Following the uproar over a meeting between a group of Jewish activists – including a Chabad Rabbi – and the pope, Rabbi Dovber Pinson has issued a ‘Letter of Explanation and Apology’ to the community. In response to his dismissal from Shlichus, Vaad Rabonei Lubavitch issued a letter calling the meeting ‘contrary to the instructions of the Rebbe,’ and referred his request for a Din Torah to his former employers – Merkos and Tzach.
In a letter dated Yud Gimmel Iyar, Vaad Rabonei Lubavitch issued a letter in response to a request for a Din Torah from Rabbi Pinson, who says that he was summarily removed from the list of Shluchim without any research into the matter.
Pinson was listed as an official Shliach on Chabad.org’s list of Shluchim up until a few hours after a short video surfaced on social media showing a meeting of a group of Jewish activists – himself included – with the pope in his office in the Vatican.
VRL’s letter reiterates the Rebbe’s strong words, calling it a meeting with the ’father of fathers of impurity,’ and that it is clearly against the instructions of the Rebbe, that it is the accessories of idol worship and that it caused a Chilul Hashem.
In reference to his request for a DIn Torah, VRL referred the matter back to the administrations of Merkos Linyonei Chinuch and Tzeirei Agudas Chabad – effectively rejecting his request.
The following is the text of a letter penned by Rabbi Pinson following the incident:
A Letter of Explanation and Apology
Dear friends and students, I feel the need to clarify the context left out from the video which is now having viral reception, unfortunately clouding the important mission I was there to accomplish.
In my very private audience with the pope, conducted in his private office (not in the church), we discussed the ideas of pure monotheism, hoping to increase the awareness of Oneness of G-d among all humankind as a true and only Source of all life, thus ensuring that there is no need to proselytize chas v’sholom to Jews. The conversation was fruitful and a tremendous kiddush Hashem. I had stipulated that there were to be no cameras and no press at all, and until the meeting ended, this was kept.
Leaving the private audience I came into the larger room and saw the group waiting there. Some of them were part of our official group, but a few of them were not supposed to be there, and had managed to “get in.”
The singing and music commenced spontaneously without my foreknowledge or consent. I found myself trapped between a duty to not make a chilul Hashem in the moment, and the spontaneous outburst of the group. Not wanting to offend created the wrongful impression that I was condoning this behavior. (You will notice in the video that I was able to stop the singing and music as soon as it was possible).
It is my deep regret that this video was released at all, (which was accidental) and that the visit was portrayed in such a way.
In truth, the actual meeting was a true kiddush shem shamayim, and will be a benefit for all Jews around the world with Hashem’s help, as it was intended to be.
With apologies for the misunderstanding and misrepresentation.
Rav Dovber Pinson