The False Accusation of the Schneerson Messiah Claim Defended
We are severely handicapping any hope of provoking Judah to jealousy if we keep firing doctrinal pot-shots from affair and hunting for faults in this set-apart community, instead of seeing similarities with it and the congregations in the Brit Chadashah. These same congregations had some who mistook Yochanan HaMatbil (John the Baptist) as Messiah just like some in the Lubarvitch community who mistook Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, as being the Messiah in recent times.
The most publicised criticism of Chabad is that the group’s last leader, the late Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, portrayed himself or at least played up to assumptions within his sphere of influence, that he was the Messiah. This allegation has many variations and to those who cast dispersions on Chabad so frequently that it appears like a pastime, it is used as the ever faithful closing courtroom statement right before the words, “I rest my case.”
Firstly, Scripture teaches that there is “a spark of Moshiach” in every believer, whether he’s a charismatic leader, a warrior or a lowly bookkeeper. In many ways Rebbe Schneerson faithfully followed the instructions of the Pharisee, Rabbi Sha’ul HaShiliach (who most of the world call the Apostle Paul) who taught believers to imitate him as he imitated Messiah. 1 Corinthians 11:1; "Imitate me, just as I also imitate Moshiach.”
Messiah Yahshua also assured believers, John 14:12; “I tell you the truth. The person that believes in me will do the same things I have done. Yes! He will do even greater things than I have done…”
The Rebbe’s followers believing him to be Moshiach is positive news because such a belief, as pointed out earlier, also immerged in our movement during the ministry of Yochanan HaMatbil (John the Baptist) when his followers thought he was Moshiach. Luke 3:15-16; “The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be Moshiach. John answered them all, "I immerse you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will immerse you with the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) and with fire.” Yochanan swiftly rejected this suggestion as did the Rebbe on several occasions.
The development of the idea that the Rebbe was the Messiah started in the Fifties. The earliest proclamation was circulated by Rabbi Avraham Parizh. In 1952 Parizh printed a poster proclaiming him as the Messiah. When word reached the United States that the poster had been seen around Tel Aviv, Schneerson forbade its distribution!
Then in 1984 some Chasidim started chanting a song that referred to the Rebbe as “our righteous messiah” who will “come and redeem us.” On hearing this, the Rebbe abruptly called for the song to cease. In 1991 another song began to circulate proclaiming "Long live our master, our teacher and our rabbi, King Messiah for ever and ever". After his debilitating stroke in 1992 this song was routinely sung in his presence. Articles that mention this fail to also say that the song, “We want Moshiach now,” was also routinely sung in his presence. Just because a church might have a custom of singing “Jesus lives” in the presence of their pastor doesn’t automatically mean that their pastor is Messiah.
The Coronation Incident
In 1992 a senior Chabad rabbi and youth movement director Shmuel Butman organised a major rally in Crown Heights that was billed as the coronation ceremony for Rebbe Schneerson as ‘King Messiah.” Before the rally Butman assured the press that a coronation of Messiah was going to take place. The rally was attended by 8,000 people in New York and countless others via satellite link-ups around the world. Schneerson forced Butman to backtrack during the event, having him announce that his appearance did not represent his acceptance of the role of Messiah. He then told all the assembled followers (plus many more around the world watching via satellite) that the event “is not to be interpreted as a coronation.”
The Rebbe Preached the Coming of Moshiach, Not that He Was Moshiach!
It has been alleged that during the later years of his life the Rebbe’s teachings were interpreted by many to mean that he was claiming to be the Messiah. With the majority of his followers this is complete nonsense because as anyone who is familiar with his teachings toward the end of his life would tell you, he constantly spoke about ways to bring Moshiach. His teachings were frequently punctuated with an urgency for his followers to increase in Torah learning and good deeds to hasten Moshiach’s coming. Why would he regularly say this if he thought he was Moshiach?
The belief that Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson was the Messiah was never accepted by the majority of His followers nor in the wider Haredi and Modern Orthodox leadership circles. Furthermore, he never proclaimed that he was the Messiah and wherever possible rejected such a suggestion.
An Appearance of Moshiach Foretold
One has to wonder how such rumours of the Rebbe portraying himself as Messiah stick in light of the fact that he prophesied to another very pious Jew that he would one day meet and find out the name of Moshiach.
The late Rabbi Yitzchak Kaduri, one of Israel’s most respected Torah scholars passed away in 2006, but not before leaving a legacy that may usher in a gradual acceptance of Yahshua as Messiah among many Jews. Sixteen years before his passing “Israel's leading known Kabbalistic Elder” was told by the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of blessed memory, that he would one day meet and learn the name of Messiah. According to the revered teacher’s closest students such an encounter with Messiah did eventuate in the month of November 2004. Rabbi Kaduri subsequently wrote a short note with instructions not to open until one year after his death. The note was penned in Hebrew and signed in the rabbi's name. It read, “Concerning the Reishei-Tivot (letter abbreviation) of the Messiah's name, he will lift the people and prove that his word and Torah is valid. This I have signed in Elul (the month of mercy).” The first letter of each Hebrew word in the note spelt out the name Yahshua (aka Jesus). One Jewish commentator pleaded “no comment” in response to the note, but aptly quoted Mark Twain, “A thing long expected takes the form of the unexpected when at last it comes.”
Now if the Rebbe was Moshiach what was he doing telling another revered fellow rabbi that he will meet and find out the name of Moshiach?
The Purgatory Accusation Examined
Nazarene Israelites almost unanimously reject Catholicism and as such virtually all teachings it endorses are subsequently rejected. To many of them the concept of purgatory is only familiar from a purely Catholic interpretation so it should come as no surprise that the mere mention of the word in relation to what Chabad teaches can have them doing back flips and summersaults away from not only this, but any other movement that carry this belief. I’ve personally always found this a contradictory notion in light of the Gospel account that relate the physical bodies of the righteous dead emerging from their graves and ascending to the Holy city after the execution of Messiah. Matthew 27:52-53; “The tombs broke open and the bodies of many set-apart people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Yahshua’s resurrection they went into the set-apart city and appeared to many people.” I always like to ask those who reject the concept of an interim locality for the dead, ‘where did the righteous dead ascend from in Matthew 27? They usually stare back at me with a blank face unable to answer. Chabad do indeed teach such a doctrine, but as we see in the Brit Chadashah, this teaching aligns with Scripture.
An in-depth study of Gehenna (aka hell) shows that it was originally meant to punish and confine fallen rebel angels and that it was not initially intended for human souls. Humans can also be sent there, but according to an almost unanimous rabbinic understanding, the longest most souls are there is approximately 12 months. It is perhaps a common misconception that an eternal punishment awaits wicked mortals who live temporal lives. The Hebrew view of Abaddon is likened to a spiritual forge where all imperfections in the soul are purged so that it may pass onto Gan Eden (place of delight), which can be either Pardes or the Golden Altar. Exceptionally wicked mortals may suffer in Abaddon for a longer period of time or even become completely destroyed. This destruction is so powerful that it burns away the very memory of them.
The accusation that Chabad teach purgatory, which is supposedly unscriptural, is a knee-jerk attack that if studied closely aligns perfectly with Scripture.
The Kabbalah Attack Defended
Another favourite attack on Chabad by our movement is that it teaches Kabbalah, as if Kabbalah is something bad. There are so many misconceptions about Kabbalah that exist not only within the Natsarim community, but the wider population in general that it would take several volumes of works to address everything. In recent times Kabbalah has been subject to some heavy distortion due to the “trend religion” phenomenon, which was sparked and fuelled by celebrity interest. Of course many prominent occultists have used aspects of Kabbalah in their rituals and practices for many centuries, but this should be no reason to reject it. To do so, would mean that many Christian rituals, which are also adopted by Freemasons, would have to be abandoned. Not only that, but any practice that is subsequently borrowed by pagans would have to be abandoned. If this were the case the enemy would simply practice the one true faith and call it occultism and then everyone would abandon it.
The word Kabbalah means “to receive.” It is the name for a supremely intimate or in-depth understanding of the workings and nature of HaShem. The term itself first came into usage as early as the 10th century, though the practice has far earlier origins. Kabbalistic literature has gradually evolved from writings that come from a group of books known collectedly as The Zohar. These books were first published in Spain around the 13th century by Moshe ben Shem-Tov (Moshe De Leon). He based his writings on the work of his contemporaries, who in turn drew their writings from the teachings of Rabbi Simeon bar Yohai from a time preceding the destruction of the Second Temple (aka the Mishnaic period). The essence of The Zohar is that it is Torah-based commentaries and teachings on a mystical level that date back to Abraham that were passed on in a continuous chain from teacher to student until they reached the 13 hundreds.
Many of Kabbalah’s critics have mistakenly cited that Scripture specifically speaks out against magic and mysticism. While the Torah certainly speaks against magic, it does not speak anywhere against the true concept of mysticism, that is teachings that deal with the inner aspects of the Torah. Furthermore, many see Kabbalah as its own religion or as an offshoot of Judaism. This view is absolutely incorrect. Kabbalah is integral to the study of Torah period.
Chabad handles Kabbalah very uniquely by acquainting students with it as a by-product of the normal studying the Torah. This is the most practical, simplistic, natural and most of all Torah compliant way of learning it. In plain terminology, Kabbalah is simply the “high-end” study of Torah.
Today, the practice of Kabbalah has been fragmented into three major disciplines. The first is called theoretical Kabbalah, which consists of study and in-depth contemplative analysis of the Torah and scholars who were familiar with the Torah’s implications on a metaphysical level. The second is called meditative Kabbalah, which focuses on adopting physical techniques to achieve higher spiritual states. And the last is practical Kabbalah, which predominantly takes the form of extracting aspects of Kabbalah to affect the physical and spiritual world in a completely autonomous way. This form of Kabbalah is blatant occultism and condemned according to Torah (Leviticus 19:31; 20 & 20:27). Not surprisingly, practical Kabbalah overlapped with some principles of the meditative path, is the most popular among the mainstream.
Ideally, theoretical Kabbalah should be the only method pursued by a student, because it has its basis in study, albeit on a mystical level, of the Creator’s eternal Word. From this foundation, aspects of practical and meditative Kabbalah might spring forth or manifest at the Father’s discretion. A servant should not work to gain access to the engine room of creation with a motive to alter any working part to suit his own end.
A true Kabbalist, as opposed to someone who dabbles or practices a perverted form of Kabbalah, is a human being who has attained a constant spiritual awareness of the Creator. This same level of awareness is usually only experienced as a fleeting climax of a particularly intense prayer or rare encounter by most believers.
Yes, Chabad teach Kabbalah and so they should, for to refrain from doing so denies one the full riches that are inherent in the Creator’s Sacred Writings. Rebbe Yahshua’s teachings were very Kabbalistic in nature, comprising simple discourses that ministered on a multitude of levels. This technique has been used by the Chasidic Masters throughout Chabad’s entire history.
The Murky Quagmire of Karaism
One of the oldest opponents of not only Chasidic Jewry, but Orthodox Jewry in general is the Karaite movement. This group began as a break-away sect of fundamentalist Sadducees in around 120BC. Many scholars believe that Karaism started in the 8th century, but many Karaites themselves believe that their movement commenced in the Second Temple period. The latter is certainly more probable as the sect of Sadducees, a primary source of many of the Karaite's beliefs disappeared along with much of its writings not long after the destruction of the Second Temple
This group this group is characterised by fierce rejection of the Talmudic tradition of the Pharisees. However, before we delve into this group it is important to briefly examine the Sadducees.
The Sadducees were a sect within Judaism who were closely affiliated with the Temple. Little, if anything, has survived of their writings. Anything that can be gleaned from them is sourced primarily from the writings of their opponents. For anyone desperate to find something, a leading Karaite called Ya’akov al-Qirqisani has some surviving quotes from the Sefer Zadok, which can be found in a publication by Zvi Cahn called, The Rise of the Karaite sect.
Zadok is where the Hebrew name for the Sadducees (Tzedukim) allegedly originated. Zadok was the high priest who remained faithful to King David and anointed King Solomon. However, this origin is unlikely as the Sadducees do not appear as an official group until the Hasmonaean period, sometime after the Maccabean Revolt in 165BCE. The word Sadducee is more likely a Hebraisation of the Greek word, “sündikoi” (‘syndics’), which is where we get the word “syndicate.” The term has also been associated with the Hebrew word, “righteous.”
The Sadducees rejected the Pharisee’s interpretation of the Torah and created new ones based on a literal understanding of isolated verses. For example the Sadducees believed that a physical eye should be removed from a person who took the eye of another, rather than the Pharisaic and overall Hebraic understanding that the monetary value of an eye be restored. The Sadducees, like their offspring, the Karaites, rejected rabbinic law despite rabbinic tradition stemming directly from the Sanhedrin’s formation under the direction of Moshe the prophet (See the appointment of 70 Elders in Numbers 11:16). The Sadducees are classically known for their rejection of angels, denial of the soul, and disbelief in full bodily resurrection. Fortunately they, like their writings, all but ceased to exist after the destruction of the second Temple in 70CE by the Romans. They were an apostate political regime who left a dark legacy that is still evident today in the rippling out effect of the Karaite movement that has made some inroads into the Nazarene Israelite sect.
Nazarene Israelites, like Orthodox Jews, should completely reject Karaism, though sadly there are some in our movement who do not.
The term “Karaism” comes from the Hebrew word, Qara’im, which literally means “Readers of the Hebrew Scriptures” and denotes a group who profess to only follow Scripture and at the same time reject all the commentaries and gleanings of the Sages. Essentially, Karaism is a heretical branch of Judaism that claims to reject rabbinical tradition, the Oral Torah and openly teaches that the Scriptures are open to private interpretation. This is despite Scripture teaching to the contrary in 2 Peter 1:20, “Kepha (Peter) said, ‘This then you must understand first of all, that no prophecy of scripture is made by private interpretation.’”
One of the official websites of Karaism, Karaite-Korner.org states the following in on its homepage:
“Karaite Judaism rejects later additions to the Tanach (Jewish Bible) such as the Rabbinic Oral Law and places the ultimate responsibility of interpreting the Bible on each individual.”
Though Karaites profess to follow Scripture at the exclusion of rabbinical tradition and laws, on closer scrutiny they do in fact adopt many aspects of rabbinical Judaism in their halacha (walk). This is done either out-rightly or in a modified form and at the same time borrows from earlier and later sects, such as the Sadducees, Essenes, 'Isawites, Yudghanites and Mohammedans (Yes, Islam!). Some examples of the movement’s retainment of rabbinical customs include the wearing of the traditional tallit, kippah, reading of the weekly Torah portion, many Shabbat customs such as lighting of candles. Furthermore, Karaites also observe their own traditions (i.e., practices not specifically instructed in Scripture) and call them, “the yoke of inheritance.” These truths in the face of the movement’s introductory claims, is blatant hypocrisy.
The endorsement of individual interpretation of Scripture is one of the core handicaps that hamper the progress of the Karaite movement. This is because it leaves basic Scriptural interpretation to the mercy of a given individual’s level of intellect and depth of knowledge on a subject with no emphasis on a teacher to direct him. As a consequence disunity and differing opinion are hallmarks of most Karaite circles. The directive in Isaiah 28:10 cannot be thoroughly explored without some sort of tutelage by a seasoned scholar. This is because a scholar can enable a student to understand the various teachings within a passage that are derived from all the available supporting Biblical texts. “For precept must be on precept, precept on precept; line on line, line on line; here a little, and there a little” Karaism is a faith of confusion and even confesses such:
“Karaism is not a…faith in which every believer agrees on every detail of understanding of Scripture. Because the burden of interpretation rests on the individual and not a central authority it is inevitable that there will be differences of interpretation and understanding. However this diversity is a strength rather than a weakness and prevents Karaites from getting bogged down with a given interpretation despite the obviousness of its error. This diversity requires the individual Karaite to take personal responsibility for interpreting Scripture, basing his understanding on the merits and logic of a given interpretation.” (Karaite-Korner.org)
2 Peter goes on to describe the dangers of personal interpretation. 2 Peter 3:16-17, Kepha said, "...in these epistles there are certain things difficult to understand, which the unlearned and unstable distort, just as they do the rest of the scriptures also, to their own destruction. You therefore, brethren, since you know this beforehand, be on your guard lest, carried away by the error of the foolish, you fall away from your steadfastness."
Here is an example of the benefit of a physical instructor in Acts 8:27-40, “…the eunuch was trying to read Isaiah when Philip asked him, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ But he said, "Why, how can I, unless someone shows me?”
Yahshua was a Rabbi
Rebbe Yahshua ben Yoseph HaNazarete was not a Karait nor did he follow any variant of teaching that was or later became known as Karaism. He was a Rabbi, a title traditionally rejected by Karaites. Yahshua confirmed this title in John 13:13; “You call me ‘Rabbi’ and ‘Master,’ and you are right, because I am.” Furthermore, when Yahshua was betrayed he did not rebuke Yahuda for addressing him as “rabbi” “Going at once to Yahshua, Yahuda (Judas) said, ‘Greetings, Rabbi!" and kissed him.’” (Matthew 26:49). In actual fact Yahuda Iscariot (correctly rendered “Yahudah the Kariate man” [Yahudah ish’cariot]) was a former Karaite and is found addressing Yahshua as rabbi sarcastically.
The “Call No Man Rabbi” Fiasco
Yahshua did not impose a ban on the use of the titles, “rabbi,” ‘teacher,” and “father” Matthew 23:8-11; “But as for you do not desire to be called Rabbi: For one is your Rabbi, even the Moshiach; and all you are Yisraelite brothers. And call no man abba (father) upon the earth: for one is your Abba, who is in the shamayim (heavens). Neither be called teachers: for one is your Teacher, even the Moshiach. But he that is greatest among you shall be your eved (servant).” The teaching of this doctrine is almost exclusively driven by the prohibition of the title rabbi with at best the rejection of the titles teacher and father dragging along behind it with barely a mention.
Sighting the title rabbi as forbidden espoused from Messiah’s discourse is a blatant manifestation of anti-Semitism that masquerades itself as doctrine. This is because the same person who corrects one using the title rabbi fails to correct others or even himself with the same vigilance in the use of the titles father or teacher. The prevalence of the titles father and teacher far exceed the prevalence of the title rabbi and yet the objection to the title rabbi is the only one you will ever consistently hear.
Throughout the Brit Chadashah, The titles “rabbi,” “teacher,” and “father” are constantly retained. Even Rabbi Sha’ul refers to himself as the father of the congregations
Rebbe Yahshua actually endorses the teachings of the Scribes and the Pharisees in Matthew 23:2-3a; “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moshe; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe…” He also goes on to point out that these same Scribes and Pharisees aren’t living up to the commendable standards inherent in their own teachings. Matthew 23:3b; “But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.”
Read how the Karaites just breeze over some of the heretical doctrine of the Sadducees in this additional excerpt from their website:
“We often hear in ancient literature that the Sadducees denied the doctrines of the immortality of the soul and reward and punishment in the hereafter. Whether this is accurate or not is of little consequence since they arrived at these beliefs based on an honest interpretation of the Bible (even if most Karaites disagree with them on these doctrines).” - History of Karaism (Karaite.Korner.org)
Firstly, this ancient literature that records the Sadducees denying elements of core doctrine just so happens to be the Bible itself! Matthew 22:23; “That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question.”
Acts 23:8; “For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor an angel, nor a spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all.”
Secondly, it is absolutely amazing to read how this movement brush aside immortality of the soul and regard it as “…of little consequence…”?
Thirdly, notice the sentence goes onto say “….since they arrived at these beliefs based on honest interpretation of the Bible.” The use of the words “honest interpretation” means that they used personal interpretation, which often causes Scripture that might be ill sounding to be rationalised away as metaphorical.
The Karaite Korner website has enough information to hang the philosophies of Karaisim with its own rope, if one reads through it carefully. Here is the closing statement regarding what is Karaism according to Karaite-Korner.org:
“Karaism is not a ‘monolithic’ faith in which every believer agrees on every detail of understanding of Scripture. Because the burden of interpretation rests on the individual and not a central authority it is inevitable that there will be differences of interpretation and understanding. However this diversity is a strength rather than a weakness and prevents Karaites from getting bogged down with a given interpretation despite the obviousness of its error. This diversity requires the individual Karaite to take personal responsibility for interpreting Scripture, basing his understanding on the merits and logic of a given interpretation.”
The penetration of Karaism’s philosophy into the Nazarene Israelite camp has been one of the chief driving forces that have kept this movement disunited and contemptible of Rabbinical Judaism.
At present, due to so many debilitating factors that hamper our efforts such as our continued failure to form a solid unified community and our almost non-existent plan to reach the Jew as much as the Gentile, the best we can hope for is to be left alone as the Sage Gamaliel first instructed in Acts 5:33-40. As of this time I encourage all Nazarene Israelites to cease circulating various types of untruthful and damaging rumours about this movement. In turn I plead that everyone of us strive to atone for these actions by studying their history, becoming acquainted with their great leaders and move to entering into open dialogue, not with a view of preaching, but discussing our similarities and how their walk already adheres very faithfully to the instructions of our Messiah, Yahshua benYoseph HaNazarete.