There is a common concern running around Chabad, which I find quite interesting. Namely, when discussing the merits of the Call of the Shofar, many are questioning whether Simcha Frischling is frum. No, they are not “checking into him” for shidduchim purposes, or questioning his level of kashrus to eat by him on Shabbos. Many Lubavs are concerned that because his frumkeit is questionable to them, it invalidates and actually “treif’s up” the COTS program. And, in my opinion, because so many Lubavs are horribly afraid of him (isn’t pnimius, emotional work a real pain?), there appears to be a witch-hunt going on.
It is my assertion that not only is his level of Yiddishkeit irrelevant, but some quick and simple comparisons will reveal that otherwise intelligent chassidim are being dominated by their emotions and ignorance, to the detriment of us all.
In my recent article on the Call of the Puppet, I outline five fears about COTS expressed by many in Chabad, and by the very, very funny video “The Tent of Abraham“, produced by Yossi Berktin. Namely, that:
- Simcha is getting rich off COTS
- Shofar is a spiritual substitute for Chabad
- Shofar is a pyramid scheme
- Shofar is a cult
- Shofar staff are not Phd’s in therapy
Commentator Eli Katz, rather than actually commenting and addressing any of the issues above, falls prey to his emotions and fears, and resorts to mudslinging by defaming Simcha. (BTW — if Eli were to have gone to the Shofar, he would realize that his emotive reaction is being generated by his “story”, and he would have the freedom to actually respond to the article, rather than react by name-calling — but that is not possible anymore). Eli suggests that Simcha lost his smicha, and that there are non-Lubavitch Rabbis who don’t support COTS, and even question Simcha’s yiddishkeit.
I’d like to pose a “sharker-kasha”. What if Simcha hypothetically (which means theoretically, which means ‘let us pretend’) just came-out and said – “I’m not frum at all?” or what if a goy bought-out the program, modified it, and started teaching it. Or what if, let’s say, a goy started the program in the first place? My question is — so what? What does that have to do with anything? COTS is not teaching Torah. Or Kabbalah. or Spirituality. Or Religion. Or Judaism. It is self help workshop focused on enabling Yidden to have a deeper understanding of their emotions, and empowering them to make decisions from a place of well-being.
Years ago I attended a lecture, given by a non-observant Jew, on the “science” of creationism. Although he was a scientist, his premise, his framework for the talk was the biblical narrative of creation. He may have been a taoist, daoist, maoist at home. He may light weird candles in his basement at night. He may have pictures of strange dogs on his Facebook page. I have no idea. But, even though he does not have smicha, his description of the biblical narrative of creation was really, really close to what I learned in Yeshiva (certainly good enough to pass as a reasonable framework for the lecture), and his science was impeccable. Point is, is that even though he was teaching science, he used the Torah as a framework for the lecture. Kindof like COTS.
In Southern California, there is a raw-foods retreat that teaches how to prepare and incorporate vegan foods into your diet. It was started by a Jew in the 60′s, and eventually bought-out by a goyisha organization in the 80s. Lots of Frum people go, the Kashrus has been checked out, etc. The owners are heavy, heavy goyim, who totally believe in goyisha stuff. My question is, so what? Am I not allowed to go? If I was going to the retreat to learn “Ahavas Israel”, then I would have a major problem. But I’m not. I’m going for my diet. They don’t teach religion there. They don’t teach Judaism there. They teach how to become healthier by eating raw-foods. And what if they said “The One G-d of Abraham is the creator of all natural abundance”. Is that called teaching Torah? Because this guy is a goy, is he not allowed to say that?
Like many others in Chabad, Eli Katz believes that COTS is some sort of Torah class, or substitute for Chassidus, or a replacement for Lubavitch, or a new “Derech in Avodas Hashem” — all an expression of a complete & total misunderstanding. Call of the Shofar is a self-help program. And just like I don’t care if my personal trainer at the gym wears a turbin and believes that elephants are a god, I don’t care if Simcha has smicha or if Rav Dovid Cohen (who?) thinks he is a kofer.
If I was going to Simcha to learn how to be a better Jew, or to be my spiritual substitute for Chassidus, I would have a problem. And not for the reasons I hear from many Lubavitchers. For many “frum” Lubavs, the issue with Simcha is that he supposedly “takes inspiration” from Taoist poetry. Or he learned at the Landmark program. Or that he does not have smicha, or blah, blah, blah. But my question to them is — Simcha is obviously not Chassidic, and maybe Modern Orthodox. Why would any Lubavitcher go to to a Modern Orthodox jew for spiritual guidance?? Are you really so spiritually thirsty that if Simcha was deemed 100% kosher you would flock to him in drones and give him the stamp of approval? As they like to say — “What is wrong with you people!?” A real Chabad chossid wouldn’t care at all about any fremde Rav’s endorsement or Pirchei Shoshanim (who??) because since Simcha is Modern Orthodox, why would a Lubav go to MO for chinuch on yiddishkeit! Obviously, the Chabad attendees (mashpiem, shluchim, mechanchim, talmudi-chachomim) did not attend to learn about G-d. They went for “self-help”.
The issue is NOT what’s on his facebook page, but the content of the classes themselves. First of all, SF claims his sources are from Torah. Secondly, I’ve been present with major (and I stress Major) talmudi-chachomim, mashpiem and shluchim who have learned and reviewed his work on the weekends, and the only exclamation is that “this is all chassidus”, or “I’ve learned this so many times before”. Thirdly, no Rabbi has openly pointed to anything that SF has said on the weekend, or printed in his books that are taught on the weekend that is in anyway linked to AZ or why.
There are many reasons you may chose not to go to the Shofar. They play goyish music. They dance together. They walk outside. They turn off cell phones. Some people use swear words. Maybe Simcha doesn’t have smicha. Your yarmulka may fall off. Blah, blah, blah. If I’m afraid for my yiddishkeit, I wouldn’t have to go to Rav Dovid Cohen, or Facebook — just one look at SF shows me he is not my Mashpia as he trims his beard. If you don’t want to go, don’t. With all deference to Facebook, for Lubavs, COTS is assur because CHBD said so, without giving any reasons. And I’m pretty sure Rabbi Dovid Cohen was not one of them.
Disclaimer: Truth about Shofar blog is not in anyway affiliated with Call of the Shofar. All opinions are of the authors.