Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A worthy retread

All this recent talk about Chabad Mesianism reminds me of one of the very first guest posts I ever published. It dates to May 2005 and was written by the venerable Akiva of Mystical Paths

See it after the jump
Note: Regular readers know I run guest posts as often as I can (it gives me more time for torah learning.) This next one was written and submitted by Akiva, the large bearded man who minds the store at Mystical Paths. My remarks are in brackets, wearing green. If you'd like to write a guest post, well, what are you waiting for? A burning bush? Just go ahead and do it. Send the results to, and if I have anything more productive than blogging to do that day, I'll probably post it.
A guest post by Akiva of Mystical Path

In many posts, DovBear posts insightful looks at the inconsistencies and, dare I say, even hypocritical actions or positions of various parts of the orthodox Jewish community (of course that's not the only target in his sights, the GOP and occasionally the world in general comes in as well).

[Sorry, I'd write more about how two-faced the GOP can be, but writing about how two faced my friends and neighbors are takes up way too much time. Also, I'd love to write about how two-faced the Democrats can be, but life is short and the Jewish Press along with countless other Jewish blogs already have staked a claim to that fertile territory.]

However, what happens when his insight is itself inconsistent?

[Holy smokes, are you trying to say that I, DovBear made a mistake? Odd. I thought the whole premise of this blog is that people (well, religious people, anyway) are perfect and without sin? Whoops, no. My bad. That's Cross Currents. Over here, we have a different premise. It goes like this: people suck. So I hope it didn't cause your beard to curl to discover that I, your humble narrator, share the shortcomings of my mankind.]
DB has noted in the past that minchag (Jewish custom) and sometimes even halacha (Jewish law) seems [seems??? seems??? Earth to Akiva: The Rambam wasn't a hasid.] to be deviating from the thorough and well expounded positions of the Spanish Rishonim. He has bemoaned [I'm more of a whiner, actually] such topics as Kidniot (eating or not eating legumes on Passover), noting that more modern gedolim (great rabbi's) have added stringencies or taken different positions than those in the past.

And of course, hassidim/hassidus is a frequent target, where he bemoans[again, it's more of a low gutteral whine] their new ways (if 300 years old is new). [My view: If the religion is 4000 years old, three-hundred years ago might as well have been last week. Also, I'd like you to remember that most of what the behatted Jewish word condecendingly calls "Modern" is older (or about the same age) as the Hasidism many hat-wearers think are on the Lord's One Authentic and True Path. So far as I'm concerned, we're all "modern"]

But wait a minute. While Chabad Hassidim daven (pray) nusach Ari (the prayer order of Rabbi Yitzchok Luria, the holy Ari), the vast majority of hassidum daven nusach sephard (the prayer order of the Spanish rishonim). [Incorrect. Hasidim don't daven nusach Sephard. Sure, they call it "nusach Sephard," but that's newspeak: In reality, their liturgy is an Ari-influenced variation of Ashkenazi, that has little resemblance to nusach Sefard. No Spanish Rishon prayed that way.] And, Chabad Hassidim are the only major group that studies Rambam Yomi (Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, learning his main work on a page or topic a day 3 year cycle). [Mazal tov. Chabad Hassidim are also the only major group with members who think their Rebbe might one day return from the dead and make all the wars go away. Also, they're still, technically, under the ban of Elijah "Vilna" Gaon, meaning their wine and meat, technically, is forbidden. Good thing we're not "technical" people, right? Whoops, I mean we are- but not when it's inconvinient, thank God.]

Further, as noted in a previous post here, Hassidim also follow the Sephardic (Spanish Rishonim) custom of saying Hallel (the prayer of praises) on the night of Pesach (Passover). [True, I'll give them that. Unfortunatelty, they also follow the Polish peasent custom of accepting any and every silly superstition. Plus they wear dead animals on their heads. So, it's a wash.] 

Seems us hassidim can't catch a break. DB, a little fairness please.

[I was unfair in this post. I admit it. And I apologize. My critisim of Hasidism has nothing to do with anything said, above. Really, it boils down to this: (1) They came into the world less then 300 years ago, yet they piously insist that their way is authentic, and the rest of us are pretenders. This extends to their remarkably stupid idea that clothing they copied from 18th century non-Jews is a vast and immesurable improvment on clothing copied from 21st century non-Jews. (2) They believe in magic, and miracle workers and other nonsense, and not only that, they encourage the rest of us to believe in magic and miracle workers and other nonsense. (3) Judaism isn't about "movements" (except after the Pesach matzo, maybe) No Jewish prophet and no Jewish thinker ever initiated a movement. It isn't our way. The Torah is complete without movements. (4) They've put tradition ahead of common sense, which is something Jews are never asked to do. The sad irony is that if tradition was really as important as the modern hasid imagines, the Besht's entire movement would have died in the cradle. ]

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