Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Midrash, Kabbalah, Mathew and Chabad

Chabad ideas about the messiah-ship of the Rebbe are like midrash and Kabbalah but not for the reasons you might think. None of these things were "revealed," as if they were always known to an elite few who kept them hidden. Rather they were created by clever, God fearing interpreters. Jews have always interpreted the Torah. One of the first examples of this is in the Torah itself when Ezra tells the story of  Abraham:
You are the LORD God, who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and named him Abraham. You found his heart faithful to you, and you made a covenant with him to give to his descendants the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Jebusites and Girgashites. You have kept your promise because you are righteous
As many have pointed out, this is not what Genesis says. In Genesis Aberham leaves Ur because his father took him, not because Abraham had had been chosen by God. The idea that he was chosen is thus an early example of Biblical interpretation.

Now, not all clever interpretation are ultimately accepted, and some interpretation go in and out of style. For instance, the interpretation that Ballam was a prophet equal in stature to Moses is the one most people today accept as true, but other midrashic collections take a different view.

Other clever interpretations are only accepted by a few Jew who with the passage of time cease to be Jews. That is what happened with Christianity. At first all Christians were Jews, who relied on clever interpretations, interpretations that were functionally the same as midrashim, to justify their belief in Jesus. Mathew (or his teacher) for example uses an approach that can only be called midrashic to justify his belief in the Virgin birth. Interpretations such as this one were rejected by other Jews, and in time the minority of Jews who relied upon them were rejected as well by the community of Israel.

The same thing is happening now, in our own time, with the interpretations, and to the interpreters that claim messiah-ship for the rebbe of chabad.

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