Monday, March 21, 2011

A Meshichist Purim

A guest post by Philo

After a late Purim night, I slept in quite late on Purim morning. It was so late that I had to scramble to find a place that had a late Megillah. I was staying in Brooklyn for Purim and assumed that it would be easy. But after calling a few shuls, looking at shul websites, and having no luck, I turned to Chabad.

I went to the Chabad website and found a laining at Chabad of Flatbush at 10:45 am. When I got there, they were still davening, only up to the Amidah. I had davened at home, thinking that this was a stand-alone Megillah reading, so I quietly found a seat & waited for the Megillah to begin. While waiting, I looked at the various paraphernalia on the table in front of me. There was a “Moshiach Times”, a Megillat Esther booklet, and a couple of other things. As I started looking at them, I noticed that almost every single one had " יחי אדוננו מורנו ורבינו מלך המשיח לעולם ועד" (“Long live our master, our teacher, and our rabbi, King Mashiach, forever”) written on it. The Megillah even indicated that before the blessings were to be read, the "Yechi" should be declared aloud. To be fair, they didn’t do that last one. But they certainly murmured the Yechi several times. This was clearly a “Meshichist” Chabad, one where they believed that the deceased Rebbe was the Messiah, and that he would rise from the dead to fulfill that role.

When it was time for laining, they decided to casually auction them off. There was only one Kohen, but they pressed him to donate. He was obviously a regular (though not a full chabadnik) and seemed comfortable with them. He offered $18. The gabbai urged him to offer “3 times yechi” (which I presume would be $84, 3 x $28, the numerical value of Yechi. When they asked if anyone was a Levi (I am) I just said nothing, not wanting to be pressed to give to Meshichists.

It was at that point that I tweeted my situation, wondering if I should leave. In the end, I stayed, not sure if I’d get another chance to hear the Megillah that day, and ducked out as soon as the laining was over.

My biggest issue, I guess, is that the main Chabad website led me to this place. For all their talk of disavowing Meshichists, they obviously have no problem listing Meshichist Chabad houses on their website as legitimate Chabad branches.

My other issue is that half the people there were Jews from the former Soviet Union, who have obviously been taught that Judaism means believing in the Messianism of the Rebbe.

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