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May 23, 2014 8:09 pm

Remembering the Rebbe (REVIEW)

avatar by Pinchas Allouche

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem M. Schneerson. Photo: Mordecai Baron.

On Tuesday, June 14, 1994, Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz walked into my classroom, visibly shaken; I was in the 9th grade. I will never forget that sad, sad day.

It was two days after the passing of the Lubavitcher Rebbe of blessed memory – and it was the first time I saw my beloved teacher cry. He spoke chokingly of the Rebbe, whom he called time and again during his talk, “our father, our teacher, our king.” He told us, with enormous pain, how he had had the privilege of spending many hours with the Rebbe, how the Rebbe molded his life’s important decisions, and how the Rebbe was “the greatest man he had ever met.”

A Love Story and a Quest for Truth

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz’s recent book on the late Lubavitcher Rebbe of blessed memory, My Rebbe, is a close look at the life of his great mentor. It is a love story – but it is also clear-eyed and true.”Ž

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This is a book both about life and legacy – a life that was intensely private and a legacy that has irreversibly changed the Jewish world forever.

Rabbi Steinsaltz begins with a detailed and moving description of the Rebbe’s personal life, from the Rebbe’s upbringing in Russia and in Europe, to the Rebbe’s profound relationships with his father-in-law and his wife – and his more complex relationships with others in his extended family.

With both acuity and courage, Rabbi Steinsaltz looks at aspects of the Rebbe that most authors avoid: the definition of a tzaddik, holy man; the Rebbe’s otherness; his revolutionary “business-model”; his connection with “the world beyond”; his immense spiritual mission, and his legacy.

The Palpable Emotion of a Chasid

But My Rebbe is not just a book written by a “genius of the highest order,” as Newsweek once termed Rabbi Steinsaltz, who is also, without a doubt, the leading Jewish scholar of the world today. My Rebbe is also a book written with immense and palpable emotion, with the closeness and admiration of a chasid, a devout disciple. It is no wonder that Rabbi Steinsaltz writes that his feelings about the Lubavitcher Rebbe are “emotionally intimate,” and as a result, “this book has been some two decades in the making.””Ž

My Rebbe stands out even among Rabbi Steinsaltz’s own 60+ books; it is one of the few that combine the brilliance of his mind with the fervor of his heart. It is his passionate plea to all, to continue the Rebbe’s grand yet practical mission of bettering the world and bringing it complete redemption.”Ž

“Make It Rise Again!”

Before Rabbi Steinsaltz left our classroom on that day, he ended his eulogy with a vivid, unforgettable metaphor. “Imagine,” he said, “that you are walking alone at night in the dark, and your only source of light is the moon. Suddenly, as you are approaching your home, the moon falls to the sea. Students, our moon has fallen and we are now left to wander in complete darkness. But we are almost home. So please, I beg you, let us join hands, and make it rise again back to the heavens.”

May this new book, My Rebbe, help raise this moon even further to the heavens, and shine the Rebbe’s guiding light across the globe. And may we together reach that long-awaited day, when we will finally arrive home.

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