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Are there any documented halachik authorities that rule that the belief in a dead Messiah is beyond the pale of permitted Jewish belief and therefore would qualify as Kfira?

If there are halachik authorities that deal with the question explicitly and decide that it is kfira, what is their reasoning for saying so?

Additionally, what do they purport to do about the prevalence of Chabad shochtim who do hold this belief? Do they hold their shchita to be invalid? Would they not join them in a minyan?

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NOTE: Based on the way the question is asked, opinions who hold it is not Kfira are invalid answers. –  Double AA May 18 at 13:15
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Perhaps you or others can tell us exactly what these chabad believe in their dead moshiach. Do they believe in resurrection? Or that he will be a gilgul in someone else. Or is there some other method. –  preferred May 18 at 16:14
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@Jewels, consider a question that asked "Is there anyone who says that people who agree with Natan Slifkin's book are Kofrim? Do they not let them count in a Minyian" with the correct implication that only the kefira positive view will be discussed. Such a question artificially limits answers to leave out important information in the discussion to the point where it could leave it unanswered. On a subject that generates more heat than light already, it is just a bad question (IMO) –  Yishai May 21 at 20:22
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the way you ask this question suggest that you don't actual want to know any information about this issue but rather how to condemn those with a particular view. in addition it is important to realize there is no obligation to know who is moshiach. furthermore, while the 2nd bees hamikdash was destroy through baseless hatred it will only be rebuilt from baseless love of our fellow Jews. Irealize this doesn't give a direct answer to your question but they are important things to consider. –  Dude Jun 15 at 14:55
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@Dude, I am not looking to put any person down or to condemn anyone. My question is how people deal with the Halachik difficulties that come from possibly categorizing such a large group as violating a basic Jewish precept, and how wide spread is the opinion that says that they are in violation. I am not sure what you see as illegitimate in that, it's controversiality is not relevant –  Jewels Jun 16 at 9:20

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up vote 13 down vote accepted

Let me break this down by question:

1. Are there any documented halachik authorities that rule that the belief in a dead Messiah is beyond the pale of permitted Jewish belief and therefore would qualify as Kfira?

Short Answer: Yes -- and we do consideer it kfira in the case of Jews who adopt Christianity.

Rabbi Gil Student, in his book Can The Rebbe Be Moshiach? Proofs from Gemara, Midrash, and Rambam that the Rebbe zt"l Cannot be Moshiach, brings down various sources that demonstrate that the belief in the Rebbe as Moshiach violates halacha and could be considered heresy. Largely, Rabbi Student's book relies on the Rambam's set of legal requirements to establish whether one is moshiach or not. In Chapter 4, Rabbi Student quotes Rambam's Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Melachim 11:4:

If a king will arise from the House of David who delves deeply into the study of the Torah and, like David his ancestor, observes its mitzvos as prescribed by the Written Law and the Oral Law; if he will compel all of Israel to walk in [the way of the Torah] and repair the breaches [in its observance]; and if he will fight the wars of G-d –he is presumed to be Moshiach. If he succeeds in the above, builds the Beis Hamikdash on its site, and gathers in the dispersed remnant of Israel, he is definitely the Moshiach. He will then perfect the entire world, [motivating all the nations] to serve G-d together, as it is written (Zephaniah 3:9), "I will make the peoples pure of speech so that they will all call upon the Name of G-d and serve Him with one purpose."

At Hilcohos Melachim 11:5, Rambam says:

But if he did not succeed in all this or was killed, he is definitely not the Moshiach promised in the Torah... and G-d only appointed him in order to test the masses.

Rabbi Student's book also cites the Ramban's famous disputation of Christian belief that their Jesus was the Moshiach by simply pointing to the fact that the ultimate proof that someone was or is the Moshiach would be the fact that we're living in the Messianic Age with no wars and 100% of the world believing in the G-d of Abraham. See Kisvei HaRamban vol. 1 p. 311). The presumption of Ramban's view is that once the claimant to the title of Moshiach dies, the claim dies with him. Using this analysis, all authorities are agreed that it is heresy for a Jew to accept Jesus as the Moshiach.

2. Have the rabbis specifically declared that Chabad meshichists are guilty of heresy that would, for example, make it inappropriate for one to rely upon the shkitah of a meshichist Chabadnik? (quesiton restated)

Short answer: So far, while there have been rabbis who have declared the view to be wrong and not a part of Judaism, see e.g. Rav Aaron Feldman's view with respect to removing oneself from a minyan where the prayer leader inserts meshichist phrases into the avodah. But, as Rabbi Student points out, and which collections of statements on the subject agree, there is no organized effort to declare Chabad meshicists as heretics; rather the rabbis appear to have left the door open for meshicists to comeback into the Orthodox Jewish mainstream as their views soften.

Chapter 6 of Rabbi Student's book, generally, demonstrates how one could argue today seeks to make the case that belief that a dead man can be moshiach, still, is apikorus. Go to the link I've provided for the details of his analysis which, again, relies on the Rambam -- specifically his commentary to the Mishna in Sanhedrin 10:1 where he lays out his 13 principles of faith. He concedes that there is no organized effort to declare meshicists to be heretics.

The opinions of various contemporary gedolim -- before and after the Rebbe's death -- can be found at Wikipedia under Chabad Messianism. There you can see condemnation of the concept, but reluctance to expel the Jews who hold mistaken views.

The language you use, that Rabbinic sources suggest that belief that the Rebbe could still be the Moshiach is not "beyond the pale," has been attributed by meshichists to 1996 statement by Rav Aaron Solovechik in contradiction to his view stated two years ealier that the Rebbe cannot be moshiach because he's dead. A subsequent letter resolves the conflict. In it, he states:

"To my great dismay. . . publications affiliated with the Lubavitch movement have persisted in stating that I validate their belief that a Jewish Messiah may be resurrected from the dead. I completely reject and vigorously deny any such claim. As I have already stated publicly. . . such a belief is repugnant to Judaism and is the antithesis of the truth. My intent in signing the original letter . . . was merely to express my opinion that we should not label subscribers to these beliefs as heretics. Any statements in that letter which imply an endorsement of their view were not shown to me at the time I signed and I once again repudiate any such ridiculous claim."

3. Additionally, what do they purport to do about the prevalence of Chabad shochtim who do hold this belief? Do they hold their shchita to be invalid? Would they not join them in a minyan?

Some rabbinic organizations have taken a strict view with respect to giving hashgacha to restaurants that promote the view that the Rebbe will return as Moshiach. A New York restaurant supervised by Rabbis Marc Angel and Avi Weiss in 2002 threatened to withdraw hasgacha from the restaurant for describing the Rebbe in its menus as "MHM" (i.e. Melech HaMoshiach). However, I haven't heard or seen any cases like this thereafter.

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@Yishai, Including the Abarbanel who believed that Moshiach would come from the dead?. This is untrue; Abarbanel believed no such thing necessarily. Please see Ch. 5 of Gil Student's book linked to above for clarification. –  jake May 20 at 18:42
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@yishai -- what Christians believe is sort of a specialty for me; those who understand that there are prophecies that have not been fulfilled -- e.g. world peace, world-wide belief in G-d -- they say he will do it when he returns; much as Chabad meshichists claim. In counter-missionary work I call it giving Jesus a "mulligan" (a golf term for a free do-over). If you give one guy a mulligan, you have to let everyone have it; therefore the claim anyone may hold to being the Messiah collapses under the weight of competition. –  Bruce James May 20 at 19:09
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I think you misunderstood R' Aharon Soleveitchik's retraction. I think he was referring to those who used his first letter to prove that he believed that believing that the Rebbe is Moshiach is fine. The second letter clarifies that position. However, both letters say that was merely to express my opinion that we should not label subscribers to these beliefs as heretics. In other words, the beliefs are wrong but not heretical (I saw someone quoted the Bnei Banim (on another post) who said that it's like believing Mashiach has to have red hair. Foolish, yes, but not heretical). –  Shmuel Brin May 21 at 5:41
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@Yishai The Abarbanel wasn't entertaining the idea as legitimate. IIRC (from when I read the Abarbanel awhile back), he was providing an incorrect (and caricatured) explanation that he thought could result from an erroneous Ashkenazi style of interpretation. It's doubtful whether any of those Ashkenazim would agree with the Abarbanel's understanding of the Ashkenazi style of d'rush. –  Fred May 21 at 23:50
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@Yishai Ok, I just reread the Abarbanel. I think my earlier comment was not completely precise, but mostly. The Abarbanel starts out by saying that p'shat-based understandings of that particular midrash are incorrect. He then provides one explanation that he claims is of the Ashkenazi style, and he knowingly wrongly cites a prooftext for support. Then he writes that it is a preposterous interpretation, and then offers another incorrect p'shat-based interpretation that he thinks is nevertheless not as bad as the first one.... –  Fred May 22 at 1:57

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