Everyone's Rebbe

Thursday, 15 June, 2023 - 11:33 pm

This coming weekend we mark the anniversary of the Rebbe’s arrival in the USA in 1941, and just a few days later, the 3rd of Tammuz is the date of the Rebbe’s physical passing in 1994. The Rebbe represents so many different things to different people.

Just a quick look at some of the books that have been written about the Rebbe or his philosophy and perspective on life, reveals an exceedingly broad spectrum of emphasis.

Social Vision by Phillip Wexler presents an analysis of the Rebbe’s take on shaping social structures and ideals.  Open Secret by Elliot Wolfson looks at the Rebbe’s innovative fusion of mysticism and pragmatic application. In the Moment of Truth (B’rega Ha’Emet in Hebrew) by Ehrlich and Elituv details the Rebbe’s intricate and ongoing communication with Israel’s leadership. Positivity Bias by Mendel Kalmenson presents the Rebbe’s fierce devotion to optimism and its ability to change how we live. Inclusion and the Power of the Individual by Ari Sollish presents the Rebbe’s pioneering approach to inclusion and individuality. The Rebbe by Joseph Telushkin is a comprehensive biography that offers a glimpse into the Rebbe’s influence on a highly diverse range of people and ideas. Spiritual Education by Aryeh Solomon highlights the Rebbe’s theory and practice of education. The Rebbe’s Army by Sue Fishkoff provides insight into the global impact of the Rebbe’s emissaries and institutions. These are just a few examples.

Throw in several hundred volumes of the Rebbe’s published teachings, compilations of individual interactions that people had with the Rebbe, over 40 volumes of correspondence in multiple languages, 7 volumes of the Rebbe’s personal journal discovered in his desk drawer, dozens of volumes of adaptations of the Rebbe’s teachings into various languages, and extensive oral and written biographical materials, you are left with a big question: Which of these tells the Rebbe’s real story? How could he be so many different things to so many different people? How can the person who is laser focused on the scholarly analysis of Rashi and Maimonides, also be hyper aware of the inner workings of Israel’s security situation? How can a person who oversees thousands of institutions and is involved in matters of global significance, make an unassuming visitor feel as though their issues were the most important in the world? I could go on, but I think you get the point.

The answer lies in a verse (Numbers 27:18) in which G-d offers Moses an insight into the nature of the person who would be his successor, Joshua. “Ish asher ruach bo – A man within whom there is a spirit.” On this our sages comment, that Joshua was a man who related to the spirit of each and every individual. A true leader, one who is a Moses, is someone that can relate to every person on their terms. One who has “his hand” in every issue and matter that pertains to the welfare of his flock.

Underlying it all is a profound love for each and every person, and a desire to connect them to the Source of Life, Hashem, by bringing individual and collective Redemption to all. May this desire be realized very soon.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin  

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