Chabad Excommunications

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Over on FailedMessiah, the indispensable site for tracking the dark side of Orthodox Judaism, Shmarya Rosenberg has a new post up on one Israeli Chabad rabbi’s excommunication of some colleagues for violating certain halachic ordinances as an element of their belief in the messianic status of Chabad-Lubavitch’s late rebbe, Menachem Schneerson. This is not the only recent case of antinomian behavior in the Land of Lubavitch, and harks back to the wholesale antinomianism of the notorious failed messiah of the 17th century, Shabtai Tzvi.

Rosenberg, who was profiled by Sam Freedman in the NYT a couple of weeks ago, concludes by likening the situation to the split between those early followers of Jesus who hewed to Jewish law and those who didn’t. At the moment, the Chabad antinomians seem pretty marginal–but then the rebbe has only been dead for 16 years–roughly where the Jesus followers were in the year 50. Normally, Chabad is seen by outsiders as comprised of messianists and non-messianists. What Rosenberg suggests is that it’s rather a case of openly messianist antinominans and crypto-messianists. If we’re on the Christian time clock, it’ll take a few decades to get this sorted out.