Sunday, October 17, 2010

Chabad-related conundrum

"Wedding," by Zalman Kleinman, z"l

[Received via email: Please remember this before attacking me for allowing some of the language in the email to pass the censors.]

To “Hirshel Tzig,”

I am currently faced with a Chabad-related conundrum, which requires some on-the-ground inside information about the Chabad movement. Naturally, I turn to you and your readers, for some guidance. First, let me introduce myself: I like to consider myself an open-minded and objective fellow, who tries to view everybody and every situation objectively and fairly. Nevertheless, when it comes to Chabad, I find myself in an uncomfortable situation. Since I know almost nothing about them, I find my judgment influenced by the views of my friends and family: Chabadtzkers don’t learn, they want to make everyone Lubavitch, they all think the Rebbe is Moshiach, etc. Additionally, since I live in the tri-state area, my sole encounter with Lubavitchers is when I get accosted by some lost-looking souls, who loiter in the subways distributing Rebbe paraphernalia, awkwardly shaped phylacteries and shove a lemon in my face during the Harvest festival. Be that as it may, I am sure that somewhere out there, there are some normal Lubavitchers, and maybe they can provide some guidance.

A friend of mine, is engaged to a girl whose father happens to be Lubavitch. The fianceé and her siblings happened to not be Lubavitch, although some of them are name Mussia, Mendy and Moshe. Until recently, the shver’s Lubavitchessness was a non-issue – until it came to the Chuppah arrangements. You see, the shver insists on reading a “Letter from the Rebbe” under the Chuppah. The chosson has no issue about this, but the problem is that his close mentor backed out from being misader kidushin. The Rabbi said something like “I am sure your father-in-law is a great guy, and he means nothing wrong by reading "The Letter," but Chabad has strange practices, practices which I don’t understand, and I therefore cannot be associated with such behavior.” [ HT says: Rabbis today are very worried about their image, you see. I would imagine the shver is not a man of means...] My friend desperately wants his Rabbi to “be mesader” and is desperate for a way of convincing him that the letter is "innocent." What should he tell him?

The way I see it: to the best of our knowledge, the reading of a Rebbe’s Letter by a wedding is unprecedented in Judaism. In other words, whatever rationalization the Lubavitchers give as to why they read the letter, the question is, how come it was never done till now. Therefore, we have grounds to suspect, that this letter is a symptom of Chabad’s recent glorification and emphasis as the Rebbe as a central figure. Meaning: reading the Rebbe’s letter is not just a nice and innocuous gesture, it is a means of connecting with him. They believe that by connecting with him, somehow that will bring positive energy. Obviously, if that is the case, we view it as a form of idolatry and will be avoided at all cost. [HT says: wow! 1+1 really is 5! Reading a letter+ glorifying Rebbe = idolatry... Then they wonder why we don't like them!] ] My question to you is: can you explain to us what the significance of this letter is? Can you articulate, in rational terms, what distinguishes Chabad from past generations of Chassidim, that didn’t (to the best of my knowledge) have a letter ceremony under the Chuppah? Can you convince us that this person, who probably had only minimal personal contact with the Rebbe (besides for sending faxes, which he does) feels such a connection to him?

A bruchuh oif dayn kepeleh

[HT says: please try and be formal and polite, despite your doubts about the sincerity of the writer.]


Anonymous said...

its one of the silliest non ,minhogim known to man

LikeWhatever said...

Tzig You had a prime opertunity, and u slaughtered it!

Just reprint the letter the way you got it and let the readership go wild. Gevalt! There is no need for the Tzig to interject his comments !

We know your affiliations. No one suspects that The Tzig will not be following Letter Rehearsal protocol at your kids weddings IY"H.

Some objectivity would be nice.

Anonymous said...

Did HT read the letter under his Chuppah? There are a lot of general questions. When did this practice start and did the Rebbe 9explicetly or implicetly) encourage or endorce it? Is this letter written to an individual Lubavitcher or is written to the (Lubavitch) public?

Finally, would you agree that if they play a video of the Rebbe blessing the groom at a wedding ceremony, then it would be FREAKY, to say the least?

BTW, what is the area code on the fax machine by the Ohel?

LikeWhatever said...

'Minhagim' are unearthed archeological artifacts.

There were once upon a time Spiritualy attuned jews who had a vibrant connection to God. Their holy connection manifested itself in their doing mitzvos in a distinct way. Even simple things like eating had a pattern they followed to allow for their attachment to The Higher Power.

Those that observed Tzaddikim practicing these spiritual patterns subsequently imitated them (with the hope of attaining a degree of Divine connection) and in time they evolved into 'Minhagim'.

WHAT REMAINED OF ALL THIS TODAY are a unique collection of Wierd Fossils. Weve gotten the 6.7 inch endangered Sable Fur display, long Rabbeinu Taams Gatches, Silk Sirtuks, and big Brisker Peyos.
Combined with unhealthy food combinations and greeting phrases. etc etc

Is reading a Chuppah Letter from the Rebbe 'Wierder' than wearing The Rebbe Zechiso Yugein Uleinis Pants?
Is it 'wierder' then hearing his befrocked Rosh Yeshivachant the Beracha in a 'Brrriskerr Havurreh' ??

Me Think Not.

Its all wierd. The only differance is what connection to GOD will all these 'Minhagim' lead too...


yehupitz said...

First Draft:

Reading a letter from a deceased rabbi at a wedding is strange, in the literal sense of the term: I am not familiar with any variation of this being practiced anywhere else, although to be truthful I have never researched the topic Sperber-style. I was recently told by someone in the NIRC Kollel that ~ 30+ years ago one of the NIRC hanhala, who had raised an orphan in his home and had her married off to a Lubavitcher, was told by R Ruderman that the Chupah could not take place on NIRC's campus because of the letter. (-and remember, this is when the Rebbe was alive.) And when they ask everyone to rise for the reading of the letter, that does creep my Litvishe side out even more.

But despite the strangeness of this and many other "Hiskashrus" customs that even moderate Lubavitchers have adopted over the years, I think it's possible for even a non-Lubavitcher to make his peace with it. Have other groups adopted such a practice? Not to my knowledge. Yet Chabad in the past 60 years is most decidedly not trying to be like other groups. The Lubavitcher Rebbe endeavored to lead his chassidim to branch out and take on the often dangerous task of spreading Yiddishkeit (Yes, a Yiddishkeit informed and colored by that oh so unique Chabad weltanschauung, but still Torah and Mitzvos) to the far corners of Jewish civilization.

We interrupt for a parenthetical point: True, the naysayers argue about how successful they have been, whether they exaggerate their claims or whether their own youth have suffered collateral damage from the effort. Yet the extent of that argument's validity does not change the fact that this is what the Lubavitcher Rebbe tried to do. Back to the comment-

So if your mission involves sending people far away, how do maintain group cohesion when you want your chassidim to struggle with getting a minyan and have no other or few other chassidim nearby? You focus on the connection the chassidim should have with their Rebbe, and you find ways to do it that transcend the distance. Photographs in the wallet, living room, dining room etc. Read the Mazel Tov letter under the Chuppa. There must be other examples that don't come to mind. Unusual? Sure. Idolatry? Come on, let's try to be a little more precise with our choice of terms, ok? Adulation does not = Avoda Zara. The forms of reverence Lubavitchers employ towards their now-deceased Rebbe mirror the forms of love children demonstrate towards an especially beloved parent. My mother has a photo of her father on her fridge. Had he written a poignant letter to her on her wedding day, I can envision that she would wish that her children would read the letter at their wedding. I can imagine her saying on a happy occasion that we give our Zaida nachas. Bottom line: Weird to many, understandable within context to others, not a big deal, move on.

sruly said...

"[HT says: please try and be formal and polite, despite your doubts about the sincerity of the writer.]"

Earlier you said this:"[HT says: wow! 1+1 really is 5! Reading a letter+ glorifying Rebbe = idolatry... Then they wonder why we don't like them!]"

I guess this is the way when you are "polite", when you've had on too muchat a farby you probably talk very differently.

If only you practiced what you preach.
"Nit do vehr zol lachen?

Hirshel Tzig - הירשל ציג said...

Sruly needs a vacation, ladies and gentlemen. he works too hard.

sruly said...

You being polite again,Hirsheleh??

Shea said...

How can anyonewho visited 770 lately take Lubavitch seriously??

I think the choson should allow the shver to read the letter, however.
Maybe make some deal with him about when and where.
GenerallyLubobcannot be reasoned with so you have to give in.

Hirshel Tzig - הירשל ציג said...

Polite? no. cordial, maybe. Understanding, perhaps.

sruly said...

." Understanding, perhaps."

You work so hard in the Lubob p.r department where you need all the understanding, compassion and goodwill you can muster, that you have nothing left for anyone else.

greeny said...

Does the father in law demand a recital of "Yechi" also?

Hirshel Tzig - הירשל ציג said...


you are so predictable

[EDITED] apologist

Anonymous said...

I am not getting it, the Mechilta is saying that hiskasrus to a Tzadik is a mitzvas esse min hatorah? I don"t care for the goish slogans of cult personality,etc... (their are other apikosrsim that say the arba minim are paganism)
lately you see Peter Chamorim done by Rebbes with great pomp, it was never done in der alter hiem or 35 years ago, so what? its a Mitzva min hatorah. So is hiskashrus to the tzadik, according to chazal you need hiskashrus to the tzadik,
Don"t ask why earlier chabad rebiem did not do it, the rebbe is capable to create a minhag as every rebbe since chassidus started, and a lubavicher mechutan has his rights to ask for it at his simcha.

Anonymous said...

I did not know that Ruderman turned in to such a Tzorer Hayehyudim ?
Its Chabad fault they should of give better meals in tomchie temimim
I hope by now they learned a lesson.

feivy said...

"and a lubavicher mechutan has his rights to ask for it at his simcha."

And the choson has more of a right to request that it not be done.

shmuel said...

"I did not know that Ruderman turned in to such a Tzorer Hayehyudim "

Who was talking about "ruderman"?

Are you just after a frabrengen and drunk?

Anonymous said...


How do you explain, how this Lubavitcher, who had almost no contact with the Rebbe, views him more beloved than a parent?

You really believe that these practices are in order to keep everyone together? How Chasidus thought of that till now?

Sending a fax, keeps in contact with Lubavitch?

The Bray of Fundie said...

What would the Rebbe zy"a counsel if he were alive? I'd hazard he'd say "if it'll make the choson happier not to read it zay mevater on the letter"...


Hirshel Tzig - הירשל ציג said...


you're right

and notice how the choshu've rosheiyeshiveh never are mevater...

Anonymous said...

"How do you explain, how this Lubavitcher, who had almost no contact with the Rebbe, views him more beloved than a parent?"
in Toras emes their is a halacha that Aviedas oviv vaviedes Raboi, is the rebbe first,
according to toras emes we have to instill in our kids adulation for our rebbes that they are before parents.
this Vabireshe hergieshim is taking over our some femenized guys.

Anonymous said...

I was recently at a Chasunah of a non-lubavitcher chossid who married the neice of a shliach.

The Chosson specifically asked that the letter not be read, and the shliach did it anyway, upsetting the Chosson.

Did he really think it would bring nachas to the Rebbe to panig a Chosson just before his chuppa?!

Anonymous said...

read all the comments before you click your laptop

Anonymous said...

"Sending a fax, keeps in contact with Lubavitch?"
sending to the Rebbe's ohel a Kvittel(Pan) to the rebbe keeps you in touch with the Rebbe of Lubavich , if you believe in Hshoras hanefesh

Anonymous said...

I am a lubavitcher from birth. By my wedding, before Gimmel Tammuz, we read the Rebbes letter by the CHupah. I guess it started around 1960 when the Rebbe stopped being mesader kidushin and they read the Rebbes letter to indicate the Rebbes brachos to the Choson Kallah.

This is a normal lubavitcher Minhag and contnues today for certanly the Tzadik is sending his brachos to those who are connected to his Neshama. This applies after he has passed away even more then while alive in this world.

(See Tanya Igeres Hakodesh - letter 27-28 - two very important letters from the Alter Rebbe that we read in this weeks chitas.)

A SHliach

Lippa said...

"and notice how the choshu've rosheiyeshiveh never are mevater..."

What are you basing yourself on??
So a guy like you is allowed to generalize on "roshei yeshiva" without knowing any, and when someone sees a Lubavitcher meshigas done lifnei om ve'ideo, such as the recital of "yechi" or being mechabed the Rebbe zy"a with Ato Horeiso and a hakofo,one may not wonder at all??

Do you notice how biased you are?

Lippa said...

I would counsel the choson to try and work out a DEAL WITH BOTH HIS ROSH YESHIVA AND THE SHVER.I can guarantee him that life is as a married person involves real problem solving and this one is good practice on a minor one.He should also be happy that his dealing with der shver and not the shvigger!

Hirshel Tzig - הירשל ציג said...

generalize? we're talking facts here. a specific RY won't be mevater. Why not? And you sound like a fool bringing the kitchen sink into the conversation. Hakofos, Atoh Horeiso.


Lippa said...

Thanks for calling me a fool.Nice of you.

And I was addressing the point you made here
"and notice how the choshu've rosheiyeshiveh never are mevater..."

Hirshel Tzig - הירשל ציג said...

I said you sound like one, not that you ARE one.

Lippa said...


berl, crown heights said...

I would suggest the following compromise (I only call it a "compromise" as applied to this situation, in reality I believe it is the only appropriate way to deal with the issue anyway):

Let's start with the fact that this couple is not getting any letter (unless of course techias hameisim takes place before their wedding) from the Rebbe! Therefore, reading a letter they didn't actually receive as "the Rebbe's letter" is not only strange, but delusional and even dishonest). On the other hand, the Rebbe used to send this kind of a blessing-letter to all chasanim and kallohs when he was alive in this world. And as we know, lei yaazeiv eis tzien marisei... [see Iggers Hakeidesh, ch 27]. So they shall simply announce at the chuppoh that "this is the NUSACH" of the Rebbe's customary blessing and that divrei tzaddikim kayomim load and that we are therefore sure that these brocheis are given to this young couple as well...

Having said that, should the Rov in question still have a problem with the reading of the letter accompanied by this announcement, the Choson would be better off with another mesader kiddushin. If the father-in-law declines having such an announcement made, then the Rov should not be expected to participate.

Yitzchak said...

Much of the bewilderment expressed here can be answered by reading "What set the Rebbe apart."

Anon3 said...

I have a nephew, my brothers A"H son, who was a talmid of Rav Ruderman Z"L,Rosh Yeshiva of Ner Yisroel in Baltimore.
My nephew's wedding took place in Baltimore at the height of the Rebbe vs Rav Shach controversy and Rav Ruderman was to be misader kiddushin.My brother approached Rav Weinberg Z"L,Rav Rudermans SIL, with the request that the Rebbe's letter to the Chosson Kaleh be read under the chupa.Rav weinberg returned with the dreaded verdict of Rav Ruderman.The answer was Lai mit an aleph.The reason being that the Rosh Yeshiva nempt zich on far di Kovod fun Rav Shach and would not be misader kidusshin if the letter is read.
My brother was devastated as all of our family was.Etched vividly in my memory was what transpired next.
Before the Chupa,in the room where the chosson was clothed with his kittel,my brother with shaking hands and bittere trerrin running down his cheeks,read the the Rebbes letter.
To this day, the memory of this episode has colored ,sad to say,in a negative way, my feelings towards the individuals that caused such tzar to my brother A"H ,on the day that should have been one of utmost joy for him.

Nathan said...


Why does the letter need to be read out?
Wasn't it enough that the Rebbe who was aliv had sent the letter?
True at the time it was a form letter, still it was signed by the Rebbe and I'm sure he saw the names andbentched them before thje letter was sent out.
I don't get why this needs to be such a big deal

Anon3 said...

"I don't get why this needs to be such a big deal"

Men darf hoben ah Chassideshe hergesh tzu farshtein the kesher between a Rebbe and a Chosid my friend.It's much different then the kesher between a talmid and his rosh Yeshiva.Thats what makes it a "big deal".Learn some Chassidus and maybe some day you'l understand.

Anon3 said...

PS to the above.
When the koihain duchens why is it necessary for the Koihain to enunciate the words?Isn't it enough that the Aibishter kaviyochil certainly "sees the names and benches us before the letter is sent out"?

Anonymous said...

These types of conflicts are not new..I heard that R Moshe ztl was asked by a chasidishe Bocher marrying a Litvishe girl that all customs till after the chupa is following the Shvers after his. (Regarding who walks the choson and kallah to the Chupa and wether there is a Mitzva Tantz). So perhaps in this case the mesader kiddushin should be advised that this is a minhag in Chabad since 1960 as mentioned earlier. However if there is an issue as per R Ruderman zl then he has to $make a choice...

Anon3 said...

Az men red shin vegen Kairach....I cannot guarantee the veracity of this story about Rav Ruderman but it sounds like something he would say.
It seems that after someone hot ungeriert zain koved he stated "of mein koved ken ich maichel zain ober of kuved Hataireh ken ich nit".

sammy said...

I see you are back in form

yoske said...

When the koihain duchens why is it necessary for the Koihain to enunciate the words?Isn't it enough that the Aibishter kaviyochil certainly "sees the names and benches us before the letter is sent out"?

ummm... the kohein has a mitzvah doiraysa to bench the am, mshe"k...

Anonymous said...

then we see that hashem is telling us that a Hashpoe of a Beracha gets a better Hamshoche if it is called out loud and clear. it is not a chok.

yoske said...

True, it's not a chok, however, it's a shvache dimyin.
Hashem wants to be mashpia brachos to am yisroel, so He told the kohanim to give that bracha over, essentially giving the kohanim the power to bless the am. Here, however, the Rebbe, a tzadik, but a human being, wrote a letter giving a brocheh. how does reading the letter change anything? That's a big leap indeed.
Perhaps you're right, but i don't see why it's muchrach that that's the lesson we take out from b"k

Anon3 said...

Your right.
The dimyon to BK came to me at 4:00 AM in the morning.Ones head is not usually very lucid at that point in time.It was just a fleeting thought and not well thought out so lets stick with my first answer.

Anon3 said...

By the way isn't BK under the chupa a new phenomenon that has gained popularity in all kreizen due to a lack of kibbudim?Now if the "AL Chaits" of Yom Kippur could be given out as kibbudim at the chupa all problems would be solved.

yoske said...

what happened to the good ol' times when one rov got all the bruchis

Anonymous said...

Have a balanced wedding.

Read a couple of condemnations from the Vaboyliker, a few passages from the Berach Moishe, and shout "We Don't Want Moshiach Ever" when the glass is broken.

Anonymous said...

the same torah that gave BK, gave us the mitzva of Iledovko boi with the interpretation of the Mechilta it means Devikus in a Rebbe, the same Torah is telling that berochas of Tzadikim have power as the famous Ramban.

yoske said...

Ma inyin shmita eitsel har sinay?
Theefore, we have to read the Rebbe's letter out loud? Ana"sh doing an act doesn't turn it into d'veikus

Anon3 said...

I know I'm going to get walloped for this but isn't it possible that one of the reasons for reading of the Rebbe's letter at the chuppa is to have an extra kibbud to give out? Just a thought

Soloveitchik said...

but we all agree that the Rosh Yeshive'le, may he live and be well, NEEDS to make a whole tummel and upset the chosson, kallah and in-laws. That HAS to happen.
Everybody else can go to alle ruches

Isaac Balbin said...

I didn't have the exact same issue, but I certainly was uncomfortable with the letter being part of the Seder HaChuppa in the way it is and I wasn't sure if there were any halachic ramifications that I needed to exercise (ie ask that it not occur).

I spoke with R' Hershel Schachter Shlita about it. I don't have permission to repeat what he said (I never asked him for such permission) but let me say that despite me being uncomfortable, the letter was read at two of my children's weddings. Indeed, I independently printed a little pre-amble along the lines suggested by Berl for the person who read it; not that this occurred.

There are things worth making an issue over and things not worth making an issue over. Especially at a time like this, one needs to be very careful (and that's why I consulted a Gadol like R' Schachter).

In a similar vein, if a Chosson (for instance) would be very upset (correctly or otherwise) if it was read, then it's not clear to me that a Mesader Kidushin should ignore/upset the Chosson. There are diplomatic ways of giving the same brocho and saying the same words bshem omrom, say, when the couple emerge from the Yichud room. Is the idea to give a specific nusach habrocho or is it to be Yehareg V'al Y'aavor on the exact moment that the brocho should be recited?

Let me ask another question. Would a Lubavitcher object if a second brocho was also read from a Gadol who was still B'Olmo Didon?