A decade-long heated discussion within Chabad that has cooled down lately, will possibly be renewed with a new book that was published this week.
“Bemai Kamipligei,” authored by Rabbi Yechezkel Soffer of Yerushalayim, takes a bare-knuckle approach to “the disputation of Messianisism in the Chabad movement.”
Soffer, one of the first ‘campus Shluchim’ in Israel, working at the University of Beer Sheva to bridge between faith and academics, said he wrote the book to “resolve doubts and frustrations” among the younger generation and mekuravim.
“This is a halachic and in-depth study that examines the conceptual basis of the messianic faction in the Chabad movement that uses partial quotations from the teachings of the Rebbe to take them out of context,” he said.
With doing so, says the known lecturer and author, “their conclusion and interpretation is not consistent with the approach of halacha… thus creating an image that distances Jews from Chabad chassidus.”
The rabbi once considered himself a Chabad messianic, or ‘meshichist,’ when he advocated that the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, was “the Moshiach of our generation.”
But that was until Gimmel Tammuz, the day of the Rebbe’s passing in 5754 following a stroke 2 years earlier (the cover of the book, designed in Israel, is a photo of the Rebbe taken a day before 27 Adar 1, 5752).
It was after then, on Elul 5755, that Soffer published his 127-page book titled “Yisbareru Veyislabnu,” which caused controversy in Chabad circles.
In it, he argued that “an independent functioning Chabad, with the tremendous investment of the Rebbe, is the real test of our readiness to ‘sacrifice’ the concepts we developed.”
He said the thinking of the Rebbe as Moshiach after Gimmel Tammuz was “a rosy fantasy which oppresses reality.”
Soffer criticized the decrease of intellectualism and thought in Shlichus outreach. “It was just easier to gather the masses with Chassidic rock stars” instead of teaching chassidus, he said.
For guidance and order, he called for the revival of the Beis Din Chabad of Israel (which has since happened), coordinating the role and reach of Mashpiim (partially accomplished) and keeping focus on bringing the final redemption.
“Without a determined standing… we will have rabbis who will rule that kaddish is not to be said after the Rebbe and then we can say kaddish on Chabad,” he prophesied.
But what caught the ire of the public –many of which have not fully read the booklet– was discussing the idea of a replacement for the Rebbe – a taboo topic until today.
The new 420-page book, says Rabbi Soffer, has received the blessings of many Chabad rabbonim and Mashpiim.
The book is available in Judaica stores.