Dec 21, 2009

Rav Shteinman and Chabad

There was a pashkevil that was distributed around all haredi areas last week during Hannukah. I did not keep a copy, so i cannot scan it for you. sorry.

the pashkevil was a compilation of quotes from various gedolim, of today and of previous generations, against Chabad and the Lubavitcher Rebbe because of the meshichist tendencies.

The reason for the pashkevil was a recent meeting between Rav Shteinman and the "Chozer" - a Chabbad rabbi, Rav Yoel cohen, in which Rav Cohen presented Rav Shteinman with a sefer and they discussed some "Chabad Torah".

Those who put out the pashkevil are upset that Rav Shteinman held such a meeting, claiming it to be the first time a gadol held such a meeting with Chabadniks, and they put out the pashkevil to show how the gedolim have always rejected Chabad.

In my opinion, the pashkevil was not against Chabad, despite the bad things it said about Chabad. The pashkevil was against Rav Shteinman, even though it did not say so directly. By saying how bad Chabad is, they were really calling into question his decision to meet with rav Cohen.

I don't get it - either he is a gadol or he isn't. Who are you, who normally follow the words of the gedolim, including Rav Shteinman, to question his decision? Suddenly it is ok to say he was wrong in deciding to do something? If it was me or someone else who criticized a decision by a gadol we would have our kids thrown out of school, be banished, be taken apart, etc.

I am not talking about following a decision - people have to follow and act in a way that is right for them. That does not always include acting in accordance with every statement by every gadol (which are sometimes contradictory among different gedolim). I am talking about respecting the right of the gadol to make such a decision.

These people don't have to become Chabad, not that that was called for. They don't even need to accept Chabad, nor to have a relationship with any Chabadniks. But where is the respect for Rav Shteinman? Why does he not have the right to make such a decision to meet? Isn't he a gadol? Don't the gedolim know better than everyone else (that is what we all know and they always tell us when they want us to follow anything specific the gedolim say) or do the gedolim suddenly not know what they are doing?


  1. Kahn, is Rav Yoel Kahn, shlita. He's considered the top expert within Chabad on all aspects and depths of Chabad chassidus. Meaning the seforim and teachings of chassidus from the Baal Shem Tov through and including all the teachings and seforim of the Chabad Rebbe's, such as Tanya, Likutei Torah, Torah Ohr, etc.

  2. Rafi, I'll referece your previous post: if the gedolim back me, then I am great. If they don't then I am the exception to their words.

    and draw a corollary:

    If the gedolim do what I think is right, then they are gedolim. If they do something I don't like, then they are dethroned. The purpose of gedolim is to validate my actions so I feel good. If they do something that makes me not feel good, then they are the problem.

  3. The question is if he knew who he was meeting with (in general, and especially before). If he didn't know R. Kahn's background (as it seems was the case), the whole thing was a media event orchestrated by Lubavitch to give the impression of acceptance by R. Steinman. Take a listen to a recording of the meeting, you should see that R. Steinman was not familiar with his visitor.

  4. Litvack -
    1. why does he have to be familiar with someone to meet him? people show up at the houses of the gedolim all the time, talk torah, get a bracha, ask advice, etc and the gadol has no idea who many (most?) of them are. Why does saying hello and talking a vort give credence to somebody?

    2. Whether or not he knew specifically who he is, he must have known Rav Kahn is a chabadnik. They discussed Torah of the the Rebbe! yet he still chose to meet with him.

    3. Where is there a recording of the meeting?

  5. Rafi -

    In response to your comments -

    1) The meeting was publicized by some, e.g. Lubavitchers, with an agenda to claim that there is now a new era re relationship between Lubavitch and the Litvishe Yeshivishe world and the differences of the recent past are history, based on it.

    But you are right, it doesn't really mean anything, since R. Steinman didn't realize that he was being set up and didn't know who he was meeting.

    2) After a while I guessed he realized that he was dealing with a Lubavitcher, but I don't think he knew what a high ranking Lubavitcher (and a big force promoting the Rebbe as Moshiach in the past) he was dealing with.

    3) The audio recording, I believe, was at

    You make some valid points, e.g. re daas Torah, kanoim, and derech eretz for Rav Steinman, but they don't change the fact that if R. Steinman was taken advantage here by Lubavitch for PR reasons, people should see that and not be fooled.

  6. if he was "set up and fooled", which is possible, there is an easy way to deal with that. Rav Shteinman can make a statement, at the behest of his assistants who are aware that the wool was pulled over his eyes, saying his meeting with so and so does not give credibility to the mans beliefs, etc. "I do not know who he is. All we did was sit for 10 minutes and talk in Torah. If he is a meshichist that is passul, etc.". etc. or something like that.

    If he cant do it because of his gadol status, or he doesnt want to speak out on something controversial, he can have one of his assistants issue a statement.

    The pashkevils are always nice, but they are still not issued by him. They are issued by anonymous people who are still attacking Rav Shteinman by distributing them. They are basically calling him a fool. As of right now, they are telling me how bad this guy and his organization is, yet Rav Shteinman happily met with him. So who is to say Rav Shteinman was fooled, maybe he simply was happy to meet with this guy despite all that?

  7. Seriously, I thought the gedolim have "Daas Torah" and therefore can't be fooled. I'm not being sarcastic, I honestly don't know how to reconcile the pashvilim that one week should DAAS TORAH and RUACH HAKODESH and the next states a Gadol has been fooled?

  8. Rafi, boruch Hashem, I found where the recording is.

    If you listen to it (quality leaves something to be desired - main portion comes on only about 1/4 into the recording. Also, much is in Yiddish and I don't know how good your Yiddish is) you will see that Rav Steinman didn't know who he was meeting at first. Later, once the meeting was underway, he was told who his visitor was, but not told about his vistors important role in promoting the Rebbe as Moshiach.

    Rav Steinman didn't abruptly break off the (brief) meeting then, however, I didn't hear any great enthusiasm either. He just carried on politely, until it ended shortly after. So to promote the meeting as some great breakthrough is obviously incorrect and anyone who does otherwise is not telling the truth.

  9. Litvack - I have no problem with your analysis. It still does not change the fact that Rav Shteinman did not stop the meeting, he did not denounce them afterwards, he did not put out a notice saying anything about it.
    The pashkevilim did.
    It could of course be possible that Rav Shteinman asked for the pashkevilim to be published, but it is not likely.

  10. "Litvack - I have no problem with your analysis."

    Good to hear. Just to clarify, I am not defending the over-the-top, excessive attack on R. Steinman shlit"a by certain extremists.

    Rav Steinman is an alter Yid, he doesn't stand at the door, investigating everyone who wants to see him. If anyone messed up, it may have been a gabbai or similar of his. But I think it is likely that they didn't realize what was going on either, until things were already underway at least.

    "It still does not change the fact that Rav Shteinman did not stop the meeting, he did not denounce them afterwards, he did not put out a notice saying anything about it."

    Okay, he is not a youngster, he doesn't have time or energy for such things perhaps, maybe he figured, farfallen (too late), let's get it over with, another few minutes and it is done anyway. I still am not aware that he realizes R. Yoel Kahn's role as a big force pushing the Rebbe as Moshiach, at least in the past. Rav Steinman doesn't sit and read blogs all day ya know. ;-)

    "The pashkevilim did."

    Well, maybe the paskevilim saw that Lubavitch was making hay out of the meeting, and trying to promote it as some type of breakthrough, which it wasn't/isn't, so they felt compelled to react to that falsehood.

    Basically it seems that people who have other issues with R. Steinman, let that influence them here to react in stronger way than necessary. But that still doesn't mean that no reaction at all was warranted. Lubavitch was/is deceptive here (just like with how they publicized the meeting with R. Berel Povarski in such a manner).

  11. did chabad make a big deal out of it? I dont usually check the chabad websites, so i dont know that they did


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