Levi Liberow, Beis Moshiach
In 1939, the Jewish population in Eretz Yisrael found themselves in a perplexing situation. They had two powerful enemies.
One enemy was Nazi Germany, which didn’t hide its evil plans. The second was Great Britain, which just issued the infamous “White Paper” that severely limited Jewish immigration to Eretz Yisrael. The Nazis wanted to kill us, and the British didn’t want to save us.
What made matters worse was that these two enemies were archenemies of each other. The policy of “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” was not an available course of action. A strategy was finally formulated: “We shall fight the White Paper as if there were no Nazis and fight the Nazis as if there is no White Paper.”
We discussed last week in this column, the idea of “inter-tribal marriage.” It shows that my “tribal” identity comes second to my foundational Jewish identity and that I’m ready to learn from the other tribe and “mix it in” to mine.
But what if the differences are too significant to ignore?
What if my tribe believes that things the other tribe does are harmful to our outreach efforts to yet other tribes of Jews?
And what if my tribe feels that concerns about outreach efforts are never a good excuse for hiding the truth, especially when the Rebbe has made such a big deal out of it?
Can we, and should we, see each other as legitimate Chassidim? Can we, and should we, send our children to the same schools and read the same books and magazines? Can we “intermarry”?
We have become alienated from one another, and I think I know why. I believe that it’s a foolish reason and therefore find it disappointing, but at the same time, I’m relieved that that is all it is.
I want to quote from a recent interview Rabbi Yossi Paltiel gave the N’shei Chabad Newsletter:
“We have become split into many camps, not based on our essential belief but solely based on what we should tell others … In truth, our perspectives are a lot closer to each other than we want to admit, and together we will find the answers.”
I think realizing this is key to the solution of this problem. Whoever believes we’re in Dor Hashvi’i and that the Rebbe is our Nasi Hador is “within the fold,” and “reconciliation” with him is possible.
How did it happen that an almost “technical” disagreement on outreach tactics created two camps that have come to live almost separate community lives?
We, like the Jews in 1940s Isreal, have two core values in our Chassidishe life that seem to clash. One is bitul and Hiskashrus, the other is the non-stop emphasis the Rebbe puts on Hafotzas HaYahadus and Chassidus.
Usually, these two values “cooperate” very well. A Chassid with bittul will make the finest shliach, but in the matter of Moshiach, especially after Gimmel Tammuz, these two values present a serious challenge to one another.
We want to maintain complete devotion and bittul to the Rebbe; therefore, we feel compelled to take an approach that disregards, on varying levels, how the world will receive such ideas. What matters is to say the truth “as is,” and the world will somehow accept it.
This approach works in many cases. Many people became full-fledged Chassidim from hearing shluchim speak their minds in such a manner.
Others focus more on making sure our outreach is effective by maintaining a “right” PR image. Therefore, they feel compelled to leave out essential messages that are more challenging to make “likable.”
And they are right as well. We must acknowledge that these concepts are controversial, and we can’t deny that some people are put off by these ideas.
The problem is that because these two values were adopted by two distinct camps, rejecting the other way became a defining factor of each respective “team.”
In the “PR” focused group, even “internal” mention of the belief that the Rebbe is Moshiach was basically “silenced,” out of fear that such speech will leak out to the public or might be seen by the youth as an “endorsement” of the camp that enthusiastically propagates these ideas.
Unfortunately, many second and third-generation children and youth, are therefore hardly exposed to the idea that “the Nasi Hador is the Moshiach Shebador.” This idea is foundational in Chassidic thought and is instrumental in understanding the role of a Rebbe, especially in this generation.
The other side has come to view those who display more caution than them in publicizing these ideas, as someone who is not involved in the latest and only mission of the time.
A whole set of derogatory terms has been created by less mature members on each side to describe their counterparts. And here we are, 25 years after Gimmel Tammuz, with tons of work waiting to be done.
“Fight the Nazis as if there is no White Paper and fight the White Paper as if there are no Nazis.” — we need to clarify what we believe to ourselves and our children as if there are no outreach concerns at all. We must seek out the most effective ways to promote Moshiach awareness without feeling guilty that we haven’t told the world everything in one shot.
Just like spouses must give each other space for their shared life to flourish, both values require independent attention and evaluation.
Both values, bittul and responsible outreach, are critical in the ultimate success of Hafatzah of Besuras HaGeulah. But for them to cooperate, they must both first be assessed separately. ■
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