Zack Rothbart

What would the Rebbe think of ChatGPT? Depends who you ask

The Lubavitcher Rebbe opened hundreds of letters every day -- by hand (Photo: / CC BY-SA 4.0)

I asked ChatGPT what it thinks the Lubavitcher Rebbe would think of it.

This is what it answered:

“As an AI language model, I don’t have personal opinions or beliefs, but I can provide some perspective based on the teachings and beliefs associated with the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, also known as the Rebbe, was a highly respected and influential leader within the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement. He emphasized the importance of using modern technology and innovation to spread Jewish teachings and values. The Rebbe encouraged his followers to utilize various mediums, including radio, television, and computers, to reach out to others and share wisdom.

Given the Rebbe’s endorsement of technology as a tool for spreading knowledge, it is conceivable that he might view ChatGPT or similar AI advancements as potentially positive means for disseminating religious teachings and guidance. The Rebbe valued education and communication and sought to leverage any available means to inspire and connect with individuals.

However, it’s important to note that the Rebbe also emphasized the importance of personal connection, human interaction, and the value of direct guidance from a spiritual mentor. He recognized the limitations of technology and its inability to replace genuine human relationships and engagement.

Ultimately, without the Rebbe’s direct guidance, it is impossible to determine his precise opinion on ChatGPT specifically. However, based on his general stance towards technology and communication, it is plausible to infer that he might see value in the potential applications of AI language models like ChatGPT within the context of educational outreach and fostering connections.”

* * *

Of course, ChatGPT doesn’t actually know what the Rebbe would think of it, and neither do we, but it supplied a pretty damn good answer!

ChatGPT, though, is of course not a person, and certainly not a Hasid. It has been fed copious amounts of data and information, but it has never read a book, never heard words of Torah, never attended a farbrengen

It has never been inspired… because it can’t be.

It may have captured and conveyed the essence of the following story, but as so often in Jewish – and certainly Hasidic – tradition, the story in and of itself has value, not just its bottom-line moral:

It’s no secret that Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson received tons of mail at his famous address, 770 Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

According to Professor Susan Handelman, “The Rebbe would receive – and personally read and answer – around four hundred letters a day. And probably equally as many telephone calls, with questions for him and requests for blessings, would come in each day from around the world.”

Some reports relay that in the 1980s, besides the state capitol, he received more mail than anyone else in New York. Others claim that besides the president, he received more mail than anyone else in the entire United States!

The demand, so to speak, only continued to increase as Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson’s name became more and more familiar to people around the globe – Jews and non-Jews alike.

Regardless of the exact numbers or rankings, he certainly had a lot of envelopes to open – a laborious act which he insisted on doing personally despite his advanced age (he was born in 1902), and one which apparently didn’t find favor in the eyes of some of his closest Hasidim.

In fact, according to a story recounted by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz in My Rebbe, a 2014 biography of the leader of the Chabad Movement, the Lubavitcher Rebbe was once given an automatic envelope opener by some of his disciples to assist with his massive postal undertakings.

Yet the Rebbe didn’t use the contraption. When asked why, he responded that it was too loud.

So they brought him a better, quieter version. Yet he didn’t use that one either. 

They asked him why.

 His answer?

“A machine doesn’t feel what’s found in a man’s soul.”

About the Author
Zack Rothbart is a Jerusalem-based writer and publicist. He is currently Senior Strategist at Concrete Media, and previously served as the National Library of Israel's international spokesman. Zack tries to learn something from everyone, and lives with his endearing and thought-provoking family, for which he is grateful. Feel free to email him via the "Contact Me" link above.
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