Photo Credit: DHerder & Herder Publishers

Title: Social Vision: The Lubavitcher Rebbe’s Transformative Paradigm for the World
Author: Philip Wexler with Eli Rubin and Michael Wexler
Publisher: Herder & Herder

 

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For many around the world, 2020 has felt disenchanting at times. Many have experienced moments of isolation, concern, and reflection. In such an environment, Social Vision: The Lubavitcher Rebbe’s Transformative Paradigm for the World provides insights and hope for a post-pandemic future.

Intriguingly, this book, authored by Philip Wexler, attempts to bridge sociological insights with the ideas of the Lubavitcher Rebbe (1902-1994). In doing so, it persuasively argues that a re-sacralization and re-enchantment of the world might be antidote to the cold, technologically-mediated anomie that characterizes many modern societies.

In making this case, Wexler and his co-authors consider the Rebbe’s efforts to disseminate a guiding orientation to our experiences anchored not in the individual, but in society – life expressed less in narrow terms of “me” and more in expansive terms of “we.” Social Vision also enthusiastically offers the Rebbe’s own words to illustrate key concepts – each chapter contains several well-chosen quotes that allow the Rebbe to speak, in essence, for himself.

The later chapters of the book focus on how the Rebbe approached profound questions on the nature of society. These include: How should we educate our children? How should we act when confronted with injustice and inequality? How should we handle criminals? How should we use Earth’s natural resources?

In addressing these questions, Social Vision applies its guiding themes of re-sacrilization, re-enchantment, and reciprocity.

The chapters on education and socio-mystical justice, humanism, and ecology were, in my view, particularly salient and timely; each offered numerous opportunities for considering the interconnectedness between how we might learn, act, and lead during uncertain times.

Throughout its exploration of the Rebbe’s views on social concerns, the book also strives to demonstrate the vital importance of action – incorporating “How?” and “Why?” into the ultimately more concrete “So what do we do now?”

Overall, I found this book to be a robust opportunity to consider the Rebbe’s societal vision. I appreciated the book’s carefully constructed narrative which, in many ways, intentionally advances key concepts of the Rebbe’s worldview such as the integration of the sociological and the religious; the synthesis of daily experiences and vocations with deeper aspirations of faith and mystical wonder; and the consideration for individual concerns while realizing that we all derive strength and meaning from our communities.

During a long, unpredictable time of social distancing, it was powerfully inspiring to read about the Jewish social vision that the Rebbe, through these authors, was uniquely able to share.

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Benjamin S. Selznick, PhD is an assistant professor in the School of Strategic Leadership Studies at James Madison University.