The day Chabad came to the Last Supper
Article that talks of Passover feast becoming 'flesh and blood' prompts harsh responses.
A prominent Chabad figure has been accused by participants in an ultra-Orthodox online forum of adopting Christian symbols to describe a Jewish event, following an article he wrote in an official Chabad publication.
Chabad spokesman Rabbi Menachem Brod sparked a lively debate in the Haredi forum "Stop, Thinking Here," when he referred to bread and wine as allegories for flesh and blood.
The article, in last week's Talk of the Week, the Chabad Youth Organization's weekly newspaper, dealt with the Hasidic "Messiah Feast," eaten on the last day of Passover. The feast was originally introduced by the founder of Hasidic Judaism, Rabbi Yisroel Ben Eliezer, also known as Baal Shem Tov, to express the yearning and anticipation for the messiah. The feast includes matza, and the Chabad custom is also to drink four glasses of wine at the meal, as is done in the Passover seder.
Brod concluded his essay by writing, "Let us then draw strength from the faith in the coming of redemption and the anticipation of it. We will eat on the seventh of Passover the 'Messiah Feast,' intended to infuse the faith in the messiah's coming into our blood and flesh, like a meal that becomes our blood and flesh. And may we celebrate the last Passover holiday with the messiah in the Third Temple."
The idea of bread (or in this case matza ) and wine becoming flesh and blood is typically thought of as Christian, and they are symbols used often in Christian ceremonies. In addition, bread and wine are central symbols from the Last Supper, the final meal Jesus shared with his apostles prior to his crucifixion, according to the New Testament.
Matthew 26 describes the meal: "And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and break it; and he gave to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took a cup, and gave thanks, and gave to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many unto remission of sins."
In John 6, Jesus tells his flock, "He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life: and I will raise him up at the last day."
Frequent use is made in symbols of wine and bread in Christian masses and ceremonies.
Thus some readers saw Brod's article as a nod to the Christian world of references. One, who calls himself Ben Zion Cahana, wrote, "If we're dealing with ignorance and accidentally similar phrasing, so be it. But if [the author] was aware and ignored this similarity, then it's complete idiocy." Later he retracted the word "ignorance."
Brod and other Chabad figures vehemently rejected the allegations, saying the claims might be proof of the critics' own tendencies. Brod told Haaretz these comments expressed "wild associations that say more about the forum's participants, who are apparently immersed in Christian ideology. I, happily, don't have such associations."
Brod added that the idea that spiritual values enter our body by means of food is "an authentic Jewish idea, reflected in eating the sacrificial animals' flesh in the Temple era, eating the Sabbath and holiday meals, etc."
"The Lubavitcher rebbe explained many times that by eating this [Messiah] meal the faith in the messiah's coming becomes part of our entity, as the matza and wine become part of our body," Brod said. "This is why I've written about this idea in Talk of the Week about 25 times already. There is not one iota of similarity between that and the Christian ideas. It's simply ignorance coupled with wild imagination and I don't intend to change Judaism because someone has distorted thoughts."
Brod is not part of Chabad's messianic branch, which believes the last Lubavitcher rebbe, the late Menachem Mendel Schneerson, never actually died and is in fact the messiah.