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Why We Would Defend “Fanaticism”
By Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Ginsberg

I once heard the following story about Rabbi Yosef Dovid Azulai, known as the Chida, at a Chassidishe farbrengen held during the Three Weeks.

Years ago there was a custom among Moroccan Jews, especially among the Moroccan nashim tzidkaniyos, that at precisely noon on Tisha B’Av they would commence with elaborate preparations to greet Moshiach.

[Tisha B’Av, as is known, is the time when “Malka Meshicha is born.” As the Rebbe MH”M shlita explains (see Volume 2 of Seifer HaSichos 5751, page 744), the meaning of the word “born” includes the concept of  Moshiach’s rising to greatness, particularly in spiritual greatness – “head and shoulders above the people” — in accordance with all the laws that define a Jewish king, as well as the quality of rav, also characteristic of Melech HaMoshiach. The Rebbe further explains in this sicha that “birth” does not refer to the actual time Moshiach is born (as an infant is not yet the “savior of Israel”), but rather, to Moshiach’s revelation as the Redeemer.]

In any event, at exactly chatzos on Tisha B’Av, the Moroccan Jewish women would take out their mops and pails and start scrubbing the house for the important guest due to arrive at any minute. Spices and fragrances would be strewn about to perfume the air. Taking the words of our Sages to heart, the women would get ready for Moshiach Tzidkeinu in the plainest and most literal way they could.

When the Moroccan rabbanim and community leaders learned of this custom, they reacted with a great hue and cry. What these women were doing was against the Shulchan Aruch! How could they wash the floor on Tisha B’Av, when one isn’t even allowed to touch water? Yes, they agreed, a Jew is supposed to anticipate Moshiach’s coming and pray for his arrival, but only in a manner permitted by Jewish law. The rabbanim began a campaign to eradicate this custom, and even succeeded in several locations.

One Tisha B’Av, the Chida was visiting a small village when he learned that this custom was still being practiced there. Resolving to do something about it, he ascended the bima in shul and delivered a special address.

“Dear Jews,” the Chida began, “I know that your intentions are good, and that you are only trying to express your emuna in Moshiach in the most tangible way possible. At the same time, as believing Jews, we are forbidden to deviate from halacha even a hairsbreadth. According to Jewish law, it is very doubtful that this custom is permitted, and it may even be forbidden. I am, therefore, appealing to you to tell your wives and daughters to refrain from it from now on. And in the same way that G-d has surely rewarded you for your good intentions, as you were unaware of the halacha, may He continue to reward you generously for abandoning the practice.”

The simple Moroccan Jews were very surprised by the Chida’s request. After all, cleaning the house on Tisha B’Av was something they had been doing their entire lives. Nonetheless, as religious folk, they were ready and willing to obey whatever the rav told them.

The Chida left the podium pleased that he had managed to remove a stumbling block from the local community. Then he overheard two women talking among themselves. “Did you hear what the rav said?” one woman asked the other incredulously. “He announced that Moshiach isn’t coming this year, so we don’t have to bother cleaning the house.”

The Chida was absolutely horrified. What had he done to damage the simple faith of these pure and holy nashim tzidkaniyos? Without hesitation he walked back to the bima and demanded everyone’s attention. “Rabosai,” he cried out. “Dear Jews! I apologize publicly and retract my former statement. It is true that there is a very big question about whether it is permissible to clean the house on Tisha B’Av. But if refraining to do so will in any way weaken your faith in the coming of Moshiach, it is far better to continue practicing your longstanding custom.”

(I have since heard from reliable sources that the custom continues until today in several communities, despite years of effort to eradicate it.)

* * *

The period of the Three Weeks emphasizes just how crucial it is to have true ahavas and achdus Yisroel as a prerequisite for the Geula. As the Rebbe Melech HaMoshiach explained on Shabbos Parshas Matos-Masei 5751:

“It should be added and stressed that the connection between ahavas Yisroel and the future Redemption is not only a means of nullifying the reason for exile, which was caused by the opposite of ahavas Yisroel. Rather, as we are now at the end of the entire service of the exile, having completed all ‘42 journeys through the wilderness of the nations,’ and are now ‘al Yarden Yereicho’ (a reference to the level of Moshiach, who is described as ‘morach vada’in’), on the very threshold of the Geula, there is no doubt that the cause for the Galus has already been corrected. Thus at present, the emphasis on ahavas Yisroel must be as a foretaste and beginning of the true and complete Redemption, which is associated with a unity that is above division, as emphasized in the unity of the Jewish people.”

There are several letters of the Rebbe shlita that discuss how true ahava and unity can be achieved. On the one hand, the Rebbe makes the point that it is not through making concessions on fundamental principles, because making concessions does not lead to true peace and unity; rather, it creates the potential for friction and dissention.  But, since there is a need to strengthen and encourage hiskashrus and emuna in our Rebbeim, nothing should be done that would lessen anyone’s hiskashrus, even if it is expressed too fervently.

* * *

In a letter addressed to Professor Avrohom Yitzchak Katz (Igros Kodesh, Volume 18), dated 28 Adar I 5719, the Rebbe writes:

“After begging your pardon, although I do not think that my words will surprise you, I must say that I do not agree with you. My reasoning is derived from the obvious need to maintain the unity of our people, concerning which I am sure we are in agreement. If our people’s unity was crucial throughout the ages, how much more so in our own times, which all agree is a period of crisis, when people are confused and values are being eroded. At such a time, concessions and the like are very dangerous, especially when new ideas and philosophies are popping up overnight.

“Regardless of the issue, whenever a person is considering adopting a particular approach, the thing to do is to look at that philosophy’s most radical statements, even if these statements are only accepted by a minority of its adherents. For fanaticism can radically emphasize and alter the direction of a given philosophy if not corrected in time.

“It, therefore, follows that all who cherish the unity of the Jewish people, even in non-religious circles, must defend that unity and do everything possible to avoid weakening it and making concessions. This is especially true given that anyone who considers the matter honestly will be forced to admit that concessions do not lead to peace and unity, but on the contrary, merely create the potential for constant friction and ever-increasing dissention.”

In another letter dated the first day of Rosh Chodesh Iyar 5720 (Igros Kodesh, Volume 19), written to Rabbi Zevin, the Rebbe discusses the need to strengthen hiskashrus, even if it seems too fanatical:

“Concerning what you wrote to me about the customs related to Hagba, etc., what emerges from your letter is that these customs have already been in practice for some time, on the basis of their having been followed in the shul in which the Rebbe Rayatz used to daven.

“Although at first glance your argument for ceasing these practices seems to be valid, particularly in light of the fact that the old-time Chassidim conducted themselves differently when they first arrived in the Holy Land, the problem facing us now is this: Are we permitted to do anything that might conceivably damage someone’s hiskashrus to our holy Rebbeim, even if it is expressed too fervently?

“The question can be compared to the story in the Talmud (Sukka 32) about Rabbi Kahana, who opined that when preparing the Four Kinds, one may use hadassim with a certain configuration of leaves (two and one), although he himself did not specify that they must be in this configuration. Nonetheless, after expressing this opinion, his students scrupulously pursued this approach as an expression of their hiskashrus.

“How much more so does this apply to the case at hand! Moreover, when someone sees that the custom is being altered he will ask why, and will be informed that it is a custom that was practiced by our holy Rebbeim. The point I am making is that should the previous custom be restored, it would weaken the position that one should follow whatever customs were practiced by the Rebbe Rayatz.”

As this applies to us, the customs practiced in the shul of the Rebbe Rayatz surely include declaring “Yechi” after davening and after reading the Torah (after Kaddish and on days when Kaddish isn’t recited after “sheini”), as well as referring to the Rebbe as “the Rebbe Melech HaMoshiach shlita.”

In the Rebbe’s words, “concessions do not lead to peace and unity, but on the contrary, merely create the potential for constant friction and ever-increasing dissention.” The way to achieve true peace and unity is not through making concessions on fundamental principles and exchanging “land for peace” (so to speak), G-d forbid, but by sticking to our “fanatical statements” as an expression of hiskashrus.

At the same time, it is self-evident that it is crucial to have true ahavas Yisroel for those who do not yet agree with us. For “we are all the sons of one man”: we are all Chassidim, we are all connected to the Rebbe, and all of us are waiting expectantly for his immediate hisgalus with the full and complete Redemption, now!

Yechi Adoneinu Moreinu V’Rabbeinu Melech HaMoshiach L’olam Va’ed!


“If refraining to do so will in any way weaken your faith in the coming of Moshiach, it is far better to continue practicing your longstanding custom.”





“Should the previous custom be restored, it would weaken the position that one should follow whatever customs were practiced by the Rebbe Rayatz.”


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