Guest Post by RaP
I have not come to praise Failed Messiah (FM) but to bury him, to quote the famous words in Shakespeare about the ignoble demise of Julius Caesar after his assassination by his own former friends. The entire Jewish blogosphere and beyond is grappling with the sudden end of the Failed Messiah blog. People who tracked FM had a love-hate relationship with it. For some it was almost pure hate and zero love, for others it was a mixed bag. FM was not a lovable person and made sure to let you know it.
But what was the force behind the FM blog that made it the center of so much attention and controversy? Even if one did not agree with a word it said, it was still a place to get a measure of things in the Frum world. Many on this blog have quoted things that were researched well on FM. In many instances FM had parallel interests with all the other pro-active Jewish blogs, fighting child sex abuse, the various scandals like the Tropper and Hersh cases that this blog and others dealt with in depth. Pulling the facade away that "all is well" in Chabad. Hence the name "failed moshiach" as someone put it, and exposing corruption in various Charedi, Israeli, Modern Orthodox and Chasidic circles who were fighting over money, power, fame and fortune.
But behind it all was a very angry man, who by the time he allowed his FM to be shut down and taken over was a depleted ex Baal Teshuva in his late 50s who had reportedly never married, had no children, no known family and no one who can be called his friends, not getting enough money to keep going even from his readers, living in a far off city in a cramped room, where he worked as a one man news operation that often appeared like a news conglomerate but it was just coming from one driven ex Baal Teshuva who had had it with the Frum world.
The failure of FM is a failure in Kiruv!
It is a failure to close the circle by those who Mekareved him because for Kiruv to be successful it must succeed "from womb to tomb" and not just of the one who is Mekareved, but the spouse of the BT often also a BT, and their children, at the end of the day, must all be raised and remain Frum for it to be a Kiruv success story, and this did not happen with FM, because he broke down along the way of being a loyal Chabad BT to becoming its deadly foe. How so?
Classical BTs are by nature truth seekers and questioners, if they would not be then they would never be drawn to Yiddishkeit and become Frum in the first place, something FFBs do not grasp or understand because FFBs are born into the world of being Frum they do not understand or relate to the unique mental and emotional and intellectual and psychic and spiritual processes of questioning and deep grappling with issues and always demanding the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help them God.
To make this dichotomy between BTs and FFBs clearer one need not look further than the difference between Avraham Avinu and Yitzchak Avinu. They are both the Avos, but what a difference. According to the RAMBAM Avram as he was first called at a very young age started to question everything in a world from which the God of Creation had been banished, and he questioned and questioned and challenged and challenged and defied and defied everyone, until he was satisfied that he found God! Not so his son Yitzchok, the "ershter geboirener" who was born as the first FFB, he did not question because he was born into the faith. Even at the Akeidah he did not question, it was not his Test, it was Avraham's test because as a questioner he did not question God on that, and that is why Avraham passes the litmus test of belief while FM fails, or at least has failed thus far.
Someone wise recently posted a comment about him that is so true on another blog that is worth repeating:
""...We loved the muckraking. The sordid truth. The raw emotion. We loved his struggle. We were a part of something. That cannot be rehabilitated or started anew..."
That quote is what got me thinking about writing this post. What FM was, was a work in process or rather the public unraveling of a work in progress. FM was once a staunch Chabad BT he worked for them, but then he became embittered with them over reasons that anyone who has spent even a little time in Kiruv Rechokim working with formerly secular Jews knows happens all the time. An issue important to them from their past lives comes to them anew as a life's challenge, it is their challenge and Test from Above, like the Akeidah came to Avraham Avinu from Above as an unexpected challenge directly from God and what did he do? He accepted the bitter Divine Decree that went beyond his reasoning and turned his world upside down, while Avraham Avinu passed his test, FM failed his big test. It could have been about the Jewish status of Falashas or it could have been about any one of hundreds of different issues, but for FM it was a catalyst to keep his passions and fires burning now in out of control fashion, questioning, thinking, a rebellious streak running now evidently with great anger that boiled over just at the time when the Internet was exploding and FM like tens of millions of others could then "share" his anger and questions, angst, inner turmoils, and deeper thoughts with the world on his blog.
And people came by the millions to read him, not out of a hate or love for this or that and not out of hate or love for anything really, but because FM was now putting his own struggle on display as symbol of his peers who have these struggles, he did not invent the issues as some allege, he struggled with them in ways that FFBs cannot fathom but that is the typical way of BTs who are conscious of the struggles and will not cover things up just because some people don't like it, expressing himself on a huge cyber-canvas like a frustrated artist for the world to judge.
The FFBs that have bought out and shut down FM have gained a phyric hollow victory, they have bought a shell and FM is having the last laugh, he has done his thing and now he is gone, in typical controversial iconoclastic fashion with disregard for the world even for his supposed "followers" he has spit in their face, because he is an angry man to the core, something FFBs do not do and now they are holding a shadow, like when you try to catch a lizard and you think you caught it but all you are holding is its detached tail while the lizard scampers off to its hiding hole, because they can never shut down the raw questioning and anger and frustration that so many people feel. For a questioning secular Jew becoming Frum, staying Frum, marrying Frum, and raising Frum family and that all of them will remain Frum to their last day on Earth is a huge Nisoyon that FFBs cannot even begin to appreciate.
So FM was a case in point of a failure in Kiruv, it is a reminder of how the Frum world has many lessons to learn before it can win over all the hearts and minds of secular Jews becoming Frum and keep them Frum. We are still in the middle of that bitter struggle and we cannot wish away nor can anyone buy it out and shut down, because life is not that simple.