web analytics
May 30, 2015 / 12 Sivan, 5775
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post


Inside The Lubavitcher Rebbe

book-Outward

Turning Judaism Outward: A biography of the Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson
By Rabbi Chaim Miller
Kol Menachem Press

 

 

Of all the rebbes in recent history, Menachen Mendel Schneerson, the Rebbe of Lubavitch was exceptional. He led a small chassidic movement back from near extinction in the gulags of Siberia and the Nazi killing fields. He transformed it into the most successful outreach movement in Judaism since the days of Hillel.

The big question is whether it is possible to be objective about him and about his achievements? ‎ A biography is supposed to describe its subject – his limitations and mistakes as well as successes and qualities. But great spiritual leaders are rarely good material for interesting biographies because their true personal feelings are usually hidden from view. They rarely write the sort of memoirs politicians do to whitewash their records. There are no revealing diaries that betray their innermost secrets.

The result is that religious leaders usually get hagiographies. The very term describes how we write about holy men in order to ensure that their uplifting messages get accorded the respect and awe they hope for and their followers seem to need. Hence we often hear a lot about the miracles they achieve but never about when they fail. So when we read about great rabbis it is usually through a veil of devotion, devoid of blemishes in a holy record.

When Rabbi Natan Kaminetzky wrote The Making of a Gadol and suggested that some of the giants of Lithuanian Rabbinic authority actually read books of Russian literature and philosophy contra the current ban on such activity in haredi society, he was lambasted, hounded, and bullied, and the book was banned.

Chaim Miller has painted as broad and as honest a picture of the Rebbe as is possible. Perhaps the most important contribution of his book is to set the Rebbe in the context of Chabad tradition going back to its founders. The Rebbe remained intensely loyal to his predecessors and to the dismay of some of his admirers refused to depart from a fundamentalist approach to Judaism. And yet beyond the ideology he was able to break the mold and mental constraints that have limited the impact of almost all the other chassidic dynasties. Within Judaism he positioned his movement both within and without the haredi world.

Chabad as a movement went furthest in bridging the gap between the mystical chassidic world of mysticism and the Lithuanian mastery of scholarship and intellectual discipline. It was also the primary chassidic movement within Russia. This had the advantage of shielding it more than others from the depredations of Nazism, but it also meant that it suffered most under Communism for a very long period. It was almost entirely due to Chabad that Jewish life was sustained altogether in the Soviet Union. The incredible life and death commitment of Chabad in Russia of course long pre-dated the Rebbe. And interestingly, he was strongly opposed to the public demonstrations of the Soviet Jewry campaigns. But his major contribution to the wider community really began in the United States.

From an early age he was marked as exceptional. He combined intellectual achievement with deep spirituality and religious devotion. Although he came from Lubavitch aristocracy he was a junior son-in-law of the sixth rebbe and had no expectation of leadership. So he prepared himself to earn a living by studying engineering, first in Berlin then in Paris. All the time, however, he was deepening his already profound mastery of Jewish sources. Both would stand him in good stead.

As his family was caught in a pincer between the Russians and the Germans, the sixth rebbe fled – finally and almost miraculously ending up in the United States. By this time, with his father-in-law ailing, Menahem Mendel began to get more involved in Chabad affairs and soon emerged as the favored candidate to succeed his father-in-law after his death in 1950. There was some tension between him and his older brother-in-law. He hesitated and prevaricated but finally took over in 1951.

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Inside The Lubavitcher Rebbe”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
What's happened to NYC's Celebrate Israel Parade?
Israel Rejects as ‘False’ UJA Federation’s Claims about Israel Parade ‘Inclusion’
Latest Sections Stories
Respler-logo-NEW

When I complain, she tells me it is retail therapy.

West-Coast-logo

Tal Dimenstein has been selected to present her ELI Talk about Appreciation during this year’s conference in Chicago.

How is it possible that some of our people cannot see what I see, the miracle of the existence of the state of Israel?

Birobidzhan railway station sign is the world’s only one spelling the town’s name in Yiddish letters

She’s seen as a poster child for The Jewish Home’s efforts to reach beyond its Orthodox base.

Girls don’t usually learn Gemara. Everyone knows that.

Mordechai and his men shared a strong mutual loyalty.

“Can I wear tefillin in the bathroom?” That was the question US Private Nuchim Lebensohn wrote to Mike Tress, president of the Agudath Israel Youth Council, in a letter dated November 18, 1942. Lebensohn was not your typical young American GI. Polish by birth, he was forty-three years old and married when he was drafted […]

To what extent is your child displaying defiance?

This therapist kept focusing on how “I could do better,” never on how we could make the marriage work.

Mistrust that has lingered after the fiasco in Ferguson, Missouri, has edged the issue forward.

“The observance of a kosher diet is a key tenet of Judaism, and one which no state has the right to deny,” said Nathan Diament, executive director for public policy of the Orthodox Union.

More Articles from Jeremy Rosen
book-Outward

He combined intellectual achievement with deep spirituality and religious devotion.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/books/book-reviews/inside-the-lubavitcher-rebbe/2014/07/14/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: