Thursday, August 28, 2008

Who is Moshiach?

This (very long) but extremely well reasoned article appeared in Shturem here. According to the author he wrote it in response to a question by his son about the "Moshiach issue". There will obviously be many who disagree with him but, to my mind, he explains the issues clearly, honestly and thoroughly.

With regards to the whole Moshiach issue our Chabad community in Melbourne appear to adhere to the Aussie philosophy of "she'll be right mate" and "no worries". It appears that the majority of our community have no feeling for this one way or the other and couldn't care less about the extremely small minority who make a "song and dance" about it as long as they do it on street corners away from Yeshivah Shul. Despite the chillul Lubavitch this causes nobody seems to care. That the "Yechi" sign still exists in Yeshivah Shul - and nobody even notices - is part of the same issue.

In any case, some of the points he makes resonate with me...

Let me begin by stating that the general notion (you will see below what this actually means) that the Rebbe is Moshiach is not something new that was discovered in the late Tof Shin Mems or the early Nun’s (1990’s). It was something that I also grew up with as a young bochur living in Crown Heights in the early Chof’s. However it was talked about on rare occasions such as at a farbrangen, and even then, only late at night when only a few people were left.

In this context I also recall hearing at those times that really for us Chassidim the title Rebbe was more important and relevant and even perhaps more choshuv. I well understood that this was a chassidishe hergesh that, as Chassidim used to say about krias Shma sheal hamitah, it belongs “unter di koldres” - under the blankets. This means that if you recite a serious krias Shma al hamita in a way that others are able to observe you and know about it then you have defeated the whole meaning and purpose of a real chassidishe ‘krias Shma al hamitah.

The point is that this kind of a belief is a personal chssidishe hergesh (a Chassidic feeling). A Chassidishe hergesh is something that if one truly does have this feeling it remains mostly inside of oneself and is kept within the limits of a Chassidishe environment. The purpose of a chassidishe hergish is to be a personal motivator for a Chosid to enable him to do that which is demanded of a true Chosid and not to be used as an ornament or display item. Keeping something in a pnimis does not in any way mean that we are ashamed or afraid to make it public rather it is something that is inherently meant to be internal. After all, the notion of keeping something in a pnimius is the very hallmark of Chabad avodas Hashem.

An example of this is when the Rebbe would say something at a farbrangen but later delete it from the edited printed version. The matter was indeed appropriate for a farbrangen but was not appropriate for a wider general audience. (It seems to me that this inclination to erase the classic distinction between the inner and outer spheres in Chassidic life is an indirect influence from the secular world where the boundaries between the private/personal and the public domains have been completely obliterated.)

He then discusses Moshiach in Halacha and in Ruchniyus. His halachic discourse needs to be read in full but his spiritual argument starts:

The Rebbe spoke about a lot of inyonim of Moshiach in regard to the Frierdike Rebbe. Clearly they were not about the matter of chezkas Moshiach or the gashmius of Moshiach but rather they were all in the realm of ruchnius. This category of Torah encompasses most of the references to Moshiach in the Sichos of the later years. When the discussion is shifted to the realm of ruchnius the whole notion is different. Moshe Rabaynu, Dovid Hamelech, the Baal Shem Tov, the Alte Rebbe, the Frierdike Rebbe all are Moshiach to a greater or lesser degree. After all, if the Nosi Hador is Moshiach then every dor has its Nosi who is Moshiach.

Considering that we have had over one hundred and fifty generations since mattan Torah there are at least one hundred and fifty Moshiachs. (Chassidus even suggests that every Jew has a spark of Moshiach in his neshomo.) Indeed it is so, and yet there is no conflict between them at all. Because in the realm of ruchnius, neshomos can be part of each other, integrated together or invested in each other and one does not exclude the other as it would in gashmius. The nitzus (spark) of the neshomo of Moshiach is invested in all these individuals. We can not know or determine who has more and who has less of this nitzus. All we can say is that our Nosi, our Rebbe, has it.


Remember, you cannot apply the rules of Halacha to the world of ruchnius and you cannot apply the notions of ruchnius to Halacha. Mixing or confusing the two is a fatal error which has misled many.

Understanding this fundamental ‘hanocho’ is essential to understanding the Rebbe’s approach Moshiach and most of the Sichos in that regard.

I am not sure if I agree with all of the following but in general it makes sense to me:

Is Moshiach here now? The Rebbe in the Sichos seems to say Moshiach is here already and all we need to do is open our eyes. (You should know that this same language was already used by the Rebbe Reshab and the Frierdike Rebbe many years ago.) The answer is that the Rebbe (and the previous Rebbes) is talking about a ruchniusdike phenomenon (about which we also have precious little understanding) and we accept that it is whatever the Rebbe says it is. But if we are asking what the status is according to Halacha, Moshiach is absolutely not here. We are not even at ‘aschalte degulah’ on the contrary; the fact that some people claim that we are in ‘aschalte degeulo’ places us, according to the Rebbe, in the darkest part of golus.

Is one able to feel geuloh and Moshiach now as in no other time before this? The Rebbe said yes and so it surely is, if (and ‘if’ is a very big word) we open our eyes.

Have any of us actually opened our eyes? I don’t want to judge other people but let me say that I am very very skeptical of anyone who goes around and trumpets such a claim. The old rule should apply here; der vos zogt halt nisht derby; der vos halt derby zogtnisht (the one who says is not there and the one who is there does not say).

At this point it is also important to note that making the issue of the Rebbe being Moshiach (in any which way) into an ikar in our world view and daily life is in itself a gross distortion of Torah and Chassidus. The Torah not only teaches us about the Will of Hashem but also prioritizes these values and practices. This system of priorities is a most critical part of Torah and any time we change or even mildly tamper with this delicate balance we wreak havoc on all of Torah. For example, if one does not know that an essa takes priority over a lo saseh you end up with an entirely different Torah life. This same kind of gross distortion of the priorities of Chassidus is being perpetrated on us by these people.

This I do agree with:

To sum up this point; this whole misguided effort of identifying Moshiach has to its credit the destruction of the credibility of the Rebbe’s Moshiach campaign and the alienation of many thousands from the Rebbe and Chassisdus. It is not unreasonable to suggest that this mistake has actually delayed the coming of Moshiach!!

In general I like his analysis and, whether one agrees with everything he says or not, think it should be required reading for all Lubavitchers.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Mr G Responds

Mr Shmuel Gurewicz has written a comprehensive response to the discussions around the world with regard to the closing of Michlelet Morasha. I am pleasantly surprised at his candor and his promise to refund all deposits made by parents of the girls that were enrolled this year.

Thanks to Berl for pointing out the letter which just appeared on

Dear Parents and Students,

Unfortunately, over the past few days, the internet has become the source of much false information including frightening lashan harah regarding the closure of Michlelet Morasha. In order to be והיית נקי מה' ומישראל I would like to clarify the facts.

Before I go into details, I want to reiterate our commitment to reimburse every parent who paid a deposit for the next academic year. The process has begun already. Some people were reimbursed already. It will take about 2 to 3 weeks. But again, every cent will be returned.

The set up Michlelet Morasha was my initiative. I saw that there was a need for it. There was a shortage of places in the existing Seminaries. Lubavitch high schools around the world turned out approximately 400 graduates every year and most of them wanted to study at a seminary in Israel which in total could cater for around 250 students.

I received very positive encouragement for that project. Some generous people here in Melbourne helped me financially to make this a reality. I found Chani and Yisroel Sudry as the ideal couple to run this project. They took a very modest salary and worked very, very hard to run that seminary. Chani gave birth to a baby and 2 days later was already at the seminary working.

The first year, 2006/7 we managed to break even. But still with the initial debt from setting it up. The second year 2007/8, we improved in our operation, hiring better teachers, installing fire sprinklers etc. According to our projected budget we would again break even and maybe be able to begin reducing the old debt.

However, the Ribono Shel Olam had different plans. Various problems arose, some of which could not have been predicted.

1. The U$ fell from 4.50 Shekel to 3.25 Shekel and we began to go backwards. We tried to raise some funds but because of the down turn in the American economy, it became impossible. (Except for a few donations from some benefactors).

2. The manner in which MASA paid their scholarships became particularly relevant during these difficult times. They pay the first 25% only 45 days after the start of the program. The next 35% they pay 45 days after the middle of the program and the last 40% they pay only after the end of the program.

3. There were also parents who defaulted and did not pay their fees. Unlike other seminaries we were not prepared to expel any students regardless of their financial situation.

4. Without going into personal details there were very serious health problems on the part of senior staff which also impacted on the program,

5. The landlord raised the rent to a totally unsustainable level.

6. We had some last minute cancellations which considering the precarious financial situation we faced, had a significant effect on our budget.

We tried to hang on. We tried to raise funds. We tried to find a sponsor for the whole seminary. But we were not successful. Up until the last moment we intended to continue.

I want to point out that we are not the only ones to close our doors. Machon Gold, a Mizrachi Seminary which was established approximately 50 years ago, closed its doors because of the fall of the American dollar. Kfar Chabad had a program for chutz laaretz girls which closed. The Lod seminary closed recently.

At no time did I personally have any benefit from the seminary. It costed me many tens of thousands of dollars and many sleepless nights.

Once again I reiterate our commitment to return the deposits of every parent. Where necessary, this money will come out of my personal pocket. And besides these monies, there are still many debts which will have to be paid in Israel. Everything is also being done now to try and find places for the girls in other seminaries.

Finally, I would like to personally apologize for the frustration and inconvenience the closure of Michlelet Morasha has caused to many families and in particular, the students. If at any time, you wish to discuss this, please feel free to contact me. I remain committed to doing everything I possibly can to assist you during this difficult time.

Shmuel Gurewicz

Friday, August 22, 2008

End of a (very short) Era

In happier times has reported that Mr Shmuel Gurewicz's seminary in Israel, Michlelet Morasha, has closed it's doors only days before the new academic year was due to begin. According to the article this is due to financial difficulties...

I can only imagine how the parents and girls who were planning - and looking forward to - the coming year learning in Yerushalayim are feeling now.

One issue is obviously all the money that has been paid in tuition to the Seminary and in fares to travel there. From the sounds of the letter that was sent to parents they are unlikely to see the tuition refunded anytime soon.

But, from the many comments to the article on, one of the main issues is that a number of girls have already left Australia! I can only imagine the distress of the girls who are left stranded in Israel, and on route to Israel, who have nowhere to stay once they arrive.

This is an extremely vexing situation and raises many questions for our community and for the owner of the Seminary. I would say that this is an issue for the new Vaad Ruchni but there is certainly a conflict of interest in this situation.

I hope that the girls all find another seminary for this year - but considering that most of the schools finalised their intake months ago this may be difficult.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Give me your money!

Rabbi Shlomo Cunin's Chabad Telethon is a feature of American television. This slick production raises millions for Chabad in California and attracts many celebrities.

On some Chabad sites they are publicising politicians Obama, McCain and Hillary Clinton who all speak about giving to the Telethon. But I liked this entertaining ad much better.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Kute Kosher Kuntzen

For those of you wealthy enough to purchase an iPhone or an iTouch, Rabbi Zalman Goldstein (of The Jewish Learning Group) has released some gadgets for these devices. Check out the review on

It seems that one of these recites the brocho for the item that is clicked on and the other gadget is a timer to remind you when you can eat michiks after a fleshic meal and vice-versa. I don't know how many people will use these but they are a nice gimmick.

Zalman Goldstein has done a lot more than just produce gimmicky things. For a number of years he has been publising, amongst other things, the "Companion" series of guides to Jewish practices. From memory he started with the Shabbat Table Companion which outlines how to conduct Shabbos at home. There are now about 10 of these books - see them here. He has also produced a number of music CDs (here).

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Vote For Someone...

For those of you into the US Presidential Campaign...

This is from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He is a nice Jewish boy who does a good job of political satire. I wonder how many non-Jewish Americans understand the Jewish jokes and references...I know that they would be quite obscure to most Australians.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Prophetic Words

This meeting of NY Mayor David Dinkins with the Rebbe at "dollars" in Elul 1989 struck me as prophetic. Coming almost two years before the Crown Heights Riots in August 1991 the Rebbe appears to be showing Dinkins how to avert that situation. The Rebbe emphasises that, as New York is considered a "melting pot" of all different nationalities, the Mayor should work to emphasise that we are all one under G-d and not different groups. My point is that if the Rebbe's advice had been taken then maybe the riots would not have occured - or at least not have been so severe.

Wikipedia has a good summary of the events of August 1991 here.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

MBD & Piamenta

Great songs and a great voice - and with the backdrop of Yerushalayim it makes it even better.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Rabbi Groner ע"ה - Shloshim Video

The video of the Shloshim for Rabbi Groner is now on the Yeshivah Community website. To see it click here.

Photos of the Shloshim taken by Roei Chemny can be seen here.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Ad Mosai!

JEM has publicised this video from Hoshanah Rabbah 5744 (September 28, 1983). I do not recall seeing it previously but who can fail to be moved by the Rebbe's anguish. Let us hope that this will be the last Tisha B'Av in golus!

Kevin Rudd Speaks at the Shloshim

Someone has posted part of Kevin Rudd's video tribute to Rabbi Groner on YouTube.

For those of you overseas, Kevin Rudd is the Prime Minister of Australia.

Eicho at Yeshivah Shule

Rabbi Sholom Ber Groner giving the shiur

Participants in Rabbi Groner's shiur

Zelig Shaul, our newest photographer, took these photos of Eicha at Yeshivah Shule this evening and also some of the shiur given by Rabbi Sholom Ber Groner afterwards.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Rabbi Groner ע"ה - Shloshim Photos

Partial view of the large number of people in attendance

Some of the Rabbis in attendance

More Rabbis

Part of the crowd

Rabbi Sholom Ber Groner

Rabbi Mendy Groner

Rabbis Chaim Zvi & Yossi Groner

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd

more of the crowd

A capacity crowd was in attendance at the Melbourne Town Hall last night for the Shloshim for Rabbi Groner ob"m.
Zelig Shaul took photos of the event some of which I have reproduced here.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Learning in Melbourne

Shmais has some nice photos of the recent Father-Son learning series organised by Rabbi Mordi Engel at Yeshivah.

Update: I just fixed the link to the photos. I also apologise for not giving credit to the photographer Zelig Shaul.