Jacob Immanuel Schochet

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Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet

Jacob Immanuel Schochet (August 27, 1935 - July 27, 2013) was a rabbi, academic and scholar who wrote and lectured on the history and philosophy of Hasidism and on themes of Jewish thought and ethics. He was a member of the Chabad movement.

Family background[edit]

Schochet was a son of Rabbi Dov Yehuda and Sarah Schochet. Rabbi Dov Yehuda Schochet was born in Telšiai (Telshe, Telz) Lithuania, and was an alumnus of the Telshe yeshiva. He served as rabbi in Basel, Switzerland from 1930 until 1947, and from 1947 to 1951 he served as chief rabbi of The Hague and the adjacent regional towns, in the Netherlands. Mrs. Schochet, née Mussensohn, was a scion of an illustrious Lithuanian rabbinical family. Shortly after emigrating to Toronto in 1951, Rabbi and Mrs. Schochet and most of their ten children joined the Chabad-Lubavitch movement. One source indicates a potential motivation might have been the involvement of the Lubavitcher Rebbe in saving the life of the youngest daughter of Rabbi Dov Yehuda Schochet after she had suffered severe burns.[1]

Education[edit]

Rabbi Dr. J. Immanuel Schochet was born in Switzerland on August 27, 1935. He was the third of the ten Schochet siblings. Rabbi Dr. Schochet received his early education there and in the Netherlands. After moving to North America, he attended the Chabad Central Yeshiva Tomchei Temimim in New York from which he graduated in 1958. He developed a relationship with the Lubavitcher Rebbe even as a young student in the yeshiva, and thereafter the Rebbe urged and encouraged his academic pursuits and literary efforts. He received his academic education in Canada, attending the University of Toronto, University of Windsor, McMaster University, and University of Waterloo, he holds degrees of BA (Phil), MA (Religious Studies), MPhil (Phil) and PhD (Phil). His specialties in philosophy are Logic, Epistemology, Ethics, and Philosophy of Religion. His Master's thesis at McMaster University was titled: The Treatment of Anthropomorphism in Targum Onkelos (1966).[2] His PhD thesis at the University of Waterloo was titled: The Psychological System of Maimonides (1974).[3]

Scholarship[edit]

Schochet was an authority on Jewish Philosophy, Mysticism and Chabad Hasidism.[according to whom?] He wrote 35 books, mostly on the history and philosophy of Chabad Hasidism.[citation needed] Other topics included biographies of the founder of modern Hasidism the Baal Shem Tov and the second generational leader of Hasidism Dov Ber of Mezeritch. Other published works focus on Chabad Hasidism and topics related to that Hasidic school of thought, including: Mystical Concepts in Chassidism, The Mystical Dimension (3 volumes), and annotated translations of the classical Hasidic texts Tanya, Tzava'at Harivash, and Likkutei Sichot. Most of Schochet's work was published by Kehot Publication Society and Merkos Publications, the publishing arms of the Chabad Lubavitch movement.[citation needed]

He also penned numerous articles in academic and popular publications dealing with philosophy, Jewish Mysticism and socio-ethical issues. He has lectured at the Chabad societies at the universities of Yale, UCLA, Berkeley, McGill, Oxford, London, Cape Town, Melbourne, and has spoken to communities throughout the USA, Canada and Europe, Australia, South Africa, the Far East and Israel.

Schochet was editor of critical editions of the principal Hasidic texts Keter Shem Tov, Tzava'at Harivash, Maggid Devarav Leyaakov and Or Torah.

Schochet was professor-emeritus of Philosophy, and Comparative Religion, at Humber College, in Toronto, Canada, and served as adjunct-professor on Jewish Bioethics at University of Toronto Medical School, and professor of Jewish Law and Philosophy, and dean of degree studies at Maimonides College in Toronto.

Rabbinic career[edit]

For 37 years he was the rabbi of Kielcer Congregation in Toronto, Canada, and since 1996 he served as rabbi of Cong. Beth Joseph. Schochet was a member of the executive committee of the Rabbinical Alliance of America.[citation needed]

Controversies[edit]

'Other movements within Judaism'[edit]

In his book Who is a Jew he states: "There can be peaceful co-existence on the communal level, and even cooperation in matters of common concerns; but there is no common ground on the religious-doctrinal level. 'Reform' and 'conservative' can live with 'orthodox' standards and recognize the titular status of 'orthodox' rabbis. After all, 'orthodox' rabbis are ordained on the basis of their proficiency in knowledge and adjudication of Jewish law (Shulchan Aruch). This will not work in reverse, however, because the requirements for conservative and reform ordination are altogether different.".[4]

Regarding Jews who practice Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, and other streams of Judaism, Schochet stated: "To be sure, we must condemn wrong and misleading ideologies and practices. But simultaneously we must be of the disciples of Aaron the High Priest: 'Loving peace and pursuing peace, loving our fellow-creatures and bringing them near to the Torah'!".[4]

'Who is a Jew?'[edit]

Regarding the issue of 'Who is a Jew' that arose in Israeli politics in the 1970s, Rabbi Schochet was a leading proponent for amending the Israeli Law of Return to recognize only halachic (orthodox) conversions, as opposed to conversions performed by non-Orthodox movements. He published a book entitled Who Is A Jew? on the subject, wherein he rejects the notion that Jews are a part of one race or that Jewishness is a nationality. Instead he stated that Jews are united by their Judaism.

Schochet adheres to the classical definition of a Jew as "those who partook in the original covenant of the Jewish faith, which established the eternal bond between God, Torah and Israel, and those who decided to join this covenant at later stages, they and their descendants are Jews."[4]

'Kabbalah Centre'[edit]

Schochet was an opponent of the Kabbalah Centre, accusing it of distorting the teachings of the Kabbalah. He has characterized their actions as cultish practices. In 1993, the Kabbalah Centre opened a slander lawsuit in Canadian Court against him, but eventually withdrew their allegation.[citation needed] In 2007, Schochet called the teachings of the Kabbalah Centre "rubbish"; stating, "it's phony; it's manipulative; it has no spirituality whatsoever. It's not related to the authentic Kabbalah.".[5]

'Jews for Jesus' and Schochet's approach to debating Christian missionaries[edit]

In the 1970s and 1980s, Schochet was involved in anti-cult and anti-missionaries activities, and working with Jewish youths to bring them back to their Jewish roots. "For a Jew, however, any form of shituf is tantamount to idolatry in the fullest sense of the word. There is then no way that a Jew can ever accept Jesus as a deity, mediator or savior (messiah), or even as a prophet, without betraying Judaism. To call oneself, therefore, a 'Hebrew-Christian,' a 'Jew for Jesus,' or in the latest version a 'messianic Jew,' is an oxymoron. Just as one cannot be a 'Christian Buddhist,' or a 'Christian for Krishna,' one cannot be a 'Jew for Jesus.'" Dr. J. Immanuel Schochet said.[6] Schochet has debated missionaries, including Michael L. Brown.[7][8]

Chabad Messianism and modern Orthodoxy[edit]

He wrote Mashiach: The Principle of Mashiach and the Messianic Era in Jewish Law and Tradition, which has been translated into eight languages.

Schochet responded to attacks on Chabad-Lubavitch by Rabbi Chaim D. Keller of the Telshe Yeshiva in Chicago that appeared in the Jewish Observer, and in Prof. David Berger's book The Rebbe, The Messiah, and the Scandal of Orthodox Indifference. Schochet demonstrates many of the practices of Chabad they criticized are well-founded in normative orthodoxy of Jewish tradition, and other criticisms are unfounded or distorted. He questioned the many anonymous anecdotes and attributions in Berger's book, as well as Berger's reliance on the innuendo and unsubstantiated accusation by individuals known for their persistent opposition to Hasidism in general and Habad Hasidism in particular.[9]

Kosher Jesus[edit]

In January 18, 2012 Schochet sent a written and signed letter to the Algemeiner Journal, expressing his “authoritative view” rejecting Shmuley Boteach's book Kosher Jesus, citing it as “heretical”.[10]

Algemeiner had published Shmuley Boteach’s posts regarding this book.[11][12]

“Having read the book”, he wrote; “I have never read a book, let alone one authored by a purported frum Jew, that does more to enhance the evangelical missionary message and agenda than the aforementioned book. The grossly distorted message of the book violates basic premises of original and authentic Jewish tradition, thus unavoidably must be rejected for being heretical.

It is my sincerest hope that the author recognizes the error of his ways and looks to make amends by retracting the book". [13]

Published Works[edit]

  • Mystical Concepts in Chassidism (1979)
  • The Mystical Dimension (1990)
    • The Mystical Tradition
    • Deep Calling Unto Deep
    • Chassidic Dimensions
  • Living with Moshiach
  • Mashiach
  • Pillars of Dawn
  • The Great Maggid
  • Honor Due to Parents
  • Tzizith
  • Loving Kindness
  • The Skullcap
  • An Exposition of Prayer

References[edit]

External links[edit]