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An Ode to the Last The Lubavitcher Rebbe

This post is dedicated to the memory of my uncle, Bernie Siegel. A lifetime New York Sports fan, he also passed away on the third of Tamuz.

Tonight marks the anniversary of the passing of Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the last Lubavitcher Rebbe. He died on June 12, 1994, which fell on the third of Tamuz on the Hebrew calendar. He was 92 years old.

This year the Third of Tamuz falls on the night of June 23 and the day of June 24.

So the Lubavitch Hasidim, also known a Chabad, mark this day every year with special events. And the Messianic among them are especially loud this time of year. Maybe it’s because they do not believe that he actually died.

One of the things that people keep posting all over Facebook is a quote of his which goes, “Your birthday is the day on which God decided that the world could no longer continue without you in it.” OK, sounds good. But does this mean that the day you die is the day when God decided that the world no longer needed you in it. Is this what happened when Rabbi Schneerson died?

And is that really what God was thinking when people like Hitler and Stalin were born?

The Lubavitch have also somehow coopted the very term “Rebbe.” Now people everywhere refer to their last one as “The Rebbe,” as if he were the only one ever.

A Rebbe, as opposed to a rabbi, is the title for the leader of any Hasidic sect. So every one of the many Hasidic groups in the world other than the Chabad, from the Satmars to the Belz or the Bubavers has its own Rebbe. But for some reason the Jewish community has acquiesced to the use of the term specifically for Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson.

As for the Messianic Chabad people, why are they so much more annoying than the others?

This group sprang up in the years before his death. They have placed posters all over Israel and around the world in both Hebrew and English which proclaim, “welcome king messiah.”

To this day the Messianic Lubavitch insist on wearing skull caps with the words, “our lord, our rabbi, king messiah,” embroidered on them.

They even have a flag. It has a yellow background with a crown on it. They wear pins with the flag.

On Shabbat afternoons in a playground in my downtown Jerusalem neighborhood one such Chabad messianic distributes candies to kids. But first they must shout after him the words, “our lord, our rabbi, our king the messiah.” Yich!

So how come these people believe he was the Messiah anyway?

The main reason for the messianic fervor is probably that he was the last of his line. Hasidic dynasties are like monarchies. Rabbi Schneerson was the son in law of his predecessor who had two daughters but no sons. Neither he nor his wife’s sister had any children.

This problem plagued the family from the beginning. The first Lubavitcher Rebbe had just one son and one daughter. The son succeeded him as the Rebbe, but had just one daughter. His only sister had just one son. So even though they were first cousins, the second Rebbe’s daughter married his nefew who became the third Lubavitcher Rebbe. He was in turn succeeded by his son who had only one son who became the fifth Rebbe.

Like with European royalty, the family tended to marry within and the sixth Rebbe also married one of his cousins who, like himself, descended from the first.

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson was a direct descendant of the eldest son of the third Lubavitcher Rebbe. When he died there were no longer any direct descendants of the first Rebbe who could take on the leadership of the sect.

This presented a serious problem for the Lubavitch, especially the newcomers known as ba’al teshuvas (repentant Jews) and their children. These are people who became orthodox Jews only because of the outreach programs initiated by their last Rebbe. They have also been shut out of the inner circle of the Lubavitch community which does not like to interact with repentant Jews.

This was part of the reason why a rift ensued between the messianic group which is comprised mostly of the newcomers and the original Lubbavitchers.

These messianics also point to examples that they say “prove” that he could have been the Messiah. For example, Rabbi Schneerson was said to have guaranteed that the Iraqis would not use any WMDs in their missile attacks on Israel during the Gulf War in 1991. So this somehow counts as a prophecy come true.

Well so did every military expert on CNN at the time who said that the Iraqis did not possess the technology to fit their missiles with gas or chemical weapons.

Another refrain of the messianics is, “well can’t you at least agree that he could have been the Messiah?” My answer is always, “No!” He could not have been because he did not come out and declare himself to be the Messiah, nor did he do anything that the Messiah is supposed to do like enact the resurrection of the dead, lead all of the Jews back to Israel and rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem.

Now compare him to another Messiah: the hockey legend Mark Messier. In 1991 he came to the New York Rangers after having won 5 Stanley Cup Championships with the Edmonton Oilers. The Rangers had not won a Cup since 1940 and Messier promised to bring it back to New York.

And that is not all.

On May 24, 1994, Mark Messier, guaranteed that his New York Rangers would beat the New Jersey Devils in game six of their conference finals in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Rangers were down 3 games to 2 to their much hated rivals and were facing elimination on the road that night. They were by far the favorite to win it all that year, but had lost game five at home.

Messier told reporters before game 6, “We will win tonight,” and they did by a score of 4 to 2. Losing 2 – 0 late in the second period, Messier set up their first goal. He then scored three goals himself to give the Rangers the win. So Messier’s prophecy did come true.

After the game, Mark Messier said, “I felt that [guaranteeing a win] would be a great way to let my players know that I believed we could go in there and win Game 6, because we had beaten them six times during the regular season — three times in their building.” The Rangers went on to win game seven at home in a thriller which went into double overtime.

On June 14th, just two days after the Lubavitcher Rebbe passed away, Mr. Messier made good again leading the New York Rangers to their first Stanley Cup in 54 years.

Mark Messier not only had a prophecy which came true, but he also delivered his people to the Promised Land, unlike the Rebbe.

So if you are keeping score, that’s Mark Messier one and the Lubavitcher Rebbe zero.

Gil

Gil Tanenbaum made aliyah from New York after he completed college.He Has lived in Israel for over 20 years.He has an MBA from Bar Ilan University and is a contributor for Jewish Business News.

2 Comments

  1. Joe M

    6/26/2017 at 5:45 pm

    Way to keep it light! Funny.

    Recommend “The Rebbe’s Army” by Fishkoff. Great read on the history of Chabad.

  2. Jeff

    6/28/2017 at 5:39 pm

    Really interesting! The Chabad folks are the only Jewish group that seems to care about outreach and have a real ground game. Many Christians groups focus on this, but until Chabad, never jews. We just wanted to be left alone. I never thought that it might be their lack of leader in their tribe that drove thus behavior, but that could be a part of it.

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