Judaism teaches that man finds himself through loving God and the world. “What is the best way to love the world?” asks Chabad. Answer: repair it. (Lubavitcher) Chabad is a branch of Chassidic (pious) Judaism. The core chassidic texts are the Talmud, the Zohar (the handbook of Kabbalah), and the Tanya, written by the founder of Chabad, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, also known as Baal Hatanya, “Master of the Tanya.” The Chabad movement originated in the town of Lubavitch (hence Lubavitcher Chabad), a small town of Smolensk Oblast, Russia (Lubavitch arguably means “town of love” in Russian). “Chabad” is an acronym for Chochma, Binah and Da’at, which means wisdom, understanding and knowledge. In the last decade Chabad has not only become part of mainstream Orthodox Judaism but also the mainspring of Orthodox Judaism throughout the world.
There are over 2600 Chabad institutions worldwide. “According to the Jerusalem Post of October 19, 2001, writes Carol A. Valentine, “Chabad is a potent force: 2,600 institutions around the world, large numbers of English-speaking rabbis, control of most of Judaism in Italy as well as the chief rabbinate of Russia (its Russia budget alone is $20 million a year). It is an organization with immense world-wide financial resources . . . In fact, Chabad is a movement of monumental importance. Observant Jews are profoundly dependent on its emissaries all over the world . . . its rabbis dominate or are poised to dominate Jewish communities in a startling number of countries.”
The two pillars of Judaism are: “When a Jew endeavors to take a step forward in the service of G-d and the love of his fellow man every day, I am happy to consider him my chassid.” (The Lubavitcher Rebbe Schneerson in Rabbi Tzvi Freedman’s “Eighteen Joyous Teachings of the Baal Shem Tov”).
The two pillars of Christianity are, of course, similar:
“Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,Master, which is the great commandment in the law?Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.This is the first and great commandment.And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:35-40).
I said the two pillars (love God and love your fellow man) of Christianity are similar to the two pillars of Judaism. There is also a radical difference between the two; it is this: By “fellow man,” (Chabad) Judaism means a fellow Jew, whereas in Christianity “here is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you (a follower of Jesus/Yeshua) are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians, 3:28). (See Claim that Chabad and Christianity Nearly Identical).
Judaism (keep in mind, I mean Chabad, which is mainstream Judaism) claims that while a Jew is truly a “piece of God,” a non-Jew is truly not. In the second chapter of the Tanya, we read: “The uniquely Jewish, soul is truly “a part of G-d above.” (The Tanya also states – incorrectly, which I discuss elsewhere – that “A piece of G-d above is a quotation from Job 31:2“).
Judaism regards the Alter Rebbe (Rabbi Zalman) as one of the great sages of Judaism, and, therefore, the Tanya is regarded as revelation originating at Sinai. The guardians of this revelation are the successive Lubavitcher Rebbes, who took over the baton from Rabbi Zalman. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that the last Lubavitcher Rebbe (called simply “The “Rebbe”), Menachem Mendel Schneerson, reiterates the Tanya: “A Jew is a Jew, period. A ‘piece’ of G-d, placed in a body and planted in this world” (See“The Rebbe, an appreciation”). I argued elsewhere that for the pious Jew (chassid) “Neighbour” for a Jew, excludes Gentiles, period.
The Gentiles, however, like WASPs, just won’t go away. Here is Louie Giglio: “When He put you in it (the world), He was thinking of His glory. How so, you may ask…Here’s how: He stamped into you, the Genesis account says, the very image of God. You were made in the likeness of God, in the image of God. God-stamped, God-breathed, God-pressed into the very DNA fabric of your being so that you and I could be the very best reflecting God’s glory in the world…[reflecting] the sum of God’s magnificent attributes and the eternal flame of His mysterious works” (See Man, the not-so-very DNA Image of God: A Critique of Louie Giglio’s “Great is our God).
The realisation that one of a Jew’s three souls is divine (the other two are the rational soul and the natural soul) found its apotheosis in the Kabbalism of Rabbi Isaac Luria (born in Egypt, 1534. Taught in Tzfat, Galilee, from about 1570 until his death in 1572. He is also referred to as the Arizal or simply Ari). Luria concluded that if the Jew is a piece of God above, there was no reason for him to continue to play a passive role in his redemption.
“Here, writes Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, is the “standard narrative” of Judaism up to advent of the Kabbalist, Rabbi Isaac Luria. Until the Ari, the standard narrative scripted the human being into a passive role in his own redemption: G d had made a magnificent world; human beings had messed it up. You now had a choice of doing mitzvahs, cleaving to G d and being good, or continuing to contribute to the mess. Better to be good, because the day will come that G d will take retribution from those who were bad and dispense reward to those who are good.” ( Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, “Eighteen Joyous Teachings of the Baal Shem Tov,” p. 18; see also How the Baal Shem Tov changed the way we think about happiness).
In what sense, I wonder, was the Jew passive in redemption, for surely doing mitzvahs and good works for one’s community (which seems to be what it means to “cleave to God”1) implies taking an active role in redemption. For Arizal (Luria), however, doing mitzvahs and being good was a far cry from fulfilling a Jew’s potential. And so with Arizal,a new kind of Jewish soul comes down to earth from its secret base of operations, from its heavenly lair: the soul of repair (tikun). (The French translation of “lair” is repaire). And so, God began, the tradition says, from Arizal onwards to empower Jewish human beings to repair the world. Whether you regard redemption in mystical apocalyptic terms, or, as Maimonides did, as largely a natural event, in both scenarios, all that Judaism required was to remain doing good and being kind and obedient.
Now comes something that Arizal is purported to have said that I find truly bizarre, yet it is related by Chabad.org with apparent relish:
“The Ari stood all that on its head, providing humanity a proactive role: G d made the mess, he said; we are cleaning it up.”
How does that differ from “Holy One of Israel, enough already; get out of my face; I, as part of eternal you above, am taking over.”
“In the Ari’s narrative of tikun, G d first emanated a magnificent world—the world called Tohu. Yet this primordial world could not contain its own, unbounded light, resulting in its auto-annihilation. The fragments of that world fell to generate the artifacts of our own world, carrying with them a trace of that original intense energy. The human being (italics added) was then placed within this shattered world to put the pieces back together, harnessing the energy of those sparks of unbounded light, by carefully following the instructions of the Torah. Once that job is done, redemption arrives.”
Who is the ”human being [that] was then placed within this shattered world to put the pieces back together? It was the one who followed Torah, it was the divine Jewish neshamah (soul), and if divine, then existing from all eternity. And if the Jewish neshamah is eternal, so must – arguing from the lesser to the greater – the Messiah BE.
Here is how the Jew is to clean up the holy mess (created, says Arizal, by the Holy One of Israel):
“In effect, the Ari presented an activist theology of mitzvahs: Every Torah act is a device for returning that which had been lost, reuniting that which been torn asunder, and tuning the world to the harmony originally intended. For the students of the Ari, tikun was an endeavor that lifted every word of prayer, pervaded every concept of Torah, and guided their mental focus in every mitzvah they performed.”
The chassid (pious Jew) finds himself through loving the world, this broken world, and, in his eyes, the best way to love the world is to repair it, to try and put Humpty Dumpty together again. `But, after cleaning up the divine mess, will Messiah indeed come? Not yet, there’s one thing, though, that will ensure his advent – even if Israel fails to clean up the Mess; it’s this: “If Israel will keep just one Shabbat properly, Mashiach will come immediately.”
“Though I have set a limit to ‘the end,’ that it will happen in its time regardless of whether they will do teshuvah or not… the scion of David (Mashiach) will come if they keep just one Shabbat, because the Shabbat is equivalent to all the mitzvot.” (Shemot Rabba 25:121; Yerushalmi, Ta’anit 1:10).
Who is Israel? Every Israelite (Jew), a majority of Israelites? Alas, the majority of Jews have never heard of the term “The Holy One of Israel;” while the majority of this majority are too busy
. So, the shabbat solution is not be. Meantime, do your best to repair the world. And the best way to do it, says the chassid, is through joy, in ecstatic anticipation of the time of messianic redemption.
Yet there is far more back of redemption than the daily service of joyfully repairing the world. But, that’s for another day.
1Is there a single religious Jew who believes that he or she can meet God One-on-one, because they believe that this is what God wants; a personal relationship with human beings? I suggest there are relatively few, because the majority of religious Jews follow the Oral Torah/tradition, which teaches that God only becomes fully present in community; the Jewish community.(See Can a Jew singly cleave to God? In Judaism, it seems not).
- Chabad and Abraham: The Humanism in Judaism (onedaringjew.wordpress.com)
- Reincarnation and Anamnesis (recollection) in Judaism (onedaringjew.wordpress.com)
- Claim that Chabad and Christianity Nearly Identical (roshpinaproject.com)