Tuesday, February 16, 2016

How does the Lubavitcher Rebbe fit into the Rambam’s Halachic criteria for a valid Messianic candidate? (Part 1)

Q. How does the Lubavitcher Rebbe fit into the Rambam’s Halachic criteria for a valid Messianic candidate?

A. Until now we have traced the roots of the belief that the Rebbe is Moshiach back to its source in Chabad philosophy.  But this is not the end of the story. For a belief to have validity in the eyes of the Torah, it must also comply with the Jewish code of law also known as halacha. One of the most authoritative books of halacha is Rambam’s Mishna Torah. In it the Rambam codifies the entire Oral Torah including all the enactments of the sages and the various customs that were instituted from the times of Moses until the compilation of the Talmud[1].

In Rambam’s Laws of Kings he lays out the legal criteria that validates and invalidates an individual as a possible Messiah. The Rambam does this in three stages. First he outlines certain criteria which upon fulfillment thereof an individual enjoys a presumption that he is the Moshiach. Then the Rambam tells us criteria which if fulfilled grant the individual status as a “definite” Moshiach. Finally the Rambam gives two criteria by which we can know that a particular candidate definitely will not be the Moshiach. 

Once a Messianic candidate enjoys status of a “presumed Moshiach” it is appropriate for the Jewish people to believe this person is Moshiach and call him “King Moshiach” though he has not yet attained the status of a “definite Moshiach”.

We know this because the great Talmudic sage Rabbi Akiva did exactly that to a presumed Moshiach named “Bar Kochba” until he lost his status as a Messianic candidate. [2]

So when testing the halachic validity of claims of followers of the Lubavitcher Rebbe who consider and call the Rebbe “King Moshiach”, we must confirm that the Lubavitcher Rebbe has met the Rambam’s criteria for a “presumed Moshiach” only.
The criteria that a Jewish leader must fulfill if he is to be considered a “presumed Moshiach” are:
                        “If a king will arise from the House of David who delves deeply in         Torah and occupies himself in the observance of Mitzvot, like David    his ancestor, in accordance with the written Torah and the oral                 Torah, and he will compel all of the Jewish people (lit. Israel) to             follow it [the Torah], and strengthen the            meticulousness [i.e. repair     the breaches of] of its observance, and he fights the wars of G-d-                behold, this [one enjoys the status] a “presumed Moshiach”[3]
We will now take each criterion separately to see if the Lubavitcher Rebbe and his accomplishments earned him status as a “Presumed Moshiach”. We proceed bearing in mind that some of the phrases the Rambam uses here are technical terminology drawn from Talmudic literature, in which case we will invoke the insights of later sages who expounded on the precise meaning of the Rambam’s words. 
"A king will arise…”

The Rambam’s first criterion is that a Messianic candidate be a “king”.
Upon deeper examination of this law, it becomes obvious that the Rambam here at this stage is not referring to a “king” in the sense that he has been appointed by a high Court of Torah Judges (a Sanhedrin) or by a prophet[4]  and has the legal implications of a Jewish king. [5]
Likewise, many Torah sources use the word “king” to describe leaders of the Jewish people during the times before the redemption, though they did not enjoy the legal status of an anointed king[6]. After an analysis of how this term is used in Rabbinic literature, it becomes clear that the words “a king will arise” refers to a Torah leader whose words are accepted by many just as if they were said by a king.[7]  Did the leadership of the Lubavitcher Rebbe meet such a definition?
From the moment the Lubavitcher Rebbe took leadership of the Chabad movement, thousands of Jews throughout the world stood ready to do whatever he asked of them. Hundreds of letter each day poured into his office from Jews and non Jews asking advice on questions ranging from the belief in G-d to where to send their children to school to mathematics. The Rebbe, throughout his leadership received and responded to pleas for advice on matters of life and death.[8] When the Rebbe told a new couple to move with their family to a far-off town without any Orthodox Jewish community, his disciples went with joy.  When the Rebbe told his followers to go to Russia to give a piece of matzah to a Jew there, his followers went.
We must note, however, no one followed the Rebbe’s directives because they were forced to do so. In Judaism, a ruler who rules by force is considered a dictator (Moshel) not a king (Melech). The true aspect of kingship applies when one chooses to submit themselves to the directives of the king by choice.[9] “The King rules with his words” This unique relationship that existed between the Rebbe and his followers was borne of out of love and respect for the Rebbe’s opinion and never compulsion.
The quality of kingship that the Rebbe exuded during his leadership was attested to by many great leaders of our generation. For instance, it is known that the Head Rabbi of the famous Rabbinical academy known as the Mir, Rabbi Nachum Partzovitz after visiting with the Rebbe exclaimed that he had met a leader whose behavior was that of  royalty in every respect and that he was one who meets the halachic criterion of the Rambam that “a king will arise”.
The renowned Kabbalist Rabbi Yisrael Abuhatzeira, also known as the “Baba Sali”[10], stated that the phrase in the Torah which says “and to him will be an assembly of nations” (which is referring to Moshiach) was referring to the Rebbe.[11]Another great legal authority on Torah Judaism of our generation was Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Aurbach[12] who upon hearing that a book had been written with the title “long live the king” (as a reference to the Rebbe) exclaimed: “A true King!”
Thousands of young couples (known as the shluchim) moved their families all around the world with complete self sacrifice, not knowing how they would find Kosher food or how their children would be educated. They accepted their assignments with joy just as if it came from a king. Even off-handed casual remarks became the stories to be learned from and emulated. When the Rebbe would speak on Shabbos millions of copies were made of his words and they were printed and distributed with its instruction to all in many languages.
No matter what topic arose in the Jewish world thousands wanted to know what the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s instructions were. This is not only true with children but old Chassidim and even those in Russia who had never seen the Rebbe in their lives. They gave over their bodies and souls for 40 years to spread Judaism and keep the flame of Torah burning on the instructions of the Rebbe without fear from the merciless rulers of the country.
Reb Mendel Futerfas was a leading example of a follower of the Rebbe who did as he was asked at risk of his own life. He led the great flight of Jews in 1946-7 from Soviet Russia via the border city of Lemberg. He sent his wife and children out of Russia but he refused to leave until the last of the Rebbe’s disciples escaped. He continued his smuggling activities until he was caught and imprisoned by the Soviet police. When imprisoned, his interrogators tried to extract information about the members of Chabad-Lubavitch. One would be wise under these circumstances to deny any association with the Rebbe and the Lubavitch movement as such association itself would cause one to be considered an enemy of the state. Though R’ Mendel knew that these integrations were often ended with a bloody beating and often in a fatal gunshot - he refused to disassociate himself with the Rebbe. Instead he explained to his interrogators that he honestly was not an enemy of Russia, “for if the Rebbe was in Russia and I was in another country, I would yearn to visit Russia to the same extent that I now yearn to leave Russia[13].” Such was the dedication of the chassidim of the Rebbe, who followed their Rebbe’s directives as that of a king not out of fear but out of love.
In another example of the royal quality of the Rebbe’s leadership, after each Shabbos and holiday approximately one thousand Jews would wait to accept wine from the cup that the Rebbe had recited a blessing over.

[1]                               End of the Rambam’s introduction to his Mishna Torah
[2]                               Rambam Mishne Torah Hilcos Melsachim 11:3 “Behold Rabbi Akiva, a great scholar from the scholars of the Mishna and he would..say upon him that he was “King Moshiach, and it appeared to him and all the scholars of his generation that he was Moshiach until he was killed because of his sins.” See also Yeushalmi Taanis 4:5. True, Rabbi Akiva was mistaken in his belief that Moshiach was Bar Kochba, but his behavior in calling him “King Moshiach” is enshrined for all time in the Rambam’s sefer as a practice from which to learn.
[3]                               Mishna Torah (Laws of Kings: 11:4).
[4]                               Laws of Kings 1:3
[5]                               We know this because the Rambam places this criterion as the first one a Messianic candidate must meet before he can even be considered for status as a “presumed Moshaich”.  If by “a king will arise” the Rambam requires that this King be an official anointed King or one appointed by a prophet, then there would be no need for this individual to fulfill the other of the Rambam’s criteria. Once the Kingdom of David has been returned-we would know that this is definitely King Moshiach as only King Moshiach will return the Kingdom of David (See Rambam 11:1). In short, such an interpretation would make the rest of this section of the Rambam unnecessary, thus making this an untenable reading of the Rambam.

                                Further,  the Rambam calls Bar Kochba a “king” (Kings 11:3) and endorses and even derives new laws out of Rabbi Akiva’s presumption of Bar Kochba as a presumed Moshiach though Bar Kochba never had the status of a King in the legal sense. Further making clear that the “king” that the Rambam requires at this stage is not a legal anointed king.
[6]                               The Rambam does exactly this in Hilchos Melachim 1:8 where he writes “A prophet that raises up a “king” from other tribes of Israel [besides the tribe of Yehudah, and that “king” will go in the ways of the Torah …behold this is a king and all the laws of kingship apply to him. There the Rambam twice calls this leader a “king” and only later says that all the laws of kingship apply to him.  It is also clear that the kingdom of David continues on in some way through his descendents though they may not have the legal status of a king (Hilchos Melachim 1:7) See also Mederesh Rabba at the end of Parshal Bechukisai where Yiftach called himself a King though he had the law of a Judge not a king (see Shaalos and Tshuvos of the Rashba Siman 284)
[7]                                 See Gittin 62:A, See Tur Choshen Mishpat Siman 3 , the Beis Yosef and the Perisha on Siman 112 and the Tumin on Siman 106, See the Shelah on Parshas Veyechi 32:2.
[8]                               For a collection of such stories and for a demonstration of the unwavering obedience of so many indiduvals to the Rebbe’s instructions see would ask for his help on every kind of issue and the most serious and critical matters, even matters of life and death. (Adapted by Wonders and Miracles NEED AUTHOR AND ISBN, Our Man in Dakar and other stories of the Lubacithcer Rebbe- Publiched by Sifriyat Kfar Chabad, Kfar Chabad, 1998, Translated form Hebrew original Copyright 2004 SKC ISBN 0-9755978-0-9) and the Rebbes’s 39? Volumes of letter compiled and called Igrot Kodesh)
[9]                                 As it says in Ecclesiastes 8:4 “a king rules by his word”.
[10]                             (1890-1984)
[11]                             Shemen Sason MeChavercha pg. 23
[12]                             Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (1910- 1995), was a renowned Rabbi, Posek and Rosh Yeshiva of the Kol Torah yeshiva in Israel.
[13]                             As told by Rabbi Hillel Zaltman in Bais Moshiach magazine issue 607 pg. 8-12

***Not the poster's writing, just happened to be in possession and think it's important to post. Also, there is more to post at a later time.***

1 comment:

moshiachnow said...

Thank you. Waiting to see the rest of your explanations (if Moshiach isn't here yet.)