In today’s bit of the ‘onion’, we’ll be taking a look at the strange story of the the Tzemach Tzedek’s paternity.
If you’ve been following this sage along with me here on the blog, (all links to previous posts at the end of this one) – you’ll already know that most of ‘official’ Jewish history from the last 400 years has been built on lies.
There are so many lies being told about so many different things, that it’s been totally overwhelming to try and unpick it all in any easy-to-understand way. But BH, I feel that a (small…) light is starting to shine at the end of that very long tunnel.
My modus operandi is to just keep putting out the bits of ‘truth’ I’m managing to piece together, without really having the bigger picture still, in the hopes that even this is helping to move things forward in some way, and to get us to the ‘world of truth’ required for geula.
So in today’s installment, let’s take a closer look at the story of the Tzemach Tzedek, Chabad’s Rebbe #3.
Let’s start with what Chabad themselves tell us, about who the Tzemech Tzedek’s parents are:
Rabbi Menachem Mendel—who was to become known as the as the ‘Tzemach Tzedek’, the title of his most famous work—was born in the city of Liozna on Erev Rosh Hashanah 5549, to his parents Rabbi Shalom and Rebbetzin Devorah Leah Shachna. Rabbi Shalom was the son of Rabbi Noach Altshuler, a respected disciple of Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk, Devorah Leah was the daughter of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the first rebbe of Chabad.
The Chabad timeline linked to above gives you the whole ‘story’, including how Menachem Mendel’s mother died young, and so he was raised in the home of the Alter Rebbe.
The Alter Rebbe then makes the shidduch between the Tzemech Tzedek, and the Mitteler Rebbe’s daughter Chaya Mushka. The Mitteler Rebbe is the Alter Rebbe’s son, R’ DovBer Schneurson, who wins the ‘succession war’ for who will lead Chabad against the Alter Rebbe’s youngest son, Moshe.
(In one version of this story, Moshe converts to catholicism as a result of not being crowned Rebbe #2).
Many things puzzled me about this ‘story’.
Firstly, what happened to the Tzemach Tzedech’s father, Shalom Shachne Altshuler, that he went to live with his grandfather, the Alter Rebbe?
Second, why did the leadership pass on to Menachem Mendel, when R’ DovBer had plenty of his own sons (all also ‘outstandingly pious individuals’, according to Chabad lore)?
(I started to vaguely answer that second question, in THIS post.)
So, I girded my loins and have spent literally hours, days and weeks trying to piece together the real story.
And here’s where I got to.
Let’s begin with the Maggid of Mezritch, R’ Dov Ber ben Avraham, which you can read about broadly HERE.
Dov Ber’s father was Avraham of Lukatch, but as I’m finding SO VERY OFTEN with so many of our illustrious Jewish families, there are very few other details of any family members, certainly no siblings, and it hardly ever goes back further than their parents, also with no details of any other family members.
Doesn’t this strike you as strange?
Especially as so many of our leaders were connected to each other, married into each others’ families, and were leaders of the Jewish community (and therefore extent even in gentile documents, who were strictly keeping track of the Jews in their localities, for tax purposes)?
The Maggid of Mezritch has a sister, Ruhama.
Here’s where things are about to get mighty strange again.
Ruhama’s first husband is apparently ‘R’ Noach Altshuler’.
Noach Altshuler and Ruhama have a son, Shalom Shachne Altshuler, who is meant to marry Devorah Leah Schneuri (who Chabad say is one of the daughters of the Alter Rebbe).
Together, they have a son – the Tzemech Tzedek, Chabad Rebbe #3.
No where does Chabad official literature tell us that the ‘Tzemech Tzedek’ is the great nephew of the Maggid of Mezritch.
Ruhama has a second husband (I don’t know if he comes before or after Noach Altshuler), who is none other than Rabbi Abraham Kalisker.
In case you don’t know who that is, here’s a potted (official…) history.
R Abraham Kalisker and R’ Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk move to Israel in 1777 as part of the ‘chassidic aliya’. Shneur Zalman (the Alter Rebbe) also has plans to move to Israel with this group, but Menachem Mendel tells him to cancel them, and stay back in Belarussia, instead.
R’ Abraham Kalisker was formerly a study partner of the Vilna Gaon, before becoming a ‘chassid’.
When Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk passes away in 1788, R’ Avraham Kalisker takes over as leader of the chassidim in Eretz Yisrael, and also takes over the administration of ‘The Holy Land Fund‘, the major way that the Ashkenazi community in Israel is funded by the Jewish diaspora.
Try to search for any information The Holy Land Fund, and you’ll quickly hit a brick wall.
It’s another one of the things on my ‘hot mess-o-meter’ to come back to, but from 1788 on, ‘The Holy Land Fund’ seems to have been taken over by the Alter Rebbe, and morphs into ‘Colel Chabad’.
Colel Chabad is still operating today, with a big budget. According to Wikipedia:
“Colel Chabad was the main charity supported by Sholom Rubashkin, who donated millions of dollars from profits earned by his now-bankrupt company, Agriprocessors.”
Like I said, we’ll come back to this topic another time.
For now, it’s enough to know that following the Alter Rebbe’s publication of the Tanya, in 1797, he has a serious falling out with R’ Abraham Kalishker.
The essence of the dispute is that R’ Kalishker feels that the true path of chassidut should be based on emunat tzaddikim, and on simple emuna in Hashem, and NOT on revealing ‘secrets of the Torah’. R’ Avraham feels the Tanya is revealing too much of these kabbalistic secrets to the masses, and taking the focus off simple emuna.
R’ Asher of Karlin (more on him in a moment) sides with the Kalishker Rebbe; R’ Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev sides with the the Alter Rebbe, and R’ Nachman tries to make peace between the two sides, when he visits Eretz Yisrael in 1798-9.
The first person Rabbenu goes to see when he returns from Israel is the Alter Rebbe. But it’s also interesting to note that in multiple places in his works, Rabbenu stresses that the teachings of the Alter Rebbe are wrong:
“On his way to the Holy Land the Rebbe travelled through Nikolayev and Kherson to get to Odessa. He spent Shavuot in Kherson and there he gave a number of outstanding lessons, including one on the verse, “He calmed the storm,” (Psalms 107:29).
There were a number of followers of R. Shneur Zalman of Liadi in town. They brought some of his teachings for the Rebbe to see. The Rebbe took issue with R. Zalman’s teachings and showed his followers that what he said was not correct.”
– Taken from Tzaddik, #29, page 47.
The argument between R’ Kalishker (who Rabbenu praises very highly) and the Alter Rebbe gets really nasty.
Around 15 of the families affiliated with Shneur Zalman leave Tiberius, and move down to Hevron to start the community there, as a result of this dispute (led by R’Israel Jaffe.)
It’s hard to know what else occurred as a result, (and because the true identity of R’ Avraham Kalishker has been deliberately obscured, tracking that information down is going to be tricky) – but I can still tell you this:
R’ Avraham Kalishker, the Alter Rebbe’s ‘big enemy’, is also at least the stepfather of the Alter Rebbe’s son-in-law, Shalom Shachne Altshuler, father of the Tzemech Tzedek (Chabad Rebbe #3).
But that’s not where this mystery about Shalom Shachne Altshuler ends.
When R’ Dov Ber of Mezritch ‘takes over’ as the leader of chassidut, following the Baal Shem Tov’s passing in 1760, there is a rift between his followers.
It wasn’t an entirely smooth transition, and the followers of the BESHT who fall in behind the Maggid of Mezritch come to be known as the Chevra Kaddisha (holy society), and it included the following:
- R’ Avraham HaMalach (the Maggid’s son)
- R’ Nachum of Czernobyl
- R Elimelech of Lizhensk
- R’ Zusha of Hanipol,
- R’ Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev,
- R’ Boruch of Medzhybizh
- Aharon (HaGadol) of Karlin,
- Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk,
- Shmuel Shmelke of Nikolsburg and
- Shneur Zalman of Liadi.
There are two R’ Aharons of Karlin.
This first one died just a year before the Maggid of Mezritch dies, in 1772. He’s married to someone called Bracha, and has three children:
- R’ Asher of Karlin (aka R’ Asher of Stolin)
- Mosher Ber Perlow
- Rivkah – who also marries Rabbi Shalom Shachne Altshuler, the father of the Tzemech Tzedek (Chabad Rebbe #3).
So basically, the Tzemech Tzedek’s step grandfather is R’ Avraham Kalisker, and his other step-grandfather is R’ Asher of Karlin-Stolin – who both fell out with the Baal HaTanya in a big way, over his teachings.
Where ‘Devorah Leah’, the Alter Rebbe’s apparent daughter, fits into all this, I can’t tell you.
The ‘official page’ for her on Chabadpedia now shows this:
Chabad lore states that she was born in 1766, and married Shalom Shachne Altshuler in 1787.
21 is mighty old to be getting married at a time when most people were married around 13 years old.
For example, her son, the Tzemech Tzedek is apparently betrothed at 8 (!), married at 13, and a father by 14.
Menachem Mendel is born in 1789, then Devorah Leah dies in 1802.
Where her husband, Shalom Shachne Altshuler, is meant to be in all this, I don’t know. And when he is meant to have married to Rivka, daughter of R’ Asher of Karlin-Stolin, I also don’t know.
But here’s why all this matters.
Everywhere I turn with researching this stuff, I’m hitting dead ends, deliberate misinformation and even outright lies and cover ups.
At this stage in history, I feel we need to know the truth of our past, however yucky that might be.
The time for telling tall stories about our ancestors – that whitewash their human frailties and issues – is over.
As you can probably guess, the information I’m sharing here on the blog is just a fraction of the stuff I’m wading through.
What is coming clear into view, at least at the ‘big picture’ level, is that the vast majority of our gadolim and tzaddikim, on all sides, were closely related to zealous ‘believers’ in Shabtai Tzvi, false prophets of Shabtai Tzvi, and also open and ‘closet’ Frankists.
To put this another way:
There is no such thing as ‘good yichus’.
The biggest tzaddikim and the biggest evildoers sprung from the same source, the same gene pool.
That’s probably one of the reasons why Rebbe Nachman would get so annoyed, when people would claim he only achieved his spiritual levels thanks to his holy ancestors.
He for sure knew the secret that the biggest fruit, spiritually, always comes wrapped up in the biggest ‘peel’, or klipa of evil.
And the only way we break this ‘peel’ is by working to overcome our own bad middot.
Going forward, we need to be honest about all this.
Because the people with the bad middot (but ‘good’ yichus….) are still running the show in the Jewish world.
Did you know Netanyahu and Reuben Rivlin are descended from the Vilna Gaon?
Did you know that nearly all the chassidic dynasties come from just 3 families?
(And are also related to the Vilna Gaon.)
Did you know that descendants of Shabtai Tzvi, and Nathan of Gaza, and Jacob Frank – and many, many more nasty people, maskilim, reformers and ‘fake’ moshiach-wannabes – are literally intertwined at every level of the family trees of our current Jewish leaders?
And not just in the secular world, also in the frummest-of-frum communities.
To give some concrete examples:
The main people in the chareidi world who have been persecuting Rabbi Eliezer Berland trace back to this same, problematic, group of people.
And some of today’s biggest rabbis in Bnei Brak had ancestors who were secret Sabbateans, and led the charge towards ‘modernising’ their Jewish communities and destroying the Torah way of life.
I don’t think God wants me shaking out every single skeleton in the cupboards of all our ‘leaders’.
I certainly don’t want to be spending the rest of my life doing this.
But it’s clear to me, that as a community we have to come clean, and we have to stop telling made-up stories about just how ‘good and holy’ our ancestors were.
They also struggled with depression, anger, hatred, jealousy and lack of faith, just like we sometimes do.
They also mistreated their kids, and spoke abusively to their spouses, and cheated on their taxes, and stole things they shouldn’t have, and pretended to be something they really weren’t, just to keep the respect of their friends and neighbors.
And those are just the good ones.
The world of truth is coming, and it can’t be stopped.
Someone just called me and told that people are only prepared to believe the truth now, because so many of us have got so sick of all the lies being told.
We don’t want to hear anymore made up stuff about our ancestors; we don’t want ‘gate keepers’ in our community distorting history and manipulating us with information just so they can keep controlling and misleading us.
And most of all, we don’t want arch hypocrites with bad middot and big beards running our schools, and controlling our communities, and damaging the souls of our holy children with all their fake Torah and emphasis on external piety.
(At least, I don’t.)
So, it’s time to come clean, and to make some real teshuva.
Each of us in our own dalet amot can begin that process, and then it will widen up and out to our friends, families, communities and institutions.
When we stop accepting lies in our own lives, we’ll stop tolerating them and enabling them to be told in the wider world.
That change starts with me and you.
Are you ready?
You might also like these articles: