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Response to Critique - Chapter 4 Part 3
Critique

By Gil Student

Possible Future Moshiach

Critic:
Once again the author is citing a Midrash as a sign of the universal principals common among all Jewish texts. But just as before, he fails to prove that the information contained here in fact has this consensus. The author of this particular passage may well have had an isolated opinion that once someone dies he will not be Moshiach, but this does not rule out other acceptable positions.

Response:
The author is attempting to demonstrate that there is no basis whatsoever for the claim that a dead person can become Moshiach. In line with this stated assumption, he quotes a midrash that implies as much. The critic’s argument that this midrash might be an isolated opinion is meaningless. Until evidence is submitted of such another opinion, there is no basis at all to suggest that it exists. Indeed, the thrust of the entire book is that no such opinion can be found in traditional rabbinic literature!

Critic:
But even this is not necessary, the Midrash may simply be saying that Jacob at first thought that Samson would be Moshiach in his own lifetime, and then when he saw he would die, he despaired.

Response:
The critic attempted to offer an alternate explanation of the Midrash but merely reiterated exactly what the author had said. The question remains why did Jacob despair when he saw that Samson would die and, furthermore, why did Jacob say that salvation lay with G-d? The clear implication is that salvation lay with G-d and not with man because the proposed Moshiach, Samson, died and would no longer be the savior.

Critic:
It is clear from the author's argument that he is taking for granted the assumption that the Rebbe did not already fully become Moshiach.

Response:
Finally, something upon which the author and the critic fully agree!

Critic:
Putting that aside, let us take a more calculated look at the case of Nachmanides. He was faced with the assertion, backed by biblical evidence, that Jesus is certainly Moshiach, and was prompted to validate his rejection of that theory. To this he responded that Jesus had not efficiently achieved that status, and that the evidence being produced was not sufficient to warrant the conclusion that he is the savior predicted by the prophets. Nachmanides did not address the possibility that Jesus might be Moshiach in the future, all he said was that since Jesus did not reach the complete manifestation of Moshiach, he is not -- at this time -- Moshiach. No argument was put forward in this debate that Jesus, or any other dead man, could never ultimately be Moshiach.

Response:
This is quite an unbelievable argument. In order to understand the critic’s error, let us clarify what the Christian claim is. The critic suggests that Christian’s believe that Jesus is Moshiach and the Ramban was arguing that he is not because he did not bring in the Messianic Era. He might still be in the future, but he is not currently Moshiach. Aside from the sheer implausibility that the Ramban would offer such an argument to Moshiach, this idea contains a basic misunderstanding of the Christian claim.

Christians believe that the Messianic Era has not yet begun but will commence upon Jesus’ second coming. Thus, they believe Jesus has not yet even begun fufilling what we consider to be the basic qualifications for being Moshiach, bringing in the Messianic Era. Were the Ramban to say to his Christian debater that Jesus cannot be currently labeled Moshiach because he has not yet brought in the Messianic Era but he might still do so in the future, he would be completely capitulating in the debate and the Christian would have immediately claimed victory. It is quite clear that the Ramban was saying that because he died before bringing the Messianic Era Jesus cannot be Moshiach, not that he is not currently but might in the future be Moshiach.

Critic:
The author brings another source … This is a philosophical work called Sefer ha-Bris…. In this case, the author of the work is not a universally accepted figure. He may have had personal beliefs that are not shared by all of the traditional Jewish creeds.

Response:
Again, the author is trying to demonstrate that there is no concept in Judaism of a resurrected person becoming Moshiach. Any and every reference is relevant.

Critic:
All he says is that if the man dies then he is not Moshiach. This does not preclude the possibility of him being Moshiach on the future.

Response:
This is hardly a plausible argument. It is actually a way of twisting written words to mean the opposite of what they say. The source quoted says that someone who dies is not Moshiach and the critic takes those words and twists them to mean that the deceased might very well be Moshiach. This writer considers it an incorrect and dishonest reading of very straightforward words.

Critic:
One issue is the author's very conclusion that the Rebbe is maintaining that a dead man cannot be being Moshiach -- there is already an alternate interpretation to this lecture which suggests otherwise. Rabbi Yoel Kahn… has explained this statement to be referring exclusively to the verse.

Response:
We invite all to investigate this issue by reading carefully the text discussed. This is not the place for a detailed technical discussion of this sicha. However, the author stands by his interpretation despite Rabbi Yoel Kahn’s dissent. Rabbi Kahn has placed great emotional stock in the messiahship of the Rebbe and perhaps that has forced him into implausibly reinterpreting this sicha to allow the Rebbe to still be Moshiach. While we feel for his need we cannot accept his explanation.

Critic:
The Rebbe is making a particular argument for the point of this lecture, but there is no indication that this is his standard world view.

Response:
This is simply incorrect. In other words, “Perhaps the Rebbe only said it theoretically but did not really mean it”. On what basis can one dismiss the Rebbe’s clear words?

Critic:
In fact, the footnote begins with the suggestive tone "Apparently one must say...," clearly indicating that this is not a sure conclusion but a hypothesis that the Rebbe is choosing to accept here.

Response:
A more accurate translation is that “We are forced to say…” The Rebbe is not choosing to accept the hypothesis. Rather, he believes that we are forced to accept it.

Closing Remarks

Critic:
The author asserts that referring to the Rebbe as "our Creator" is pure idolatry. The author claims that, though they are few, there are those who take such statements literally. He adds that if one bows to the Rebbe in prayer he has committed a capital transgression.

Response:
The author intentionally left this reference vague. There are some who are undoubtedly guilty of turning the Rebbe into an idol and many others whose status is still in question. This has been confirmed to the author by world reknowned poskim and a letter to author from R’ Aharon Feldman, the dean of the famous Ner Israel Rabbinical College, stating as much is posted on the author’s website.

Critic:
While it is true that someone bowing to the Rebbe thinking that the Rebbe is God is in grave violation of Jewish law, this is not quite the same as someone bowing to God thinking that God is the Rebbe.

Response:
This statement is so confused that this writer is hesitant to take it at face value. One would prefer to assume that the critic has misspoken than to accept his words as written.

Critic:
In fact, there are many similar references, equating man and God, throughout the universally accepted Jewish literature.

Response:
From reading these words one would think that the critic is unaware of those who interpret biblical and rabbinic statements overly literally in support of many heresies, even to the extent of actual apostasy. The reader, and the critic, is directed to the first book of Maimonides’ Guide to the Perplexed to understand such references in light of traditional Jewish philosophy.

Genug shoin. Life is too short to spend reading and responding to the critic. If this isn't sufficient to convince readers that the critic is mistaken then nothing will be.


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© 2003 Gil Student