Friday, November 11, 2005

Lubavitcher Rebbe conference at NYU

Trying to figure the Rebbe out:

Lubavitch News Service

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Life, Teachings, Impact” was the theme of a three day conference at NYU that came to a conclusion on Tuesday, leaving many in the audience gratified but not satisfied....

Professor Alan Brill of Yeshiva University, in presenting on the Rebbe as a modern thinker, suggested that the Rebbe, as distinct from his predecessors and traditional Chasidic leaders, believed in the “continuous progressive revelation” of Judaism, making the contemporary Jew worthy of newer avenues to revelation. So in a way, the Rebbe was a modern thinker, yet the Chasidism he brought to the contemporary Jew was not your “get out your guitar and sing,” sort, but a Chasidism that brought people to Torah and mitzvot. “Unlike Buber, the Rebbe was not concerned with moments of I-Thou but with moments that would bring people back to G-d.” Attuned to the vacuous materialism of modern American life, the Rebbe sought to empower the simple, uneducated Jew with direct experience of G-d, by creating single, transformational moments in the experience of individual mitzvot—lighting a Shabbos candle or giving charity, explained Brill. He created these “moments of faith,” or “moments of dedication” to cut through what the Rebbe—alone among other Jewish leaders—saw as the American “vanity fair,” and enabled people to recognize G-d directly revealed to them in these inspired moments. In his presentation on the “Habadization of American Orthodoxy,” Adam Ferziger of Bar Ilan University, spoke to the Rebbe’s program of outreach, at first opposed, even ridiculed by other mainstream Jewish orthodox groups for its radical departure from conventional style, only to eventually be imitated by those very same critics.
Professor Moshe Hallamish, also of Bar Ilan, addressed a similar theme from a text-oriented perspective. Hallamish compared the Rebbe’s use of the Tanya, Chabad’s first and primary source text, with that of its author, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, who originally composed the Tanya as a guide for spiritual struggle of his inner circle of disciples. In contrast, the Rebbe advanced the Tanya as a potent and relevant source for every Jew, even the uninitiated, instructing the Lubavitch publishing house to translate the work into foreign languages and to publish it in Jewish communities worldwide for maximum accessibility. The redemption, or messianic awareness as a theme of the Rebbe’s leadership was scrutinized from various angles. In a comparative presentation, Professor Yakov Ariel of Chapel Hill explained that the Chabad paradigm is unique, and as a caveat to those inclined to draw parallels with non-Jewish prototypes, he said that neither evangelism, nor even the term "messianism," are appropriate to the Chabad model of outreach.
Naftali Loewenthal, Professor at University of London, analyzed the Rebbe’s statement presented in 1951 when he accepted leadership of the Chabad movement, in which he defined his mission to be the construction of a triad: the love of one’s fellow, love of G-d and love of Torah—each necessitating the other towards the empowerment of the individual to the attainment of personal redemption. Relating this statement to the Rebbe’s first discourse, Loewenthal explained this as the necessary groundwork for the attainment of general, or universal redemption.
Professor Ada-Rapoport-Albert of the University of London and a leading international representative at the conference, looked at how the Rebbe opened the way for women to become vibrant members of Chabad life, empowering them as “channels” through which sanctity can be drawn into the world. This, she maintained, was a radical departure from the traditional model that paid women little notice.
Professor Dov Schwartz of Bar Ilan reflected on what he perceived as a tension between the Rebbe’s textual output that adhered closely to precedent and traditional norms, and his outreach activities that reflected an innovative and path-breaking boldness. Comparing him to the early kabbalist, Abraham Abulafia, who exhibited a similar dialectical tension, Schwartz said, “In the image of Rebbe we have the same dissonance between the outer and inner. There were two sides to him that fertilized each other and were nourished by one another. What makes the figure a genius is the inner tension, the dialectical factor in his personality.”...

Next week part two in Williamsburg.
posted by Yeshiva Orthodoxy
at 12:27 AM

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Handle that Lubavitch propaganda report with care. Notice that there is absolutely no mention there of the strong criticism of the messianic madness given by Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm at YU, which can be seen in other reports (canonist blog, newspapers), nor any mention of the great session about opposition to the Rebbe.

2:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"In his presentation on the “Habadization of American Orthodoxy,” Adam Ferziger of Bar Ilan University, spoke to the Rebbe’s program of outreach, at first opposed, even ridiculed by other mainstream Jewish orthodox groups for its radical departure from conventional style, only to eventually be imitated by those very same critics."

It's not so simple. If you were there you would have heard people take issue with various parts of his presentation.

2:41 PM  

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