Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Mass delusion

Since tonight is turning out to be chassidic video night, here are some crackers. They all come from the chabad site http://www.chabad.fm and all take place in the 770 basement in the last month or so. And what do they show? Chabadnikim behaving as if the rebbe was in the room with them, flesh and blood.
Take this one, for example, from Motzai Rosh Hashanah. I would freely confess that from the video, it's a bit hard for the uninitiated to tell what's going on -- but here is the description, from the site itself, of what you're watching:
היום (ד'), יום ב' דר"ה, זכינו שהוד כ"ק אדמו"ר מלך המשיח שליט"א יערוך את התוועדות קדשו, בהשתתפות אלפים מאנ"ש והתמימים יחיו. ע"פ הוראתו הק' של הרבי שליט"א מלך המשיח (והלכה בכלל...) לא צולמו תמונות עד אחרי מעריב. בסיום ההתוועדות הבדיל כ"ק אדמו"ר מלך המשיח שליט"א על היין, וחילק 'כוס של ברכה' לכאו"א מאנ"ש והתמימים והמקורבים וכו' בידו הק', למשך כ-18 דקות. לאחמ"כ בירך ברכה אחרונה, מזג לעוד א' שהגיע באיחור ולאחמ"כ עלה לחדרו הק'.
In other words, they EXPLICITELY say that that the rebbe himself was not only there -- but made havdalah and brachah achronah, and even poured the wine!!!!!!!!
Here's another one, entitled, 'Minchah with the Rebbe'. The portal explains:
מערכת פורטל חב"ד מגישה קטע וידיאו מתפלת מנחה היום במנין הרבי שליט"א מלך המשיח, החל מכניסת המלך, חזרת הש"ץ, אבינו מלכנו, אל תירא, הכרזת הקודש וריקודי היחי לאחרי התפלה
Ie., it shows davening -- 'from the entrance of the king' (the Rebbe). And as can be seen -- at the beginning of the video they leave a big opening for the Rebbe to come to his chair, and they do the same thing at the end, when the Rebbe leaves, as they did during his lifetime.
Watch the other videos on the site as well for many similar scenes.
The links originally came to me through an email I was forwarded from David Berger, containing an exchange with Prof. Marc Shapiro on these videos. Berger wrote:
I hope that rabbis who look at this material will ask themselves if they would be comfortable having the participants in this prayer service, which took place a few days ago in the hub of the worldwide Lubavitch movement, serve as shochtim, sofrim, edim, dayyanim, shul rabbis, machshirim, and mechanchim... It is a mitzvah for every rabbinic authority to watch the first video... The problem (not the only one) is that they won't. My only quarrel is with the phrase "the closest thing." [Shapiro wrote that this is the 'closest thing that we have to idolatry -- MS.]The video I saw (minchah at 770) is arguably only close to avodah zarah since you can't prove that they are praying to the Rebbe, but it is likely that it is full az. The reason is that there is independent evidence that the phrase "Avinu malkenu ein lanu melekh ella attah" is said by these chevre with the Rebbe in mind as "atzmut u-ahut placed in a body" understood in an utterly literal fashion. (See p. 178 of the new Hebrew version of my book.) Thus, it is probably no coincidence that the line of avinu malkenu that they chose to include in this video is that line. If this is so, as it probably is, then we are watching people praying to the invisible Rebbe sitting in that seemingly empty chair in his capacity as a full embodiment of the deity. The halakhic status of the main shul at 770 is precisely that of the main sanctuary of St. Patrick's Cathedral. If, however, one wishes to reject this understanding of the video, then it is not the closest thing we have to Jewish az. The reason is that many Lubavitch hasidim undoubtedly engage in full az; see pp.
176-178 of the Hebrew book. The widespread acceptance of these people as Orthodox Jews and even Orthodox rabbinic authorities is nothing less than the abolition of the theological core of the Jewish religion.
Agree or disagree, just remember that these videos, by their own admission, show much more than Lubavitchers professing, theoretically, to believe in a live Rebbe -- they're behaving as if they can see him and as if he is physically not only in the room with them, but acting and interacting with others. As much as I am fond of Lubavitch, I'm not even sure this is the closest religion to Judaism any more...

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