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Rebbe: The Life and Teachings of Menachem M. Schneerson, the Most Influential Rabbi in Modern History

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“One of the greatest religious biographies ever written.” – Dennis Prager In this enlightening biography, Joseph Telushkin offers a captivating portrait of the late Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, a towering figure who saw beyond conventional boundaries to turn his movement, Chabad-Lubavitch, into one of the most dynamic and widespread organizations ever seen in the Jewis “One of the greatest religious biographies ever written.” – Dennis Prager In this enlightening biography, Joseph Telushkin offers a captivating portrait of the late Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, a towering figure who saw beyond conventional boundaries to turn his movement, Chabad-Lubavitch, into one of the most dynamic and widespread organizations ever seen in the Jewish world. At once an incisive work of history and a compendium of Rabbi Schneerson's teachings, Rebbe is the definitive guide to understanding one of the most vital, intriguing figures of the last centuries. From his modest headquarters in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, the Rebbe advised some of the world's greatest leaders and shaped matters of state and society. Statesmen and artists as diverse as Ronald Reagan, Robert F. Kennedy, Yitzchak Rabin, Menachem Begin, Elie Wiesel, and Bob Dylan span the spectrum of those who sought his counsel.  Rebbe explores Schneerson's overarching philosophies against the backdrop of treacherous history, revealing his clandestine operations to rescue and sustain Jews in the Soviet Union, and his critical role in the expansion of the food stamp program throughout the United States. More broadly, it examines how he became in effect an ambassador for Jews globally, and how he came to be viewed by many as not only a spiritual archetype but a savior. Telushkin also delves deep into the more controversial aspects of the Rebbe's leadership, analyzing his views on modern science and territorial compromise in Israel, and how in the last years of his life, many of his followers believed that he would soon be revealed as the Messiah, a source of contention until this day.


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“One of the greatest religious biographies ever written.” – Dennis Prager In this enlightening biography, Joseph Telushkin offers a captivating portrait of the late Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, a towering figure who saw beyond conventional boundaries to turn his movement, Chabad-Lubavitch, into one of the most dynamic and widespread organizations ever seen in the Jewis “One of the greatest religious biographies ever written.” – Dennis Prager In this enlightening biography, Joseph Telushkin offers a captivating portrait of the late Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, a towering figure who saw beyond conventional boundaries to turn his movement, Chabad-Lubavitch, into one of the most dynamic and widespread organizations ever seen in the Jewish world. At once an incisive work of history and a compendium of Rabbi Schneerson's teachings, Rebbe is the definitive guide to understanding one of the most vital, intriguing figures of the last centuries. From his modest headquarters in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, the Rebbe advised some of the world's greatest leaders and shaped matters of state and society. Statesmen and artists as diverse as Ronald Reagan, Robert F. Kennedy, Yitzchak Rabin, Menachem Begin, Elie Wiesel, and Bob Dylan span the spectrum of those who sought his counsel.  Rebbe explores Schneerson's overarching philosophies against the backdrop of treacherous history, revealing his clandestine operations to rescue and sustain Jews in the Soviet Union, and his critical role in the expansion of the food stamp program throughout the United States. More broadly, it examines how he became in effect an ambassador for Jews globally, and how he came to be viewed by many as not only a spiritual archetype but a savior. Telushkin also delves deep into the more controversial aspects of the Rebbe's leadership, analyzing his views on modern science and territorial compromise in Israel, and how in the last years of his life, many of his followers believed that he would soon be revealed as the Messiah, a source of contention until this day.

30 review for Rebbe: The Life and Teachings of Menachem M. Schneerson, the Most Influential Rabbi in Modern History

  1. 5 out of 5

    Paul Sánchez Keighley

    This book serves only one purpose: to make the reader admire the Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem M. Schneerson. And while it certainly accomplishes that purpose, as a biography it feels shallow and frustrating. It's a pleasant, inspirational book to skim over, but it fails to paint a nuanced portrait of the Rebbe. I found the more historical and biographical parts of the book fascinating, such as Schneerson's reluctance to become Rebbe after his father-in-law, the Frieridker Rebbe, passed away; or th This book serves only one purpose: to make the reader admire the Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem M. Schneerson. And while it certainly accomplishes that purpose, as a biography it feels shallow and frustrating. It's a pleasant, inspirational book to skim over, but it fails to paint a nuanced portrait of the Rebbe. I found the more historical and biographical parts of the book fascinating, such as Schneerson's reluctance to become Rebbe after his father-in-law, the Frieridker Rebbe, passed away; or the chapter detailing how the Rebbe turned Chabad into a worldwide organisation that attracted Jews of all affiliations. Unfortunately, these parts took up a very small portion of the book; most of it recounted private conversations he had with a great number of people during a yechidus or farbrengen. The structure ends up becoming repetitive: person approaches the Rebbe with a problem; Rebbe says something unexpected and inspirational; person is shocked by the Rebbe's response ("Swados found himself sweating heavily, his hands tightly clenched, as were those of his wife. The Rebbe, however, sat relaxed" p. 60); person then meets Rebbe many years later, his life changed, and thanks him for the advice he gave him all those years ago. As I said, admirable, but tedious to read. So many people are said to have been "shocked" or "flabbergasted" by the Rebbe's responses, it's borderline comical. If someone were to ask the Rebbe in passing where the restroom is, his indications would leave the inquirer agape in awestruck wonder. On the other hand, some of his more controversial statements (like the time 25 kids were killed in a terror attack in an Israeli school and the Rebbe said it was because 25 of the school's mezuzot were not kosher - woah) are hurriedly - almost sheepishly - mentioned in a paragraph and then swept under a carpet of awesome things he said on other occasions. Also his views on women and Reform and Conservative Jews, while certainly more modern and accepting than those of other Lubavitcher rabbis (the bar is pretty low), seem at times watered down to appeal to a broader audience. In short, I enjoyed getting to know the Rebbe better but wasn't too keen on the book.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    I received this book as part of a Goodreads Giveaway and I’m sincerely grateful that I did. The man known as the Rebbe took over as the seventh Rebbe of the Lubavitcher Jewish community in the early fifties from his father-in-law. Although I have seen these communities, I have not had direct contact and knew little about the Rebbe before reading this book. I had no idea of his great intellect, his influence on the world, his controversial opinions, or his great faith. Highly educated in multiple I received this book as part of a Goodreads Giveaway and I’m sincerely grateful that I did. The man known as the Rebbe took over as the seventh Rebbe of the Lubavitcher Jewish community in the early fifties from his father-in-law. Although I have seen these communities, I have not had direct contact and knew little about the Rebbe before reading this book. I had no idea of his great intellect, his influence on the world, his controversial opinions, or his great faith. Highly educated in multiple degrees, the Rebbe always stayed highly informed through the Chabad network of information as well as his daily consumption of information from newspapers and other periodicals. His interests were not limited to Judaism. He had an extraordinary memory and a piercing intellect. An example of this is revealed in a conversation regarding Plato. Philosophically, the Rebbe had an extraordinary take on Plato. In a conversation with the young philosopher Yitzchak Block, “in the circles in which Block moved at Harvard, Plato was regarded with the highest respect, representing the epitome of high culture and civilization. But the Rebbe had a different take on Plato’s writings: He spoke of Platonic philosophy as cruel…What upset the Rebbe in particular was Plato’s social philosophy, his advocacy of the abolition of the nuclear family and his belief that children should be taken away from their parents.” (47) A man who had seen the beliefs of Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany, it is not surprising that the Rebbe ascribed not just to the traditional Jewish emphasis on the role of family, but also mistrusted based on practical and real knowledge government authority to disrupt families and eliminate their role in the formation of moral judgment. He particularly took an interest in increasing the role of Judaism in everyone’s life, and also was progressive and enlightened on the role of women in Judaism. He would make time for individuals, into ridiculous times in the early morning hours, to give blessings and advice. He took particular interest in individuals, and many came away changed by the conversation. He would also challenge the individuals. In discussing the Holocaust with Harvey Swados, “he insisted upon the Germans’ obedience to authority and their unquestioning carrying out of orders—even the most bestial—as a cultural-historical phenomenon that was the product of many generations of deliberate inculcation.” (58) He defended the decision not to leave Germany of the victims of the Holocaust by using examples of assembly line workers from Swados’ own writings…if in a free country those people didn’t revolt, then how could you expect those living under the iron yoke of Nazism to revolt? Through countless stories and anecdotes, it is clear that the Rebbe believed and emphasized directly that one ought to truly love one another. He was unyielding in his criticisms and disagreements, but he was always careful to separate those criticisms from the person. He cared deeply about education. As highly educated as he himself was, however, and how much he cared for knowledge, he cared more for moral education. His focus on school prayer, and the advice he gave to students on whether to pursue university degrees or not boiled down to the individual and their moral education…and ultimately what was most useful to Judaism and that person’s purpose in the world. He believed in the potential for salvation of everyone, even a person as horrific as Lazar Kaganovich, the Soviet official whose enforced starvation and labor policies probably killed around 6 million people (and who was completely non-repentant and proud of his actions). He worked tirelessly, behind the scenes in the most productive manner possible, to save Russian Jewry, strongly influencing Reagan’s ultimately successful actions through Senator Hecht, who came to regard his role as “the most important story of my life.” (302) The Rebbe was thoroughly versed in the scientific method and highly educated, and for this reason he was able to criticize the pronouncements of scientists on their violation of the method. For the Rebbe, there was no necessary conflict between science and Judaism because scientific “fact” was always subject to change based on the method itself, while the Torah did not. Thus he used the twentieth century application of the theory of relativity to remove conflict between the heliocentric model and the Ptolemaic models of the solar system, insisting that by modern understanding both were now equally incorrect. He disputed the age of the earth ascribed by scientists as “speculative” science, and therefore held to the biblical dating of the earth. Controversial, indeed. However, these questions really do not seem to have concerned the Rebbe directly, only wading into the territory because they distracted people from fulfilling their obligations. As he said to another, “Judaism is not about thinking, it’s about doing.” (326) Telushkin’s discussion on the Messiah were interesting, and he accurately presented multiple models for the belief or disbelief in the Rebbe as the Messiah, concluding directly that he himself always went out of his way to eliminate a cult of personality regarding himself, and directly contradicted this claim. The chapter on the tearing apart of his family regarding his father-in-law’s library was succinct and well done. What is most interesting to me, however, is the Rebbe’s unwavering work ethic. He truly seems to be a Herculean man, capable of working himself into the ground every single day. This is a man, clearly made of faith, with a brilliant intellect, perfectly suited to his role. When asked how, even in his old age, he could work for so long a time, he said, “Every soul is like a diamond. Who grows tired from counting diamonds?” (507) The book is long and at times reads a bit like a hagiography. Countless anecdotes, from the mundane to the great, are recounted. Sometimes the story ends in failure, sometimes success. Telushkin attempts to derive meaning for all of them. At times, there are simply too many of them, and he has to reflexively refer to situations he has already discussed to allow the narrative flow within his intended organization. That said, summarizing so prolific a life as the Rebbe, with a myriad of personal testimony and his own documented writings, is quite a feat. The Rebbe was certainly a controversial figure, and his opinions were frequently unexpected and always rooted in clear logical reasoning. He was not a great leader because people followed him. He was a great leader because he created in every individual an expectation that they lead as well. I think Telushkin does a wonderful job summarizing his life.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Moeller

    I am not Jewish so it is possible that I am not the target audience and that is why I did not enjoy it. Prior to picking up this book, my only exposure to the Hasidic community was seeing them on the street or seeing their life depicted in various bad movies. This book was an interesting window into the life and tradition of the Lubavitcher Hasidim and in that way it was an interesting eduction. In addition, a lot of the information about the Rebbe and his teachings clarify why he was so revered I am not Jewish so it is possible that I am not the target audience and that is why I did not enjoy it. Prior to picking up this book, my only exposure to the Hasidic community was seeing them on the street or seeing their life depicted in various bad movies. This book was an interesting window into the life and tradition of the Lubavitcher Hasidim and in that way it was an interesting eduction. In addition, a lot of the information about the Rebbe and his teachings clarify why he was so revered in his community and also outside of his community. I particularly admired his devotion to reaching out to all Jewish people, to move them closer to what he saw as a true Jewish life. However, the biography portion of this book is told in such fragmented bits and pieces that it doesn't create a true narrative and makes it quite a slog to get through. In addition, while I admired the Rebbe's devotion to charity and caring for those in his community, it was difficult to square his commitment to school prayer, to discouraging his followers from attending college and to traditional roles for women, with my own belief.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Julia

    I did not like the writing style of this book. Found it very over the top and lacking substance. Would have liked to have read more about the circumstances that shaped him as a leader rather than chapter after chapter listing all the ways in which he was awesome.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Rosebud Kamerling

    I was totally absorbed in this book. The Rebbe's life is far more interesting than I thought possile and his teachings far more applicable than I first thought. This is a great book. I was totally absorbed in this book. The Rebbe's life is far more interesting than I thought possile and his teachings far more applicable than I first thought. This is a great book.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, known simply as The Rebbe, was the leader of the Lubavitch group of chasidim, and the head of the worldwide organization known as Chabad, both headquartered in the neighborhood of Crown Heights, in Brooklyn, New York. The Rebbe, seventh and last person to hold that title, assumed leadership of the chasidic group in 1950, a year after the passing of his father-in-law, the sixth Rebbe, and over the next four decades proceeds to grow it from a small group recoverin Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, known simply as The Rebbe, was the leader of the Lubavitch group of chasidim, and the head of the worldwide organization known as Chabad, both headquartered in the neighborhood of Crown Heights, in Brooklyn, New York. The Rebbe, seventh and last person to hold that title, assumed leadership of the chasidic group in 1950, a year after the passing of his father-in-law, the sixth Rebbe, and over the next four decades proceeds to grow it from a small group recovering after having escaped Soviet Russia to arguably the most recognized Jewish outreach organization in the world through simple yet effective principles that emphasize the love of every Jew regardless of background, non-judgmental encouragement to practicing mitzvot (commandments), and an increase in acts of kindness by everyone. The book is not a biography per se; to learn about the life of Rabbi Schneerson is to learn about the history of Chabad, for the two go hand in hand. As such, Telushkin makes the choice not to present the Rebbe's life in chronological order, but rather as a collection of chapters that explore the life and teachings of the Rebbe regarding a different theme. By the time you're done you have indeed read through the life of the Rebbe, and there even is a chronology of events that acts as a summary of the entire book, but you have also gained a wealth of knowledge about how the Rebbe thought, felt, believed, and taught. That said, as much as I enjoyed the book, I would've liked a more traditional biography that put together the pieces of the Rebbe's history and life as they developed through the years. My interest in this book stems from my association with Chabad. Since my conversion to Judaism 14 years ago, Chabad rabbis have been a constant presence in my life, providing spiritual guidance and a welcoming community regardless of what city I have found myself in. That attitude, that welcoming nature, that willingness to open their heart to me, regardless of where I've been in my spiritual journey, it all comes from the Rebbe, from his example, from his teachings. And even if I don't necessarily agree with or follow all of the teachings or opinions held by the Rebbe, and in turn by Chabad, I hold them both in the greatest of esteem, and support their programs as much as I can. A man of great humility, possessed of a keen intellect and knowledge in both secular and religious subjects, and most importantly, the ability to focus on individuals and help inspire them to be great in their own right, to use their talents to the benefit of humanity, and to become leaders in their own right, the Rebbe was truly the leader of his generation, and his influence continues to be felt more than 20 years after his passing. Although long, and perhaps a bit dry at times, Telushkin's book is nevertheless a fitting tribute to a man who every single day of his life sought to do the best he could for the world, both through his own acts, and through a veritable army of emissaries, followers, friends, and even respectful opponents, around the world.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Margaret Klein

    I grew up with a predisposition to not like Chabad. They proselytize. They are like a cult. They need the permission of the rebbe to do anything. This was an eye-opening book. Many of the programs that I have been running for years, originated in Chabad. Summer camps. My dollar project. World wide wrap. More. They are masters of marketing. And meaning. And mitzvot. They are another entry point for Judaism. The rebbe was an unbelievably skilled leader and a compassionate man. I don't agree with e I grew up with a predisposition to not like Chabad. They proselytize. They are like a cult. They need the permission of the rebbe to do anything. This was an eye-opening book. Many of the programs that I have been running for years, originated in Chabad. Summer camps. My dollar project. World wide wrap. More. They are masters of marketing. And meaning. And mitzvot. They are another entry point for Judaism. The rebbe was an unbelievably skilled leader and a compassionate man. I don't agree with everything in the book--I encourage kids to go to college. I don't dispute evolution or whether the earth goes around the sun. The book desperately needed an editor. I read the book in a unique order, starting with the chronology in the back in order to have context. However, in the main portion of the book there was too much repetition and too much needing to flip back and forth to follow the story line. Nonetheless, I am delighted that I read it.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    Today’s nonfiction post is on Rebbe by Joseph Telushkin. It is 642 pages long and is published by HarperCollins. The cover is a picture of the Rebbe in front of his home. The intended reader is someone who wants to know more about the Rebbe, Chabad, or Jewish life in general. There is no strong language, no sex, and no violence in this book. Anyone can read this book. There Be Spoilers Ahead. From the back of the book- From a small synagogue in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, the late Rebbe Schneerson a Today’s nonfiction post is on Rebbe by Joseph Telushkin. It is 642 pages long and is published by HarperCollins. The cover is a picture of the Rebbe in front of his home. The intended reader is someone who wants to know more about the Rebbe, Chabad, or Jewish life in general. There is no strong language, no sex, and no violence in this book. Anyone can read this book. There Be Spoilers Ahead. From the back of the book- From a small synagogue in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, the late Rebbe Schneerson affected the policies of US presidents and politicians, counseled some of our greatest thinkers, and spread his teachings of love and righteousness to the far corners of the world. An ambassador for Jews globally, his role was unprecedented within a fragmented religion, made up of diverse, often divided, sects. May Jews- especially those involved in Chabad- believed that the Rebbe was the messiah while he was still alive. Drawn from the Rebbe’s private correspondence, Rebbe is a rich and illuminating portrait of this remarkable man who was a devoted spiritual leader and tireless counselor; a controversial advocate for women’s rights and community openness; and an accomplished scholar fluent in dozens of languages. Joseph Telushkin illuminates the Rebbe’s rich private life and chronicles his achievements, from his close bond with his congregants to his influence on presidents, including Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. Throughout, Telushkin pays tribute to the Rebbe’s legacy- his teachings, of love, education, and respect- which have become engrained in millions of Jews and non-Jews alike. Review- This was an engaging and interesting biography. I personally know very little about Jewish life much less about their individual leaders. The Rebbe was quite a man. He was educated at European universities before World War 2, he experienced losses because of the war, he believed in love for all Jews but start with your neighbor and so much more. I enjoyed this book because Telushkin does not hold back from the reader. We see the Rebbe from many different sides. We have personal letters, dairy entries, sermons, and newspaper articles; not just what the Rebbe wrote himself but what was written about him. At the end of the book there is a very helpful timeline of the Rebbe’s life from birth to death with what he was doing in each year. It helps to place everything in the book in context. This was a moving and hopeful about a man who had seen the worst that humanity can do but still believed in our best traits. I recommend this book. I give this book a Five out of Five stars. I was given this book by HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sandor J.

    An exceptional biography of an exceptional religious leader While this is a fine account of "the Life and Teachings" of the Seventh (and perhaps) last leader of the Chasidic Movement of Orthodox Judaism, I generally reserve 5 Star ratings to truly exceptional, 'must read' books. While there are other accounts of the Chasidic Movement, and of Rabbi Menachem Mendal Schneerson (known widely as "the Rebbe," Rabbi Telushkin gives us a brilliant 'outsiders' look at the Rebbi and his Chasidic Movement, An exceptional biography of an exceptional religious leader While this is a fine account of "the Life and Teachings" of the Seventh (and perhaps) last leader of the Chasidic Movement of Orthodox Judaism, I generally reserve 5 Star ratings to truly exceptional, 'must read' books. While there are other accounts of the Chasidic Movement, and of Rabbi Menachem Mendal Schneerson (known widely as "the Rebbe," Rabbi Telushkin gives us a brilliant 'outsiders' look at the Rebbi and his Chasidic Movement, including his often controversial opinions on subjects as diverse as school prayer, anti-Soviet demonstrations for Soviet Jewry, religious versus secular education, science versus religion, the coming the the Messiah, and many others. There is a particularly interesting chapter on the civil trial that ensued when the Rebbe's nephew (son of the wife of the previous (6th) Rebbe) was caught stealing rare and valuable books from the Rebbe's library, which he sold for money that he desperately needed. SPOILER ALERT: While the nephew claimed that he had legitimately inherited (at least half of the collection) from this mother, the court agreed with the Rebbe's position that the books belonged the to Chasidic Community, not to any on particular person or persons. Rabbi Mechachem Mendal Schneerson ("The Rebbe) is undoubtedly the most influential, albeit, controversial contemporary Jewish leader. This volume is a fine accounting of his life and teachings. It should be a part of every Judaica library. It also includes a helpful glossary of the Yiddish terms frequently used in the Chasidic Community. The Rebbe may be viewed years or centuries from now with the same esteem and importance of Maimonides. Rabbi Joseph Telushkin is a prolific popular author on Jewish subjects, and always be counted on for a fair, accurate, and unbiased look at the subject in question. This book is no exception. Highly recommended.

  10. 5 out of 5

    WriteKnight

    3.5 – Interesting, Educational Account of a Man of Contradictions. (I'm excited to have won this as a Goodreads First Read – so thanks, Kathryn!) Rebbe: The Life and Teachings of Menachem M. Schneerson, the Most Influential Rabbi in Modern History was a well-researched veneration of this man and his legacy. As someone who didn’t know much about this man and the historical context of his life, I learned a lot about the man, and in the process learned more about the various religious, social and pol 3.5 – Interesting, Educational Account of a Man of Contradictions. (I'm excited to have won this as a Goodreads First Read – so thanks, Kathryn!) Rebbe: The Life and Teachings of Menachem M. Schneerson, the Most Influential Rabbi in Modern History was a well-researched veneration of this man and his legacy. As someone who didn’t know much about this man and the historical context of his life, I learned a lot about the man, and in the process learned more about the various religious, social and political implications, forces and events surrounding him and his actions. Yet, all that info made this quite a lengthy book, so for a layman like me it was slow going at times and took a while to get through. In addition to being a bit dry in places, it also could have been a bit more organized in its flow and presentation of info. I appreciated the biographical aspects, but also thought it was not as balanced or unbiased as most I’ve read lately; rather than presenting weaknesses as well as strengths, etc., Joseph Telushkin mainly praised the man and his achievements without question. And what was presented was more of what happened and how, but not as much of the why in terms of what motivated his behavior from a psychological development point of view. For example, I found it interesting that someone as educated and compassionate as Rebbe, that he held some views that seemed contradictory to that by even moderate standards, yet that wasn’t questioned and I wanted more explanation or analysis of where that came from. Nevertheless, this book did illustrate why this man was so respected and influential, and as such it would be educational for both those familiar and not with this important man.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jacqueline

    Great Historical Story If you enjoy biographies, you may find this one even better than the usual accounts of a life. This book states its purpose is to reveal how The Rebbe expanded the small Chasidic Sect of Chabad into a gigantic worldwide presence. I saw a newspaper article in 2017 that said Chabad is now the largest Jewish group. I am not sure I believe that. Most people don't know how recently it was negligibly tiny among Jewish movements, but take its ubiquitous presence for granted, as if Great Historical Story If you enjoy biographies, you may find this one even better than the usual accounts of a life. This book states its purpose is to reveal how The Rebbe expanded the small Chasidic Sect of Chabad into a gigantic worldwide presence. I saw a newspaper article in 2017 that said Chabad is now the largest Jewish group. I am not sure I believe that. Most people don't know how recently it was negligibly tiny among Jewish movements, but take its ubiquitous presence for granted, as if it has always been everywhere. This book does not solve the mystery of how that was done, but it does lay out the chronology, so those who are startled by the success of tiny Chabad startup communities may theorize for themselves about why those people are so successful at what they do.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Kind of repetitive and definitely seems to be written more for a non jewish audience? Not really so much about his "life and teaching" as it is about random anecdotes that make him sound like a grandfatherly gentleman who has some weird beliefs about evolution but is still well meaning and also knows the future. I didn't really like the emphasis on ~hOw DiD hE kNoW?~ type anecdotes that were HEAVILY sprinkled throughout, like when some lady came for a bracha or something and he "knew" she wanted Kind of repetitive and definitely seems to be written more for a non jewish audience? Not really so much about his "life and teaching" as it is about random anecdotes that make him sound like a grandfatherly gentleman who has some weird beliefs about evolution but is still well meaning and also knows the future. I didn't really like the emphasis on ~hOw DiD hE kNoW?~ type anecdotes that were HEAVILY sprinkled throughout, like when some lady came for a bracha or something and he "knew" she wanted another baby and he was like "THIS TIME NEXT YEAR YOU SHALL HAVE AN ADDITION TO YOUR HOUSEHOLD" and she was like :o and then she did have a baby and it's like ugh I am not interested in these types of stories but I guess some people are into that kind of thing. And stories about how the president lit the hanukkah candles and isn't that inspiring etc. Anyway steinsaltz's book about the rebbe is better imo this one was meh. Very telushkinesque if that means anything to you I read it for the chizuk but it was more of a "feel good" read I suppose

  13. 5 out of 5

    Katya

    At first, I was going to give it a 5 star. I thought it was an incredible story. The man who knew how to talk to people from all types of life, and to find something that was meaningful for each. The man with an incredible work ethic. The man with an incredible foresight - about countries, about direction of Judaism. The man with the confidence to give advice about various fields of life, and whose power was so strong that people believed in him - and he was right! And the man who kept the humil At first, I was going to give it a 5 star. I thought it was an incredible story. The man who knew how to talk to people from all types of life, and to find something that was meaningful for each. The man with an incredible work ethic. The man with an incredible foresight - about countries, about direction of Judaism. The man with the confidence to give advice about various fields of life, and whose power was so strong that people believed in him - and he was right! And the man who kept the humility within him and never claimed that he was the Messiah. And yet - there was so much controversy. Not going to college until you are in your mid-20s. This effectively removed the Hasidim from so many occupations, and guaranteed that they would keep breeding. Maybe this was the right thing to do after the Holocaust, but now? Yet I understand his reasoning - if you go too early, there are so many chances that you will leave the religion. And evolution? He was a learned man, yet, he emphatically believed that the world was created five and a half thousand years ago. And then there were other things - such as sending the emissaries to live in remote areas. It was a huge sacrifice to make. And now it seems that most of these couples did not have a choice in the matter, regardless of their belief or circumstances. They simply had to leave everything behind and leave. And while it's good for all the other Jews around the world, you wonder if it could have been done with less pain. There was nothing negative in the book about the Rebbe. Nor his wife. And yet there was a controversy. Such as his wife never wearing a wig. Or being active in the movement. Or him not leaving a successor. Regardless of the negatives, it's an incredible story which explains so much about the philosophy, the life and the accomplishments of one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Michael Lewyn

    This excellent book creates a middle ground between Chabad-oriented writers' portrait of the Rebbe as an all-around hero, and Samuel Heilman's controversial, somewhat more critical biography. Telushkin is very plugged into the Chabad world; his father was an accountant for the Rebbe. So this book is much more friendly to the Rebbe than not, emphasizing for example the evidence that the Rebbe never believed himself to be the Messiah. He also emphasizes the Rebbe's role in the non-Jewish world; whe This excellent book creates a middle ground between Chabad-oriented writers' portrait of the Rebbe as an all-around hero, and Samuel Heilman's controversial, somewhat more critical biography. Telushkin is very plugged into the Chabad world; his father was an accountant for the Rebbe. So this book is much more friendly to the Rebbe than not, emphasizing for example the evidence that the Rebbe never believed himself to be the Messiah. He also emphasizes the Rebbe's role in the non-Jewish world; when Shirley Chisholm was elected to represent Crown Heights in Congress, the Rebbe asked to see her, and suggested that she use her seat on the Agriculture Committee to feed the hungry. As a result, she teamed with farm state Republicans to expand the food stamp program. Another example: the Rebbe met with a secular novelist, and in the course of the conversation asked him how his work compared to that of Upton Sinclair. (I doubt that even most non-Hasidic rabbis would know who Sinclair was, even in the 1960s). The Rebbe also lobbied for the Education Department's creation and (less successfully) for school prayer and against Israeli territorial concessions to Arabs. The Rebbe was also more open-minded towards non-Orthodox Jews than some Orthodox rabbis. Although he opposed official recognition of the non-Orthodox movements such as trans-denominational rabbinic boards (believing that these movements, in his words "sanctify compromise[s]... and leave no possibility for return"), he once encouraged a Reform rabbi to stay in his post.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Book

    '‘Rebbe' written by Joseph Telushkin is book that deals with the life of Menachem M. Schneerson, as the book title says "“the Most Influential Rabbi in Modern History"”, a biography which sometimes seems like a hagiography, but the book certainly worth reading. Known as the Lubavitcher Rebbe he was well-known Hasidic rabbi who was the last Rebbe of the Chabad-Lubavitch community. As fifth in a paternal line to the third Chabad-Lubavitch Rebbe, Schneerson took over this Jewish community in the ear '‘Rebbe' written by Joseph Telushkin is book that deals with the life of Menachem M. Schneerson, as the book title says "“the Most Influential Rabbi in Modern History"”, a biography which sometimes seems like a hagiography, but the book certainly worth reading. Known as the Lubavitcher Rebbe he was well-known Hasidic rabbi who was the last Rebbe of the Chabad-Lubavitch community. As fifth in a paternal line to the third Chabad-Lubavitch Rebbe, Schneerson took over this Jewish community in the early 1950s from his father-in-law and lead it until his death 1994. He became very known person because of his activities over the planet, among others his foundation of number of institutions such as schools, synagogues and kindergartens that were teaching traditional religious practices among the Jewish community. Even during his life, by many of his followers he was seen as kind of saint, Messiah, though Schneerson modestly rejected such glorification. It must be said is that although ‘"Rebbe"’ with its more than 600 pages is demanding book, actually it'’s easy and interesting to read because of humor and many anecdotes from life of this person who always emphasized the importance of education and believed in the potential for salvation of everyone, not matter how difficult it may sound for some people.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Yaakov Bernadyn

    One of the best researched books on the Rebbe. Telushkin, with his art of storytelling and crystal clear way of conveying factual information, writes a page turner that Jews and non-Jews can both appreciate. I rather enjoyed his descriptions of the the Rebbe's 'human' qualities, aside from his folk and fantasy images that are conjured up in our community. Oftentimes, when visiting 660, it is so easy to hear others discussing the Rebbe as though he is second to G-d. I rather enjoyed Telushkin's a One of the best researched books on the Rebbe. Telushkin, with his art of storytelling and crystal clear way of conveying factual information, writes a page turner that Jews and non-Jews can both appreciate. I rather enjoyed his descriptions of the the Rebbe's 'human' qualities, aside from his folk and fantasy images that are conjured up in our community. Oftentimes, when visiting 660, it is so easy to hear others discussing the Rebbe as though he is second to G-d. I rather enjoyed Telushkin's ability to capture this, as well. Rebbe goes deep inside the Rebbe's world of litigation, as well. The familial theft of items and the fighting and dysfunction are captured in a most respectful and elegant way. The Rebbe would have been proud of how this was conveyed without humiliating others. Nicely done, Rabbi Telushkin! A rabbi that so inspired many of the world's most powerful men and women cannot easily be forgotten. But, for whatever reason, this has happened. Telushkin brings the memory of this rabbi back to life. Very exciting read.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Eddy

    A truly excellent read. I really enjoyed it. Superbly researched and very well organised. I did not like that the foot notes were compiled in one long section at the end of the book. I way prefer reading footnotes as they occur in the book. So ultimately I didn't even read them in the end because they would have been irrelevant at the time. The one aspect I would have liked to read a little more of about the Rebbe, would have been more of his 'prophecies' or his 'knowing' things about people and A truly excellent read. I really enjoyed it. Superbly researched and very well organised. I did not like that the foot notes were compiled in one long section at the end of the book. I way prefer reading footnotes as they occur in the book. So ultimately I didn't even read them in the end because they would have been irrelevant at the time. The one aspect I would have liked to read a little more of about the Rebbe, would have been more of his 'prophecies' or his 'knowing' things about people and their lives, but I guess those stories are really hard to come by these days. Overall, great book by a truly admirable author (it was a pleasure to hear him speak in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2014).

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    Less of a biography and more a collection of organized short stories about the Rebbe. I liked the format, though someone who prefers a linear format from birth to death may not like this book as much. The author clearly has tremendous reverence for the Rebbe (and I certainly came away appreciating and marveling him), but was reluctant to challenge/criticize the Rebbe's views where they seem incorrect (such as the approach to dealing with Soviet Jewry and the world literally being under 6,000 yea Less of a biography and more a collection of organized short stories about the Rebbe. I liked the format, though someone who prefers a linear format from birth to death may not like this book as much. The author clearly has tremendous reverence for the Rebbe (and I certainly came away appreciating and marveling him), but was reluctant to challenge/criticize the Rebbe's views where they seem incorrect (such as the approach to dealing with Soviet Jewry and the world literally being under 6,000 years old). It may be fairly stated that a biographer should be fully objective, but there were a lot of times where the author lauded the Rebbe. This may be nitpicking on my part...overall, I enjoyed the book and was happy I learned more about this remarkable man.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Morris

    Excellent book! It really sheds light on one of the most divisive people of the 20th century. Such a larger than life person his own partitioners believe he is the messiah. Never have I read a biography that has really challenged and changed my views, until now. The style is a tad unconventional, but not confusing. Wonderful read, you'll enjoy every page! It will leave you with many answers and many new questions as well. By the end of this book you may want to join Chabad, or leave it. YOU WILL Excellent book! It really sheds light on one of the most divisive people of the 20th century. Such a larger than life person his own partitioners believe he is the messiah. Never have I read a biography that has really challenged and changed my views, until now. The style is a tad unconventional, but not confusing. Wonderful read, you'll enjoy every page! It will leave you with many answers and many new questions as well. By the end of this book you may want to join Chabad, or leave it. YOU WILL THINK. Peace yall.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Yechiel Eckstein

    The author of Rebbe, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, is a dear friend whom I admire and deeply respect. In this enlightening book, Telushkin offers a captivating portrait of the late Menachem Mendel Schneerson, a towering Rabbi who turned the Hassidic Chabad-Lubavitch movement into one of the most important, cutting-edge organizations in the religious world. Through stories and teachings of the Rebbe, Telushkin gives us insight into a man who might well have been the most influential rabbi in modern his The author of Rebbe, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, is a dear friend whom I admire and deeply respect. In this enlightening book, Telushkin offers a captivating portrait of the late Menachem Mendel Schneerson, a towering Rabbi who turned the Hassidic Chabad-Lubavitch movement into one of the most important, cutting-edge organizations in the religious world. Through stories and teachings of the Rebbe, Telushkin gives us insight into a man who might well have been the most influential rabbi in modern history.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Gerry Shoshensky

    Moving on the deepest level I really don't read many biographies, but this one grabbed me by the collar and shook me. Telushkin picks very telling events that really reveal what this tzadik was about. The Rebbe seems almost superhuman in terms of his memory and ability to see repercussions of events decades in the future. Very revealing of the man, the movement, and leaves an interesting perspective on the second half of the 20th Century. Moving on the deepest level I really don't read many biographies, but this one grabbed me by the collar and shook me. Telushkin picks very telling events that really reveal what this tzadik was about. The Rebbe seems almost superhuman in terms of his memory and ability to see repercussions of events decades in the future. Very revealing of the man, the movement, and leaves an interesting perspective on the second half of the 20th Century.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Heather Berkowitz

    WOW. Supremely well researched and well written. Relevant Jewish concepts are explained clearly and succinctly so that they make sense to someone who is unfamiliar with them but without losing someone who already has the background and knowledge. The research is thorough and presents both sides of necessary arguments while allowing the reader to draw their own conclusion. Highly recommended to Jews and non-Jews alike - in fact, recommending this to my Rabbi now!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Eliezer Sneiderman

    Telushkin's book is a very good introduction to the life of the Rebbe. There are some chapters that are particularly good. The chapter on Moshiach is very good. As the years grow from the Rebbe's passing, many of the stories seem like Hagiographa. Yet, there were many more stories that did not make it into these pages.It is hard to capture the true wonder of meeting a man of G-d. With the Rebbe, I had no doubt about anything. Telushkin's book is a very good introduction to the life of the Rebbe. There are some chapters that are particularly good. The chapter on Moshiach is very good. As the years grow from the Rebbe's passing, many of the stories seem like Hagiographa. Yet, there were many more stories that did not make it into these pages.It is hard to capture the true wonder of meeting a man of G-d. With the Rebbe, I had no doubt about anything.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Dara

    Very interesting look at the Rebbe's life. The biographer's admiration shines through, but not so much that it's hard to read this objectively. At times the narrative feels a little unfocused, like he's trying to add in too many details. And sometimes repetitive. But overall, it's a really complete look at a man who changed the face of the Jewish community. Very interesting look at the Rebbe's life. The biographer's admiration shines through, but not so much that it's hard to read this objectively. At times the narrative feels a little unfocused, like he's trying to add in too many details. And sometimes repetitive. But overall, it's a really complete look at a man who changed the face of the Jewish community.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Adam Hummel

    Exceptional book. Absolutely recommended, in particular if you are interested in Modern Jewish life, the Chabad movement, Jewish thought, Jewish philosophy, etc. The Rebbe truly was a phenomenal man, the kind who only comes around once in a millennium. I learned so much about both him and Judaism through this book, and and wondering whether to just turn to page 1 and start reading it again.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Marci Mayer Eisen

    Another outstanding book by Rabbi Telushkin. This is a very dense and detailed book about the Rebbe. I am very glad I read it to give me a much deeper understanding of the Rebbe and the Chabad movement, but at times it was difficult to get through. I usually read memoirs in a few days, but I read this book a few chapters at a time over a few months.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Frances

    I really enjoyed the storytelling and the objectivity given that the author is not from the Chasidic movement. Rabbi Joseph Telushkin delivers a well told story about a man who did much to advance the Chasidic movement in America and beyond. I personally have a greater appreciation and respect for Chasidim.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    Loving this book, the stories and teachings, so well done and so absorbing. Lit my shabbat candles last week for sure.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Bob Mendelsohn

    Hagiography doesn't seem fitting for such a man. Unnecessary really. He models great work ethic and was a clear visionary. Very interesting read. Hagiography doesn't seem fitting for such a man. Unnecessary really. He models great work ethic and was a clear visionary. Very interesting read.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Debra

    I took my time and the book allowed for that. Easily read and chock full of historic moments and figures world wide. Deeply touched by the man and his intent- A very worthy read

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