I have been reading about Chabad Lubavitch and, since I have started to be in contact with a local group, I am in doubt about the Chabad messianism (belief of some adherents about the last Rebbe).

How is the Chabad viewed in the Orthodox community with regard to this, for example if one studies in a Chabad Yeshiva will the knowledge gained be valid from the point of view of other Orthodox communities?

Maybe there are comments on this is particular (different communities may have different views but I can read them all and see for myself)?

Maybe the question is irrelevant and all the Yeshivas the same because the texts are the same?

Or maybe this 'controversy' does not affect the teaching or status of Chabad since it is not all members of Chabad holding the belief and those who do, do not teach it to newcomers?

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    Is your question with regard to the validity of conversion (As in you are worried that if you say that you learned in Chabad that they will not convert you) or in that you are wondering about the differences in philosophy in general? – Shmuel Brin Aug 28 '12 at 3:29
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    possible duplicate of Recognition of Chabad conversions – Seth J Aug 28 '12 at 3:30
  • Does Chabad offer classes for converts? – Double AA Aug 28 '12 at 3:50
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    @micstas re your comment to Shmuel: That sounds like a different question then the one asked above. Perhaps you should edit to clarify precisely what you are looking for. – Double AA Aug 28 '12 at 4:51
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    @ba, as I wrote to Michoel's answer, there has been controversy with Chabad Lubavitch since the 40's, how can you say there is no controversy? – YDK Aug 29 '12 at 22:13

Being a follower of Chabad Lubavitch, I will approach this question from my perspective. It appears from your question that your primary concern with the Chabad philosophy is what you term "Chabad Messianism", and how that is perceived by other Orthodox groups. I am assuming you are referring to the belief that the Rebbe is Moshiach. I wish clarify from the start that it not my intent to debate this fact or not.

From my experience I have seen the vast majority of other Orthodox groups to be quite respectful and accepting of Chabad and consider us to be a branch of authentic Orthodox Judaism. There is always the radical vocal few that will dismiss us as Messianics, possibly without even taking the time to understand our view. Often there are other reasons behind the animosity and this is just used as an forum to argue.

[It is also important to note that is impossible to generalize that Chabad holds one way or another on this issue. I have personally encountered Lubavitchers, include Rabbonim with diverse views on the subject. Anyone who makes a blanket statement that Chabad holds x is simply wrong. Additionally it is important to remember that Chabad is an extremely inclusive group, and thus there is a very diversere group of people claiming to be Chabad. Also, those who subscribe to a more radical viewpoint are by nature more vocal so it is difficult for outsiders to hear the mainstream views.]

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  • Thanks, I think it is not an issue for me - the matter seems to be very personal and noone will be forcing one to believe one way or the other, as I understand now. – MichaelS Aug 29 '12 at 20:20
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    Since controversy with chabad Lubavitch dates back to the 40's, I do not think it is correct to say the exception is "a few dismiss us as messianics". – YDK Aug 29 '12 at 22:10
  • I stand by my point that the those who dismiss us as Messianics are a small minority. I don't see how putting a date to the controversy changes that. (This is besides for the point that the so called Messianic debate is largely post 1994). – Michoel Aug 30 '12 at 0:38
  • @Michoel See YDK's most recent comment on the question where elaborates on the controversy from the 40's. – Double AA Aug 30 '12 at 5:26
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    @mochinrechavim, if you have a source that chabad teachings are controversial, why don't you post that as an answer? – YDK Sep 5 '12 at 18:47

Chabad is controversial because it challenges the mind to intellectually grasp the concept that the Atzmus (Essence of) Ein Sof (the Infinite Light) is present although concealed in every aspect of this physical world.

This above mention is idea can be explained through the concept of Tzimtzum. Is G-d's light contracted ie: removed from the world, or is it merely concealed, vested in creation with a purpose for the Jew to reveal it? The Lubavitcher Rebbe breaks it down to four ways of understanding (Source: Marbitzei Torah U’Mussar, Vol. III, p. 66.)

a) the tzimtzum should be interpreted literally, and moreover, that it affected G-d’s essence. The proof offered in defense of this theory is that it is impossible for the King to be found in a place of filth, Heaven forbid;

b) the tzimtzum should be interpreted literally, but that it affected only His light;

c) the tzimtzum should not be interpreted literally, but it affected the Source of light as well; and

d) the tzimtzum should not be interpreted literally, and it affected only His light.

A is followed by the Vilna Gaon and is the main maklokes between Chabad and Vilna.

R' Chaim Volozin actually holds by C and the Lubavitch Rebbe (while admits he has no proof) heard that R' Chaim was familiar with Chabad text and tried to find a resolution between Chabad and the Vilna Gaon.

Chabad follows option D and this is where the controversy begins.

Tzimtzum only effecting the light ie: revelation of G-dliness means that G-d can vest himself in this world and reveal himself through Jews, Torah, and Mitzvos.

This is the foundation of Chabad Chassidus, which is to make a Dira B'Tachtonim (Dwelling place below) for Hashem. This is sole purpose of creation and the concept has been foreign since the Churban and limited to small circles of kabbalists. Chabad revealed it to the world and this is the root of any and all controversy.

Torah Or, in the maamar Pasach Eliyahu Likkutei Torah, in the additions to Sefer Vayikra, the maamar Lehavin Mashekasuv beSefer Otzeros Chayim; Shaar HaYichud; Sefer HaMitzvos, [the maamarim entitled] Mitzvas Haamanas Elokus, and Shoresh Mitzvas HaTefillah (beginning ch. 34); in the Siddur, [the maamar] on the verse Zecher Rav Tovecho. In the maamarim of my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe shlita, that have been printed, [the subject is discussed] in [the maamarim entitled:] Al Yipater Adam [56]89, Dirshu Havayah [5]691, Al Kein Yomru [5]691, [Sichos] Shavuos [5]693, p. 8, and Tov Li [5]697.

The above all sources from this above sourced letter.

“It is not possible to ask a question about a [Rebbe being a] go-between, since this is G-d Himself, as He has clothed Himself in a human body.” (Likutei Sichos II:p. 510-511).

This controversial enough? The Tzaddik is a Chariot for Hashem. Avraham, Yitzhak, and Yaakov are all called chariots. (See Ch. 46 of Tanya) What is a chariot? It is something you get inside and control it to aid you in your bidding. But more importantly, a chariot is an object with no will of its own. It does exactly what its driver wants it to.

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    You may wish to edit in the source for the idea of the Avos being "chariots" to G-d, as this may not be an idea everyone is familiar with. – Hod - Monica's Army Sep 5 '12 at 23:21
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    "A" was most certainly not the main source of controversy between Chabad and "Vilna" (I assume you mean the Vilna Gaon). Although there are apparantly Lubavitch texts that suggest that it was, there are absolutely no texts outside of Chabad that suggest any such thing. Not only did the Gaon's main disciple, Reb Chaim Volozhiner, espouse a view similar to that of Chabad on this issue, the Vilna Gaon himself nowhere criticises it. [to be cont.] – Shimon bM Sep 6 '12 at 9:05
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    Moreover, the Gaon's most prolific disciple, Reb Pinchas Polotsker, wrote a book called Keser Torah, in which he listed all of the things that he found objectionable about hasidism. The charge that hasidim interpret tzimtzum in a manner contrary to the interpretation of the Gaon is nowhere found within it. For more information on this controversy, from the view of non-hasidism, I recommend Allan Nadler, The Faith of the Mithnagdim: Rabbinic Responses to Hasidic Rapture (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997), 15-17 - and elsewhere throughout. – Shimon bM Sep 6 '12 at 9:09
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    When you say that something is the essence of a machlokes, that implies that it is important to both sides of the debate and not just to one. I do not deny that this issue is of great importance to hasidim, but the fact that it is nowhere mentioned by the Gaon or by Reb Pinchas (neither of whom shied away from mentioning the things that they disliked about hasidim), and the fact that Reb Chayim - even if, as you say, his view did not align directly with Chabad - disagreed with his teacher, all seems to suggest that to Lithuanian misnagdim, this was not an important issue. – Shimon bM Sep 6 '12 at 23:45
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    I'm not going to spend any more time on this subject, so whether or not you choose to continue defending your answer is up to you. The question concerned why Chabad is controversial, and to suppose that people find certain things about Chabad controversial without actually knowing that those are the things that bother them is absurd. You don't have to be a maskil to understand the problem with that. But have it your way: if it's a function of your theology that people outside your community think a certain way, then who am I to tell you otherwise. – Shimon bM Sep 7 '12 at 0:39

Generally they are accepted (people would join them for a minyan, for example, except for maybe the more crazy messianics).

However, when it comes to halacha the rest of the Jewish world all follow the Shulchan Aruch (more or less) and Chabad do have a few significant differences from that, which also seem to be against the simple reading of all earlier sources. Most notable among them are that they do not eat Seudah Shlishis (the third meal) on Shabbos, and they do not sleep in a Succah. (Nowadays a lot of people don't sleep in the Succah, but they accept it is an obligation and have special reasons not to, such as the weather. Chabad don't hold of it being an obligation at all, which is a very different matter)

I am definitely not chas vesholom saying anything against the Baal HaTanya who wrote the Shulchan Aruch HaRav (which they follow). They certainly have their reasons (probably rooted in Kabbalah). However, since it is different from the mainstream practice, this could be a reason for people not accepting them.

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    Would you say that the differences in halachic interpretation are on the order of the diffs between Ashkenazim and S'fardim, or are they more extreme? – Monica Cellio Sep 6 '12 at 14:35
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    Chabad absolutely holds that it is an obligation to sleep in the sukkah. However, it is also a halacha that if sleeping in the sukkah causes discomfort, one should not do it. You may wish to correct that paragraph. – Hod - Monica's Army Sep 6 '12 at 15:00
  • @limos Chabad holds by Shulchan Aruch HaRav just like the Litvish hold by Mishneh Berurah. Your examples are discussed at lenghth judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/5431/… and judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/10482/… The oversimplification of Halacha above is one of the reasons for controversy. Chabad has a source for 100% of what it does and as the Alter Rebbe writes in the very beginning of Shulchan Aruch HaRav in the Laws of Tefillin, "When Kabbalah is more machmir than Halacha, we follow al pi Kabbalah." – user1292 Sep 6 '12 at 18:07
  • @ShmuelBrin While the other Seforim mentioned might discuss this idea, it is written explicitly in his S.A. I do not recall his source for this statement. – user1292 Apr 5 '13 at 16:31
  • @ShmuelBrin What is the discrepancy? – user1292 Apr 5 '13 at 18:40

In America Chabad is better organized than elsewhere and it is closer to mainstream Jewishness than elsewhere, but they still suffer from a very strong Zionist leaning which is not in line with mainstream Jewish belief.

In addition they have involved themselves in kiruv (bringing others close) uberalles, it is now increasingly common for people who become religious through Chabad having to leave because Chabad events do not hold to mainstream standards of gender separation and other issues.

Thus, some see them as having removed themselves from mainstream Jewish practice, possibly the price of inclusiveness.

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    What gives you the idea that "mainstream Jewishness" isn't Zionist-leaning? – b a Sep 3 '12 at 17:23
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    Chabad zionist?? I don't think so... – Shmuel Brin Sep 3 '12 at 17:47
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    I have yet to be at a Chabad event (and I've been to many) that did not hold to "mainstream standards of gender separation", so I'm not exactly sure what you're talking about. Additionally, it's interesting to me that in your last paragraph, you could switch "Chabadnik" for just about any other group (Yeshivish, Sephardi, Chassidic) and it would still be true. The fact is, that different Jewish groups have different focal points, practices, and beliefs. It's the ones that all Jews share in common that are the important ones - and the ones that you seem to overlook. – Hod - Monica's Army Sep 3 '12 at 18:08
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    @msh210 Do not confuse keeping over 6 million Jews safe from millions of enemies surrounding them with supporting a Secular Israeli government that is built on the destruction of Torah Values and the nationalization of the Jewish religion. The Lubavitcher Rebbe has many published talks written and audio that make the Satmar Rebbe look like Rav Kook. Lubavitch is NOT Zionist and we do not support Zionism in the sense of anything outside of keeping Jews safe and not giving away even one inch of Holy Land which the zionist do for "peace". – user1292 Sep 3 '12 at 21:49
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    Joe, your answer contains (a) unsourced assertions and (b) judgement/opinions. I am going to edit out the latter. You are welcome to further edit the answer. Thanks. – Monica Cellio Sep 6 '12 at 14:41

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