The Special Mission of Chabad Chassidim
Rabbi Y. OliverThere is a view held by some non-Lubavitchers that “Chabad does not respect other Torah groups.” One of the “proofs” of this claim is the fact that there is no focus among chasidei Chabad at learning the teachings (known in modern times as “hashkafos”) of all more recent widely accepted gedolim. This is a very sensitive issue, one also misunderstood by some self-identifying Lubavitchers. Still, I will try to address this misperception sensitively as I understand it, and hopefully I will shed some light on the matter.
The Rebbe had great respect for teachings of other groups. Whenever authors came past the Rebbe for dollars with their seforim, the Rebbe would encourage them, and demand forcefully, but respectfully, that they do double. Whenever a Rebbe of another Chassidic group came to the Rebbe, he had an automatic pass to yechidus. The Rebbe would also quote from various non-Chabad Chassidic sources (such as Noam Elimelech, Kedushas Levi, Ma’or V’shemesh, Bnei Yisoschor, and so on) in Sichos from time to time. Thus, obviously the Rebbe had the utmost respect for other Chassidic groups (always saying to their leaders “ya’arich yomim al mamlachto”) and for their activities. In general, the Rebbe would always encourage other leaders from all Orthodox Jewish circles, whether Chassidishe Rebbes, Rabbonim, or lay leaders, to increase in their efforts in spreading Yiddishkeit and specifically in spreading their own seforim (to the extent that on several occasions the Rebbe encouraged members of other Chassidic groups to print manuscripts of their Rebbes posthumously, in order to benefit the community, even when the authors had expressed the wish that their manuscripts not be printed!).
However, everyone has their mission. Some have a more general one, and that is all very well for them. Chassidei Chabad have a very specific one that was prescribed for them by the Rebbeim of Chabad: to intensively study and spread Chassidus Chabad. Thus, chassidei Chabad focus on the words of the Rebbeim of Chabad because that’s what the Rebbe encourages them to do non-stop; in other words, that’s their mission. Thus, focusing on Chassidus Chabad is not intended to be, and should not be interpreted as, an exclusion or insult to other groups, chas v’shalom. Rather, it stems from a belief that there is something extra in this particular wisdom, that is very important and special, that is not found in others.
What is this special quality? On one foot, the Rebbe explains in several sichos that Chassidus Chabad speaks about the unity and greatness of Hashem in a tremendously detailed way that is unparalleled in the rest of Torah, even in Kabbalah, and therefore studying this wisdom is necessary to prepare for Moshiach, because then “they (the Jewish people) will grasp the knowledge of their Creator according to the capacity of man ... the only occupation of the entire world will be to know Hashem,” as the Rambam writes. Chassidus Chabad explains the greatness of Hashem in a way that is rationally understood, and thus “according to the capacity of man.” Thus, Chassidus Chabad in particular was designed to prepare us for the coming of Moshiach, and that’s why it was revealed and why it ought to be promoted. This is discussed at length in the sicha of 19 Kislev in Vol. 30 of Likutei Sichos, p. 170 ff.
More generally speaking, we can observe that in sichos and farbrengens, the main sources that the Rebbe would quote from concerning anything related to Pnimiyus HaTorah (and often in lengthy lists of references) was the Rebbeim. The example that the Rebbe was setting was that for Chassidim, the words of the Rebbeim should be their main focus.
To sum it up, chassidei Chabad have a specific mission, and that means that they have to have a certain focus (whereas non-chassidim aren’t expected to have this focus, and for them a certain “pluralism”, i.e., learning from all acceptable sources with relatively equal emphasis, is perfectly okay). This sense of mission is the origin of the “lack of pluralism” that some have observed and not understood, and not a desire to denigrate the teachings of any other tradition, chas v’shalom.
Now, let’s devote ourselves to fulfilling our respective missions, and bringing Moshiach now!