Chabad Baal Teshuva

The Chabad articles on this site are especially directed towards Chabad Baalei Teshuvah (returnees to Judaism), although we hope they offer useful material for all Jews.

This site is not telling the Chabad Baalei Teshuvah to completely avoid Chabad, but we are suggesting that they apply critical thinking skills and ask intelligent questions about Chabad beliefs and practices before completely committing to the Chabad movement.

My knowledge of the Chabad movement is not based on hearsay and second hand information. I learned in Litvish yeshivot, but I also learned in a Chabad yeshiva, and I have davened in Chabad shuls, including Meshichistim shuls. Chabad Meshichistim shuls seemed to me like a type of pre-Constantine "Jewish" Christianity, where the deceased Rebbe became the primary power operating in this world, and we are to wait for his second coming. I also know several ex-Chabad (but still Orthodox) rabbis who left Chabad due to the Meshichistim.

My purpose in writing this section is not to promote any "sinat chinam" (baseless hatred) against Chabadniks or Chassidim, or to malign the Chabad movement. There is no question that the Chabad movement does contain many well-intentioned, pious Orthodox Jews who seek to observe traditional Orthodox Judaism. The network of Chabad houses does provide a home to many newcomers to Judaism, people who might not feel comfortable in various less welcoming, non-Chabad Orthodox synagogues.

However, the Chabad Chassidic movement has also grown very large and prominent. Chabad spokesman may often aggressively present in synagogues, in public media, and in public forums, Chabad’s philosophy as a “one size, fits all” philosophy, or as an “all-inclusive” Torah philosophy. Many Jews who are not necessarily learned in Torah are then influenced by these often grandiose and/or erroneous claims by Chabad spokesmen.

Many Jews, especially Baalei Teshuvah, may be unaware as to the extent that certain aspects of Chabad’s theology, philosophy, and halacha seriously conflicts with classical Torah theology and philosophy. When these issues are publicly raised, Chabad defenders usually try to suppress these discussions by quickly asserting “sinat chinam” (baseless hatred) allegedly against Chabad.

The Chabad articles on this site are intended for thinking Jews who seek to study a broader range of Torah principles than is usually supplied by Chabad, and then apply some critical thinking skills to the various Chabad and non-Chabad Torah principles. In this book I am trying to enable some "consumer choice" for thinking Torah observant Jews. This means that intelligent Torah observant Jews need to be able to investigate various Torah philosophies and principles (even if they conflict with Chabad doctrines) and then decide which Torah doctrines are best suited for their intellect and their spiritual needs. This approach will meet the needs of far more Jews than an approach of dogmatically accepting Chabad's doctrines as “one size fits all”.

Another major problem is that certain Chabad rabbis seem to be erroneously critiquing non-Chassidic Torah philosophies, and then proclaiming the superiority of Chabad Chassidus over the non-Chassidic Torah philosophies. Certain Chabadniks seem to be often disparaging what they consider to be the erroneous non-Chassidic doctrines of much of the non-Chabad Orthodox Jewish world. Are these Chabadniks tormented by a lurking possibility that classical non-Chassidic Torah philosophy might refute or negate the doctrines of Chabad Chassidus?

The Chabad movement demands the right to promote its concepts as the authentic Torah theology in many public Jewish media to non-Chabadniks. I’m not challenging their right to do so. However, if Chabad objects to its ideas being critiqued, then Chabad should cease attempting, in every Jewish media forum possible, to persuade non-Chabadniks to accept Chabad ideologies.

The articles in this section have been written primarily so that Jews can be aware there are alternative theologies to Chabad theology. Baalei tshuvah (returnees to Judaism) especially need to be aware that Chabad is promoting certain radical theologies, not solely confined to the subject of moshiach, that can present severe conflicts with traditional Judaism. On these controversial subjects, it is vital that baalei tshuvah and other observant Jews have an opportunity to become aware of more traditional Torah viewpoints than Chabad is presenting them.

If you are a thinking Jew that attends a Chabad shul, you should be free to decide, within the boundaries of traditional Orthodox Judaism, which theologies/philosophies are suitable for your mentality and neshama. Even if you regularly attend a Chabad shul, you should not be obligated to accept Chabad’s specific Chassidic philosophy.

Anyone involved with the Chabad movement, especially a Baal Teshuvah, who also seeks out truth within Torah must exercise critical thinking and discretion to avoid blindly accepting false concepts that contradict the foundations of Judaism.

Chabad Baal Teshuva