Friday, November 18, 2005

Addressing the Sources

Many people that have a problem with Chabad believing that the Rebbe is Moshiach really have a lot of other problems with Chabad.
1) People don’t like Chabad’s relationship with the Rebbe.
2) People don’t like the trailblazing attitude that Chabad has in its global work, often circumventing “normal” Jewish channels and going of on their own projects.
3) People have a problem with Chabad’s attitude that their way Judaism is better than everyone else.
4) There are certain circles where hatred of Chassidim is traditional, and a means to becoming a prominent figure in one’s community. Certain individuals in these communities became “Gedolim” on the strength of their attacks against Chabad.
But, there are also some people who truly believe that Chabad is wrong for believing that the Rebbe is Moshiach because of various srouces that these people claim contradicts the possibility that Moshiach can be someone that has died. Rabbi Gil Student, in his book Can the Rebbe Be Moshiach, purports to “prove” that this is not the case. In the next several posts, I will address what I feel are the main two objection sources.

(In Gil’s book, he brings several other sources, but many of them are not even worth replying to. If anyone looks at the book and finds a convincing argument, please email me and I will try to respond to it, or admit to being wrong.)

The most important “source” is the Rambam in Hilchot Melachim. This source is exceptionally important, in fact, the Rebbe himself gave it great weight, in his talks against the religious Zionist movement, who claimed that the founding of the state was the beginning of the Geulah. In talk after talk, the Rebbe argued that this is impossible, because the Rambam rules that the order of the Geulah is 1) wars of G-d, 2) building of the Beit Hamikdash, and 3) ingathering of the exiles. The Rebbe stressed that, although there may be Midrashic sources for the ingathering of the exiles happening as an “Itchalta D’Geulah” – a beginning of the redemption, these sources cannot be used to contradict the Halachic ruling of the Rambam, whose authority in this area was unchallenged by any other Halachic authority.

Thus, if it can be demonstrated that the Rambam clearly rules against the possibility of the Rebbe being Moshiach, an honest Lubavitcher would surely be obligated to admit that the Rebbe either cannot be Moshiach, or must be alive.

However, in my opinion, the Rambam does not give this ruling at all. Attempts to conclude that the Rambam does do so are based on a faulty analysis of the Rambam’s words. In my next post, I will attempt to demonstrate that there is an alternate way to understand the Rambam’s ruling, and that this alternate way is actually more plausible than the way that leads to the conclusion that the Rebbe cannot be Moshiach. At the outset, I will freely admit that I approached this Rambam with precisely this intention in mind, and, therefore, my conclusions are not the result of purely objective analysis. I would, however, argue, that the same can be said for people like Gil, who understand the Rambam as rejecting the Rebbe’s candidacy as Moshiach. These people did not approach the Rambam without the preconceived assumption that it would support their position.


Blogger Toby Katz said...

It isn't just Gil Student who understands the Rambam as precluding the Rebbe from being Moshiach. It is the entire Torah world, chassidim and misnagdim, Ashkenazim and Sefardim -- with the exception of some Lubavitchers, and even they only started talking about a Moshiach who died, and a second coming, AFTER the Rebbe passed away. They certainly never understood Rambam this way while he was alive.

You have to twist logic into pretzel to make Rambam predict the Rebbe. eg, have to say that Moshiach isn't supposed to build the BHM'K in J-m but only 770 in Crown Heights. Have to say that "fighting wars" is metaphorical and means kiruv rechokim -- but "being killed" is literal.

So any man who died in bed can be Moshiach, and his death in no way precludes his being Moshiach!

What a perversion of Rambam. Who was ever killed literally while fighting a war metaphorically?! According to you, anyone who was active in kiruv and died in bed is eligible to be Moshiach. Hardly difficult to accomplish, is it?

10:20 AM  
Blogger AharonBenjamin said...

You are right; that for someone like you or me to make these kind of statements and interpretations would seem to be like 'twisting logic into a pretzel' however, when the Rebbe Melech HaMoshiach Shlit'a makes these kind of observations, then we are bound to listen and RESPECT what he said as a) the Judge in your days (Deuternonomy 17:9-11 Rashi) and b) as the prophet from your midst Rambam Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah chapter 10, ('veassur le'harher acharav...').

Kol tuv,

11:16 AM  
Blogger Mishichist said...

As I hope to explain in my next post, reading the Rambam as excluding a person that died from being Moshiach is really not tenable.
I have not posted it yet, because things take time.

8:49 PM  

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