Rabbanim Understand, The ‘Man On The Street’ Will Accept It”
Gimmel Tammuz, Rabbi Yoram Ulman has explained Chabad’s position about the Rebbe
being Moshiach to dozens of rabbanim and gedolei ha’Torah. In most cases, he
manages to do away with their sharp opposition and get them to silently agree.
In a special interview with Beis Moshiach, Rabbi Ulman describes some of these
encounters. * Interview
with Rabbi Yoram Ulman, member of the beis din of Sydney and director of a
Chabad House for Russian immigrants
Ulman, as a director of a Chabad house for Russian immigrants, what motivated
you to get involved in explaining the importance of publicizing the besuras
ha’Geula to non-Lubavitch rabbanim?
certainly remembers the period following Gimmel Tammuz 5754. As far as emuna
in the Rebbe Melech HaMoshiach and the besuras ha’Geula are concerned, it
was a very difficult time. Most Chabad Chassidim continued disseminating the
besuras ha’Geula with the knowledge that these activities hasten the Rebbe’s
hisgalus. However, there were a few Chassidim who although they continued to
believe as all Chabad Chassidim do that the Rebbe is Moshiach, they nevertheless
feared the world’s reaction and didn’t publicize their belief. There were even
Chassidim who, when questioned directly about their belief in the Rebbe as
Moshiach, would stammer and answer evasively.
believed that the main issue here was one of apprehension of what people would
say; not so much of what non-observant Jews would say, but of what frum
Jews would say. Among frum groups, there was a view that the belief among
Lubavitcher Chassidim that the Rebbe is Moshiach went against halacha.
Thus they vehemently opposed publicity that identified the Rebbe as Moshiach.
groups are led by rabbanim and gedolei ha’Torah, it would make
sense that if one succeeded in convincing those rabbanim that the
emuna of Lubavitcher Chassidim is based on piskei halacha of
Rishonim and Acharonim, and that it certainly does not oppose
halacha, we’d manage to reduce the level of opposition from frum
groups so that even those Lubavitchers who are afraid of public opinion would be
able to express their views without fear.
you reach these gedolei ha’rabbanim around the world?
to my role as director of a Chabad house for Russian immigrants in Sydney, I
serve as a member of the beis din ha’rabbani of Sydney. I often meet with
gedolei poskei ha’dor both from the United States and Eretz Yisroel, and
have long meetings with them about halachic matters. I bring up the topic
at these meetings, or sometimes they bring it up, and a lengthy halachic
discussion ensues, in the course of which I present the halachic basis
for our emuna.
your goal - that they should believe the Rebbe is Moshiach?
thrilled if they’d accept things to that extent. The fact of the matter is
though, that they find it very hard to accept this, and so I focus on moderating
familiar with the attitude frum groups have toward Chabad, know that
aside from the groups that are well-known for their blind opposition to anything
Chabad does, most frum groups have accepted the Rebbe’s work, starting
with Mivtza T’fillin and ending with Mivtza Moshiach (that is,
until Gimmel Tammuz). They didn’t set up t’fillin stands on the streets
or go kasher kitchens, but they didn’t oppose the work Chabad did
either. This enabled us to do the Rebbe’s work without interference. Although we
had to break the ice with the non-religious public, at least we didn’t have to
fight opposition from the frum world at the same time.
This was the
case with mivtza Moshiach too, until Gimmel Tammuz. Even after we
publicized that we believe that the Rebbe is Moshiach, aside from one group,
there were no frum groups who fought against our besuras ha’Geula.
after Gimmel Tammuz? That whoever isn’t familiar with the sources that discuss
Moshiach’s coming, can think that our belief that the Rebbe is Moshiach goes
against halacha, r’l. Since most rabbanim are unfamiliar with
these sources, they thought Chabad Chassidim were opposing halacha, and
that is what they conveyed to their people. This is how a strong opposition to
publicizing the besuras ha’Geula v’haGoel came to pass after
Gimmel Tammuz. This antagonism reached its zenith about a year and a half ago
when the Moetzes Ha’Rabbanus Ha’Rashis, the presidium of the
Israeli Rabbinate, declared their avowed disassociation with the work of Chabad
in hafatzas besuras ha’Geula.
It is this
type of opposition that I want to prevent. The question is how to go back to our
previous standing. The solution is simple - let us speak to rabbanim and
poskim and present the halachic sources that support our emuna
in the Rebbe’s being Moshiach. In the Torah world it is what they call “daas
Torah” that establishes what people think, and so when the rabbanim
are presented with the facts, this will filter down to the man on the street,
who will accept Chabad’s work in hafatzas besuras ha’Geula v‘ha’goel like
they accept the rest of the work we do.
succeed, then all those Lubavitchers who are ashamed of their faith will join
those who unabashedly publicize the besuras ha’Geula, and with full
achdus we will bring the hisgalus of the Rebbe MH”M.
the gedolei Torah you meet really think?
you about a meeting I had with one of the great American rabbanim, whose
father is considered one of the great Israeli poskim. I knew him since he
served as rav of the frum community of Sydney when I was a boy,
and I learned with him for nearly five years. He came on a visit to Sydney three
years ago and we met. He knew I was a Lubavitcher and at the beginning of the
meeting he said he was a great admirer of the Rebbe and Chabad Chassidus, but he
didn’t like those who publicized the Rebbe as Moshiach.
I spoke to
him for nearly two hours about a certain halachic matter, and towards the
end of the discussion I said that since I knew him to be an ish emes, I
was very interested in knowing why the publicity about the Rebbe being Moshiach
bothered him, since I also publicize it ...
At first he
was stunned. He said, “Rabbi Ulman, what do you need it for? You have such a
nice congregation - what do you need these tzaros for?” I replied that
since we’re anshei halacha, I wanted to clarify the subject purely from a
halachic perspective. He tried to get out of a halachic discussion
of the matter and said that there were Lubavitchers who didn’t believe this, and
they even went to his father with strong claims against those who publicized the
besuras ha’Geula. I said that even those Lubavitchers who oppose
publicity believe that the Rebbe is Moshiach, and the differences of opinion are
only regarding the publicity.
Then he said
something that I think is the key: “Rabbi Ulman, what do you want from the non-Lubavitcher
rabbanim? If you were united, you could demand of us to agree with you,
but as long as you yourselves have differences of opinion, how do you expect us
to agree with you?”
conclusion from that discussion was obvious. If we presented a united front, if
all rabbanei Chabad publicized a psak din that established that
believing that the Rebbe is Moshiach is based on clear halachic sources,
we could publicize the message with at least the silent acquiescence of all
there rabbanim you managed to convince?
I managed to convince a nice number of rabbanim of the acceptability of
Chabad’s approach even with regard to the besuras ha’Geula. At the
Moshiach Congress that took place in 5756, in New York, I met one of the
gedolei ha’rabbanim who is considered an unofficial Chassid of the Rebbe.
We’ve known each other for some time, and he felt comfortable asking me what I
thought about the Congress. He said that he had heard that the gathering was one
which “ein ruach chachamim nocha heimenu” (Rabbis did not approve of).
I told him
that I don’t know what he means, for the Congress was organized by a committee
composed of rabbanim and mashpiim, and that dozens of rabbanim,
roshei yeshivos, and mashpiim from around the world participated in
asked me to tell him my personal opinion about hafatzas besuras ha’Geula.
I told him that I had one complaint about how the mivtza is being done,
namely, that not enough effort is being put into convincing rabbanim that
it is halachically permissible to say the Rebbe is Moshiach. Then I asked
him, “Do you think it’s all right to say the Rebbe is Moshiach?” He said no. So
I asked him: “If I can show you that the Rebbe himself considered this a
possibility, then what?” He said, “In that case I would defer to the
I took him
to one of the bookstores in Crown Heights and showed him a selection of quotes
from “V’Hu Yigaleinu,” in which the Rebbe explicitly referred to the
situation after Gimmel Tammuz, and established that even in such a case, one can
continue to say that the Rebbe is Moshiach. I also showed him what the Rebbe
said about the three stages in Moshiach’s revelation that are hinted at in the
word “MiYaD” - the leadership of the Rebbe Sholom
Dov Ber, the leadership of the Rebbe Yosef Yitzchok, and the
third period of leadership, which began after the passing of the Rebbe Rayatz,
which is hinted at in the names Menachem and Moshiach.
He got very
enthused by these explicit sichos, and wondered how it was that no
Lubavitcher had ever shown him this before. He had always thought it was the
Chassidim who had made it up.
A half a
year later, I had occasion to speak to him by phone. He brought up the subject
again, and said that a Chabad askan had visited him, and when in the
course of the conversation this subject had come up, the Lubavitcher had
convinced him that the Rebbe did not mean it literally.
I decided to
visit him at my next opportunity. That opportunity came, and a few weeks later I
arrived in New York and visited him at home. At that time, this rav had
come out strongly against the Reform. He always maintained that we had to fight
the Reform, and one of the reasons he admired the Rebbe was because of the
Rebbe’s uncompromising war against the Reform.
visited him, he told me that the Reform was fighting him back and he was very
disappointed that those whom he had considered his friends were not defending
him and his position. He said that at these times he thought about Avrohom and
the akeida. Aside from the test of bringing his only son as a sacrifice,
Avrohom was jeopardizing all his public relations. If he had slaughtered
Yitzchok, all his spiritual work in being mekarev thousands of people to
serve the one G-d, would be ruined, because they would all leave him.
Avrohom’s greatness - that he knew that he did not need to be frumer than
Hashem, and if Hashem commanded him, he needed to listen even if it seemed to
undermine everything he had built up over the years. So too in the war against
the Reform. He would continue battling them even though this entailed terrible
I told him
that the Rebbe once told someone in yechidus, that one who was
mekushar to him was involved in three things: Moshiach,
Mihu Yehudi, and Shleimus ha’Aretz - the acronym
MaMaSh. “You are involved with Mihu Yehudi,
and it pains you that people make public opinion considerations and decide to
stay out of the battle against Reform. It is exactly the same thing with the
koch about Moshiach. Sometimes it harms our public image, but we have to
know that we can’t be frumer than Hashem, and if Hashem commanded us -
through His prophet - that we have to be involved in disseminating the
besuras ha’Geula, that’s what we have to do, even if it entails destroying
some of the connections we took years in building.”
This is not
a pshetel. It is an explicit sicha that appears in Likkutei Sichos,
volume 3, as well as in the sichos of the Hagada shel Pesach. The
Rebbe speaks there about a shliach who considers getting rid of a
mechitza so that more people will come to shul. We must not be
frumer than Hashem, says the Rebbe, and in every instance we must do what
Hashem says. If this means having fewer people in shul - 1) maybe Hashem
doesn’t really want them there, as it were, 2) compromises end up distancing
people, and the shul won’t fill up as a result of these and other
ago I visited Yerushalayim. I sat with great dayanim there who are
involved in gittin. One of them who authored many books and who is known
as one of the great dayanim of Eretz Yisroel, spoke to me about the
unique qualities of the Rebbe. He spoke excitedly about his yechidus with
the Rebbe and how he saw before him a chad b’dara (one in a generation).
He couldn’t understand how it was possible for someone to be such a tremendous
Torah scholar while simultaneously devoting himself to issues effecting both the
world at large as well as individuals. In short, he was tremendously impressed
by the Rebbe. He made sure, however, to mention that it was really a pity that
there were Chassidim who were damaging the name of Chassidus by publicizing that
the Rebbe is Moshiach.
represent the beis din of Sydney, I insist on principle to defend our
faith, especially when I hear it being attacked, so I said perhaps they hadn’t
properly explained things to him, but the fact of the matter is that every
Lubavitcher believes the Rebbe is Moshiach. He didn’t believe me and said it
couldn’t be true since this emuna went against Yiddishkeit.
There was a
set of Sdei Chemed in the room we were sitting in, so I took a volume off
the shelf and showed him how the Sdei Chemed dealt with this possibility
and established that from a halachic point of view this was acceptable,
which is how he explains “lo zachu” (i.e., the advent of Moshiach when
the Jewish people are not found to be meritorious). The rav examined the
Sdei Chemed and was silent. Since then, I haven’t heard a word against
this belief from him.
day, the son of one of the great poskim of our times came in to the
beis din. He himself is considered a great scholar. During the breaks we
talked about the special relationship his father had with Chabad in general and
the Rebbe in particular. He said that a few individuals, i.e., those who
broadcast that the Rebbe is Moshiach, ruined Chabad’s good image. I mentioned
the name of a very close friend of his father who is one of the main
disseminators of the besuras ha’Geula and asked him what he thought of
him. He said that if all rabbanei Chabad publicized a clear daas Torah
establishing that the belief that the Rebbe is Moshiach is anchored in
halacha, he was sure that everybody who got along with Chabad until Gimmel
Tammuz would continue to support Chabad now and wouldn’t oppose this belief.
We went on
to talk about the Moshiach gatherings that had taken place over the years. He
said that at these gatherings too, despite the participation of rabbanim,
their presence wasn’t emphasized enough. He mentioned the name of a great rav
who had told him that he believed the Rebbe was Moshiach before Gimmel Tammuz,
and he would even say so after Gimmel Tammuz if only Lubavitchers were united in
Chassid get involved or only rabbanim?
principle, every Chassid who can demonstrate halachic knowledge and can
have Torah discussions with rabbanim, can influence them and eliminate
their opposition. Of course, there’s a tremendous advantage when Chabad
rabbanim, who are known to their non-Chabad colleagues, explain this.
It would be
beneficial if there weremore rabbanim who devote time to explaining our
emuna. I’m not coming to criticize Chabad rabbanim, just to
suggest that whoever, by Divine providence, was selected to interact with non-Chabad
rabbanim, should take the opportunity and use the ko’ach of Torah and
halacha to explain the halachic foundation for the belief that the
Rebbe is Moshiach.
personal experience I can say that I never came up against real opposition. When
I began showing them the halachic sources, all claims and complaints went
out the window and even those who didn’t agree, stopped opposing it. I am sure
that this gives great nachas ruach to the Rebbe MH”M, may he immediately