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January 10, 1986 - Image 29

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-01-10

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

ate.

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Friday, January 10, 1986 . 29

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warmth, commitment and attempt to bal-
ance Yiddishkeit with the modem world."
Rabbi Yitschak Kagan, associate direc-
tor of the Lubavitch. Foundation of Michi-
gan, said that Geldman's story is 'a typical
one)';Our most important contribution
hai een in interesting the young in
Judaism." And the way Lubavitchers
have been able to do that, he said, is by
being what they are.
"There is no substitute for sincerity. We
are taught to be friendly, to show love,
compassion, to not be holier than thou.
And we really feel all that, which is •why

"It is an effort to unite
Jews in a common goal
and bond. We want to
create a unity, not a
gap by clarifying the
situation•

we're successful when others haven't_been.
We have taken people on the verge of men-
tal breakdown or drug overdose or cults,
people at their wit's end, and shown them
meaning in life, given them a reason to
keep going."
Ribbi Balinsky wonders, however, if
that doesn't mean that Lubavitch attracts
more than its share of "psychological
misfits." Schindler, too, said it's important
to see who it is that responds to Luba-
vitch's efforts.
"I don't say they're a cult. They're not.
But they do attract the same kind of peo-
ple as a cult, people with no sense of roots,
who are looking for a caring community,
for support, for someone to tell them what
to do."
And while no one seriously accuses
Lubavitch of being a cult, even some of its
supporters are nervous about the role of
the Rebbe and how completely his follow-
, ers listen to what he tells them to do.
For Lubavitchers, the Rebbe is their
guiding light, their best friend. All
Lubavitch houses, stores and .offices
feature at least one, and usually several,
pictures of the Rebbe. Lubavitchers do not
make any major decision without first con-
sulting the Rebbe. Each day, he receives
bags of mail from his followers, asking
questions, telling of a problem, seeking a
blessing. Should I get married? What job
should I take? Should I retire? Should I
move? Whatever answer the Rebbe gives
will be followed to the letter. No questions
asked. No ifs, ands or. buts.
It is what gives Lubavitch its amazing
cohesion and solidness of purpose and it
is, said Kagan (who was not brought up
Lubavitch and has had "a good secular
education"), the way it should be. "I ac-
cept the Rebbe as close to unquestioning-
as you can get. But I do it rationally.

,

He can see so much farther, than I can. If
you feel, as I do; that Torah controls every
aspect of human life, then the problem is
in finding out: what it has, to say: And
where do you find the answer? From some
one who lives a Torah life, who lives for
others, not for himself. That's the Rebbe. .
He wears the spectacles of. Torah, sees
everything through Torah. I: believe he has
extraordinary powers. I don't think that's
irrational and I don't apologize for it."'
"No one," adds Rabbi Krinsky, "com-
pares to the Rebbe in quality, piousness
or total devotion. He is the leader of the
Jewish people in our generation."
"I give Lubavitch credit for their
unswerving loyalty to their Rebbe," said
Rabbi Schechter. "But when he is com-
pared to Moses, I find it ludicrous."
Geldman notes that he, too, has, had
trouble accepting what he calls the sub-
culture of the Rebbe.' "When you're in
Crown Heights, you hear stories about the
Rebbe and hear how they relate to the
Rebbe, it's like they almost deify him
They ascribe mythical and magical powers
to him. It's led to an increasing mes-
sianism. If the Rebbe said tomorrow to
give back all Judaea and Samaria, some-
thing he has always strongly opposed,
Lubavitchers wouldn't think twice. That
mindless obedience worries me."
And it worries Rabbi Greenberg. For
though he said "The Rebbe is a great
spiritual figure, undoubtedly one of the
most influential figures of our time," the
problem, like that with Lubavitch in gen-
eral, is that success has led to excess. '
"Lubavitchers believe the Rebbe is an ex-
pert on everything and knows everything.
There is no sense of limits, no one ques-
tioning his judgment on anything."
And the result, said Greenberg, is an in-
creasing political aggressiveness, the no-
tion being there is no reason the Rebbe
shouldn't speak out on everything.
In fact, the Rebbe has always spoken
out on political issues. He meets often with
an array of political leaders, from the
mayor of New York to U.S. Senators,
American presidential candidates and
Israeli prime ministers, never hesitating to
give his views on current events.
Just after the 1967 Six-Day War broke
out, the Rebbe began a campaign to have
men put on Tfillin, which his followers
believe helped lead Isra4 to victory. In
1973, the Rebbe urged the' Israeli govern-
ment to attack the Syrian capital of Da-
mascus. He has long been involved behind
the scenes in efforts to free Soviet Jews,
vehemently opposed.the Camp David Ac-
'cords and the pullback from Sinai and
strongly supported moves to annex the
West Bank and make it a part of Israel.
"Many people Would feel more comfor- '
table if religious leader would simply curl
up behind his Talmud and not bother
anybody," said Rabbi Kagan. But Torah
says we must bring its values to life. A

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