Title: Story of Our Lives: An Epic Quest for the Soul of Our Tradition
By Yaakov Klein
Published by Feldheim
Allow me to begin with a quote from the author’s preface: “Accommodating all life-circumstances within its broad framework, The Lost Princess treats the many-faceted nature of the human experience, retaining ultimate relevance to every Jew regardless of age, stage, background, or spiritual level. A manual for our entire existence, this book is one to keep at our side throughout the entirety of our brief and treacherous foray on planet earth.”
Although the author, Rav Yaakov Klein, wrote this as a description of Rebbe Nachman’s story of The Lost Princess, he could not have described his own book, Story of Our Lives: An Epic Quest for the Soul of Our Tradition, in a more accurate way.
This book completely changed the way I view my life and my avodas Hashem. Every chapter contains numerous points of insight that left me thinking, “How did he know?” It touched points in the depths of my mind and soul that I didn’t even know were there. While some of the ideas may seem a bit repetitive, this is done with good reason. The ideas that are reiterated time and time again throughout this book are so essential to every Jew’s life “regardless of age, stage, background, or spiritual level.” If you have ever struggled emotionally, physically, or when embarking on a materialistic or spiritual pursuit, you will find yourself in this book.
With regard to the layout of the book, the chapters are beautifully written and clearly formatted. Rav Klein incorporates quotes from many different types of seforim including those based in Chassidut (including many Breslov sources, of course), machshava, and his own past works, which wonderfully complement the ideas presented throughout the book.
I found Rav Klein’s footnotes to be very helpful as well. Oftentimes, particularly when discussing chassidic and kabbalistic concepts, authors will reference an idea that is not so easy to comprehend, assuming the reader knows it already. Aside from thoroughly explaining these concepts within the text of the book itself and walking the reader through the basic, albeit complicated, kabbalistic ideas discussed, Rav Klein also incorporates extensive and clear footnotes that outline the concepts that are not fundamental to the story itself but are essential to the overall message of the book.
Finally, I found the “Lessons for Life” portion at the end of each chapter to be very helpful. In this section, Rav Klein adds brief bullet points that provide the reader with the key take-aways from the chapter. It is often difficult to know exactly what to take away, and to put into practice, from a work as spiritually deep as this, so this may be helpful to the reader.
I became interested in the world of Chassidic thought around two years ago, and have struggled to understand some very basic concepts and how they practically apply to my life. The first time I read Rebbe Nachman’s The Lost Princess, I felt, much like the princess, lost. There was so much that I could not understand. I wondered why this story was such a fundamental piece of Breslov literature. Clearly, I had missed something major. I am incredibly thankful to Rav Yaakov Klein for showing me exactly what that is, and introducing me to the beauty of The Lost Princess and the depths of Yiddishkeit.