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Why do some Jews attack Chassidim, particularly Chabad?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg

  

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I believe that the friction that exists today between Chassidim and misnagdim is not motivated by ideology.

When the Chassidic movement was founded by the Baal Shem Tov, there was a genuine concern by many Jews that it was just another cult, similar to the Shabatai Tzvi messianic cult which swept across Europe less than a century earlier. People are always wary of the unfamiliar. Imagine what they thought when a teacher's aide suddenly started propagating an entirely new philosophy in Judaism.

The valid concern was that the "kat" (sect), as the chassidim were originally known, would eventually break off from traditional Torah and mitzvahs, and for this reason the misnagdim harassed and afflicted the chassidim whenever possible. Chassidim were excommunicated in virtually every major misnagdic city.

All this lasted for about 75 years; from the inception of the chassidic movement (approx. 1750) until the early years of the nineteenth century. At that time it became clear to the misnagdim that their fears about the chassidim were unfounded. The chassidim were not straying from the path of Torah and mitzvahs, and in fact, the chassidim surpassed the misnagdim in piety and in their meticulous, passionate observance of the commandments.

The 19th century heralded an era of (relative) harmony between chassidim and misnagdim. The leaders of both camps united together to confront and battle the real danger that was being presented to Judaism - The enlightenment (Reform) movement. The cooperation and genuine friendship that existed between the Tzemach Tzedek (the 3rd Lubavitcher Rebbe) and R' Itzale Vilozhiner (of Brisk) is well documented. This friendly rapport lasted for well over 100 years.

At the onset of the 20th century, R' Sholom DovBer and R' Yosef Yitzchok of Lubavitch worked very closely with the Chofetz Chaim, R' Chaim Ozer Grodzenski, R' Chaim Brisker, the Ohr Sameach and others.

After WWII the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, started a campaign of disseminating the teachings of chassidus to every person possible. Many outstanding members of the misnagdic community were attracted to the beauty of chassidus and became chassidim. At this point, around 25 years ago, the old animosity towards chassidim was - intentionally - rekindled by certain elements within the misnagdic community.

There is no ideology behind this animosity. All the complaints against chassidim have been swept away by 250 years of steadfast adherence to Torah principles. In fact, many, many chassidic practices and values have been adopted by the misnagdim. It is truly unfortunate that there are no real Torah giants today to counteract those elements who wish to sow seeds of hatred amongst Torah-true Jews.


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COMMENTS

Misnagid comment on this article :-)

Posted by: Anonymous on Nov 19, 2005

Also today we have to acknowledge that Chabad is the ultimate karate master of kiruv and outreach to the Jewish community.

Some tension exists between the misnagid world and the elements within Chabad that are messianic types (Rebbe as moshiach). Every group has their fringe elements but that being said there are many many many yeshivah bocurs today in the litvish world that owe a big Todah Rabah to the support they got from the Chabad shlichim.

opposition

Posted by: Anonymous on Jan 13, 2007

It seems to me to be a little absurd to assume that those among gedolei yisroel who did not support, and some who actively opposed chabad merely acted out of conceit and malice and not due to ideological differences and disagreements. Chabd does a lot of good, but nevertheless, there are some problems that exist. And even if you disagree with those among gedole yisroel who have certain problems with chabad, they must still be recognized for their gadlus, and thus to assume that they acted out of anything but the purest of intentions is wrong and frankly, ridiculous. Furthermore, such assumptions do more to create rifts and separation within klal yisroel and thus should be avoided.

Hatzlocho and keep up the good work.


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Mitzvot » Love thy Neighbor
Jewish Identity » Jewish "Labels" » Chabad
Jewish Identity » Love thy Neighbor

Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Chassidim
(Pl.: Chassidim; Adj.: Chassidic) Following the teachings of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), the founder of "Chassidut." Chassidut emphasizes serving G-d with sincerity and joy, and the importance of connecting to a Rebbe (saintly mentor).
Chassidic
(Pl.: Chassidim; Adj.: Chassidic) A follower of the teachings of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), the founder of "Chassidut." Chassidut emphasizes serving G-d with sincerity and joy, and the importance of connecting to a Rebbe (saintly mentor).
Rebbe
A Chassidic master. A saintly person who inspires followers to increase their spiritual awareness.
Lubavitcher
One who follows the teachings of the Chassidic group which was formerly based in the Belarus village of Lubavitch. Today, the movement is based in Brooklyn, New York with branches worldwide. The Lubavitch movement is also widely known as "Chabad."
Baal Shem Tov
Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), Polish mystic and founder of the Chassidic movement.
Lubavitcher Rebbe
Rabbi Menachem M. Schneersohn, spiritual leader of the worldwide Chabad movement.
Lubavitch
Also known as “Chabad,” Lubavitch is the name of a Chassidic Group founded in the 1770s. “Lubavitch” is the name of the Belarusian city where four of the Chabad Rebbes (leaders) were based. Today, the movement is based in Brooklyn, New York, with branches worldwide. Two of the most fundamental teachings of Chabad are the intellectual pursuit of understanding the divine and the willingness to help every Jew who has a spiritual or material need.