Meet Sara Kanevsky:
You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in Crown Heights who could point to a single character flaw that the rebbe possessed—or still possesses, because people like Sara Kanevsky insist that he never died.
Kanevsky’s is a world of constant miracles. Pictures of the rebbe plaster the walls of her third-floor apartment. Every night, she and her friends put on a trance CD of traditional Yiddish hymns set to techno music, and they dance for hours. They take belly-dancing classes that can start at midnight. Her cell-phone ringtone plays the Hebrew messianic slogan Yechi ha Melech, which roughly translates as “Long Live the King Messiah Forever and Ever.” She answers the phone with these same words.
Now about that grave: Unlike the thousands of other Lubavitchers, Sara Kanevsky has never paid a visit. She doesn’t know who or what is in the grave, but she’s certain it’s not the rebbe. On the anniversary of his death this past July, while more than 50,000 people waited on a four-hour line outside the cemetery, midnight buses rolled in from Canada, and Israelis camped out for the weekend in the Chabad house next-door, Kanevsky went to 770 to celebrate.
Kanevsky does a lot of celebrating when others are mourning. She says that in the time of redemption, all rules are reversed. Two years ago, she walked around eating ice cream in 770 on a fast day, which led to her being kicked out. And on the most recent fast day this summer, she talked with some Chabad members in Florida who were enjoying a spaghetti dinner. Kanevsky has even written a book in four languages on the new rules.
Advertising Kanevsky’s website has also become part of the battle between meshichists and non-meshichists in Crown Heights:
Since the Rebbe’s passing the shul has been in the domain of the Meshichists, the group of Lubavitchers who believe that even though we cannot see the Rebbe anymore, he is the Messiah. There was some sort of court case, in which the official organization of Chabad, AgudasChassidey Chabad had sued their tenants, the Mishichist congregation for eviction. They didn’t want the flagship synagogue of the movement controlled by quacks who still believe the Rebbe is alive (but we can’t see him because he moved to a different spiritual plane). As far as I am aware, Agudas Chabad lost the case; but in any event, the Mishichistsare definitely a presence. At one point (considerably past candle lighting time when it is halachicallly forbidden to affix posters to a wall), a well dressed woman entered our section and posted up a large poster with the Rebbe and Rebbetzin’s photos, advertising a website calledgeulanovelties.com. She was yelled at by a few grandmother types, but she insisted that she couldn’t remove the poster as she would be breaking shabbos, which would be, in fact, true). It was a blatant act and I was secretly cheering her on because it was so highly entertaining.
Here is her website, GeulaNovelties, where we learn that the Moshiach is God, and now that he is here every Jew is a rabbi and we have a new Torah and a new theology – one where Jews can mix milk and meat eat pork, eat on Yom Kippur, and wear mixed fabrics. Good news for women too – they can grow their hair long as a woman’s hair is a source of energy, mix with men, and their menstruation cycles are no longer impure. In fact, now there’s no such thing as impurity – to the extent Jews don’t have to bother with prayers of repentance anymore!
Leaving aside for now the issue of repentance, what’s interesting here is how Schneersonite meshichists, like the early Jewish believers in Yeshua, are re-evaluating Torah practice in the light of moshiach. GeulaNovelties is warmly endorsed by Honk4Joy – a universalist Australian Lubavitcher meshichist group who recently caused controversy for celebrating on 10 Tevet – traditionally a day of fasting and mourning in Judaism.
Kanevsky posted a video last week to justify celebrations of 10 Tevet by claiming that Schneerson himself endorsed eating on this date:
Honk4Joy have also posted this video of Schneerson saying that the world entered the messianic age “long ago”:
What’s fascinating is that meshichists are increasingly branching out and viewing the messiahship of Schneerson as a global, universal phenomena – one relevant for the whole world and not just for Jews. In doing so, they are re-evaluating Torah practise, using Schneerson’s own words to justify and underpin their radical new theology.
I can’t help but wonder what more developments we’ll see in the meshichist movement within Lubavitch.
However, there’s something else I think is worth a mention – whilst I have no time for a belief in a Messiah born outside of Bethlehem, you have to kinda admire the fact that these Lubavitcher meshichists don’t care what other people think about their beliefs, or how the Jewish establishment reacts to them. (Compare their approach with that of Rabbi Zvi Telsner).
Whilst there are Messianic Jews bending over backwards to suck up to the religious establishment of Judaism, Kanevsky and Honk4Joy are interested only in being consistent with their beliefs, and seem to be getting a lot of joy out of it.
Where’s our joy in Yeshua, no matter what people think of us?
We’re Jews who’ve found our Messiah, and we take the lead, not follow the pack.
If others don’t like it – too bad.