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Transcript
The Chabad-Lubavitch Movement
What you need to know about Chabad-Lubavitch:
Key
beliefs and distinctive practices
to social, moral and political issues including education, the role of women,
crime and punishment and war.
Ways in which they are related to, differ from and influence mainstream Judaism.
Ways in which they seek to reject, challenge, reform or revolutionise society and how
far they are successful.
Attitude
History
Chabad-Lubavitch is a movement within Hasidic Judaism. So we need first to look at the
origins of Hasidism.
Hasidism began in Eastern Europe in the 18th Century. It was founded by Israel ben
Eliezer (who is also known as the Baal Shem Tov). Judaism at that time was seen by
some to be too academic and focused on study of the Torah and the Talmud. The Hasidic
movement was a reaction to this trend and centred on joyful spirituality and a personal
experience of God, emphasising prayer, camaraderie and deeds of kindness. This was
attractive to many ordinary Jews as it offered closeness to God through joy in daily life,
without the need to be thoroughly educated in the Jewish law.
Hasidism is not just one movement, but a collection of separate groups which
share common features (those outlined above). Each group is called a Hasidic dynasty
and is usually named after the European town where it originated. A dynasty is led by a
rebbe, a spiritual leader whose role is passed down after the death of the original
rebbe, usually to a family member. Each dynasty has its own distinctive principles, but
all share the same common principles of Hasidism and of Judaism generally.
There were once several hundred thriving Hasidic dynasties, but most of Europe’s
Hasidic Jews were killed during the Second World War. The few surviving Hasidim
gathered in the United States (particularly New York), and later in Israel.
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
The Lubavitch dynasty began in the town of Lyubavichi
in Russia, with the Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (17451812). His teachings focused on how the individual can use his
mind in study in order to arouse inspiration and spiritual
dedication in the heart (“The mind is the key to the
emotions”). His movement became known as Chabad, an
acronym made up of the initial letters of the Hebrew words
for Wisdom, Understanding and Knowledge.
The leadership of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement was
passed on through the dynasty, until in 1951 it was taken on by
the seventh leader, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson. He
is often known by members of Chabad-Lubavitch simply as
“the Rebbe”, or by others as “the Lubavitcher Rebbe”. Under
the leadership of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, the movement
expanded globally. He died in June 1994, but there has not as
yet emerged a successor to him.
1
Key beliefs
Although they obviously share the same basic beliefs as other branches of Judaism, some
of the distinguishing beliefs of Chabad-Lubavitch movement are:
Hasidism
Because they are a Hasidic group, Lubavitchers have a mystical approach to
spirituality. The word “mysticism” refers to practices that are designed to invoke in
someone a personal experience of God. They stress the importance of joyful
observance of God’s commandments, heartfelt prayer and outwardly demonstrating
their love for God and the world he created. Chabad Synagogues have a small side room
called a chabadnitze, where people can pray at length or meditate if they wish to.
The Chabad movement has adapted the Hasidic approach to focus
on how careful study of the Torah can result in this joyful, loving
attitude to spirituality. The founder of Chabad, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of
Liadi, wrote a book of Hasidic philosophy called Tanya, and the
Lubavitcher rebbe encouraged people to follow a cycle of reading the
Chumas (first 5 books of the Torah) and Tanya over the course of each
year. (This is known colloquially as “doing ChiTas”).
Authority of Rebbes
Again because they are a Hasidic group, Chabad-Lubavitch are led by a Rebbe.
The rebbe of a Hasidic dynasty is the spiritual leader. The Rebbe will deliver
inspirational talks, conduct religious ceremonies, and be a general guide, role-model
and mentor. Rebbes are believed to be literally and physically aware of God, and as a
result many seem to be able to “see the future”. Many Hasidim model themselves on the
lives of their rebbes, and many Hasidic groups have developed everyday practices and
traditions (of clothing style, for instance) in this way. Hasidim tend to be
extremely loyal to their rebbe, and this is particularly the case with
Lubavitchers, since the death of their rebbe.
Messianism
Messianism within Judaism is the belief that the Messiah will come, a holy person
chosen by God (“the anointed one”). He will be a great king, a descendant of King
David, and will lead the Jewish people through the messianic age. He will bring all the
Jews back together and into their promised homeland, where they will live in peace.
(Remember: the first Christians were Jews who believed that Jesus was the messiah.
There have been many people who have falsely claimed to be the messiah. Jews don’t
believe that Jesus was the real messiah, and so they are still waiting for the messiah to
come.)
Within Judaism, there are various different interpretations of messianism. Some
believe that the messiah will literally be a person, whereas others believe the person
mentioned to be representative of the messianic age. Hasidim tend to believe very
strongly in the imminence of the coming of the Messiah, and of the ability of their
actions to hasten his arrival.
2
Some Lubavitchers believe that their rebbe (Rabbi M. M Schneerson) was in fact
the Messiah. Throughout his life, he spoke at length about the Messianic age, and during
his life many followers of Chabad wrote articles declaring why they believed him to be
the Messiah. After his death, lots of people celebrated because they believed that he
would then return as Messiah. Some Jews within the movement, and most of those
outside, deny that the rebbe was the Messiah, but still a significant number of
Lubavitchers hold this belief.
Scriptural requirements of the Messiah
Most of the scriptural requirements concerning the Messiah, what he will do, and what will
be done during his reign are located in the Book of Isaiah, although requirements are
mentioned by other prophets as well.

Once he is King, leaders of other nations will look to him for guidance. (Isaiah 2:4)

The whole world will worship the One God of Israel (Isaiah 2:11-17)

He will be descended from King David (Isaiah 11:1) via Solomon (1 Chronicles 22:8-10,
2 Chronicles 7:18)

The Messiah will be a man of this world, an observant Jew with "fear of God" (Isaiah
11:2)

Evil and tyranny will not be able to stand before his leadership (Isaiah 11:4)

Knowledge of God will fill the world (Isaiah 11:9)

He will include and attract people from all cultures and nations (Isaiah 11:10)

All Israelites will be returned to their homeland (Isaiah 11:12)

Death will be swallowed up forever (Isaiah 25:8)

There will be no more hunger or illness, and death will cease (Isaiah 25:8)

All of the dead will rise again (Isaiah 26:19)

The Jewish people will experience eternal joy and gladness (Isaiah 51:11)

He will be a messenger of peace (Isaiah 52:7)

Nations will recognize the wrongs they did to Israel (Isaiah 52:13-53:5)

The peoples of the world will turn to the Jews for spiritual guidance (Zechariah 8:23)

The ruined cities of Israel will be restored (Ezekiel 16:55)

Weapons of war will be destroyed (Ezekiel 39:9)

Jews will know the Torah without study (Jeremiah 31:33)

He will give you all the worthy desires of your heart (Psalms 37:4)

He will take the barren land and make it abundant and fruitful (Isaiah 51:3, Amos
9:13-15, Ezekiel 36:29-30, Isaiah 11:6-9)
3
Anti-Zionism
The Chabad movement is anti-zionist because they believe that when the Messiah
comes, God will restore the nation of Israel to the Jewish people anyway, and will gather
all the Jews up to live there in peace. There is no need to partake in political and often
violent campaigns in order to bring this about- God is quite capable of doing that
himself. Lubavitchers oppose Zionist organisations, because although the idea of Israel
being the Jewish homeland is Biblical, they see the campaign to protect and expand it as
a secular movement, pursuing political goals rather than religious ones.
Having said this, Israel is obviously a country where
thousands of Jews live, and where many are in danger, so
Chabad-Lubavitch actively support the Israeli people, and a lot
of their missionary work is focused there.
Noahide Laws
Whilst Jews are supposed to follow the 613 mitzvot, the Torah also specifies the 7
laws that God gave to Noah after the flood which are for all people. Non-Jews are not
expected to follow all of the mitzvot (the Mosaic laws), but the Rebbe stressed the
importance of encouraging all non-Jews to keep the Noahide laws. These are a feature
of Judaism as a whole, but they receive particular attention from the Chabad
movement. They are:
1.Prohibition of Idolatry: You shall not have any idols before God.
2.Prohibition of Murder: You shall not murder.
3.Prohibition of Theft: You shall not steal.
4.Prohibition of Sexual promiscuity: You shall not commit any of a series of sexual
prohibitions, which include adultery, incest, bestiality and homosexual acts.
5.Prohibition of Blasphemy: You shall not blaspheme God's name.
6.Dietary Law: Do not eat flesh taken from an animal while it is still alive.
7.Requirement to have just Laws: Set up a governing body of
law.
4
Distinctive Practices
Outreach
Unlike most other Jewish groups, Lubavitchers are active missionaries, aiming to
bring secular Jews (people who are Jewish by birth but do not practise the faith) back
to what they see is “the true form” of Judaism, as well as to reach out to non-Jews. This
idea of outreach is perhaps the key distinctive feature of the movement. Outreach
involves education in the Torah, education in the traditions of Hasidim, and
encouragement to live a genuine and joyful Jewish life.
Mitzvah campaigns
As we know, the mitzvot are the 613 commandments written in the
Torah which all Jews are supposed to follow. The process of secularisation that
affected the liberal Christian community also affected the Jewish community
(especially those of the Reform tradition). Over time, many Jews became less strict in
their adherence to the mitzvot, as they spread around the world and assimilated into
the non-Jewish culture of those areas. Another factor in this process of secularisaton
was that those Jews who practised their traditions most devoutly were the first to be
killed in the Holocaust. So from the 1950s onwards, there were very few Jewish people
alive, and they didn't have people around (eg. Rabbis, extended family) to teach them
about their faith.
As explained on the Chabad website:
“Just a few short decades ago, mitzvot and holidays were the private, quiet
domain of the few. Then came the Rebbe's “Mitzvah campaigns”, and Lubavitch literally
took to the streets. “Did you put on tefillin today?”, “Can I offer you some Shabbat
candles?”, “Can I interest you in some classes on Judaism?”. On Wall Street in New York,
in London's Picadilly Circus, and in Tel Aviv's Dizengoff Square, Jewish pride and Jewish
precepts came out of the closet forever.”
The Rebbe himself was extremely passionate about the mitzvot and claimed that
“a single person performing a single mitzvah could be the deed that tips the scales and
brings redemption to the entire world and all of creation.” So the Rebbe encouraged
every Jew to start practising some of the mitzvot, teaching that even the small ones are
incredibly significant to God, and starting with “the small ones” can lead to a whole life
based on the Torah.
In 1967, the Rebbe launched The Tefillin Campaign. Lubavitch
campaigners would take to the streets and show men and boys how to
put on tefillin and say the Shema. This was followed by 9 other Mitzvah
Campaigns, each one based around a simple mitzvot and intended to
provide an easy route into the practise of traditional Judaism.
5
The Ten Mitzvah Campaigns
1. Light Shabbat Candles
Women and girls (age 3 and up) are encouraged to light candles every Friday afternoon,
18 minutes before sunset, in honour of the Shabbat, and before Festivals.
2. Tefillin
Men (age 13 and up) are encouraged to wear the Tefillin every morning excluding
Shabbat and Festivals. Tefillin are black leather boxes containing small parchment scrolls
of selected portions from the Torah, in which the fundamentals of the Jewish faith are
inscribed.
3. Mezuzah
Every Jewish home should have a mezuzah on its doorposts. The mezuzah contains the
Shema and is a sign that the home is sanctified for G-d and enjoys His protection.
4. Torah
Study a portion of Torah daily. Even a few lines contain the infinite wisdom and will of
God.
5. Tzedakah
Give charity daily. When you give to the needy, you are serving as God's emissary
to provide for his creatures. The home is a classroom, and keeping a "pushkah"
(charity box) in your home -- and contributing a coin to it every day -- will
teach you and your children the noble value of regular giving.
6. Holy books
Furnish your home with as many holy books as possible. At the very least, get a hold of a
Chumash (Bible), Psalms, and a Prayer Book.
7. Kashrut
Eating is one of the basics of life. Shouldn't it be done with intelligence? For a healthy
and sound soul, eat only kosher foods, for when you eat differently, your Judaism is not
just metaphysical, but part and parcel of your very being.
8. Love Your Fellow
"Love your fellow as yourself," said the great Jewish sage Rabbi Akiva, is a most basic
principle in the Torah. Reaching out to your fellow Jew with patience, love, concern and
unity is among the greatest mitzvot a Jew can do.
9. Education
Every Jewish boy and girl should receive a Jewish education. Teach your children
everything you know about your faith, and provide them with a quality Jewish education
-- you will be ensuring Jewish integrity, Jewish identity and a Jewish future.
10. Family Purity
Observance of the Jewish marital laws allows you to make the most of your
marriage, bringing you and your spouse to new, undiscovered depths of
intimacy and sacredness in your relationship.
6
Chabad houses and emissaries
A Chabad House is a community centre. It is the nerve centre of all the
educational and outreach activities of the Chabad-Lubavitch. They aim to
serve the needs of all Jewish people. The introduction and expansion of
Chabad Houses was one of the main achievements of the Lubavitcher
Rebbe. Most major cities have a Chabad House, and increasingly Chabad
Houses are becoming established on university campuses (especially in
the United States), as the Chabad movement see non-practising Jewish
students as prime candidates to receive their outreach work.
The word emissary means “someone who is sent on a mission to represent
someone else”. Each Chabad house is run by a married couple who are called emissaries,
representatives of the rebbe. Typically a young Lubavitch rabbi and his wife, in their
early twenties, with one or two children, will move to a new location, and as they settle
in will raise a large family who as a family unit, will aim to fulfil their mission of bringing
Jewish people closer to Orthodox Judaism as well as encouraging non-Jews to adhere to
the Noahide Laws.
Torah study
The Rebbe was a well-renowned Torah scholar, and several
hundred books have been published which contain his talks and
writings on the subject of the Jewish scriptures. He encouraged all
Jews to aim for personal and spiritual growth through study of the
Torah. One particular way he encouraged this was through the
Maimonides Study Campaign, in which thousands of Jews, from
children to scholars, complete a programme of daily reading of
scripture each year.
Charity work
Chabad communities are active in working for the aid of Jewish people in need,
particularly:
Small,
isolated Jewish communities which do not have access to all the resources they
need to fulfil the mitzvot and to learn more about Judaism. They are assisted by
missionaries travelling to work with them and by donations of money.
Jewish
communities throughout the world that are hungry and needy.
Jewish
drug addicts, through the work of the Chabad National Drug Abuse Treatment
Programs.
Jewish
inmates in prisons across the U.S. are visited by members of the Alef Institute,
who visit, conduct religious services and distribute Chabad publications.
7
Attitudes to moral, social and political issues
Education
The main focus of Chabad-Lubavitch is outreach – reaching out to
Jews, educating them about the traditions of Judaism and encouraging
them in their faith. As such, education for young people is key to this
mission.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe developed an organisation for children under the age of
Bar Mitzvah (13 for boys) or Bat Mitzvah (12 for girls). This organisation is called TzivosHashem, “The Army of God”. Giving these children “a genuine Jewish education” is of
utmost importance as explained on the Chabad website:
“Despite all the advances of modern civilisation, the quality of education in
today's world leaves much to be desired. Instead of promoting the growth of caring,
sensitive, loving children, contemporary culture often glorifies selfishness, arrogance,
and cunning; and society's educational institutions are increasingly ineffective
in their efforts to counteract this trend. Violence in the schools, vandalism,
insubordination, and the all-pervasive drug culture are symptoms of a tragic
failure in education. It has become a matter of great concern, not only to
educators at large, but also – and more so – to Jewish educators.”
The role of women
Within all branches of Judaism, the role of women is seen as extremely
important. In fact, women are seen as the foundation of the Jewish home. Many
religious duties are the responsibility of the woman, for example the lighting of Shabbat
candles. Women are seen as having just as many unique powers as men, just different
ones.
But Chabad were the first major group within Judaism to advocate formal Torah
study of women. Unlike other Jewish groups who leave the Torah to the men, the
Lubavitcher Rebbe encouraged all Jewish women to actively study the Torah. It was also
women with the movement who led several of the Mitzvah Campaigns (eg. Shabbat
candles, kosher and family purity).
As an emissary, the woman fulfils the role of mother and teacher to her own
children, as well as that of “mother/teacher” to thousands of other people. She
is expected to lead the community by being a role-model and offering an
example of ideal Hasidic family life, as well as actively teaching others
about the Torah, the traditions of the Hasidim and offering advice
and counselling. Women are so important within Chabad that
emissaries are always appointed as couples.
8
Crime and punishment
The Torah takes crime very seriously and contains many explicit
teachings on the appropriate punishment for various crimes. But it is
interesting that nowhere in these lists of punishments is prison mentioned.
Most crimes should either be paid for by fines of varying amounts, corporal
punishments (physical acts such as flogging and stoning), or by the death penalty.
But the Lubavitcher Rebbe taught that although the death penalty is allowed by the
Torah, prison is a far worse, and unjust, punishment. With all other punishments, the
criminal is made to suffer the penalty, is cleansed from their sin and is then free to
continue his life, following God. But whilst in prison, they are not free to be able to
pursue a better life, or any kind of life. Having said this, the Rebbe also taught that if a
person finds himself in prison as a result of his actions, then it is God's wish that he be
there, and he should aim to use his current situation as a way to do God's will.
One of the most famous passages in the Torah says “an eye for an eye” which has
often been taken to mean that Jewish punishment is based on revenge. But most Jewish
scholars agree that this passage did not literally refer to the removal of a criminal's body
parts! It meant that the monetary penalty for crimes should be proportionate to the
crime committed. Chabad teachings are all explicitly against retributive actions (actions
based on revenge).
The idea of crime being properly monitored, judged and punished is very important in
the Torah:
“You should appoint judges and officers for all of your tribes, at your city gates,
and they should judge the people correctly.” (Deuteronomy 16:18)
The Lubavitcher Rebbe once said to a judge,
“May God help you to judge all people justly, and may all your
judgements be preventative — not to punish, but rather to prevent
wrongdoing.”
War
Like most religions, Judaism teaches that you should love your fellow human. So
acts of aggression are wrong. However, it is certainly not true to say that Judaism is
pacifistic. In the Torah it is said that there is a time for war and a time for peace. This
means that sometimes war is necessary for the overall balance in the world, and that
violence is justified in certain circumstances in order to obtain peace.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe specifically taught that the
nowhere in the Torah does it say “do not kill”. What it says is “Do
not murder”, where “murder” is the killing of innocent human life.
But if someone has either committed a serious crime or is posing a
direct threat to the lives of innocent people, then they are not
themselves innocent, so they can legitimately be killed.
9
The Torah also teaches that
“If someone is coming to kill you, rise early to kill him first."
The Rebbe insisted that:
"This means that it is possible to know that someone wants to cause mortal
harm, and in such a case, one has the responsibility to prepare a pre-emptive attack."
However, he went on to explain that you if you rise early looking like you
are ready to kill your enemy, hopefully he will be scared away and you will not
actually have to kill anyone.
The complicated issue of warfare morality is explained on the
Chabad website like this:
“Yes, it is conflicting to be a Jew. We are not meant for warring and
killing. But God has placed us in a world—or perhaps, we have made His world into such
a place—that sometimes a life must be taken to save one, or even many lives... Pacifism
alone can turn as ugly as its opposite, militant extreme, but to know the season for
each thing and temper one with the other, that takes great wisdom.”
Other Ethical Issues
As you now know, the whole movement is about educating people on the
teachings of Judaism, and explaining them to all people in a way that is easy to
understand and apply today. As such, their website has lots of really clear explanations
of the Chabad view on most ethical issues:
www.chabad.org.uk
10