Chabad-Lubavitch related controversies

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Chabad-Lubavitch is a branch of Hasidism. During its nearly 300-year history, a number of controversies, though mostly unrelated to one another, have arisen. These incidents have mostly centered on religious beliefs and practices of the Chabad movement and the reaction of other Orthodox Jewish communities.

1770s to 1790s: Early opposition[edit]

In the course of the Chabad movement's establishment, opponents (Misnagdim) arose among the local Jewish community. Disagreements between Hasidim and their opponents included debates concerning knives used by butchers for Shechita, the phrasing of prayers among others.[1] Shneur Zalman and a fellow Hasidic leader, Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk (or, according to the tradition in the Soloveitchik family, Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev), attempted to persuade the leader of Lithuanian Jewry, the Vilna Gaon, of the legitimacy of Hasidic practices. However, the Gaon refused to meet with them.[2]

1810s: Chabad and Strashelye[edit]

Rabbi Dovber Schneuri, the son and successor of Rabbi Shneur Zalman, was challenged by a friend and senior disciple of his father, Rabbi Aharon HaLevi of Strashelye, on the matter of Rabbi Dovber's succession as rebbe of Chabad. The differences between the two led Rabb Aaron to form the Strashelye movement.

When Rabbi Schneur Zalman died, a number of chasidim chose to follow Rabbi Aharon HaLevi of Strashelye, a close disciple of Rabbi Shneur Zalman. The majority of the movement, however, remained followers of Rabbi Dovber.

One of the main points the two rabbis disagreed on was the place of spiritual ecstasy in prayer. R' Aharon supported the idea while Rabbi Dovber emphasized genuine ecstasy can only be a result of meditative contemplation (hisbonenus). Rabbi Dovber published his arguments on the subject in an compilation titled Kuntres Hispa'alus ("Tract on Ecstasy").[3]

1940s: World War Two[edit]

Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, the sixth Chabad Rebbe, escaped Nazi occupied Poland, and settled in New York City. Some time after his arrival in New York, Rabbi Yoseph Yitzchok issued a call for repentance, stating L'alter l'tshuva, l'alter l'geula ("speedy repentance brings a speedy redemption"). This campaign was opposed by Rabbis Avraham Kalmanowitz and Aaron Kotler of the Vaad Hatzalah. In return, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok was critical of the efforts of Rabbis Kalmanowitz and Kotler based on the suspicion that Kalmanowitz and Kotler were discriminating in their use of funds, placing their yeshivas before all else, and that the Mizrachi and Agudas Harabonim withdrew their support of the Vaad after they discovered this fact.[4]

1960s: Tefillin campaign[edit]

During 1967, prior to the Six-Day War, the seventh Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson launched a "Tefilin campaign" which encouraged the Jewish commandment (mitzvah) of the donning of Tefilin especially by non-affiliated Jews. Within the Haredi community, criticism of the campaign was voiced at the Agudat Israel convention of 1968. However, following the incident, Rabbi Yitzchok Hutner, a prominent Orthodox rabbi who had corresponded with Schneersohn in the past,[5] wrote to Schneerson privately, distancing himself from the convention. Hutner wrote that he had not been at the convention and asked forgiveness for any pain his earlier letters (discussing halachic issues regarding the tefillin campaign) may have caused.[6]


Public menorahs[edit]

During the 1980s, the Chabad movement initiated a large number of public menorah lightings celebrating the Jewish holiday of Chanukah. These actions resulted in a number of court cases and city council decisions involving such public displays. While some cases resulted in a ban on menorah display, most court decisions, including one by the United States Supreme Court,[7] upheld Chabad's display of public menorahs.[8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17]

Rabbi Elazar Shach[edit]

Rabbi Elazar Shach, a widely known Haredi rabbi in Israel, raised a number of criticisms of the seventh Chabad Rebbe and the Chabad movement.[18][19] During the 1980s, Shach publicly criticized Chabad's Lag Baomer Parades.[20] Shach, a vocal critic, compared Schneerson to the 17th-century false messiah Sabbatai Zevi,[21] and labeled Schneerson a "false messiah" (meshiach sheker).[22] Just before the 1988 Israeli election, Schneerson had encouraged Israeli Haredim to vote for the Agudat Israel party. This was seen as detrimental to the newly formed Degel HaTorah party which was supported by Rabbi Shach.[23]

The Chabad Library[edit]

The ownership of the Chabad Library was the subject of a dispute which ultimately led to the filing of a civil lawsuit, resulting in the ruling that the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, represented by Agudas Chasidei Chabad, were the rightful owners of the Chabad Library.

The dispute occurred when Barry Gurary, the grandson of Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn (the sixth Chabad Rebbe), removed books from the Chabad Library and began selling them for personal profit. Gurary claimed the books as part of his inheritance from his late grandfather. According to Gurary, the Chabad Library belonged to his grandfather's estate.

Following the directives of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (the seventh Chabad Rebbe), the Agudas Chasidei Chabad, the Chabad movement's central organization, filed a civil lawsuit to prevent Gurary from removing or selling any additional books. The Chabad movement argued that the library was the "communal property" of the Lubavitch Hasidim and not the "personal possessions" of the late Rebbe. They cited a letter written by the late Rebbe himself, supporting this notion.

The court ruled in favor of the Chabad movement, and the ruling was upheld on appeal.[24][25] In the Chabad community, the ruling is celebrated on the Fifth of Teves; the day is called "Didan Notzach" ("our ruling was victorious").


Chabad messianism[edit]

Main article: Chabad messianism

A few years before the seventh Rebbe's passing, members of the Chabad movement expressed their belief that the Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson is the Jewish Messiah. These beliefs have been termed "Chabad messianism", and those subscribing to the beliefs have been termed Meshichists (messianists). A number of Jewish leaders have publicly voiced their concerns and/or opposition towards certain aspects of Chabad messianism.

A mantra recited by a number of Chabad messianists proclaiming Schneerson as the messiah is the "Yechi".[26] Customs vary among messianists as to when the phrase is recited.

Messianic beliefs concerning Schneerson vary a great deal. Controversy exists over whether he actually died and will be resurrected as the messiah, or whether he is simply "in hiding" until his final advent. To date, no study reports the number of Chabad Chasidim who hold these beliefs.

Other controversies[edit]

A number of controversies have arisen within the Chabad movement.

United States[edit]



  1. ^ See The Hasidic Movement and the Gaon of Vilna by Elijah Judah Schochet. For a full treatment of this subject see The Great Maggid by Jacob Immanuel Schochet, 3rd ed. 1990,ch. X, ISBN 0-8266-0414-5.
  2. ^ An Encounter with the Alter Rebbe - Program One Hundred Sixty Eight - Living Torah
  3. ^ Ehrlich, Leadership in the HaBaD Movement, pp. 160–192, esp. pp. 167–172.
  4. ^ Rigg, Bryan Mark. Rescued from the Reich. Cambridge University Press. 2005.
  5. ^ Igros Kodesh, M.M. Schneerson, Kehot 1998 Vol. 7, pp. 2,49,192,215; Vol. 12, pp. 28,193; Vol. 14, pp. 167,266; Vol. 18, p. 251; Vol. 25, pp. 18-20; and Vol. 26, p. 485.
  6. ^ Mibeis Hagenozim, B. Levin, Kehot 2009, p.89.
  7. ^ "Supreme Court rules on public chanukiot", Joe Berkofsky, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, December 6, 2002
  8. ^ Mark A. Kaplan v. City of Burlington and Robert Whalen (12/12/89)United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, No. 89-7042; 891 F.2d 1024
  9. ^ Chabad-Lubavitch of Vermont v. City of Burlington, 936 F.2d 109 (C.A.2 (Vt.), 1991)
  10. ^ New Twist to Old Fight: Menorah in Vermont Park, Sally Johnson, New York Times, December 20, 1987
  11. ^ Lubavitch Chabad House, Inc. v. City of Chicago, 917 F.2d 341 (C.A.7 (Ill.), 1990)
  12. ^ Lubavitch of Iowa, Inc. v. Walters, 808 F.2d 656 (C.A.8 (Iowa), 1986)
  13. ^ Congregation Lubavitch v. City of Cincinnati, 923 F.2d 458 (C.A.6 (Ohio), 1991)
  14. ^ Chabad-Lubavitch of Georgia v. Miller, 5 F.3d 1383 (C.A.11 (Ga.), 1993)
  15. ^ "White Plains Council Blocks Electric Menorah for Park", Lisa W. Foderaro, December 3, 1991
  16. ^ "Menorah displays stir jewish rift", Miami Herald, June 14, 1987
  17. ^ "Christmas trees put back at SeaTac airport", Gene Johnson, Associated Press, December 13, 2006
  18. ^ See Michtavim u'Ma'amarim [Letters and Speeches of Rabbi Shach in Hebrew. Bnei Brak, Israel. 03-574-5006]: Volume 1, Letter 6 (page 15), Letter 8 (page 19). Volume 3, Statements on pages 100-101, Letter on page 102. Volume 4, letter 349 (page 69), letter 351 (page 71). Volume 5, letter 533 (page 137), letter 535 (page 139), speech 569 (page 173), statement 570 (page 174); see [1]
  19. ^ David Berger. The Rebbe, the Messiah, and the Scandal of Orthodox Indifference, Littman Library of Jewish Civilization (Portland), 2001, p. 7.
  20. ^ Michtavim U'maamarim, volume 1, edition 2, p. 49, Letter of Protest signed by Rabbis Shach and Kanievsky
  21. ^ Summer of the Messiah (Jerusalem Report) February 14, 2001
  22. ^ Allan Nadler. "A Historian's Polemic Against The Madness of False Messianism"
  23. ^ Berel Wein, Faith and Fate: The Story of the Jewish People in the 20th century, Shaar Press, 2001, p. 340.
  24. ^ Agudas Chasidei Chabad of U.S. v. Gourary, 833 F.2d 431 (C.A.2 (N.Y.), 1987)
  25. ^ New York Times Case Transcript, January 7, 1987
  26. ^ The full text is "Yechi Adoneinu Moreinu v'Rabbeinu Melech haMoshiach l'olam vo'ed" ("Long Live our Master, our Teacher, and our Rabbi, King Messiah, for ever and ever).
  27. ^ B. Sobel, The M’lochim
  28. ^ Ehrlich, Leadership in the HaBaD Movement, pp. 269–271
  29. ^ Jerome R. Mintz, Hasidic People, pp. 21–26
  30. ^ Jew cleared in beard-cutting case, Philadelphia Daily News, May 25, 1984
  31. ^ Attack on Rabbi brings anguish to Borough Park, Ari L. Goldman, New York Times, June 22, 1983
  32. ^ Letters to the Editor, Time, August 1, 1983
  33. ^ "Dissidents Name 'Rebbe'," The Forward, December 6, 1996
  34. ^ Heinon, Herb, "Bigger than Death," Jerusalem Post, August 15, 1997
  35. ^ Segall, Rebecca, "Holy Daze The problems of young Lubavitcher Hasidim in a world without the Rebbe," The Village Voice, September 30, 2000
  36. ^ Who controls Lubavitch headquarters?, David Berger, Jerusalem Post, April 22, 2006
  37. ^ Cuff 9 in rabbi row, The New York Daily News, December 16, 2004
  38. ^ Rough and Rebbe Brawler - I fight for Superman, Denise Buffa, New York Post, December 17, 2004
  39. ^ The Tragedy at 770, Dovid Eliezrie
  40. ^ Lubavitch Non-Messianists Win Court Battle, The Jewish Week, Debra Nussbaum Cohen, January 2, 2008[dead link]
  41. ^ How a Hefty Fee for an Ex-Governor Went Unnoticed, Tom Robbins, The Village Voice, July 23–29, 2003
  42. ^ Judge Hits Hasidic Group's Estate Claim, Bob Liff, The Daily News, October 02, 2000
  43. ^ Preliminary hearing, Commercial Division, Part 2 of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, 29 October 2003
  44. ^ Lubavitch Yeshiva case over, Shamais News Service, September 25, 2000
  45. ^ Lawsuit exposes Chabad power struggle in Israel, Yitzhak Danon and Itamar Levin, Globes, 15 February 2006 [2]