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Are there any statistics as to what percentage of Chabad still believes that their Rebbe is the Messiah? Is it the majority or simply a very vocal minority? Have there been any serious studies made on the issue?

Please note this question seeks statistics not ideology.

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    Phil, welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks very much for bringing your question here! I hope you'll poke around the site and see if there's anything else you find interesting, including, perhaps, our 47 other questions about chabad. – Isaac Moses Feb 1 '13 at 15:24
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    @ShmuelBrin I think it's fair to say the question regards the class of people who would be seen as "Chabad" if we analyzed all their views except this one. – Double AA Feb 1 '13 at 21:52
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    I don't understand why this question is not closed. – kouty Apr 28 '17 at 12:04
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    question about jews not judaism. doesn't that make this off topic? – Laser123 Jul 5 '17 at 23:08
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    I do not recall if he gives an exact number, but Professor David Berger wrote a book called "The Rebbe, the Messiah, and the Scandal of Orthodox Indifference." I'll try to check later if there is an actual number but you might want to take a look in there. – Bochur613 Jun 3 '18 at 20:17
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Having lived and studied in Crown Heights for several months--before which I believed that a significant proportion of Lubavitchers, perhaps 40% or half, did not believe the Rebbe was Moshiach--I have been surprised to find that the notion that the Rebbe is the presumptive, if not actual Messiah is very dominant in Chabad. Chabad Houses and conferences and other events "for the public" will not give this impression, as Chabad fears quite correctly that it will turn Jews off of Chabad, if not Judaism. But the fact is (or seems to be) that your average Chabad Anash in Crown Heights holds this belief.

Within this, there are varying degrees of subscription to the doctrine as well as vocality about it. While many, many take for granted that the Rebbe was the Nasi HaDor and the Moshiach HaDor, and almost as many would not hesitate to call him the "presumptive" Moshiach, only some are very convinced that he is/was the actual Moshiach, and fewer believe that he never physically died. The latter is, surprisingly, not a "fringe" belief in Chabad. It is a minority belief and not mainstream, but no one would be shocked to hear someone say it. That said, many of the people who subscribe to the belief that the Rebbe is Moshiach are quiet about it, especially among non-Chabad. And even within Lubavitch, there is something of a Don't Ask Don't Tell policy about this matter: although a large group of vocal Yechi elements do not include themselves in such a contract, many people who personally subscribe to the belief that the Rebbe is Moshiach--and especially those who don't--will not go out of their way to bring up the topic, whether with other Chabadniks or in public.

The questioner does not ask why the belief is so widespread. But, as someone who loves Chabad and the Lubavitcher Rebbe, I feel a bit of obligation to explain. (For more, please see Menachem Posner's answer to this questioner--I think it's very good.) The Rebbe was by any standard a great tzaddik. His genuine wisdom is immediately perceptible from his talks and writings. His words and actions motivated a worldwide movement to connect Jews with Torah, to assist Jews b'gashmius and b'ruchnius, and in many ways to unite am Yisrael. He indeed performed miracles, in the sense that miracles tend emerge from systematically positive action, speech, and thought. He was personally righteous, and there is no doubt that he brought about a new tradition for righteousness in the world.

Many Chabadniks who were zoche to meet the Lubavitcher Rebbe have family traditions of very meaningful encounters with the Rebbe, of good advice and miracles, and these stories--combined inevitably with cognitive biases, including that bias called love--sometimes produce the belief that the Rebbe is more than human. Whether or not this is correct is a separate matter. The Lubavitchers no longer have a living Rebbe; the Rebbe they did have was great and beloved; and these facts combined produce a yearning toward the past that is perhaps, after all, not totally out of place in Judaism.

So as much as the "official" policy where Chabad interacts with the world is to downplay this part of Chabad belief, when Chabad are safely within their own circles, it emerges with ardency and ardor. The curriculum in the in-town schools is very, very focused on the idea of "Moshiach," with or without explicit connection to the Rebbe. Discussions, blessings, and interactions between Chabadniks are similarly concentrated on "Moshiach" and the Ge'ulah. If one desires a statistical study, one has merely to count the number of "Yechi" kippot on the street in Crown Heights. (Lots; in 770 at least half. And these are the people who actively and vocally endorse the Rebbe as Moshiach.) In short, the idea that the Rebbe is Moshiach is not a secondary belief in Chabad. But it is perhaps worth asking whether this is belief is truly wicked, or simply the inevitable result of memory, grief, and longing.


I want to add, after further reflection, that it is the way of Chasidim not to believe things that it would be seriously grieving to believe. Some examples are the Holocaust and the Rebbe's histalkus and that Moshiach isn't here yet. I posit that self-deception, although not in fashion now, is actually a powerful psychological tool, and perhaps the only one by which one can survive.

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    I am upvoting this answer because it directly answers the question, unlike the other answers. Although you are anonymous and your statistics are your own personal perception, you have shown yourself on this site to be a well meaning level headed person. In my own limited access to Crown Heights I was always amazed at just how many houses had giant Yechi banners. One of the first up is on the house of a relative of mine who is a member of the C.H. hashgacha. He's a nice guy. This belief is much more widespread than Chabbad lets on. And no I do not believe this belief makes someone a kopher. – user6591 Oct 7 '16 at 13:10
  • @user6591 Just pointing out, CH has a much higher percentage of more extreme meshichistim than most places outside Israel – user613 Oct 9 '16 at 11:43
  • @user613 I'd assume that's true. However, that is the 'headquarters'. That is where shluchim training is organized. There is definitely a trickle down effect to all communities. All it takes is one c.h. trained shliach community leader and all of a sudden an entire community in the midwest finds its children writing letters to the rebbe. And of course without that c.h. trained shliach, all those kids might never have heard about shabbos. One of those cherev pipios. – user6591 Oct 9 '16 at 13:42
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    @user6591 Writing to the Rebbe is orthogonal to believing that he's Moshiach – Shmuel Brin Apr 28 '17 at 15:34
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    @user6591 there are people who write to the Rebbe who don't take part in the Rebbe's minyan. – Shmuel Brin Apr 28 '17 at 17:22
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For what its worth. I corresponded a while ago (through the official chabad website) with regards to the issue of the Rebbe being moshiach and the proliferation of this ideology within chabad. The responses I received were as follows:

No, the official Chabad officials do not hold that the Rebbe is Moshiach.

There is no underground movement which unoffficially permits for statements to the contrary to be made. I'm not sure why there is a proliferation of such beliefs in some parts of Israel. In North and South America, Russia and Europe that is not the case be that as it may, it is individuals not the official stance of the movement.

The Rebbe not only did not want anyone to perpetuate the idea that he is Moshiach openly as you said, but he didn't want the idea to be perpetuated at all, period.

Along with the other mitzvahs and mitzvah campaigns which he initiated the Rebbe encouraged us to spread the word that Moshiach is coming, he did not say 'tell the world I'm am Moshiach'…

And another related response from Rabbi Menahem Posner:

a. I do not believe that the Rebbe ever said he would be Moshiach after his death. Rather, the belief seemed to evolve as follows: More than anything in the world, the Rebbe wanted Moshiach to come. He constantly spoke about his arrival and worked tirelessly to bring Jewry to a state where they would merit his arrival.

It was not a huge leap for some people to connect the dots and assume that the Rebbe himself would one day be Moshiach.

After his passing in 1994, people were at loss regarding how to continue. They just were not ready to say goodbye to the Rebbe and to his vision of Moshiach’s imminent arrival (and rightfully so). Different people reacted in different ways.

Many Chassidim saw their mission to continue the Rebbe’s work of spreading Judaism wherever possible as their response to the loss which we and world Judaism had suffered. Others continued to refer to him as Moshiach as a way of expressing their conviction that he and his message live on.

This well-intentioned, but misguided, response is the root of what you sometimes see today.

Some of the Rebbe's works were edited and others were not. I am not aware of him editing and approving a work with "melech hamoshiach" appended to his name. My assumption is that this was added afterward by Mishichist elements.

The Rebbe did indeed speak about prophecy in our time prior to the advent of Moshiach in the sicha that you reference...

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To the best of my knowledge no such study has been done within Chabad chassidim... and even though in general we say 'Ein lo ra-inu ra-aya' (Zevachim 12:4, "'We have not seen' is not a proof"), controversial studies/statistics the likes of this would surely have spread very quickly with very loud responses.

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    Mod note: I have removed the parts of the answer and ensuing comments which do not address the question. – Double AA Feb 3 '13 at 1:35
  • @DoubleAA my original answer certainly answer the question. Did you read the title? "What percentage of Chabad still believes the Rebbe is the Messiah?" - no mention of statistics there. – Danield Feb 3 '13 at 7:28
  • In any case, I clearly explained myself that statistics are irrelevant when history has suggested a clear answer to the question – Danield Feb 3 '13 at 7:29
  • let us continue this discussion in chat – Danield Feb 3 '13 at 8:54
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    @DoubleAA Thank you for your response. That being said, I still feel that there should be more freedom of speech on this site. I think a moderator should close a topic if he feels there is a problem in the discussion, not delete posts that were well thought out, labored upon, legitimate and contributing. Thank you – Yaakov Pinsky Feb 3 '13 at 11:33
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Chabad published a sefer subscribing to this belief.

About 10 of the most prominent chabad Roshei yeshiva are on the editorial board and 20 of their superiors have endorsed it. What better statistics can you get? The name of the sefer is "Hatekufa Vihageula", first edition 1999 second edition 2005 (link).

  • Can you substantiate that these are prominent rabbis in good standing with mainstream Chabad and not the leaders of the Meshichists? – Seth J Feb 8 '13 at 3:11
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    the book has been published over a decade ago by official central Chabad organization in Israel and no Chabad institution, leader, Rabbi Rosh yeshiva or laymen have yet published anything to counter or de-legitimize the book. – mordechai Feb 8 '13 at 3:37
  • Maybe they're ignoring what they acknowledge is a serious problem and hoping it will go away on its own. I know, I know, that never happens in large religious organizations. – Seth J Feb 8 '13 at 3:53
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    I don't know if you know, but there is a lot of controversy about who gets to publish books in Chabad's name. Nisht azoi poshut (not so simple) to just say "Chabad published..". – HodofHod Feb 8 '13 at 4:25
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    Even accepting this as an 'official' publication, can anyone confirm that it actually claims what the op says it does? – Double AA Feb 8 '13 at 6:13
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Yes, most of Chabad does believe the Rebbe is Moshiach and that he is alive with us, the difference there, is whether physical or just spiritually.

And, no, no real polls were done - and therefor no statistics exist.

P.S. If there was, it would definitely spread like wildfire.

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    Tzvi, welcome to Mi Yodea! Please take a look at our FAQ and about pages to familiarise yourself with how this sites works. Specifically, this is a question and answer forum, rather than a discussion. Only the first paragraph of your answer addresses the question which asked for "statistics and not ideology". I hope you stick around and and continue to contribute. – Michoel Apr 4 '13 at 9:59
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    -1 for paranoid conspiracy theories. The idea that everyone who disagrees with you is merely lying to themselves ("You can't handle the truth!") may be comforting to you, but it has no place on this sort of site. – TRiG Apr 4 '13 at 10:40
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    -1. I think the only word in your post which made sense was the word "creepy", which is a perfect description of your post. If you want to convince anyone, try sounding like a calm, normal, rational person. – Shraga Apr 4 '13 at 13:31
  • -1 for being sourceless and therefore not useful. As an aside, I'm still having trouble believing anyone including yourself could believe what you had written. – Double AA Apr 5 '13 at 5:38
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    I'm sure I sounded like a fanatical missionary, hah. Sorry if I offended anybody. I was just stating all the facts that came up. @TRiG this only applies to people who were born Lubavitchers and are already 3 gen Chabad. Shraga, I am not trying to convince, I just stated the facts that came up. I am backing out of this conversation, for the reason I can't really put my word up on this one - nothing personal. – Tzvi Apr 9 '13 at 4:04
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Nathan Shlomo Valdez, who holds a degree in Judaic studies and is a writer, says: 'The belief that Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson is the Messiah or will be the Messiah is in fact mainstream amongst Chabad-Lubavitcher Chasidim.

The majority of them are not public about it, but when pressed they will say “he could have been” or he “might be” or they say “there are opinions that say the messiah comes after the ressurection of the dead”. According to this rabbi's experience, then, the majority of the Lubavitchers hold this opinion.

  • "He could have been" is very different from "he might be." The former is a more or less uncontroversial opinion that I've heard expressed even by non-Lubavitchers. – Daniel Jun 3 '18 at 4:14
  • @Daniel. Notwithstanding, a 'mainstream' and 'majority of them' view is clear. – Clifford Durousseau Jun 3 '18 at 5:02

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protected by Isaac Moses Aug 16 '13 at 19:14

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