Sunday, July 4, 2010

My Rant on Igros Voodoo, by Shoshanna Silcove

The Igros-voodoo practice would never have been tolerated while the Rebbe was still in this physical world. The Rebbe's secretariat (closest aides) were completely committed to ensuring that the Rebbe’s words were never misinterpreted. They knew that with each communication (written or verbal) of the Rebbe, that they had to check every nuance and detail, every single word, and every single punctuation, to be certain it would mean exactly what the Rebbe wanted it to mean. The Rebbe was known to get extremely angry when anyone tried to ‘put words into his mouth’. To do so, even inadvertently, would be considered the ultimate chutzpah. If this was so while the Rebbe was here in this physical world, how much more so now when the Rebbe is not here to defend himself against those who portend to speak for him?

Those people who walk around claiming to have clear and specific instructions from the Rebbe post-Gimel Tamuz (the Jewish date the Rebbe passed away in 1994) are sorely misguided. They do not understand how the Rebbe functioned. For forty years the Rebbe stood for hours in all kinds of harsh conditions, day in and day out at the Ohel (the gravesite of the previous Rebbe in Queens , NY, now of the Rebbe too)answering a neverending stream of petitioners. Yet he treated each and every letter as if they were the only one. And when the Rebbe answered a person, he connected with that person’s neshoma at that point in time. He looked into each individual’s soul and saw its roots. He brought down blessings and even performed miracles specifically for each separate soul. The Rebbe never once suggested or even hinted that the Igros were interchangeable. This was so even when, as it explains in the introduction of the Igros (book of letters) entitled, ‘The Letter and the Spirit”, the Rebbe becamse utterly overburdened and pressed for time that he had to develop a supernatural method of reading a letter and answering a letter simultaneously. This was so even though the Rebbe was obsessed with the difficulties of his time management situation, he never once directed us to to go to his Igros instead of going directly to him. In fact, remarkably, as his huge work load increased the Rebbe made himself even more accessible to each and every one of us! How much easier it would have made the Rebbe’s life if he had told us to go find out answers in his Igros and just leave him alone. Why didn’t he?

The answer to that had to do with how a Rebbe relates to his flock in this world. Each and every person has a unique and personal relationship with the Rebbe. Each soul is connected to his soul, the neshoma klalis, or general soul. That is why the Rebbe would never make his answer to one Jew be the same answer to another.

For instance, the answer I received from the Rebbe in 1986 was an answer the Rebbe gave to my soul after looking deeply into the root of my soul. How could Ploni ben Ploni come along and find my answer in a book and claim it for himself? Ploni ben Ploni is a different neshoma. He cannot take my letter, he cannot replace my particular relationship I have with my Rebbe. Take your hands off my answer, do not try to steal it, it is mine and mine alone!

Ah, but Ploni ben Ploni says don’t you believe in hashgacha protis (Divine Providence)? If he had the same issue as me and he put a letter in the Igros that seems to uncannily relate to his problem, isn’t this a definite sign the Rebbe is answering him? To that I answer yes, and no. Yes, I believe in hashgacha protis, but does that mean I understand enough to know what it means? Does that mean that I can have the unadulterated gall to speak for the Rebbe?

And what of Ploni ben Ploni’s subjectivity? What about the fact that Ploni ben Ploni put the letter into the Igros many times until he could ‘see’ the Rebbe’s answer to him? He is not on the level of a Rebbe so how can he portend to interpret words for the Rebbe?

Ploni ben Ploni does not really want a Rebbe. No, Ploni ben Ploni is looking for something else, something much more exciting to him, more tantalizing, something that will dazzle him, something like Merlin the Magician, so he can say ooooh, and aaaaahhh to his friends, want to know what the Rebbe answered me from the Igros today? Ooooh, ahhh, I am such a spiritual person, I can tell you what the Rebbe means.

For Ploni ben Ploni the Rebbe need never have existed. For Ploni ben Ploni the Rebbe need never had spent forty years in total and complete mesiras nefesh for klal yisroel (the Jewish nation), suffering in pain on tired feet, with ageing bones, day after day, in the frozen winter and stifling summer, in hail, rain and snow, while standing at the Ohel answering each and every single Yid individually. Ploni ben Ploni doesn’t need a Rebbe, not at all, because a Rebbe doesn’t make him feel good, and for Ploni ben Ploni feeling good, and not the truth, is what Yiddishkeit is all about while the Rebbe is merely a footnote.

Rant over, that felt so good.


The Repenting Jewess said...

It's me, Shoshanna just testing out my comment thingh

Anonymous said...

Subject: "magical" influences on halacha

If one learns the Hilchot Avodah Zarah of the Rambam with the
commentary Yad Peshuta, one realises that the prohibitions of nichush, divination, necromancy, astrology, black cats, tea leaves, birds twittering,throwing dice, tiles falling off roofs, etc. etc. are all based on the same mistake (to put it mildly)!

Hashem created man with freewill and this involves making (sometimes
difficult) choices and accepting responsibility for those choices and living with the consequences.

Many people will not or cannot accept personal responsibility for their lives and prefer to place the responsibility on some external force of chance. By doing so, they are denying their humanity and opposing the
nature of God's creation and that is the ultimate avodah zarah.

In this age of rationalism and high tech we have seen the growth of interest in "kabbala", mysticism, cults, mind altering drugs - all as way of avoiding taking personal responsibility and making rational sometimes hard choices.

There are entire "ologies" including sociology and psychology to explain why no person is responsible for his or her actions.

Some people even misuse and abuse the term "daas Torah" (see the
essay on daas Torah - what is it? in the Sefer Darkah shel Torah of Rav Nachum Rabinovitch) to avoid making decisions.

Meanwhile, in the real world, there are no shortcuts in Torah study and the practise of it's mitzvot, nor any way to avoid making choices and living with those choices.


Rabbi Meir Wise, London

The Repenting Jewess said...

I believe that when I go to the Ohel and ask the Rebbe for bruchas/guidance that he does answer me in a sense. I will look for that answer within myself and sometimes I may feel I can ascertain that Hashem is giving me a siman or a sign. This is entirely different, however, from claiming to have a direct, detailed, and clear directive from the Rebbe that I myself derived from his book of letters. No one can reliably claim such. Most of the Igros whopper stories I hear I merely discount.


joe said...

Why are you "asking" the Rebbe for bruchas and guidance especially after he passed away?
You should be praying to Hashem, though the resting place of a tzadik is an auspicious place.
just my opinion

The Repenting Jewess said...

Of course each and every Yid has a direct connection to Hashem and prays directly to Him. Chabad Chassidim believe the Rebbe does intervene and gives our tefillot extra special strength, almost like the difference between a local train and an express. And Chassidus also teaches that a tzadik is still intervening on behalf of his flock even after his death, maybe even more so.

Anonymous said...


did you read the Shailos and Teshuvos from Posek Rov Menashe Klein?
lokk page 472 Siman 255

Shoshanna Silcove said...

Nu? Enlighten us who are not so scholarly or don't have access, what does it say?

Milhouse said...

We ask the Rebbe for brachos, and for him to intercede for us, just as we did when he was alive. Why would his passing change that? We do so just as Kolev and Yirmiyahu did to the Avos.

The Zohar says clearly that when we need rain we should take a sefer torah to the cemetery and ask those who lie there to alert those who lie in Chevron, and together to go above and ask Hashem to send us rain.

The same Zohar also says that a tzadik who passes away is present in all the worlds more than when he was alive.

Milhouse said...

Rabbi Wise, for thousands of years Jews have used goralos to get Divine guidance on decisions they need to make. This is basic Jewish behaviour, whatever the Rambam may have held. The Rambam was affected by the "accursed philosophy", and was unaware of the secrets of the Torah (at least until late in his life).

Milhouse said...

Shoshana, the Rebbe said that if you sincerely ask the previous Rebbe a question he will somehow manage to get an answer to you. For someone who honestly looks for that answer in the igros, what could be more logical than that the Rebbe would use that medium to get his message through? Of course one must be looking honestly, and not just trying things on for size.

The Repenting Jewess said...

Millhouse, because as I wrote, I believe that the letters from the Rebbe to a particular Yid are not interchangeable.

The Repenting Jewess said...

One of the main differences between Chabad and Chagas is that Chabad views miracles as they are couched in nature. I witnessed the Rebbe's supernatural powers and do not need to be convinced they existed and the Rebbe still performs miracles for us today. But there is no mesorah in Lubav for the Igros practice the way it is being done in Lubav today. There is no makor for it either. And there is more evidence to support the assertion that this practice is not kosher than there is to assert that it is. Furthermore, the Rebbe never directed us to do it, and there are no accounts of him doing it either. Moreover, the desperate manner in which these outlandish stories are publicized in the name of the Rebbe is not only embarrassing but besmirches the Rebbe's legacy.

Laaniyas Dayti said...

Two stories are relevant here.

A gentleman came for his first session with a psychiatrist. First session is an evaluation.
"You are perfectly OK," the shrink said, "so why did you come?"
"My wife convinced me to."
"Because I like pancakes."
"So what? I do too."
In a quiet conspiratorial voice "Then come over to my house, I have a whole attic full."
It is one thing for "thousands of years" people consulted by the goral method. (As a lecturer in history it would behoove me to add that it was hardly so. It happened at times.) People like pancakes. Very few make a religion/theology of them.

In the 1950's there was a family facing a tragedy, so they went to all the great Rebbe's of that time. They had a yeshuah and everything was miraculously set straight.
A chasid of one of the Rebbeim asked his Rebbe "So whose moyfays ("miracle") will it be called?"
"It will go down as that of the one who has the most chassidim," (presumably with magnified PR.)
"In truth," he continued, "it belongs to the Ribbono Shel Olam. But he has very few chassidim."

It is one thing for a yid to walk over to a bookshelf, take ANY holy sefer, and flip a page. If he has a clear answer, will he run back to see who the mechaber (author) is? And then say "Rashi told met to go now."
The iggros system is dangerous (yes, generationally speaking, dangerous) because of its specificity. Not only because of what it may become in a generation or 3. It is already taxing the crediblility of Lubavitcher youth (together with some of the other mantra-style mind-narrowing customs and beliefs). The exceptional breadth of Chabad chassidus (so broad that the Baal HaTanya had opposition from his Polish colleagues) has been narrowed down so seriously (arguably the most narrow belief system in the frum world) that it has (and will have) problems holding onto the next generation. Most unfortunately, the belief system - by definition - trashes other frum systems, so the exiting youth, in "getting a life" are not heading sideways, but rushing for the exit. With a sirtuk. (You better believe it. A big Mac on Shabbos in a sirtuk is no fantasy. There is a shul in Crown Heights where some have come in a sirtuk and car!)

In closing, for the inquiring mind, an early 20th century Italian psychiatrist (Assagioli) who included in his book, a similar system (without a book, but imagining speaking to a wise person). Nothing to do with kedusha, just a technique he offered to query the "inner soul" and/or the "deeper realms."

Anonymous said...

What does the fact that a specific letter addressed to someone gotta do with deriving directive from it?
If someone saw an event and derived directive from it, would you say, "How can you? After all, It's a specific event at a specific time, for a specific person". The answer is obvious. Because this person witnessed this event, it must've been orchestrated from above, that he did. If so, he is by all means permitted to derive direction.
The issues with the Igros, I think is as follows:
1a. It needs to be clarified if this is what the Rebbe would've wanted.
1b. Where is the Makor?
2. The Voodoo can definitely be attributed to those who play around with the answers until they get something they want, which totally defeats the purpose.
3. Can the Igros be viewed as "forcing the Rebbe's hand" into answering or not. (I think not, as it is possible for someone to get an answer that implies "no answer".

Anonymous said...

I am not advocating that reading a letter on the Igros can answer your question, but didn't the Rebbe say "all the answers have been given to all the questions". If all the answers were given to all the questions, then what does that mean?
Does this mean that we seek the answers from the Igros, or speak to our Rav or Rabbi to help direct us in the right way, through the general advice which has been given by the Rebbe over many years.

RJ said...

I challenge you to prove the Rebbe said that "all the answers have been given to all the questions". In fact, he did once say, 'Do not use my seforim as a gorel (lottery!)"

Mr Jew said...

When i got engaged/married, it was not long after the Rebbe was interred.
I was instructed by my Rabbi, to write a letter to the Rebbe and read it to my Rabbi, with which he responded with one of the standard answers that the Rebbe would give on such an occasion.

Today, it would be far better to get a response from a Rabbi, giving his Blessings and Advice, based on the Rebbe's teachings and specific to the individual(s) involved, rather than just take pot luck by reading a random letter from a book.

May we all merit to see Moshiach Speedily in our Days. In this way, we will all have clear answers to our questions.