Wednesday, July 18, 2007


According to a Jerusalem Post article, Orthodox Rabbi David Berger, a former Brooklyn College professor who will be assuming a position at Yeshiva University in the Fall, lectured at the Institute for Advanced Studies at Hebrew University on the topic of "Defining Heresy: The Shifting Boundaries of Religion."

Berger spoke of the division within Jewish Orthodoxy between the Chabad Lubivitchers and the rest of Orthodoxy, something that is anything but obvious to us goyim. According to the article:

Here's the rub: The Lubavitchers' beliefs are a problem for Berger precisely because he's a true believer himself. He takes to heart the Thirteen Principles of Faith, in which Maimonides (1135-1204) summarized Jewish dogma. Were Chabad not viewed by so many as "Orthodox," Berger would be less anxious about their inroads into Jewish life; the Lubavitchers would be just another schismatic group. The problem is that Chabad looks Orthodox, walks Orthodox, quacks Orthodox.

Well yes, it does. To me, anyway. And some of what the Lubivitchers promote sounds omnious to this Catholic--like the Noahide Laws and the Chabad interpretation of Idolatry to include us Catholics among the idolators worthy of beheading.

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, portions of whose books I have been blogging periodically, is a Chabad Lubivitcher and the President of the newly formed Sanhedrin which will enforce those Noahide Laws. Hence my fascination with Rabbi Berger's opinion. From the article here is some of that opinion:

I asked Berger why the Chabad issue hardly makes any waves in the Orthodox world. His answer was that the Orthodox delude themselves into thinking that only a minority of Chabadniks are messianic - when a majority is. To the extent that there is a minority in Chabad, it is the faction that worships the Rebbe as an outright deity.

"The Orthodox are also insensitive to the key point that recognizing messianists as Orthodox rabbis legitimates this belief within Orthodoxy irrespective of the number of believers," he said.

Faced by Chabad's extraordinary theological assault from within, Orthodox leaders pursue the path of least resistance. Their approach is to avoid acrimonious confrontation (I suppose they save that for gays, Russians who want to convert, the secular, and the other major streams of Judaism).

Maybe, Berger surmised, the Orthodox tell themselves: This Rebbe-messiah business is a passing fad. Anyway, each Orthodox sect looks after its own interests, and there is no advantage in taking on Chabad. Conversely, the Orthodox world is interdependent. To openly challenge Chabad across the globe would be an undertaking of immense proportions and debilitating to Orthodox interests.

Chabad believes in reincarnation. Chabad uses the Kabbalah. Chabad is the ultra-orthodox Judaism. Chabad speaks for Orthodox Judaism because they have a significant presence and identity. They can be most easily heard as spokespersons for Orthodoxy.

Rabbi Berger is trying to sound an alarm, but he is faced with opposition. According to the article:

Not surprisingly, there are other modern Orthodox scholars who disagree with Berger on the importance of Maimonides's Thirteen Principles. Marc Shapiro, a Judaic Studies professor at the University of Scranton, argues in The Limits of Orthodox Theology that Maimonides's principles never enjoyed universal acceptance in the rabbinic world - the implication being that even traditionalists can't agree on a clear expression of dogma.

University of Haifa professor Menachem Kellner in Must a Jew Believe Anything? goes further in arguing that not only doesn't Judaism have a dogma; we shouldn't go down that road because it could create a future of mutually exclusive "Judaisms."

It seems to me that Judaism is a long way down that road already, since, unlike Catholicism, no one speaks for Judaism, and thus everyone who thinks he has a voice speaks for the Jewish faith.

Chabad anticipates a messiah. Scripture tells us the antichrist will come from the tribe of Dan. That's quite an open window for speculation.

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