I would like to start this post off with a snippet of an article I wrote back in 2006, ten years ago:
The rebbe was a charismatic man, no doubt about it. Of course, when you are leading a movement whose teachings are often unaccepted in mainstream orthodox Judaism, you need all the charisma you can get. One of the reasons for the rebbe’s popularity was that his teaching approach drew heavily from the kabbalistic teachings of Jewish mysticism, and he often used stories where “the heart fools the mind” to illustrate his teaching. The rebbe was also responsible for starting a very successful outreach program to non-observant Jews, for he taught a type of Judaism that was vital and alive, a Judaism for the soul rather than the dry legalistic Judaism that was taught by the mainstream rabbis, and he and his followers encouraged many Jews to follow his views of halacha. He also spoke about the Noahides, and how it was important to teach them the Torah. He started a successful outreach program to Noahides as well.
One of the things that the rebbe emphasized was that he and his followers were living in the generation of HaMashiach, and that every Jew should prepare for HaMeshiach’s coming by excelling in good deeds. As time passed, he stressed more and more the imminent coming of HaMeshiach, and his followers came to understand that he, their rebbe, was the Messiah. When the rebbe died without a clear successor, it only intensified the talk about him being the Messiah, and it was believed that he would soon resurrect and usher in the Messianic Age.
The name of this rebbe was Yeshua ben Yosef, a Jew who lived in Israel about 2000 years ago. After Yeshua’s death, his Jewish followers dwindled and eventually died out when it became obvious that he was not the promised Messiah. On the other hand, the Noahides who had been drawn into this new sect flourished, and they mistranslated and twisted the mystic teachings of Yeshua, creating a new religion that was based on the mystery teachings of Hellenistic Gnosticsm rather than rabbinic Judaism. The animosity that Yeshua had against mainstream Judaism was intensified by his Noahide followers, and this animosity greatly influenced the new religion. This new Gentile religion soon started teaching that their view of the Torah was the only correct view, and all the traditional Jewish rabbis were wrong, and that they alone had the “truth.” Only their teachers, who claimed they were disciples of Yeshua, could interpret the Torah correctly. Only their teachers, disciples of Yeshua, could properly teach the Noahides. The Noahides were instructed to listen to them and them alone.
Judaism produced other failed messianic Jewish leaders such as Bar Kochba, who actually did throw out the Romans for a brief time before the Romans returned in force and he and his movement were crushed. Over the centuries, other self-proclaimed “messiahs” used the teachings of kabbalah to obtain a following such as Solomon Molkho, Shabbetai Zevi, and Jacob Frank, and the misuse of mystical and kabbalistic teachings of these self-proclaimed “messiahs” led to disaster. Meanwhile, the Gentile religion that was supposedly founded on the teachings of Yeshua had morphed into the world’s greatest pagan religion, and its enmity and hatred towards traditional Judaism grew stronger throughout the centuries, and the suffering it caused the Jewish people became the stuff of legend.
The Noahide Movement has been hijacked by Messianic Judaism. It is ironic that the majority of the “Noahides” today fled Christianity only to subscribe to the teachings and leadership of Messianic Jews. Websites such as noahide.com, noahide.org and asknoah.com are all run by these Messianic Jews. Many of the Noahide books out on the market are written by rabbis who are in cahoots with the Messianic Jews, as are many of the small groups of Noahides out there who are directed by a rabbi who is also involved with this group.
The group is Chabad, called Lubovitch after the town in Russia where the movement started. I would like to start off saying that I am not against Chabad per se; the organization has done many positive things such as bringing many unobservant Jews back to observance as well as charity work (for example, sending kosher food to small Jewish communities behind the Iron Curtain). As far as the internal theological disagreements between Chabad and mainstream Orthodox Judaism, since I am not Jewish, I have no opinion. It is none of my business. However, because of their involvement with the Noahide Movement, dealing with Chabad on this issue has become my business.
Chabad is roughly analogous to Orthodox Judaism as to what Mormonism is to mainstream Protestant Christianity, a tremendously popular sect that differs on many of its theological views. For a non-Christian who talks to a Mormon and hears him talking about Jesus, they peg him for a Christian, oblivious to the subtleties of their theology. Same goes with Chabad; a Noahide sees a Chabad rabbi and thinks, “Okay, he’s an orthodox rabbi. I should listen to him.” This is the sort of gullible attitude that has gotten the Noahide movement into trouble. Since most Noahides do not understand the dynamics of the politics involved in Orthodox Judaism, they naïvely think that all rabbis are teaching what is best for the non-Jew. This is, of course, not true of all rabbis; there are many rabbis out there who have a genuine love and concern for Noahides. Chabad rabbis, however, have a different motive.
To better explain this, let me introduce you to Rabbi Dr. David Berger, dean of Yeshiva University’s Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies. Rabbi Berger is Modern Orthodox, a movement of Orthodox Judaism started by Rabbi Azriel Hildesheimer and Rav S. R. Hirsch. Aside from Rabbi Berger’s knowledge of Torah law, he is also a well-known writer and lecturer on the subject of Christian missionizing. He is also the author of a famous (or infamous, depending on your viewpoint) book about Chabad called The Rebbe, the Messiah and the Scandal of Orthodox Indifference. I would like to share with you a few quotes from this book.
“A large segment—almost certainly a substantial majority—of a highly significant Orthodox movement called Lubavitch, or Chabad, hasidism affirms that the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who was laid to rest in 1994 without leaving a successor, did everything subsumed under proposition 2 [that the Messiah will come and fulfill Messianic expectations] and will soon return to complete the redemption in his capacity as the Messiah.” Berger, p. 2
In other words, a good many Chabad think that the Rebbe will resurrect and return to fulfill Messianic expectations, a belief not unlike Christianity. Of course, you might think that this isn’t so bad—after all, the Chabad Jews don’t consider the Rebbe “God in the flesh” the way Christians view Jesus, right?
“A significant segment of this movement now declares openly that the Rebbe is not only the Messiah but God.” Berger, p. 89
Rabbi Schneerson has gone from being the Jewish Pope to haMoshiach to “the Essence and Being of God placed in a body.” That’s quite a promotion. It’s also become quite a problem, not only for Noahides but for Chabad and Orthodox Judaism in general. Not only is the messianification and deification of Rabbi Schneerson problematic for those Noahides and Jews who have to deal with smirking Christians (“Right idea, wrong Jew!”), it has caused a deep rift in Chabad to the point where fights have broken out at the famous 770 Headquarters in Brooklyn. We are not talking about heated arguments either—we are speaking of slam-bang fights, punches thrown, split lips, black eyes and broken bones. Of course, none of this gets back to the Noahides. All Noahides see are the smiling faces and friendly front put on by the Chabad rabbis.
“An English article in the journal Beis Moshiach characterized the Rebbe as the ‘Essence and Being of God enclothed in a body…omniscient and omnipotent,’ and emphasized that these are ‘neither wild exaggerations nor poetic parables.’ It concluded, ‘So who [is] Elokeinu?…The Rebbe, Meleha HaMoshiach, that’s who.’” Berger, p. 93
How does a Noahide know if the Chabad rabbi they are following is a messianist, or worse, one who thinks Rabbi Schneerson was God? The taciturn Chabad rabbis are reticent concerning this subject since the Noahide’s “inferior animal soul” is incapable of understanding the deep spiritual and mystical nuances of the Rebbe’s divinity.
“It is evident, then, that the belief that the Rebbe is literally God and that he should be the object of prayer has entered mainstream Lubavitch. In terminology of Jewish law, this is avodah zarah.” Ibid.
Isn’t this a major issue on why so many Christians left the Church and became Noahides in the first place? So why are Noahides following Chabad rabbis? It seems as if they are merely exchanging one divine Messiah for another.
“The most important principle is that no messianist should be treated as an Orthodox rabbi or functionary in good standing. No such person should be permitted to head or even serve on a rabbinical court…No messianist should serve as a communal or synagogue rabbi…no messianist should be appointed as Jewish Studies principal or teacher in an Orthodox yeshiva.” Berger, p. 143
This of course is Rabbi Berger’s opinion, but it’s a damn good opinion. The point is, why should messianic rabbis be teaching Noahides, most of whom came out of messianic Christianity? One of the major points Rabbi Berger makes in his book (as hinted at in the title) is that the other Orthodox rabbis are not paying much attention to Chabad. The Noahides are paying even less attention. Chabad has developed a doctrine that is at odds with not only the Noahide Law, but Judaism as well.
Let’s start off my looking at Chabad’s favorite Code, the Mishna Torah.
The main reason the Chabad hold the Mishna Torah in such high standing is because their interpretation of the Rambam is what they base their messianic claims upon.
“Maimonides (Rambam, 1138–1204) ruled that a king from the House of David attains the status of presumptive Messiah if he studies and observes the Torah assiduously, compels all Israel to follow it, and fights the word of the Lord…the Rebbe’s genuine achievements enabled many Chabad rabbinical courts in the nineties to issue what was labeled a legal ruling that he had met the Maimonidean criteria.” Berger, p. 9. Nevermind that the Rebbe did not bring all the Jews back to Eretz Yisrael and rebuild the Temple; for Chabad, he fulfilled the Rambam’s criteria to their satisfaction, and for many, he will finish the other minor things (Third Temple and total aliyah) when he “comes back.”
This certainly explains why important Noahide books by Chabad rabbis such as Path of the Righteous Gentile and The Divine Code are so heavily based on the Mishna Torah—according to Chabad, the Mishna Torah is the final word on Noahide Law, and Maimonides is what Chabad uses to support their beliefs about their Rebbe. There are other views and interpretations by other great rabbis, but Rambam’s views seem to be the only ones that count.
With so many Noahide groups under the direct influence of Chabad rabbis, it is no wonder that the Noahide Movement has been led down the wrong path. These rabbis tell Noahides not to read the primary source for Noahide Law—the Talmud (Sanhedrin 56a–60a in particular)—but to instead read the Tanya, the official Chabad philosophy and commentary to the Torah. Chabad rabbis teach Noahides that Maimonides is the ultimate authority on Noahide Law. Chabad rabbis tell Noahides that they are incapable of teaching Noahide Law themselves, save for those approved few who merely parrot the teachings of Chabad. This has a lot to do with why Noahides have not been taught how to think critically and figure out halakha for themselves.
It is high time Noahides come to their senses. Chabad is not doing the Noahide Movement any good. Yes, I know the Rebbe charged his followers to teach the Noahide law to the non-Jews. I also know that has a lot to do with Chabad’s belief that the Messianic redemption is nigh, and that Chabad seems to be setting up the Noahides to embrace their new Messianic religion. That sort of baggage we don’t need.