Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Madonna, Jesus and The Lubavitcher Rebbe

When I was in high school, NCSY had a Kiruv program called Hebrew Culture Club. Every Thursday, Rabbi Blue (not his real name) came with a free cheese pizza after school, and we discussed Judaism. I remember him as a friendly and approachable guy with a good sense of humor. He was well liked, and the club was very active. My grade has quite a few BTs and Olim from the club, and I think it would be fair to say that he helped contribute to that. Anyway, I remember a discussion about intermarriage, and he asked how I would feel with images of the cross above my bed. One of the popular reproaches we heard about Christianity was how idolatrous it was with God being personified and represented by objects.

At around the same point in my life I was discussing similar questions with the family representing Aish Ha Torah who was letting me experience shabbes with them. The father - let's call him Mr. Brown - in the family had a deeply negative relationship with secular culture. I remember being quite taken aback by how evil he seemed view media sources such as television.(Though he himself worked in media). Anyway, I don't mean to paint these people in a terrible light. Now that I have children, I can really appreciate what a burden it is to have to host people when you have a house full of children, and to be fair, I came to them with questions, they didn't actively seek me out. (I met them through a BBYO program, where my BBYO group had shabbes dinner at their place). Anyway, one of the things Mr. Brown cautioned against in secular culture was putting up posters of movie stars etc. He explained that in doing so teens idolize vacuous heroes of popular culture. I didn't really agree, but probably couldn't quite yet articulate why.

In any case, on the Oprah visits Hasidim show, I noticed a picture of the Rebbe on display, and of course the picture of Rabbi Scneerson is extraordinarily iconic, and hangs in many stores/homes etc. I know Aish, NCSY and Chabad all represent different streams of Orthodoxy, and their views do not necessarily overlap, but I'm curious to know how Chabad reconciles the worship ( at least that's how it looks from the outside) of the Rebbe? The photo reverence does not seem too different to me from displaying crosses or putting up posters of Madonna.


  1. ises the whole question of how a Jew is defined

  2. > I'm curious to know how Chabad reconciles the worship ( at least that's how it looks from the outside) of the Rebbe?

    The short answer is they don’t. They don’t think of it that way.

    I’ve thought for a long time that rebbe pictures are disturbingly similar to Catholic icons of saints (which in turn are very similar to pagan pictures and figurines of gods), and that many in the frum world treat them the same way. Though it’s treated a bit tounge-in-cheek, there’s one rebbe picture people hang up to keep mice away, and they’ll drop a few coins into a tzedakah box bearing another rabbi’s name to help find lost objects.

  3. >there’s one rebbe picture people hang up to keep mice away

    Cute! Learn something new everyday!


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