It seems that open letters are all the rage in our community in recent weeks, so I have to put my hat in the ring. The debate regarding “Yechi” that has simmered in our shul for many years has recently risen to a fever pitch in recent months.
Fortunately, Australia has been largely insulated from much of the ugly community fights that have emerged since Gimmel Tammuz. This is probably due to a combination of things – a lack of extremists on either side of the fence, and a lack of leadership to take a firm and public stand either way.
The sign in our Shul does not bother me in the slightest – I spend most of my time facing the front anyway (shouldn’t we all?), and I do genuinely want Moshiach to come.
There are a few things that do bother me, however.
People are entitled to their own beliefs, and there exists a broad spectrum of beliefs in our community regarding Lubavitch, the Rebbe, and Moshiach. In amongst all of these beliefs, people seem to have forgotten some basic principles: Ahavas Yisroel, and Derech Eretz.
If someone takes a different position to me, I respect their right to do that, and I expect no less from them regarding my own position. But when calling out Yechi or dancing after davening changes from the expression of a belief to a deliberately provocative, almost militant declaration, its original intent (to hasten the coming of Moshiach) rapidly fades. And that is what the declarations of some of the more extreme elements of our shul have changed to. This sort of behaviour will not bring Moshiach, because it is divisive and disrespectful of others, and these are behaviours that go against everything the Rebbe stood for.
The only thing I can think of that is worse than this, is the act of raising one’s hand against another Jew. That people have come to physical blows in our Shul and surrounds over this issue truly sickens and disgusts me. What right does anyone have to escalate a verbal dispute into a physical one, and to strike another person? Anyone who does this (from either side of the political fence) should be censured in the strongest terms. Is a fist fight in Shul going to bring Moshiach closer?
My final gripe is not regarding a specific action, but rather the total absence of action. Our Shul and our community has a Rabbi, a Head Shliach, a Dayan, but they have been all but silent on this issue. Should we have a Yechi sign in the shul or not? What is our official policy on the Rebbe and Moshiach? The leadership do have views on these issues, but have been sadly unwilling or unable to articulate them in a clear way to their constituents. What is the job of leaders if not to lead?
It seems that the most basic principles of Ahavas Yisroel, and respect for leadership have been left behind, and in their place we now have the awful, insatiable, desire to be right, expressed by protagonists on both sides. There is a simple test to determine if a specific behaviour or action is the correct one. Ask yourself: will this bring Moshiach closer? Will this give nachas to the Rebbe? Let’s all get back to basics – these are the immutable and timeless principles that have kept us together for generations.