Mistreating People

A few years ago, in a hilarious episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” the comedian Larry David bought scalpers’ tickets to his congregation’s High Holy Day services, and was kicked out when his subterfuge was discovered. Nothing that dramatic happened to a friend of mine who wished to attend services last year, but he also had an unpleasant experience with a large congregation.

My friend, who moved to Westchester several years ago, is not a regular shul-goer, but had always gone to High Holy Day services in the city. In his first year in the suburbs, he called a large local Conservative congregation — his denominational preference — and was told that he could have tickets that year at a nominal fee, but if he wished to attend the following year he would have to join the congregation. He was out of the country the following year, so when he returned the year after that, he phoned to ask if he might pay a more substantial fee for his seats this time but not yet become a congregation member. He had not made up his mind about membership. The response he received was a snappish, “You cannot come here again without joining,” and a loud click of the receiver. One or two other large synagogues in his area also informed him in no uncertain terms that he had to be a member to get tickets.

-Francine Klagsbrun
Special to the Jewish Week
“Synagogues Should Be More Welcoming”
The Jewish Week

That sounds terrible. In fact, the whole process of buying tickets to the High Holy Days services probably seems strange and alien to most Christians. After all, it’s not like we have to buy tickets to get seats at Christmas or Easter services in a church (although I must admit, I haven’t commemorated either event or worshiped in a church setting for many years). And yet, the synagogue model raises funds in a very different manner than the church and purchasing an annual membership to a synagogue as well as buying tickets for special events like Passover or the High Holy Days is perfectly normal and reasonable.

But what about the situation described by Klagsbrun? Is this what God really intended? Is this how a synagogue welcomes a Jew into its midst for worship and to honor God? If the person in question had held a membership to the synagogue, it wouldn’t be a problem. But just as some Christians only attend church on Easter, some Jews only go to shul for the High Holidays. No one bars the door to the “annual Christian” but why should a “three day a year Jew” not be able to worship because of lack of “membership?”

Of course, there are always options.

Put off by those responses he called the local Chabad office, ordinarily a sect foreign to his liberal religious and social outlooks. The rabbi who answered the phone greeted him cordially and invited him to attend all the holiday services with no payment. When he did, he received a warm welcome from the rabbi and his assistant. And when he became ill and did not show up for Yom Kippur, the rabbi later called his home to inquire after him. Although my friend missed the more intellectual atmosphere of a Conservative synagogue, he enjoyed the enthusiasm and inclusiveness of the Chabad service. Needlessly to say, he sent an unsolicited check to Chabad after the holidays. It was the money he had offered to pay for tickets to the large suburban synagogue.

No, this isn’t my advertisement for the Chabad and that also was not Klagbrun’s intent when writing her article. For many Reform and Conservative Jews, entering the world of the Chabad is about as comfortable as a visit to the surface of the Moon without the benefit of a spacesuit. A large number of Jews consider the Chabad “cult-like, with its mysticism, messianism, and adulation of the Rebbe” (so if you as a Christian have issues with the Chabad, you’re not alone). But they are doing one thing right. They are welcoming the so-called “three days a year” Jew into their midst the way (forgive me if this next part offends you) that a church would welcome an errant Christian, seeker, or wandering atheist through their doors.

Klagsbrun suggests that it is time for “synagogues to rethink some of their policies, add flexibility, reach out to the unaffiliated, and then take more pride than ever in what a religious New Year really means.” I don’t often go out of my way to be critical of Judaism, but I am also aware that no people group and no religious faith is perfect or has the corner market on righteousness. To my way of thinking, the “welcomeness” of the church (whatever faults it may possess) is generally more aligned with the will and wisdom of God and the spirit of the Messiah than the examples of the synagogue Klagsbrun brings forth. And yet, even during some of Judaism’s darkest hours, God’s response to His “straying sheep” is not condemnation, but compassion.

By the time Moses returned to the scene, his people had hit an all-time low. They worshipped idols, spoke slanderously of each other, and had wandered very far from the path of their forefathers. Perhaps he should have told them off, saying, “Repent, sinners, lest you perish altogether!”

But he didn’t. Instead, he told them how G-d cared for them and felt their suffering, how He would bring about miracles, freedom and a wondrous future out of His love for them.

As for rebuke, Moses saved that for G-d. “Why have you mistreated your people?!” he demanded.

If you don’t like the other guy’s lifestyle, do him a favor, lend him a hand. Once you’ve brought a few miracles into his life, then you can urge him to chuck his bad habits.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Rebuke”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
Chabad.org

I am sometimes treated to a view of our local Reform and Chabad synagogues, their members, and their Rabbis, as seen through my wife’s eyes and experiences. No one is perfect. Everyone has flaws. Some of the events that occur within the Chabad are less than attractive or appealing. And yet to read words of wisdom and beauty that are inspired by the Rebbe are a joy that reminds me of the grace of Jesus. As I mentioned in yesterday’s “morning meditation”, God is writing on all our hearts and there is something of the Divine in each of us. Rather than rebuking our neighbor for his shortcomings, we should show our love and grace, even as God has shown love, grace, and mercy to us.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. –John 3:16 (ESV)

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10 thoughts on “Mistreating People”

  1. Everything Chabad says is calculated to undermine Yeshua’s teachings.

    You quoted Freeman who said:

    “Perhaps he should have told them off, saying, “Repent, sinners, lest you perish altogether!” But he didn’t. Instead, he told them how G-d cared for them and felt their suffering, how He would bring about miracles, freedom and a wondrous future out of His love for them.

    This is a subtle attack on the teachings of Yeshua. For example, see Matthew 4:17:

    “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

    It’s easy for Chabad to seduce those who have either been hurt by Christians or by Messianic Jews. They reach out and say “we will accept you where others have rejected you.” And time and time again we see how former Believers, after joining the ranks of Chabad, publicly denounce Yeshua.

    What is loving about teaching Jews to hate their own Messiah?

    Their message of love is a lie. And any Believer who is willing to spend one nanosecond alone with a Chabad Rabbi is walking into a trap. If any Believer wants to witness to a Chabad Rabbi—word to the wise–go in twos. Always have an Elder with you. Don’t gamble with eternity. It’s not worth it.

  2. Although there are things that the Chabad can be rightly criticized for, I believe the door swings both ways. The Chabad can be very rigid in terms of expectation and how to follow halachah, so it’s not like they’re “loosey-goosey” regarding standards. Also, many churches are incredibly accepting of others and tend to water down the behavioral expectations we see in the Bible so that they can fill their pews and their collection plates.

    When you say it’s easy for the Chabad to seduce those who have been hurt by Christianity, the Chabad believes that Christianity uses the same ploy to seduce Jews to abandon Judaism and convert to the church. This seems to be something of an “eye of the beholder” situation, with each side making the same accusations against the other.

    I’m not sure you can accurately say that the Chabad’s “message of love is a lie.” How do you know what a Chabad Rabbi feels when a Jew who abandoned any spiritual connection to God decades ago enters his synagogue? Maybe the Rabbi really does experience love and compassion for that person. Maybe the Chabad Rabbi really does want to offer the “wandering” Jew an anchor and a home in their religious and cultural experience.

    Chabad Rabbis (or any other Rabbi) aren’t interested in seducing Christians away from Jesus. They really aren’t particularly concerned with Christians on that level and would just as soon that believers stay out of Chabad synagogues. The Chabad is focused on reaching the secular or apostate Jew and returning that Jew to the Torah and to God.

    I agree that the Chabad seems to have a special problem with Christianity, more so than other branches of Judaism, as we see in their extreme prejudice against Rabbi Shmuley’s soon-to-be-published book Kosher Jesus, so there may be some basis for your “issues” with the Chabad. That said, I cannot condemn any specific branch of Judaism or Christianity out of hand simply because their views differ from my own.

  3. Peter,

    By what you right it is obvious you never attended a Chabad Synagogue. You have no right to judge people until you sit where they sit.

    You need to read the book: The Rebbe’s Army,(inside the world of Chabad-Lubavitch) by Sue Fishkoff. and compare them to Jesus professing so-called Christians….

  4. Dan,

    I only know what Chabad has done to my friends. I only know that my friends professed Yeshua one day and then after immersing themselves in Chabad they deny Yeshua.

    -Peter

  5. “Chabad Rabbis (or any other Rabbi) aren’t interested in seducing Christians away from Jesus.”

    James, was it a coincidence then what happened to my friends?

  6. I don’t know the situation with your friends, Peter. I have no idea who they are.

    I do know that a number of Christians and non-Jewish “Messianics” sometimes attend classes and worship at the Chabad in my community. Gentile Christians are generally welcome as long as they don’t try to evangelize the Jewish people at shul. I do know that some believers tend to get really involved in the teachings of the Chabad, but assuming they’re adults, they have the power to make informed decisions about their religious belief systems and whether or not to allow themselves to be influenced. I know Christians who have joined Messianic/One Law congregations who eventually lost faith in Jesus and transitioned to a more traditional Jewish synagogue, eventually even converting to Judaism.

    I seriously doubt you can “blame” the Chabad in specific and Jews in general for this. Judaism actually discourages Gentiles (including Christians) from converting, so your friends would have had to overcome a lot of resistance from the Chabad Rabbi (even more than if they converted in another branch of Judaism) to be accepted as converts.

    It seems as if you are terribly hurt and angry about what happened to your friends, but they probably made a conscious and deliberate decision about abandoning faith in Christ and converting to Judaism. Believe me, Chabad Rabbis want as little to do with converting Christians (and even less to do with “Messianics”) as possible. It’s just not their focus.

  7. Peter,

    The way I see it with your friend and other believers who are going to Chabad, is that go there because they are beguiled by Judaism, not because they want to know the truth. In that case it only takes a little nudge for them to deny Yeshua so they can done Chasidic garb, the black hat and robe.

    Chabad lead by example, not by persuasion.

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