What to Defend: Men, or Truths?


Moshe Ben-Chaim



Reader: I was about to send your writing about the red bendels to a friend who put one on her baby. Then I saw your reference to heresy in Tanya. God protect us from narrow minds, which think there is only one face to the Torah, and deny the other 69. I am not a Chabad-nick, but you have lost all credibility in my eyes as a serious source of Torah information.


Mesora: Then you must also classify Rambam in this negative light, for it is he who said what we quoted.


Reader: Really? The Rambam called the Tanya heretical? Did you attend the Time Travelers’ conference at M.I.T. by any chance?


Mesora: Evidently your basic studies are not complete, as you have omitted his 13 Principles from your reading. Your humor unveils this.


Reader: There are opinions that the 13 Principals were intended by the Rambam as a simplification for people who did not have the resources to learn in depth. I apologize in that I do not recall the source. I am always skeptical when people attribute their strong-minded views to Rambam, as it is too easy to quote him out of context, to prove whatever one wants to prove. The best example of this is Chabad identifying Moshiach.


Mesora: I advise you read the 13 Principles for yourself in Hebrew, at the back of Talmud Sanhedrin in Perek “Chalek”. See also Rambam’s Yesodei HaTorah - the first few chapters. It will be clear to you that Tanya does in fact suggest God has parts, against the Rambam, against all reason, and this statement is clearly heretical. We must not be afraid to speak the truth, even if it opposes the masses. You will also learn that Rambam’s 13 Principles are not for simpletons, but they include fundamentals, necessary knowledge for all Jews.


Reader: I suggest we end this discussion before it becomes a machlokes (argument) that is not le-shaym shamayim


Mesora: If you fear you might enter that realm of “lo lshame shamayim” (for the sake of truth) by all means decide for yourself. But my last email was written with a true feeling that you might be willing to accept Rambam’s words, and thereby benefit. My intent was for your good.


Reader: I’m worried about the discussion. I am not one of those who insisted that the Rambam’s books be burned. I am concerned about your approach of seeming to have the only right view of Torah (or of Rambam- as you know, Rav Shach’s ZT’L dispute with Chabad started over Chabad’s teaching Rambam as Halacha). To say there is only one right understanding of Torah is a “maytzar” mind. A narrow mind is one that didn’t experience Yetziyat Mitzrayim. Certainly, the Gemara is not a reflection of “there’s only one answer.”


Mesora: Regarding your concern that one (me) is in error to feel he has the sole right view, please think about this: Every Rabbi who voiced an opinion against another, be he a Rishon, Acharon, Amora, etc....this act of disagreement means he did not accept the other opinion, but felt he had to follow his mind. He felt his view was correct, and the other view was wrong. Derech haTorah is to be honest, and not simply accept someone, regardless of his title. Therefore, Aharon HaKohane argued against the greatest prophet, Moshe. Aharon was correct to follow his mind, and it so happens that he was right on this occasion, and Moshe was wrong. Moshe conceded the argument to him. The Baal Tanya too can be wrong. “Ayn tzaddik Baaretz she-yaaseh tove v’lo chata.” If Moshe can be wrong, the Baal Tanya to can be wrong. Can you accept this?


Reader: That I can. “Heresy” I can’t.

You write, “We define this quote from Tanya as absolute heresy.” Those are fighting words that provoke disunity amongst the Jewish people. If your main preoccupation was truth, you could have easily entitled your essay “Rambam versus Tanya” or “Serious concerns about some points in Tanya.” Why don’t you find a less provocative way of saying the same thing? I can’t forward your comments to any Chabad rabbis for their opinions, because there is no “rechilus leshaym shamayim.” People might mistakenly think you simply want to start fights amongst Jews, God forbid. The Baal HaTanya has enough credibility amongst Chassidim, Misnagdim, and the Jewish Torah world at large, that for you to accuse him of heresy reflect badly only on you.


I am the Webmaster for a large Orthodox shul. I link our site to many learning sites. I would never link to something that promotes friction between Jews like Mesora.org. Why not pursue peace, like Aaron whom you discussed earlier, and re-word your writings about the Tanya?



Mesora: Lack of severity in verbally addressing heresy, suggests heresy is a casual issue. When desirous of alarming others to flee from that which forfeits their Olam Haba, one must not engage words, which mitigate the fatality of losing Olam Haba. One must be “hakhay es shinav”.


You said you could accept the Baal Tanya being wrong, but not that the statement is heresy. Please see the Rambam I quoted. Judge the statement on its own merit; you cannot compromise a wrong because you wish to defend the author. I also see that you brought in to this discussion your position as a webmaster for a large website, or shul. Why should this matter to me? Why should that matter to you? Are you out for truth, or to try and intimidate me with your position of creating links on your site for so many to see? I care less who you work for or who you know. I want you to see the truth. That is it.


Reader: You are a zealot.


Mesora: You have the facts - don’t escape the issue. Calling me a zealot does not solve your dilemma. No man is perfect, and just because something is found in books does not make them absolute truths. The question remains: why you seek to defend a person, instead of truth.


Reader: No man is perfect, and just because he has an Internet site does not make him an authority on absolute truths. Can a mouse be victorious over a lion, such as the Baal HaTanya?


Mesora: That is correct, having a website makes no one an authority on truth. And according to your own reasoning, writing a book also plays no role in one’s ability to discern truth. The Baal Tanya has no clam to absolute knowledge just because he wrote a book. Now, I don’t know who wrote that heresy, but who ever wrote that God has parts and placed it into the Tanya, is clearly wrong.

If the mouse said 2+2=4 and the lion said it was 5, the king of the jungle would be dethroned.