Wednesday, October 17, 2007

An Interesting Letter

Dr. David Berger, recently appointed director of YU's Yeshiva College's Jewish Studies Department, writes a response to the accusation that he excludes a major Jewish group from Orthodoxy (the Lubavitchers) and requires members of the Chabad-Lubavitch communityat YU to "take some sort of oath declaring they do not believe the Rebbe is the Messiah to be considered accepted within Orthodoxy." This accusation, appearing in the Commentator
challenges Berger to be more open-minded - I suppose about whether or not it's okay to believe that the Lubavitch rebbe is either the messiah or divine.
The gist of his response is that "a large majority of Lubavitch hasidim believe that the Rebbe is the Messiah while a very substantial number believe that he is pure divinity. (For a succinct presentation of the evidence, see," suggests that parties interested in the matter read his book, The Rebbe, the Messiah, and the Scandal of Orthodox Indifference, states that he is not calling for excommunication - comparing his call to be similar to that of moderate Orthodox to Conservative and Reform Jews, which tickles me in oh, so many ways.

He concludes, more or less,

We live in an olam hafukh, an upside-down world, where spokespersons for a movement permeated by Christian-style posthumous false messianism and even avodah zarah can accuse Jews who deny them automatic Orthodox legitimacy of violating Jewish values. This is how I formulated the point in the Hebrew book: "Chabad hasidim have largely succeeded in silencing their critics with the accusation that those critics are fomenters of strife who undermine Jewish unity and disdain the supreme value of ahavat Yisrael. Permission is thus granted to the destroyer (nittenah reshut la-mashchit) to hijack your religion as you watch, while you remain helpless-because you are a decent person who loves the Jewish people and shuns divisiveness."

Students in my Bernard Revel Graduate School course on messianism will testify that although I assigned some of my writings on Chabad-along with the works of Lubavitch hasidim-I kept classroom discussion as analytical and non-polemical as possible. As to Yeshiva College, it no doubt contains students who are not fully committed to Orthodox Judaism, and I do not see the need to ask questions of Lubavitch applicants that are not asked of others. But attending Yeshiva College is not the same as serving as a rabbi, a dayyan, a Jewish Studies principal, and, in the context of avodah zarah, a shochet, a sofer, and a wine producer.

Wow, and they say I'm blunt.

I'm curious to see what people think of all this - I'll probably update this post later to say more of what I think... the comments over on Jewschool have not at all been what I expected.

xp Jewschool

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