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Chabad myths

by: Rabbi Jeremy Rosen – somethingjewish.co.uk

The Lubavitcher (Chabad) Rebbe was undeniably a great man. Many of his followers have done outstanding work around the globe. But sadly as with every large organisation they have their crooks, their swindlers and their charlatans.

Amongst their failings is an exaggerated tendency to maximise miracles the Rebbe performed (while ignoring his limitations) and inventing myths.

For many years there has been a story circulating that my father who died in March 1962 was promised he would be cured by the Rebbe provided he did not tell anyone, but he did and that’s why he died. These stories caused my late mother a great deal of distress. Her very different record of the events was actually published in a Lubavitch book called ‘Challenge: An Encounter with Lubavitch Chabad’ and at one stage she even toyed with legal action.

The facts of the situation are that in the autumn of 1961 my father was diagnosed with a particularly virulent form of leukaemia and he needed regular blood transfusions. The doctors described his condition as terminal. Initially he kept repeating that he was in the hands of God, not fallible human doctors. As he deteriorated, his initial optimism began to wane.

He went to see the Rebbe in New York and was tremendously impressed. The Rebbe encouraged him to devote his remaining time to preparing himself to meet his Maker. He suggested my father grow his beard full, wear a gartel when he prayed and study the Tanya daily. The visit certainly gave my father a lot of spiritual comfort. When he returned he wrote many letters to friends and pupils telling them that he was nearing his end but facing it with confidence. His health continued to deteriorate, of course, and in the winter he went to New York again for a final visit to the Rebbe. He kept very detailed notes of both visits, so we have written evidence apart from what he told us from memory.

The Rebbe reassured him that he would live to dance at his daughter’s wedding (she was two at the time), and that Purim would be a time of turning sadness into joy. One can argue whether this was honest or not. Let us assume he was just trying to give him courage or speaking mystically. But medically there was no chance of recovery. He died less than two months later, a week before Purim.

Although I have never joined Chabad, when I was a rabbi in Glasgow I helped Chabad establish itself there. The Rebbe was instrumental in my returning to Carmel as Headmaster, and I made several trips to New York to see the Rebbe and to get Chabad teachers to come to Carmel. But I was always a fellow traveller rather than a believer.

Recently this myth resurfaced in the rather sick variation excerpted below, written by a rabbi in Kfar Chabad in Israel. My comments are in brackets.

‘The scene is London 1963.

[My father died in 1962.]

Three religious bearded Jews are sitting around a table and one, a noted rabbi and community leader by the name of Rabbi Koppel (sic) Rosen was weeping. Usually he was known almost as well for his disdain toward the Chabad Chassidim as he was for his erudition.

[Strange. He came to visit when I was in Beer Yaakov Yeshiva in 1957, and together we went to Kfar Chabad to meet some friends of his. He was responsible for getting Lord Wolfson to fund the building of Lubavitch House in Stamford Hill in the 1950’s, and he was a very old friend of Reb Laizer Spector, zl, one of the main early supporters of Chabad in London, who actually went with him to the Rebbe the first time. My father was in contact with the Rebbe long before his final illness, as letters exchanged between them in the fifties attest.]

Whenever there was an opportunity to belittle or even vilify Chabad he took it.

[It is true that he made fun of the credulous and superstitious, but neither I nor anyone else I know of ever heard him belittle Chabad.]

Several weeks later Rabbi Rosen was standing before the Rebbe. It had all come about so suddenly, he had always shuddered in repulsion at the name Chabad

[Oh no, not that lie again.]

and now it was so obvious that the Rebbe was unequalled in holiness and knowledge that he was actually shaking with excitement. But the Rebbe wasn’t enthusiastic about his idea of becoming a Chassid. ‘Chassid?’ he answered, ‘I am willing to accept you as a partner. But not a Chassid.’

[The part about being accepted as a partner is the only element of this story that is mentioned in my father’s notes.]

Rabbi Rosen stayed for over a week in Brooklyn

[He has got the two visits confused and time scales wrong]

and every day he felt better and better, in some ways better than ever before in his life. For the first time the hatred he had always carried in his heart was gone.

[Hatred? Of whom, Chabad? Then why had he been helping them for so long?]

That Shabbat he attended the ‘Farbrengen’ (gathering) of the Rebbe. Rabbi Rosen was elated. After the Farbringen he told everyone he met of the amazing miracle that was happening to him;. how just reading the Tanya and seeing the Rebbe completely cured him of the worst disease and made him young again.

[There was no cure, no remission. But, yes, he did feel tremendous spiritual elation from being with the Rebbe.]

When the Shabbat was over he called home and told his wife to advertise the miracle until everyone knew.

[Rubbish, confirmed by my mother. In all he said to his wife and children, he never mentioned a cure.]

Rabbi Rosen never felt better in his life.

[He was on blood transfusions!]

He exclaimed that he was healthy and he felt it would last for ever. “I’ll begin by telling everyone about my miraculous recovery!” He exclaimed enthusiastically.

[His letters, notes and conversations say nothing about this at all.]

But the Rebbe emphatically stopped him. “No! You must tell no one!” But it was too late. Rabbi Rosin (sic) had already advertised.

[Strange that none of his family had been told any of this.] He returned home a different man, full of life and Chassidic joy and began several projects to spread and teach but after a few months he contracted a cold which developed complications

[He had leukaemia!]

and, as the Rebbe foresaw, he passed away.‘

I find it fascinating that the Gospel of Mark in the New Testament contains a similar story of a man being warned not to reveal a miraculous healing, but publicizing it anyway. It seems that it’s not just the Second Coming that some people in Chabad are borrowing from Christianity! If people can invent nonsense like this to bolster their belief systems, then every story they tell becomes suspect. Myths and lies certainly won’t help bring ‘Moshiach Now’!

It was my mother’s Yahrzeit this week. Out of respect for her memory, let alone my father’s, zl, I hope someone in Chabad has the integrity and authority to put an end to this for the sake of its own good name.

25 Comments

  • 1. Get it right wrote:

    I must agree that it is about time we stopped making up stories and delt in facts. I thought that we are supposed to be CHABAD chassidim.

  • 2. MFH wrote:

    there are similar personal stories that have happened in my family, which are circulated as "Miracles" where in fact, nothing had happened. a shame – but what do you expect from excited israelies?

  • 3. berel b. wrote:

    why’s this guy getting all excited over some guys wild imagination? either the guy is mixing up different stories or just can’t remember the facts properly.

  • 5. Lubav wrote:

    We have plenty of real mofsim of the Rebbe, and if a story is denegrating to the person involved, it should use a pseudonym (fake name). Would the Rebbe approve of speaking so disgustingly of another Yid?!?

  • 6. A reader of Rabbi B-s weekly emails wrote:

    Sigh. Certainly there are true miracle stories of the Rebbe but obviously this isn’t one of them. I’m happy as the story as described disturbed me a lot. I don’t think Rabbi B. knew all these facts and probably saw it it as a nice story to use in his dvar torah but it’s a pity it’s given this family so much agmus nefesh

  • 7. Aaron wrote:

    One of the fundamental beliefs of Chasidim is that their Rebbe is capable of miracles. Some people just need a crutch as the Rebbe once told Zalman Shazar (former president of Israel and a Chabad chossid)

  • 8. MFH wrote:

    CORRECTION – i mistakenly thought that he was referring to a story in the "kfar chabad" magazine, not a story from someone who lives in kfar chabad. Rabbi B. is not someone who would make up stories – he was probably misinformed by "excited israelies"

  • 9. there-s a big picture here! wrote:

    The Kfar Chabad Mag. has a long history of making up fantastic stories (you remember the story about the 5th night of Chanukah, well guess what, the author wrote it to ‘lift the general spirits of Lubavitch’)…

    It would be nice to see the editors of the KCM and all other Chabad publications not print any material whose are verified.

    The road they’re on now is dangerous and detrimental to the future of Chabad. In the short term they are undermining credibilaty of their publications. In the long term and the far more perilous effect is the wide spread cynicism future Lubavitch generations will have. They will learn to take every thing their told and taught as a novelists brainchild and as something that almost definitely is fiction and is told only to ‘lift their spirits’.

  • 10. moishy wrote:

    att. Aaron:
    one of the things that makes chabad chassidism different is that miracles is NOT one of our fundemental beleifs- if the Rebbe needs to do miracles he’ll do them, if not, not. the stories are only a crutch for those who wouldn’t beleive otherwise. this has been true throughout the generations of chabad.

    it’s quite sad that people make up stories and/or publish stories without verifying them because people obviously get hurt and it damages the name of chabad. but for ourselves, i think it’s best to take the approach that the Rebbe Rashab taught regarding stories about the Baal Shem Tov- "if you don’t beleive any of them you’re an apikores, and if you do beleive all of them you’re a fool". i once heard it explained this way: obviously things are going to get made up/ exaggerated as they get passed along, so it would be foolish to beleive that all of them happened- nevertheless as chassidim we must beleive that every single one COULD have happened.

  • 11. ME wrote:

    1ST OF ALL WE HAVE PLENTY OF MIRACLE STORIES THAT THE REBBE DID ANS NO ONE WOULD HAVE TO CHANGE A DIFFERENT STORY TO IMPRESS SOMEONE!
    BESIDES THAT OUR BELIEF IN THE REBBE IS NOT BECAUSE OF THE MIRACLE STORIES AND IF IT IS THEN SOMETHING IS WRONG OVER THERE, SOME ONE IS NOT A TRUE CHOSSID. THIS STORY BEING CHANGED WEATHER IT WAS CHANGED BY SOMEONE FROM CHABAD OR AS SOMEONE WROTE IN THEIR COMMENT THE LUBAVITCHER COULD HAVE HEARD THE STORY WRONG…………STORIES DO GET CHANGED FROM MOUTH TO MOUTH………..
    AND IF IT WAS SOMEONE FROM CHABAD WHO CHANGED IT, WHO SAYS IT WAS TO IMPRESS SOMEONE……….MAYBE IT’S JUST ONE OF THOSE ‘WILD ISRAELIS’ LIKE SOMEONE WROTE IN THERE COMMENT.

    THIS ROSEN GUY SOUNDS REALLY HEATED UP THE WAY HE WROTE IT, WHEN SOMEONE BURSTS OUT LIKE THAT, IT SHOWS THEY’VE BEEN WAITING A LONG TIME FOR AN OPPORTUNITY TO CRITICIZE CHABAD. NU WHAT CAN YOU DO IF SOMEONE REALLY WANTS TO CRITICIZE THEY CAN ALWAYS FIND A WAY.

    AS FOR ALL THOSE PARENTHESES THAT HE WROTE HIS COMMENTS IN, NOTICE THAT IN A LOT OF THEM HE WRITES ‘NOTHING LIKE THAT WAS IN MY FATHERS NOTES……..’ MAYBE HE JUST DIDN’T READ IT OR MAYBE THIS GUY WHO ‘CHANGED THE STORY’ HAS HIS SOURCE FROM SOMETHING ELSE BESIDES HIS FATHERS NOTES AND MAYBE THE INFORMATION WAS NOT ALL IN HIS FATHERS NOTES…………..DON’T GET ME WRONG THE STORY DOES SOUND A LITTLE EXAGGERATED AND IT CAN VERY WELL BE THAT IT WAS BUT TO GO AND BASHMUTZ SOMEONES NAME LIKE THAT…………THATS SOMETHING I DO NOT AGREE WITH ESPECIALLY SINCE THIS ROSEN GUY’S DETAILS ARE NOT FOR SURE ACCURATE, YOU NEVER KNOW IF THIS GUY CHANGED THE STORY OR HE HEARD IT FROM SOMEONE ELSE………….WHO MIGHT HAVE NOT EVEN BEEN CHABAD, SO THERE GOES ALL HIS CRITICISM!

    ANY WAY THATS JUST MY HUMBLE OPINION.

  • 12. berel b. wrote:

    Although this article bothered me a bit while reading it, I must compliment the comments for they have made things very clear.

    The best part of it is that everyone seamed to add to the greater picture rather than fight like cats and dogs as in a previous article.

    I like this.

  • 13. ARRRGHHHH! wrote:

    What is the point of this article? To weaken ChaBaD? Telling them that their Rebbe’s miracles are a bunch of balognies?! True, true, some wild Israeli might’ve mixed up some details, but it was not to offend or hurt anyone. So all you ChaBaDnikim…. believe whatg you’ve been believing till now!

  • 14. ME wrote:

    ATT BEREL B: THE REASON THERE IS NO ‘CATS AND DOGS FIGHTING’ AS YOU SAY, IS SIMPLY BEC WE ALL HAVE THE SAME OPPINION OR AT LEAST MOST OF US,
    BUT YES I AGREE WITH YOU 100 PERCENT IT IS MUCH MORE PLEASANT WHEN EVERYONE EXPLAINS THERE OPINION RATHER THEN SHOUTING IT, IN THIS ARTCLE THE COMMENT ARE WRITTENIN A MUCH MORE ‘REFINED WAY’, IF YOU’D LIKE TO CALL IT THAT
    KEEP IT UP GUYS!!!!!!!

  • 15. ME wrote:

    ATT ARRRGHHH!:

    THIS ARTICLE WAS NOT WRITTEN TO WEAKEN CHABAD BUT JUST TO GIVE US A GLIMPS OF WHAT NOT LUBAVITCHERS ARE SAYING OR THINKING OF US, OF COURSE NOT ALL OF THEM THINK THIS WAY INFACT A LOT OF THEM ADMIRE US.

    BUT SOME TIMES YOU GOTTA KNOW WHAT OTHER PPL ARE THINKING LIKE IF YOU WANT TO PERFECT YOUR SELF YOU HAVE TO KNOW YOUR UPS AND DOWNS……… WEATHER THIS IS A CHABADNICKS FAULT OR NOT WEATHER HE CHANGED THE STORY OR NOT, THIS IS WHAT THEY THINK OF US AND THIS IS WHAT WE HAVE TO CHANGE.
    WE HAVE TO PROVE TO THEM THAT THIS IS NOT WHAT CHABAD IS ALL ABOUT, THAT OUR WHOLE WAY OF LIFE IS NOT PROVEING OUR REBBE’S MIRICLES…………..OR CH"V MAKEING UP STORIES TO PROVE OUR REBBE………………
    BUT ARRRGHHHHH, YOU ARE 100 PERCENT RIGHT THIS SHOULD NOT WEAKEN ANY OF US, STAY SRONG, AND KEEP YOUR HEADS HELD HIGH ABOUT BEING CHABAD!

  • 16. a chabad chassid wrote:

    lubavitch does not go for miracles unlike the polishe
    chassidus. i dont remember which chassid said about
    the tzemach tzedek there were miracles rolling on the floor but no one bothered to bend down and pick them up. we are chabad chassidus we learn chassidus miracles are by the way not the mainstay. unfortunately wild israelis and the like think that without the miracles there is no Rebbe chas veshalom. Our duty is to learn chassidus and spread the Rebbes teachings and if you find a revealed miracle lucky you. Boruch Hashem my family experienced bigger miracle and regular miriacles but as we see miracles dont make a chassid of a person how many people do you meet who tell you they were bentched with children etc. and yet the are not chassidim and do not intend to be chassidim

  • 18. moishy wrote:

    it’s so nice to see that people have the right approach. it’s like a mini-farbrengen, i really like it. thank you webby, and all the bloggers!

  • 19. spell checker wrote:

    Talk about ARRRGHHHH! Does anyone know how to spell "whether" ?!?
    weather is the atmospheric condition outdoors.
    whether is to introduce an alternative possibility

    Come on, guys, get it straight (or is it strait, just kidding :-))

  • 21. wtvr wrote:

    ugh who reads the kfar chabad magazine and believes it??? nooone! its a bunch of bullony.just dont buy it.

  • 22. annoymous wrote:

    if u beleive every story happened, ur a fool, if u beleive any story couldn’t have happened, ur a bigger fool

  • 23. Eli wrote:

    A I just happened to have read R’ Koppel rosen’s memoirs in a book all about him, and he does write how much he was affected by the visit to the rebbe, without mentioning the miracle at all (ironicaly the one who showed me the book, a rare copy, is someone who ordinarily would never believe fantasy stories but was so convinced this story was true he pulled out koppel’s memoirs to prove it, though it does nothing of the sort).
    B while J rosen has right that his father respected lubavitch, J always had it in for anyone who did recognise HIS halachic authority which quite often would include lubavitchers in his school. (as heard from the one who showed me the memoirs who worked there for a short while). that would explain the harsh animosity veiled (or not so veiled) in the article.
    rabbi b’s stories, if this was the most terrible mistake and exagarated story, things would be much better, unfortunatly he isn’t very careful with his sources or details. (as for the spelling and grammar, Iwon’t complain about that since I know he writes it late at night which is why is looks as bad as my comment probably does being that is it the early am hours here now).
    C while classic chabad ideology is not to pay attention to miracles (as the ALTER REBBE not chosid of Tzemach tzedek said of being by the maggidm "we didn’t bend down to pick up the miracles", the alter rebbe himself later saw the need for miracles and in the end of that sentence related where he learned mofsim, and more importantly: our Rebbe saw the need in strengthening people’s faith through relating (obviously true) miracles stories and wrote a long letter to the previous rebbe, who agreed with him that in our days the circumstances have changed and there is a need to emphasize miracles as well (obviously without forgetting about the true essence of chabad).
    D the saying whoever belives them is a fool etc, is NOT A TRUE SAYING according to chabad as famously proven by R’ Y mundshein in the kfar chabad magazine years ago when he published a manuscript of the tzemach tzedek that we must believe all the stories in shivchei habesht happened literaly (the original saying refers and is only logical re shvchei habesht, why would i have to believe any story some idiot makes up about the baal shem tov, could happen)
    the novelty is that if we believe every story in the shivchei habesht happened literaly then the baal shem tov was in two places at once, but I guess we would need to explain that with the words of the AR "if I wouldn’t have seen him (=the besht) with my own eyes, I wouldnt have believed he was a ‘yelud issha'(lit. born to a woman i.e. human)".

  • 24. Double Check wrote:

    If Im not mistaken Rabbi BZ Shemtov and Rabbi Sudak were then involved. Please check with Rabbi Nachman Sudak.

  • 25. Point wrote:

    I find this discussion extremely interesting. I am encouraged by some of the comments, appalled by others.

    There are a few points that I think some have misunderstood, such as the fact that this story has been circulating for some time and was not the invention of Rabbi B. (Although Rabbi B should not be repeating tales that he doesn’t have substantiation of.)

    Another BIG issue for me was that when Rabbi B "altered" the story in response to R’ J Rosen’s complaints, all he did was drop in a pseudonym ("Rabbi J" of all things!). He left in several comments about R’ Kopul Rosen hating Chabad (which he did not). And worst of all, overlooked the basic logic that since the story is supposed to have happened to R’ Kopul Rosen, IF IT DIDN’T HAPPEN TO HIM, THEN IT DIDN’T HAPPEN. Which means that continuing to spread the story is continuing to spread an untruth.

    I agree with those who have said that this is unworthy of Chabad and does not bring glory or honor to the Rebbe.

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