Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Conversation #1: "Chabad is hard to copy"

(Picture approved by G-d)

(Visiting a non-Chabad seminary, I find myself in a class headed by a small, glasses-wearing, wide-eyed Rabbi. The following conversation is abbreviated, there being much more details, but everything mentioned here is true.)

He introduced the topic by saying, "I would like to discuss the advantages of the Chareidi community over the Modern Orthodox world."

I'm thinking, "Who sits and entertains such distinctions? Does anyone talk about Judaism anymore?"

But that wasn't part of the conversation. The conversation started when....

He said: In order for Chareidi communities to remain G-d fearing and Torah-focused, they must have a certain amount of intolerance to other Jews.

I say: But wait, Torah is one. Do you believe that?

He says: Yes, of course.

I say: G-d asks us to fear him and to learn Torah. He also asks us to love our fellow Jews. Who are you to deny the unity and symmetry - the interconnectedness and harmony - of G-d's commands? G-d asked both. Therefore, we are capable of both.

He says: Yes, but, um, yea, but, well, it seems to be that intolerance is a necessary evil in Torah-true communities.

I say: Necessary evil?

He says: Yea, meaning to say, that you need this intolerance to truly create a Torah community.

I say: But how can you actually have a Torah community with intolerance to other Jews?! Intolerance to other Jews isn't Torah at all!

He says: Well, it seems to be that only the Gedolim can really pull off this balance.

I'm thinking, "Well, all you're gedolim are sitting in secluded neighborhood - what kind of a harmony are they ever asked to strike? And was Torah only given to these so-called Gedolim? Were G-ds commands not meant for the nation? And beyond that, why put all the weight on the Gedolim? Have you tried? Aren't you meant to copy their ways?"

I'm thinking, "This is twisted", but I let him continue his talk to me and the other 5 girls I am only visiting.

When he is done, all the girls thank him and leave. Just like that.

I, the stranger, stay behind.

I say: I'm still confused. Are you saying that G-d's command to be G-d-fearing and Torah learning can't be fulfilled while following out the command to love every Jew?

He says: Um, well, yea - with exception of the Gedolim, yea, aha.

I am bursting. I just have to.

I say: So what do you think about Chabad?

He says: What do you mean?

I say: I mean how they are observant, G-d fearing, learned - all while maintaining a very natural and all-embracing attitude of openness towards all Jews. How do they pull it off?

He says: Well, uh, what you have with Chabad, is uh...something very hard to copy.

I say: But clearly if Chabad does it, it means it's possible. They didn't make it up, or copyright it. It's Torah.

He says: Well, yes, but, they have their losses too. I mean...we (non-Chabad/Litvish folks) definitely have more Talmidei Chachamim.

I suddenly realize I am dealing with an ego.

I say: Well, I guess not everyone in Chabad is struggling to become a Talmid Chacham.

He moves his head and rolls his eyes in an "Okay, fine" sort of way.

And then, there's not much more to say.

Conversation #1 ends here.

After parting ways, I'm left thinking, "Is Chabad the only thing out there that believes Torah is one and true?"


As the next Rabbi gets up to speak to the girls, I hear him begin his speech on the premise that, "Girls, we are all here to be Gedolim!"

And so I'm left there, sitting, marveling at the inconsistencies of a struggling and swaying philosophy that the student - robots dare not notice.


Make your own conclusions.

This has been Conversation #1.


Mimi said...

He was nervous and fidgety, and I didn't know why. Maybe he realized that he's teaching Torah, but doesn't believe it's whole, true, and the word of G-d. Maybe he's afraid to be a "Gadol." Maybe he's not used to people questioning him. Maybe he feels he has something to defend.


He was nervous and fidgety, and I know why.

He's going to have to come to terms with the fact that there are Jews in the world who are living every part of Torah they possibly can - in full, in unison.

He's going to have to come to terms with the fact that the 5 year old son of a Shliach is living his Yiddishkeit in a way that this Rabbi thinks is impossible.

I would say that can make a grown Rabbi fidget.

kasamba said...

No wonder you were so agitated!
His doctrine is diametrically opposed to the judiaism I know and love!
Stick to your guns!

Avi said...

Though of course there is room for intolerance of Jewish behavior in select situations. "Hate the sin, not the sinner."
But your point remains strong. And very well put.

Which reminds me:
Pirchei Convention 1991: 700 boys sit anxiously in the Atrium ballroom awaiting the grand entrance of Gadol X. He enters, and the crowd stands as one and applauds respectfully as he makes his merry way to the dais. And they keep applauding; Gadol X [Simple Simon] hasn't said "stop."

"Boys," Gadol intones with a nasal sing-song (not a personal attack, it's just how he sounded) "If you keep up your learning, and shteig to become a talmid chacham, one day they'll stand and clap for you when you walk in!"

Man, and here I was, dreaming of becoming a fireman.

Nemo said...

It's not impossible and certainly no contradiction to be both a Gadol and an Ish Chessed. You CAN respect everyone. The Rebbe personified this.

Lubavitchers tend to lose focus and start giving more into becoming a nice personable guy, rather than learning more and more. We were meant to live both lives simultaneously and we can't forget that. It's not an impossibility, it's a challenge.

Avi said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
wandering said...

It is defintely true that we are hard to copy, but we also gotta make sure thatwe are living up to it. Like Nemo said, a lot of us unfortunately get swept up in our open mindedness and forget that we are supposed to have the best of both, our religous level should not waver because of our openness to other ppl.

Girrrrlll said...

A shocking interaction...

Way to challenge, and well...create realizations.

I'm sure he is still pondering what he taught that day, and how he taught what he taught that day.

FrumGirl said...

I admire how you confronted him with the issues.

You just summed up the problem that all other bloggers out there say without saying. Sure, they all have their own specific problems with Judaism but its the intolerance that is the common denominator....

We all have a long way to go....

Thanks, Mimi, for this brilliant post. Maybe this will make a difference, who knows?

Yossi said...

Very intersting and thought provoking blog. Keep it up.

Fun Dude said...

Excellent post! This is what divides so many jews from one another! This is anti-Torah!

Shimon said...

Great post, but sadly its true

Anonymous said...

how did you land your self in the sem? it sounds fascinating!..keep up posted

Temmi said...

i guess this is what u were talking about that night
its pretty intense
and i guess u ve come a long way

frum said...

Go Chabad!

Anonymous said...

wow--amazing conversation--you seem like one of those people that always manages to come up with the right response at the right time ;-). My first question is what were you doing in a not chabad sem? A little voice in my head also notices that the tone isn't all that great towards the teacher--if we are going to preach accepting all Jews, we have to accept the teacher too....

Anonymous said...

Your are Nice. And so is your site! Maybe you need some more pictures. Will return in the near future.

Yehudis said...

Interesting exchange!

Doesn't posting this increase Chabad's intolerance for chareidim?

Anonymous said...

mimi, you have some good points to make, if only you'd leave out unnecissary resentful remarks about certain people and certain groups.

Anonymous said...

Mimi, you'd have very good points to make if you didn't include unnecissary remarks about certain ppl and certain groups in a lot of your blogs.