by Yaacov Behrman
Much to my surprise, Prof. David Berger’s recent lecture at Yivo was entertaining, well structured and some of the quotes were even accurate.
It amazed me because I had previously heard Prof. Berger speak on the Zev Brenner Show eight years ago, and back then he sounded disoriented, untrained and extremely boring. I guess, after deprecating and insulting Chabad for so many years, he’s actually getting good at it.
The crowd at Yivo that night consisted mostly of middle class Yiddish speaking secular Jews who, based on their applause, seemingly enjoyed hearing Prof. Berger depict Lubavitch as a radical, unbalanced and delusional sect.
Though Berger fabricated statistics and dishonestly described pamphlets like Nekuda Hachabadi, written mostly by young 19 year old Israeli yeshiva students, as a highly regarded textbook in the Chabad Movement. To his credit, he stayed away from attacking the Lubavitcher Rebbe personally. He kept his lecture focused on the alleged beliefs of members of the movement.
Despite the fact that Berger successfully portrayed the messianic wing of Lubavitch as totally off the charts, he failed to prove how they are even remotely heretical. In view of that, Berger’s conclusion to forbid the eating of meat slaughtered by a Chabad Schochet is totally unsubstantiated.
Jewish theology is not black and white, as Berger paints it. Take for example, the debate on whether the seven days of creation were literally seven human days or the view that each recorded day was actually a millennium. Berger claims that believing the world was created millions of years ago falls within the purview of Torah, but many of Rabbis in Israel disagrees. Some even call it heresy.
Sadly in modern times rabbis are much too quick to categorize others as heretics. It has become a radical destructive trend lately. To be considered a heretic, one has to do more than believe in something untraditional.
Following the lecture, I approached Pro. Berger, and challenged him to name the principal of Jewish faith being transgressed by someone who believes the Rebbe is moshiach. Berger replied “maybe it transgresses Rambam’s principal of belief in moshiach”.
So I said to him, “MAYBE? On a maybe you’re disqualifying the meat eaten all over the world, by tens of thousands of people who’s only source of kosher meat is from their local Chabad Rabbi!”
Berger also proudly informed that he would not eat meat from a cow slaughtered by Prof. Marc B. Shapiro, author of “Maimonides’ Thirteen Principles Reappraised”.
So I asked him: “Would you eat from the chickens slaughtered by Hakodosh Gabi Holtzberg HYD?”
To the disgust of the small crowd watching, he shrugged his shoulders implying he would not and walked away.