Yesterday, members of the Chabad-Lubavitch faith around the world marked the 121st birthday of their late last spiritual leader, Rebbe M.M. Schneerson. Many of them did so by visiting his grave in New York City.
While that serves as a pilgrimage site for Lubavitchers, it also receives other visitors at times, who come for various reasons, such as politicians, who kowtow to the Chasidic sect in that manner in hope of winning political support, as well as friends, sympathizers, and fellow-travelers of it. Chabad-Lubavitch promotes visits to the tomb by the public at large as well, by framing it as a holy place, through which people can attain various types of salvation and good fortune. The more people that go there, the greater the PR for Chabad and their Rebbe that Lubavitch toils so diligently at.
Recently, a group of people affiliated with Yeshiva University made such a visit (a while ago we wrote about the relationship of Neo-Chasidus & Chabad, which we characterized as a relationship of closeness & distance). Among those making the trek were YU mashpia and Neo-Chasidic leader Rebbe Moshe Weinberger, Aish Kodesh Rebbe of Woodmere, NY, YU Judaic studies faculty member R. Reuven Boshnack, a protege of his, R. Efrem Goldberg, of BRS, prominent YU alumnus, with a group of his congregants, who were visiting the NY area then, and (surprisingly), R. Aryeh Leibowitz, of the RIETS/YU semicha program.
It is part of an increased closeness between some of the Modern Orthodox/YU comunity and Chabad-Lubavitch in recent years, fed by a sustained Lubavitch PR campaign trying to convince the MO that they are closer to Lubavitch than they actually were in the past.
Examining the photographic record of the visit can shed some light on the state of YU/MO-Chabad-Lubavitch relations now, as well as additional other matters.
Here we see Rebbe Weinberger at a tisch at the Chabad-Lubavitch tomb complex with the visitors.
Here we see some of them at the actual gravesite.
What is noteworthy is that basically, the YU/MO group is keeping to itself, staying apart from the Lubavitchers at the site. As if they are genuflecting to the late Rebbe, but staying apart from his living followers there.
It was interesting to see Rebbe Weinberger at the tomb. As we noted previously, he personally has deep connections with Lubavitch going back many years, and spent much time at their 770 headquarters years ago, including at gatherings with their late Rebbe. On the other hand, his congregation, which fairly often hosts other Hasidic speakers, leaders, performers, and personalities, such as R. Mottel Zilber, a Stuchiner Rebbe, R. Tzvi Meir Zilberberg, various people connected to Breslov, among others, seems to have a total lack, or at least a dearth of Lubavitchers so featured, the lack of which is quite telling.
R. Efrem Goldberg of BRS, who led the interesting BRS Mevakshim tour that brought his group there, although typically thought of as a prominent MO rabbi rather than a neo-Chasidic leader, has close ties with Rebbe Weinberger, whom he enthusiastically promotes, in addition to longstanding ties with the New Square Chasidic sect, and Chabad-Lubavitch, among others.
Another quite notable aspect of the gathering was, when Rebbe Weinberger and his entourage turned to enthusiastically sing and dance משנכנס אדר מרבין בשמחה there, in a departure from ordinary accepted behavior at the location. I guess it is related to Rebbe Weinberger's doing and encouraging such at other cemeteries and graves in his travels with followers a few months ago, which can be clearly seen in videos posted (for example, in Tzfas, in Teveria, and elsewhere). Is Rebbe Weinberger trying to normalize such a radical break with age-old tradition, to normalize singing and dancing in cemeteries? Perhaps he should try it at the resting place of the Satmar Rebbe R. Joel Teitelbaum, to whom he also had some sort of connection allegedly, as well, and see how the natives receive it there. Personally, I don't think such actions are wise, as Shlomo Hamelech warned, ופרץ גדר ישכנו נחש.
As we approach Pesach, a time where מסורה, tradition, and מנהגים are so central and emphasized, we should keep in mind that those categories are integral and vital to Yiddishkeit as a whole, year-round, and not just to that great יום טוב.
In the zechus of staying faithful, may we be zoche to a great Yom tov.
חג כשר ושמח