Pesach Sheini, 5730
Thank you for your letter… I was puzzled by your question about the Cadillac – as you correctly surmised. But frankly, I could find more profitable use for my time than answering criticism of Lubavitch. If everything said and rumored were taken seriously & refuted – a full time secretary would be required (& nothing would be gained). For usually these critics are not interested in the truth but only wish to criticize and find fault. However, I cannot refuseyou an answer since you seem genuinely concerned…
To begin with, you have conveyed to me something which you heard from someone, who has heard it from someone else… Although I usually refuse to discuss hearsay, I will give my reply in the order of your letter:
1) I am not aware of anyone being warned, before going into the Rebbe’s, shlita room for a private audience, to address him as “Your Eminence.” This is absurd. (I know of one writer who insists on using this expression when referring to the Rebbe, but that is the said writer’s prerogative). The usual custom is to address the Rebbe, when speaking to him, in the third person (“The Rebbe said…), but this respectful manner is due to any older Rov… it has always been the custom to use the third person when writing to anyone in Hebrew and the Rebbe also uses this form exclusively, except when writing to children. This is also my practice.
2) Not to speak before spoken to, to stand in the Rebbe’s presence and to walk backwards when leaving – this is the customary way Chasidim act in the Rebbe’s presence… this is in the best tradition of Jewish etiquette. (I presume this would be the routine when being received in audience by the Queen?). The Rebbe asks non-Chasidim to sit down, and some do. I sit in the Rebbe’s presence only when taking dictation. That fellow is barking up the wrong tree if he criticizes this procedure.
3) I know that the Rebbe does not accept personal gifts for himself or his wife from anyone. The only exception is books – and that for his library, since it is of public service. Checks made payable to the Rebbe go to ”Special Discretionary Fund” – for special cases or directed to one of the institutions.
4) On the question of “miracles” – here too, the well-known adage can be applied: “For him who believes, no proof is necessary, for him who does not believe, no proof will suffice.” However I will present here some basic observations in regard to miracles: Jews who believe in the Torah believe in miracles; Jews who believe in the Talmud, believe in the ability of certain men (Tannaim etc.) to perform miracles; many men are mentioned in the Talmud who perform miracles, and none was “deified”; the efficacy of blessings and prayers has often been stressed in the Talmud, even of an ordinary Jew; there are “miracles” & there are “miracles”… of turning blood into water etc. and of a blessing come true – such as a refu’a, children, affluence. As for the first kind – I have not heard of any Chosid claim the Rebbe has performed this. It is usually a case of his blessing or prayer having materialized. Those who have experienced such “miracles”- do not have to see a “rational” explanation for, as mentioned above, it is well within the realm of men, especially saintly men. Skeptics may want to “rationalize” such miracles – it is their prerogative.