"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.]