2024 Distortions and Deceptions From Chabad Messianists Part 2
Chananya Weissman

May 7, 2024


Hijacking the Rambam

It is not enough to argue that Chazal were open to the theoretical possibility that Hashem would bring back someone from the past to be Moshiach. Chabad cultists take it so much farther than that; they need to turn this Aggadic teaching, this philosophical question, into practical halacha.

For that they went on another finishing expedition, and found a few lines of the Rambam to hijack and contort. Cultists tend to be generally unlearned – by design, except for a few educated leaders. Thus it is quite likely that the average cultist who waves the Moshiach flag is ignorant of the Rambam, except for this single source that a missionary cherry-picked for him.

It comes from Hilchos Melachim 11:4-5, where the Rambam writes as follows:

“And if a king arises from the house of David who meditates in Torah and is engaged in mitzvos like David his forefather, in accordance with the written and oral Torah, and he compels all of Israel to go according to it, and to strengthen its breaches, and he fights the wars of Hashem – the prevailing assumption [“chazaka”] is that this is Moshiach. If he successfully did this, and built the mikdash in its place, and gathered the dispersed of Israel, this is certainly Moshiach...

“...But if he did not succeed to this extent, or he is killed, it is thereby known that this is not the one promised by the Torah, and he is like all other complete and kosher kings from the house of David who died. Hashem only stood him up to test the people...”

Those who believe the Lubavitcher Rebbe was and is Moshiach contort these straightforward words of the Rambam into a lamp post on which to lean. We will get to this shortly.

Lieberman cites this Rambam and then cites a letter in which the Rambam noted that Hashem can resurrect anyone He wishes at any time, before or after the coming of Moshiach. This is not a novel idea. After all, it is a core tenet of our belief that Hashem can do anything He wishes, and we know that Hashem already resurrected people in biblical times.

Lieberman nevertheless believes this statement of the Rambam is a tremendous find. He combines it with the Rambam's words about the job description of Moshiach to “prove” that the Rambam believed Moshiach could come back from the dead.

Theoretically, one of the people Hashem resurrected in the past could have gone on to fulfill the job requirements of Moshiach. Theoretically, Hashem could certainly resurrect anyone of His choosing, who might proceed to do the same. Theoretically Hashem could turn an octopus into a human being, who would do the same. So what? The only discussion among Chazal – which is essentially one brief source that appears in several places – is whether Hashem might actually do this. That's it.

Contrary to Lieberman's grafting experiment, the Rambam is not promoting the idea that Moshiach can or would come back from the dead. Were the Rambam alive today, he would certainly not support the Rebbe-is-Moshiach cultists – he would be one of their most outspoken detractors.

Although Lieberman is careful to leave the Lubavitcher Rebbe out of his book, he and his cohorts insist the Rebbe fulfilled the requirements of Moshiach as outlined by the Rambam. Granted, he did not build the Beis Hamikdash in its place (or even in 770) or gather the dispersed of Israel. Hence, the Rambam would not declare the Rebbe is certainly Moshiach – though, oddly, so much of Chabad does just that, in clear violation of the very Rambam they cherry-picked.

However, they argue, the Rebbe has earned the chazakah of being Moshiach; in other words, we should assume that he is Moshiach until proven otherwise. On what basis? He was a big tzaddik who inspired and taught Torah to many people, and led many Chabad emissaries around the world who followed his mission.

Although the Rebbe did not fight any physical wars – as the books of our prophets and words of Chazal consistently indicate he will do – this is no problem. They redefine “the wars of Hashem” to mean “the wars of Torah”, and apply this conveniently vague definition to the Rebbe.

Furthermore, they argue, the Rambam merely wrote that a presumed Moshiach could be disproven if he is killed. The Lubavitcher Rebbe died, but he was not killed, and thus he is still eligible to be Moshiach.

Not surprisingly, the Rambam was never understood this way by Torah-observant Jewry, and this tortured reading of his words is universally rejected outside of Chabad missionizing to this day.

But it gets worse. Even with their desperate attempts to contort the Rambam's words to suit their agenda, it still fails at the moat. The Rambam began this halacha by explicitly noting that the individual who earns the chazaka of being Moshiach would already be a king from the house of David – not merely a righteous and accomplished descendant. Although Chabadniks refer to the Rebbe as King Messiah, that has no halachic significance.

The Rambam further writes that this king will compel all of Israel to go in the ways of the Torah. This is in fact the primary responsibility of a king, and the proper use of his power. For all the Lubavitcher Rebbe's impressive accomplishments, he did not compel all of Israel, or most of Israel, or any significant part of Israel to do anything. He was a teacher, a leader of a Hasidic dynasty with many people who chose to follow him. His accomplishments are most impressive, but they did not qualify him as the presumptive Moshiach during his lifetime, and certainly not after his death.

The Rambam writes that if the presumptive Moshiach is killed, it is evidence that he is not the one promised by the Torah. The cultists make a big deal out of this choice of words. As Lieberman put it: “As is well established the Rambam is a Sefer Halachos. With each word chosen being meticulously precise.”

Well then, the Lubavitcher Rebbe wasn't killed! So he can still be Moshiach according to the Rambam!

In fact, Lieberman clarified his position to me as follows: “I believe based on Rambam hilchos melachim chapter 11 halacha 4 that the Rebbe is bchezkas Moshiach. Also all the reasons the Rebbe said and all the hints the Rebbe gave before he passed away that he WILL be the one to bring Geula ie he will perform all the messianic prophecies remain true even after his passing.”

It's important to underscore the intellectual dishonesty that is at play here. First Lieberman and his ilk redefine “fighting the wars of Hashem” and “compelling all of Israel to go in the ways of the Torah” to something very different than the plain meaning of the words. Just like that, the Rebbe is halachically the presumptive Moshiach.

One would have expected the Rambam to be more clear about something so fundamental, with such tremendous stakes for getting it wrong, but for some reason he engaged in poetic license when it came to outlining the job requirements of Moshiach.

Then the Rambam writes that if the presumptive Moshiach is killed, he is disproven. Ah, but the Rebbe wasn't killed! So he is still the presumptive Moshiach, and since Hashem can resurrect anyone He wishes at any time, we are halachically obligated to expect Him to resurrect the Rebbe as Moshiach, according to the Rambam.

According to these deceitful missionaries, the Rambam was being loose with his language when it came to describing Moshiach's requirements, but when he said the actual Moshiach would not be killed, he was being being “meticulously precise”, as Lieberman puts it, excluding any other form of death.

These “scholars” alternately redefine words and hold them to the strictest of readings – in the same source! – to torture support for their conclusions. It is the height of intellectual dishonesty.

The Rambam refers to the death of a potential Moshiach in terms of his being killed because in the preceding halacha he discusses the historical case of Bar Kochba. The sages of the time presumed that he was Moshiach “until he was killed due to his sins. Once he was killed, it was known that he was not [Moshiach].”

Bar Kochba fought the wars of Hashem, in literal terms, and his initial success led many to believe that he was Moshiach. He was killed in battle, and his death left no further room for doubt. There is no reason to infer that a heart attack or illness leading to his death instead would have continued to render him the presumptive Moshiach – or even a potential Moshiach – according to the Rambam.

The Rambam later uses the same language – being killed – as opposed to a passive form of death simply because a presumptive Moshiach must fight actual wars to prove himself, and the most famous presumptive Moshiach in our history who the Rambam was just writing about was killed. That's it.


More Deceptions

In his emails to me, Lieberman drew support from the fact that Rabbi Akiva proclaimed Bar Kochba to be Moshiach as support to proclaim the Lubavitcher Rebbe is Moshiach. He considers this a “precedent” for such conduct. Lieberman disregards the fact that this turned out to be a tragic error, disregards the numerous other tragic examples of false Messiahs in subsequent generations, and marches ahead with conviction.

Even more bizarrely, he wrote to me as follows: “As mentioned if the yeshivos of rebbi Shiloh yannai and chanina were around today they would be saying in essence the same thing. Or to put it in other words Lubavitch today is saying in essence the same thing as the yeshivos of rebbi Shiloh yannai and chanina as recorded in Bavli medrash and yerushalmi.”

This is a spurious claim, as discussed earlier, but Lieberman stands firmly by it. Obviously all these dead Rebbeim cannot be Moshiach. Based on the requirements of the Rambam, it is implausible that all of them could simultaneously be the presumptive Moshiach. Even during their lifetimes, none of them ever were. It is unclear why only heavily biased students of a particular Rebbe would be able to recognize that he fulfills the objective requirements of the Rambam.

None of this makes any sense.

It is certainly not a mainstream view of Chazal or the Rambam, let alone widespread, as Lieberman claims, nor have those who adopted these or similar views brought any good to the Jewish people – only great confusion and harm.

Lieberman also repeated many times that we should not make machlokes over this, and claimed that he wrote his book to “increase peace and unity among our holy nation”. This too is a deceitful tactic to disarm legitimate opposition to those who distort the Torah, engage in practices that are antithetical to the Torah, and mislead numerous people down a cultish path.

There is nothing wrong with machlokes; the Talmud is filled with them on every page! We are supposed to argue for the sake of Torah and truth, and we are especially supposed to rebut those who hijack the Torah from within our ranks. Allowing intellectually dishonest people to distort the Torah and missionaize unopposed for the sake of “peace and unity” would be a catastrophic mistake, and would lead to neither peace nor unity in the end, besides.

Lieberman referred to this machlokes as “unnecessary” and asked me to help put an end to it. With Hashem's help, my efforts here will accomplish that, though likely not in the way Lieberman has in mind.

I asked Lieberman why, according to his belief, the Lubavitcher Rebbe needs a worldwide marketing campaign before he comes back, with massive amounts of money and effort poured into it. He ducked the question several times before finally responding as follows:

“That's not something I feel is my expertise. You can ask that of any chasid of the Rebbe. The answer you will likely receive is the Rebbe gave brochos for such a campaign.”

I asked Lieberman why he can't quietly wait for the Lubavitcher Rebbe to prove himself more definitively, as we would expect Moshiach to do without his help.

He responded as follows:

Different communities appear to have different customs as to this question's answer. Please see Radak to Shmuel 24:25 that says we should demand Moshiach. Please also see the Chofetz Chaim maamar Tzipisa l'yeshua which also states we should actively demand Moshiach. Many similar statements were made by the Rebbe to take a more proactive approach to demanding the Geulah. Also Rambam brings l'halacha that Rebbi akiva would carry the kaylim of bar kochba. Ie rambam is telling us we should help Moshiach carry out his mission.

Lieberman's response would not pass the critical review of a schoolchild.

1. This is not a matter of custom.

2. Radak at the end of Shmuel does not say that we should “demand Moshiach”. He writes that we are supposed to beseech Hashem to rebuild the Beis Hamikdash, and that our elders and prophets established for us to pray to Hashem three times a day to return His shechina and kingdom to Zion. We are certainly not “demanding” this of Hashem in the shemoneh esrei.

Radak uses the word “tav'oo” prior to this, which literally refers to making a claim in monetary cases, but it certainly does not refer to making demands of Hashem in the context of prayer. It means asking for something that we need Hashem to provide for us.

Furthermore, in the famous Gemara about the three oaths in Kesubos 111A and Shir HaShirim Rabba 2:7, Chazal specifically warn us not to “force the end”. One way of attempting to force the redemption, as explained by Rashi, is to pray “too much” for it. Demanding Moshiach would certainly be a violation of this warning, which we know from Chazal and our history brings catastrophic results.

3. The Chofetz Chaim he cites also makes no mention of demanding Moshiach, which is understandable, because the Chofetz Chaim was faithful to Chazal. The Chofetz Chaim simply encouraged people to increase their mitzvos and good deeds, and look forward to the coming of Moshiach.

4. Lieberman's vague references to statements of the Lubavitcher Rebbe carry no weight.

5. Lieberman's claim that the Rambam held it was halacha to model our behavior after Rabbi Akiva's support of Bar Kochba – with no regard for the tragic result – is both a fabrication and downright insane.

Further demonstration that Lieberman's whitewashing of Rebbe-is-Moshiach cultism is based on intellectual dishonesty, deception, and egregious distortions would be superfluous. But there is one final matter that should be brought to public awareness.

Lieberman makes a big deal of the fact that his book received letters of approbation and “good feedback” from various rabbis, including “several Litvishe and YU Rebonim”. In our correspondence he repeatedly fell back on that, as if these letters are a bulletproof vest.

If this was intended to impress or intimidate me, it had the opposite effect.

A look at these letters is revealing. Lieberman did something I have never seen before. At the bottom of each page with a letter, he cherry-picked a positive line from the letter. For example, Rabbi Breitowitz wrote that “his careful and thorough analysis deserves to be part of legitimate Torah discussion”. (I disagree with Rabbi Breitowitz's assessment of the quality of Lieberman's analysis, but so be it.)

In the letter, however, Rabbi Breitowitz also noted that “there are certainly some shittos that reject” Lieberman's preferred position. In his book, Lieberman contradicts that, and in fact goes to great pains to try to prove otherwise.

After a letter from Rabbi Zef Leff, Lieberman cherry-picked the following line: “I feel compelled to … acknowledge that there are definitely bonafide Torah sources supporting this idea.” Rabbi Leff also wrote that “there are definitely sources that reject it” and that “this in no way impacts any specific use of this idea [that Moshiach can return from the dead] to apply to any specific person or situation or support or advocate any specific application of this concept.”

Upon reviewing Lieberman's work and corresponding with him at length, I believe it was poor judgment for these rabbis to offer any support for his book. However, even the support they offered was lukewarm and circumscribed.

Another letter, far more effusive in its praise, comes from Yosef Braun, a Chabad “rabbi” from Crown Heights, whose disgraceful, corrupt “rulings” during the Covid era disqualify him as a teacher of Torah or someone whose guidance can be trusted. Not surprisingly, Braun writes that Lieberman “amply demonstrates that Moshiach coming from the deceased is not only a veritable possibility but was also a ubiquitous belief during the times of Chazal and thereafter...”

I don't expect my critique of Lieberman's work to convince him or any Rebbe-is-Moshiach cultists. Only Hashem can get through to them, and even then only to the extent that their free choice allows. But I hope the rest of the Jewish people – and even gentiles – who are confused, misled, and disarmed by these missionaries and their religious propaganda will see the truth. I further hope that true rabbis and scholars will be emboldened to counter these missionary activities for the welfare of Klal Yisrael.

May we merit the redemption soon. Until then, may we protect ourselves from deceivers who lead us astray.



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