silence regarding Chabad beliefs) must confront Chabad for believing that the late Chabad leader, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, "the Rebbe," was the Messiah, and deeming him a divine being. In essence, he accuses Chabad of having beliefs as alien to Judaism as those of Jews for J****.

As I intend to defend Chabad, full personal disclosure is necessary. I am not a member of Chabad, I am not an Orthodox Jew, and my regular synagogue is Reform. I do, however, have extensive experience working with Chabad. I have lectured for Chabad in many communities around the world and I am on the board of directors of the Conejo Jewish Day School, a Chabad-run community school in Agoura, Calif.

In all my years dealing with Chabad rabbis, I have never heard a hint of the beliefs Professor Berger accuses Chabad of espousing. Of course it is possible, in the sense that almost anything attributed to unexpressed beliefs is possible, that all or some of these scores of rabbis I have worked with believe the Rebbe was or still is the Messiah or even divine. But since neither I nor any other non-Chabad Jew I have talked to has ever heard their local Chabad rabbis say this, the charge is meaningless and irresponsible. What some unnamed Chabad rabbis in Brooklyn say is of no significance in the day-to-day Jewish programming of Chabad houses around the world.

As a Jew who has devoted much of his life to making the case for ethical monotheism, I am very sensitive to any Jewish deviation from monotheistic beliefs. But if there are any Chabadniks who so deviate, they are so few and so ostracized that they merely represent the proverbial tree that fell in the forest.

As for the belief that the Rebbe was or is the Messiah, it may well be true that this is not a fringe belief among Chabad rabbis. But, again, I have never heard this in decades of involvement with Chabad. Among those Chabad rabbis who believed this or who still believe it, this belief is entirely personal and plays no role whatsoever in the outreach work of Chabad. Chabad teaches Jews about Judaism, not about the Rebbe as Messiah. There is no parallel between Chabad and Jews for J****. Drawing such a parallel is as immoral as it is intellectually dishonest. Chabad believers in the messiahship of the Rebbe have been utterly silent about it in the presence of other Jews, while the very essence of Jews for J**** has always been to proselytize other Jews—to bring Jews to belief in J**** as God as well as Messiah, and thereby to make Jews into ******ians. If you do not believe in J**** as Messiah and as the son of God, you cannot be a Jew for J****. Is there any analogous criterion for membership in Chabad? Of course not. Shame on anyone who likens the two groups.

Nevertheless, it is fair to assume that the belief in the Rebbe as Messiah may well motivate some Chabad couples to leave their homes, their culture, their families, and their friends to cheerfully live among largely irreligious Jews and non-Jews in the remotest areas of the world. And if so, more power to them. Obviously there is no equally compelling belief among members of other Jewish groups to make similar sacrifices for Jewry.

But isn't this belief Jewishly sinful? Not in my opinion, and not in the opinion of many Orthodox Jewish sources and some leading non-Chabad Orthodox rabbis such as Rav Ahron Soloveitchik, who has defended Chabad Jews' right to their beliefs about the Rebbe.

I cannot help but think that part of what animates some Orthodox Jews to attack Chabad (and remember, most Orthodox Jews do not attack Chabad, which is precisely what bothers Professor Berger) is old-time misnagdish antipathy to another expression of Orthodoxy. Since the beginnings of Hasidism, some Orthodox Jews have resented the "worship of God through joy" and mysticism that permeates Chabad: "You mean how many pages of Gemara a Jew knows is not of utmost importance? Heresy!"

Envy may be at play as well. Just about anywhere there are Jews on this planet, there is a Chabad presence thanks to the ubiquitous Chabad House. Other Orthodox Jews greatly outnumber Chabad, but Orthodox rabbis and lay people overwhelmingly live only among other Orthodox Jews. Indeed, there is often suspicion and bewilderment among many Orthodox Jews about Chabad rabbis moving their families to places with virtually no other Orthodox Jews, no kosher food, no mikvah, no Orthodox minyan. Yet, these young Chabad men and women move anywhere and everywhere, often to be utterly alone, and do so with big smiles and unrelenting enthusiasm.

I have come to deeply admire these Chabad shlichim (emissaries). I admire their happy and non-judgmental dispositions. I have never met a dour Chabad rabbi. These couples are personable, funny, vibrant, happy, and, given their largely fundamentalist beliefs, remarkably non-judgmental of others. After spending 10 years writing a book on happiness, I have come to value happiness as a moral, not just psychological, necessity. Happy people do a lot more good for humanity than the unhappy and whining. And these people tend to be happy—and remarkably accepting. They see other Jews as fellow Jews, not as non-halachic sinners. For years I wondered how Chabad can so frequently invite this non-Orthodox Jew to lecture for them, especially since the Orthodox world of Professor Berger almost never invites non-Orthodox Jews. One day I realized the answer: The Orthodox ask, "Does he drive on Shabbos?" while Chabad asks "Does he help us bring Jews to Judaism?"

In sum, though I do not share Chabad's Orthodox halachic observances or the messianic claims some of its rabbis hold regarding the Rebbe (though what Jew would not at least hope that they are right?), along with many other Jews, I acknowledge the great things Chabad does for Jews and Judaism. Chabad deserves Jews' gratitude, not vitriol.

Published in Moment Magazine
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Unread 01-20-2002, 08:05 AM   #12
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Berger Fried at Bar Ilan

by Yori Yanover

It was a piece of street theater, with a touch of revival tent. An assembly of academics—each with his or her notes on Chabad and its unique take on everything, from God (pronounced G-d) to Zionism, Feminism and everything—was confronted with a vulgarity that was almost seductive. A supposed man of letters playing up the shock value so far beyond what is considered an unbiased discussion, that his audience became horrified both by his song and by his pathos. And then he was denounced so soundly by his colleagues, dispassionate university types, who don't get riled up easily. Yours truly was only too happy to record the fiasco.


An audience of 250 sat in stunned silence at Bar-Ilan University Monday morning, as Brooklyn College Professor David Berger sang the hymn of the messianist faction of Chabad, "Yechi Adoneinu," "Long live our master, our teacher and our rabbi, King Messiah, for ever and eternity." To some attending the two-day conference on the past and future of Chabad-Lubavitch, known as "The Second Jolson Conference at Bar-Ilan University" and which dealt with a wide range of Chabad-related issues, the musical stunt was a confirmation of their worst fears about the chasidic movement. These are enumerated at length in Mr. Berger's book-length polemic, "The Rebbe, the Messiah, and the Scandal of Orthodox Indifference."

Others at the conference considered Mr. Berger's performance to be in exceptionally bad taste. Aviezer Ravitzky, chairman of the department of Jewish philosophy at Hebrew University, said that he was so offended by Mr. Berger's theatrics that he considered gathering his notes and leaving the conference.

Puzzling over Mr. Berger's motives became a kind of parlor game at the conference. "The extreme messianic position is offensive to [Mr. Berger] not because it is avoda zara," or idol-worship, said Ada Rapoport-Albert, author of "Messianic Hasidism: From Nineteenth-Century Bratslav to Twentieth-Century Habad." "Mr. Berger knows very well that nowadays avoda zara is a meaningless concept. Not even he believes for a moment that there will be massive conversions to a pagan idolatry of any kind. It's nonsense.

"The source of real anxiety to people like [him] is the irrationality of it," she continued. Mr. Berger and his supporters "are Orthodox people who have come to terms with the modern world as rationalist scholars. It is their lack of capacity to take on the irrationality of religion that puts them off. Unfortunately for them, the world around them is embracing irrationality and it appears to be here to stay."

For full article visit Foreward. Yori Yanover is the Chief Editor of USA Jewish
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Unread 02-25-2002, 05:48 AM   #13
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Attack on Lubavitch – A Response * By Rabbi Chaim Dalfin

In the last few months a series of published attacks on the Chabad-Lubavitch movement has not only challenged its legitimacy as a Jewish religious organization, but have also condemned Chabad-Lubavitch Chasidim as idol worshippers, believers in ******ian theology and Jews that need to be excommunicated—expelled, from the organized Orthodox Jewish community.

The attacks have come cloaked in the name of "scholarship" and "concern for Judaism"... However, they are the product of deeply flawed research that is replete with inaccuracies. Beside their scholarly shortcomings, these well-publicized attacks on Lubavitch seek to turn observant Jews against each other [G-d forbid] while impugning and diminishing the efforts of thousands, past and present, who have sacrificed their physical comforts, the support and security of their religious communities, their freedom from imprisonment, and even their lives, to bring the light of Torah and Mitzvoth to Jews around the world.

I refer specifically to Dr. David Berger’s book, The Rebbe, The Messiah and The Scandal of Orthodox Indifference. In summary, Berger’s book asserts that many Lubavitcher Chasidim are idol worshippers, believing in the ******ian concept of the Second Coming. Even the non-Messianist chasidim are to be condemned —- by not challenging this form of idolatry, they are condoning it. Berger contends that the Rebbe himself instigated this false messianism, and that Lubavitchers pray to him, believing he is G-d in human form. Furthermore, Berger states that the leadership of Orthodox Judaism is collectively guilty of allowing the Lubavitch Messianists (Moshiachistin) to redefine Judaism’s age-old understanding of who can or cannot be the Mashiach.

Not Academic Standards

Although a prestigious publisher produced his book, the material Dr. Berger presents lacks academic rigor and is fraught with bias. Commonly accepted research methods dictate that a truth seeking investigator of complex and historically significant socio-theological phenomena explore as many primary sources of evidence as possible, using thorough and balanced methods. How much more so would we expect that one, who identifies himself as an observant Jew, would go to the greatest lengths possible before publicly condemning the Lubavitcher Rebbe and the Chabad movement’s efforts to help speed the coming of the Messiah.

During my phone conversation with Dr. Berger the evening of November 8, 2001, it became evident that he used a sub-standard approach in his investigation —- he never studied Chabad Chasidus, he did not have any in-depth discussions with the Lubavitcher Chasidim whom he claims believe the Rebbe is Mashiach and that a tzaddik is the essence of G-d in human form. Although he hasn’t spoken one word to any of the principals to whom he attributes various beliefs related to the Rebbe, he does not hesitate to convict them of apostasy.

It is not within the scope of this book to detail the egregious theological mistakes and misunderstandings Berger has promulgated. Interested readers are referred to relevant discussions by such Torah scholars as Rabbis Hershel Fogelman, Pinchus Hirschprung, Emmanuel Schochet, Ahron Soloveichik, and Sholom Ber Wolpo for thorough documentation of sources supporting the premise that the belief that the Rebbe could be the Mashiach, even after his passing on the third of Tammuz, is within the bailiwick of normative Jewish theology.

In addition to responding to Berger’s accusations, this book presents a comprehensive overview of Lubavitch history, offering the reader an understanding of the origins of Lubavitch, its emphasis on love for fellow Jews, and that faith in a Jewish leader as the presumptive Messiah is a traditional Jewish concept.

We will explore historical episodes of challenges to our rebbeim and Chasidim, showing that Berger’s criticisms are not just on the Messianists of the 21st Century. They encompass the non-Messianists of Chabad and the entire Chasidic movement, whose ancestors also spoke of their Rebbeim being Mashiach.

Conclusions are Wrong

Dr. Berger comes to the conclusion that any Lubavitcher, who believes the Rebbe is Mashiach or could be Mashiach even after his passing, should be expelled from the Orthodox Jewish community. Berger’s call for an all-out disassociation with Chabad-Lubavitch is a throwback to the 1700s, when elitist Jews also called for excommunication of Chasidim, G-d forbid.

The accusations against Chasidim of the 1700s were proven to be unfounded, and today many misnagdim have even adopted some Chasidic customs. For example, some misnagdim wear a gartel under their jacket. In order to receive the Rebbe’s blessing, some visit Chasidic Rebbeim with their children who are getting married.

This attack against G-d fearing Jews, who have dedicated and in too many cases, surrendered their lives for the dissemination of Torah and mitzvoth, is nothing less than outrageous. In order that Jews everywhere are properly informed, I will demonstrate how Dr. Berger’s premises, charges, accusations, and conclusions are incorrect and destructive to the Jewish community.

As this book will elucidate, Lubavitcher Chasidim do not say that the Rebbe is Mashiach in halachic terms, as described at length in the Rambam’s Mishne Torah, Laws of Kings, 11:4. Rather, their belief is based on the writings of the Rebbe and his predecessors, regarding the relationship between chasidim and the Rebbe of their generation, the nasi, or leader of the generation. There are Torah sources that validate this devotion; belief that one’s rebbe is Mashiach does not violate halacha. There are no Lubavitchers who believe the Rebbe is G-d, and Lubavitchers do not pray to the Rebbe.

Although I am a Lubavitcher chasid from birth, studied the Rebbe’s teachings and spent many hours learning from Lubavitcher mashpi’im and Chasidim, I state unequivocally that this book is only my opinion; I am not writing on behalf of any Lubavitcher organization.

* * *

120 pages; Limited Copies - Special on-line price $15 includes shipping: To get your copy send a check to: JEP 1721 45 St. Brooklyn New York 11204. For more information call 718/438-7628 or email Rabbi Dalfin Website:
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Unread 03-11-2002, 09:01 AM   #14
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This Berger guy gave a talk in a Book Show in the UK recently I'm told. Did anyone here go?
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Unread 03-11-2002, 09:07 AM   #15
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There is a book in the UK by Chaim Rapaport against Berger. Berger mentioned that book in his speech and was very bothered by it.
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Unread 03-11-2002, 05:37 PM   #16
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recently, in the jewish press, they had an article by shuchot and an article by berger. it was actually very interesting to read. if anyone read it, i'm sure they noticed that shuchot stuck to facts, while berger didnt really bring in anything concrete.
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Unread 03-11-2002, 06:32 PM   #17
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Thats the way it usualy works with people who are anti Lubavitch.
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Unread 03-21-2002, 12:50 AM   #18
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The Rebbe said that the leader of the generation is the Moshiach of the generation and that Beis Moshiach equals 770. Didn't he refer many times to the Friediker Rebbe as the Moshiach of the generation (and that somehow his soul is bound with the Friediker Rebbe) and say"May we actually merit (the Redemption) immediately [miyad] with all the meanings of 'miyad.'... In footnote 148, the Rebbe inserts: "And more specifically pertaining to our generation, the acronym of 'MiYaD' indicates the three eras of the Rebbe, my father-in-law, leader of our generation, \from the most recent in order: Moshiach (whose name is Menachem), Yosef Yitzchok, Dovber (the second name of the Rebbe Rashab)." There are Torah sources that speak about Moshiach arising from the dead.
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Unread 04-15-2002, 06:46 PM   #19
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i received this in an email:

Come on, David…

How can David Berger have any claims against Lubavitch adherence to Halacha, if he himself was seen eating meat and drinking wine on Tisha Beav?

Of course, I am leaving out a crucial detail – the Tisha Beav to which I am referring coincided with Shabbat. There is not only no prohibition, there is actually a special obligation to eat meat and drink wine in such a case in order to exclude any possibility of implying mourning on Shabbat. (Disclaimer: For all I know, David Berger might be a vegetarian allergic to grapes and did not in fact eat meat or drink wine on Tisha beav that coincided with Shabbat, but it is irrelevant…)

The point is:

Quoting statements – even facts – out of context is unfair and dishonest.

I would like to refer to some of his allegations, which I am sure will suffice to show that we are dealing here with a distorted, at best - oversimplified, presentation of ‘facts’.

Allegation #1)

‘The Rebbe is G-d’s essence manifest in a physical body.’

At first glance this would appear to be a totally unacceptable heresy. How can anyone dare say that a human being is G-d or that G-d is a human being??!!

Of course, like in the example of eating meat on Tisha Beav, one must have all the facts and understand the meaning of the words and concepts before judging the implications of what was said.

First of all, we find similar expressions in ‘pre-chassidic’ Judaism. In the Zohar we find that Rabi Shimon bar Yochai says in reference to himself: ‘Who is the face of the Master, G-d? It is Rabi Shimon bar Yochai’.

Moshe Rabeinu tells the Jews (and I am sure that David Berger repeats it several times daily – he even has it written inside his Tefillin - ): “I will give you your rains in their appropriate times… Grass in the fields for your animals…”. Does Moshe Rabeinu make rain fall and grass grow? Our sages tell us that Shechina medaberes mitoch grono shel Moshe. Moshe Rabeinu was the Shechina’s mouthpiece!

To be sure, identifying G-dliness in human beings is not unusual. Every Neshama is a Chelek Eloka Mimaal, a part of G-d above, (and the Alter Rebbe adds the word ‘Mamosh’, verily). The only difference (regarding G-dly status) between Moshe Rabeinu, the Lubavitcher Rebbe and David Berger and myself is that Moshe Rabeinu and the Lubavitcher Rebbe were totally subjugated to their G-dly Neshama, whereas David Berger’s and my own G-dly spark have to spend a good part of their time competing with the animal soul within us.

In Chassidic terminology, there are two types of interaction between things, Makif and Hislabshus. Superficial and manifest. We all have a Neshoma. In some of us it is not always very apparent. In others, it is very apparent. For some of us our neshoma is a virtual reality, for others, it is reality.

When we say that ‘a Rebbe is the Essence of G-d, manifest in a physical body’, what we are saying is that when one looks at the Rebbe, one sees a ‘container’ that expresses its ‘content’ and not a container that conceals or denies its content.

What is the purpose of Aliah Leregel (Going up to the Temple of Jerusalem to celebrate the Festivals of Pesach, Sukos and Shavuos)? To see G-dliness in the Beis Hamikdash. How can one associate G-d’s presence with a physical place? Was Hashem more present in the Kodesh hakodoshim than – lehavdil - in the stadiums of Rome? Isn’t it heresy to say that G-d is not omnipresent??

Again, we must understand what ‘being found’ means. We are not talking about G-d existing more in one place than in another, but rather being perceived and felt in one place more than in another.

Even to the beginner student of Chassidus it comes as no surprise that a Tzadik is a manifestation of G-d; after all, even a simple pebble has a G-dly ‘soul’.

Allegation #2)

The Rebbe was/is Mashiach

Before we address the issue of the Rebbe’s (possible/impossible/probable/definite/past/present/future) status as Mashiach, I think that first we must establish: Does the belief in Mashiach imply belief in a literal fulfilling of the prophecies connected with Redemption, or is it just an abstract unrealistic, idealistic goal. ‘Let’s behave as if Mashiach will come, even though you and I know (wink, wink) that it will never really happen…(chas vesholom)’

For one who doesn’t really believe that a literal Mashiach is realistic, of course it is pathetic to claim that so-and-so is Mashiach. ‘Don’t you guys know that he’s not really supposed to come?’

However, if we are basing our discussion on the premise that Mashiach is literal, then the question is: was it halachically possible for the Rebbe to have been Mashiach?

Does his passing away exclude the possibility of his present role as Mashiach or does it exclude even the possibility of a future role as Mashiach.

(Of course, this question is only important to one who feels that he needs to identify who Mashiach is or is not.)

I think that nobody who believes that Mashiach is a literal concept and not just an abstract idea can argue with the fact that Rebbe could have been Mashiach, had the time for Geulah come.

I mean, why not?

(I would even wager to say that all the references that one can see in the Rebbe’s words regarding his being Mashiach only go as far as saying that he could – even should – be Mashiach, (like Moshe Rabbeinu’s ‘Voeschanan’, pleading to Hashem to allow him to enter Eretz Yisrael with the Jewish People), never promising that he definitely would.)

The main problem people have is with a ‘resurrected moshiach’.

It is ‘unconventional’. But is it heretical? Is it a ******ian idea, as David Berger alleges? Did Judaism reject Yeshu just because he died or was it because of so many other disqualifying reasons even before he was killed?

I think that we must stop here for a second and identify two different (possible) claims: 1) The Rebbe was and continues to be Mashiach; 2) The Rebbe was not nor is but will be Mashiach after Resurrection.

I will not try to prove or disprove either of these claims. I am just pointing out that there exist 2 very different claims. The question is (independently of the Rebbe fitting the bill): is it possible that Mashiach will arise from the dead in order to redeem the Jewish People?

Another consideration: do the ‘messianists’ claim that the Geulah has already come? Do they not fast and mourn on Tisha Beav? Did they change any of the traditional prayers that refer to our being in exile and our hope for the imminent (not yet accomplished) Geulah?

Even if one feels that there is no basis to support the claim that the Rebbe is Mashiach. Is there any unequivocal basis to say that he is not or cannot be?

The Gemarah in Sanhedrin 98 seems to imply this possibility. David Berger says (emphasis mine): “.. many responses from Lubavitch Hasidim pointing mainly to a single talmudic passage in Tractate Sanhedrin (98b) that, according to one interpretation, explicitly raises the possibility of a messiah who returns from the dead, and also to a few later authorities commenting on that passage…”

The reader who does not make the effort to look up the source might get the impression that the interpretation of that talmudic passage belongs to some solitary, unreliable maverick... It is interesting to note that that ‘one interpretation’ is brought by none other than Rashi!!

Our sages teach us that Rabi Akiva’s students perished because they did not respect one another. How can that be? Rabi Akiva was the one that taught that Ahavat Israel is one of the great rules of Judaism! How can a disciple of Rabi Akiva transgress this main teaching of his master and still be considered his disciple? The reason is that as a result of their great love they lost their respect. Indeed, it does not say that they did not love one another. They did. After all, they were Rabi Akiva’s disciples. Their intense love, however, brought them to disrespect the right of their fellow to his or her own legitimate opinion and even to make their own mistakes.

David Berger loves the ‘messianists’ and orthodox Jewry and wants to save them from themselves. The ‘messianists’ love David Berger as much as they love all Jews and they want to make sure that he is saved from himself…

Love your fellow Jew. But respect him, his intelligence and feelings as well.

As I write these lines, a Midrash comes to mind.

When Moshe Rabbeinu passed away on Mt. Nevo, people looked for his kever. Those at the top of the mountain thought they saw it at the foot of the mountain. Those at the foot of the mountain thought that they saw it at the top of the mountain. I learned this Midrash as a child and never understood the meaning…

Now I think I do…

Moshe Rabbeinu had passed away and left an incredibly challenging legacy. There were those that preferred to ‘bury’ Moshe and his challenge of Truth. To consider his teachings alive and relevant was just too much to bear. They needed to escape. They needed to ‘bury’ him.

Some thought they could bury him at the top of the Mountain: ‘proclaim him as Messiah and keep him very far and lofty’. ‘They took such a great Rebbe and transformed him into such a small Messiah.’

Others thought that they could discredit him by burying him at the bottom, by attempting to pull him down to their lowest levels of perception…

All they managed to do was to bury themselves in the process by wasting their lives.…
The Land of Israel is G-d's gift to the Jews.

Last edited by PeaceInIsrael; 04-15-2002 at 06:50 PM.
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Unread 04-15-2002, 10:43 PM   #20
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The e-mail posted by Peace was wrotten by somone who did not read the book.

Last edited by nachmans; 04-28-2002 at 08:23 PM.
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Unread 04-16-2002, 09:27 AM   #21
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he got one thing right

BS”D One of my friends just read Berger’s book and pointed out to me that on a certain page it is (correctly) noted that despite the Rebbe's repeated calls, there is currently not even one Shliach seriously devoted to outreach to gentiles. Some people may find the following somewhat harsh, but I feel it needs to be said so hey – that’s democracy:

Perhaps a similar book ought to be written with the title: The Noahide Campaign and The Scandal of Chabad Indifference.
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Unread 04-16-2002, 10:06 AM   #22
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PeaceInIsrael, The e-mail message you received frames the issues really nicely, and I commend you and thank you for sharing it with us.

One part of the e-mail especially caught my eye:

[quote]I would even wager to say that all the references that one can see in the Rebbe’s words
regarding his being Mashiach only go as far as saying that he could – even should – be
Mashiach, (like Moshe Rabbeinu’s ‘Voeschanan’, pleading to Hashem to allow him to
enter Eretz Yisrael with the Jewish People), never promising that he definitely would.)[\quote]

To me, that is the heart of the matter: Did the Rebbe promise that he was and definitely would be the Moshiach, or not?

I believe, based on the totality of my experience in Lubavitch since 5738, that the Rebbe prophesied that he was (and will be) the Moshiach. But, the darkness is so great. How much longer must we wait?

Meanwhile, I think I'm going to change my signature line to a quote from your e-mail:

Love your fellow Jew. But respect him, his intelligence and feelings as well.
Love your fellow Jew. But respect him, his intelligence and feelings as well.

Just Trying To Be Helpful.
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Unread 05-21-2002, 10:34 AM   #23
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objection of Noahide to Noahide support of Berger

"Like one who seizes a dog's ears, so is one who grows wrathful over a dispute that is not his." (Proverbs 26:17)

Although a Noachide I must remember that I am still a gentile, so why would I concern myself with any contention within the Jewish people?

--Xtians are known for meddling in Jewish affairs (which has caused, as we all know, immeasurable harm), so do we as Noachides want to carry on this tradition of interference? Besides, there is so much to learn aside from sorting out Jewish contentions.

We should remember that because of the way we have treated the Jewish people, gentile opinions (even Noachide opinions) are not so welcome in Jewish circles.

We will never earn the respect of the Jewish people if we continue practicing traits we should have left behind with xtianity. My Noachism is my love and respect of the Jewish people.
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Unread 05-21-2002, 05:11 PM   #24
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Is this causing a big contraversy in the Noahidic world also?
Siz doch altz hevel havalim-Ein od milvado!

Down with politics!
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Unread 05-22-2002, 08:36 AM   #25
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BS"D (Um, I wouldn't say there are that many Noahides that we can speak of a Noahide world. Yet. There are thousands worldwide, although their numbers are growing rapidly.)

Well, Noahides are complete newcomers. They have accepted Torah (i.e. Rabbinic) authority, but they are still in the dark as to what that entails exactly. So they simply don't know what is going on in Torah Judaism.

Also, they are often very adversely affected by the emotional trauma of realising the error of ******ianity, which made them (rightfully) feel very humiliated at being so deceived. So they are more suspicious.

So this was the reaction of one Noahide when another Noahide (the suspicious type) publicised Berger's drivel.

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