Customer Reviews: My Rebbe
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on May 11, 2014
Unlike previous attempts at putting the Rebbe on paper, this book suffers from neither excited hyperbole nor an axe to grind. Rabbi Steinsaltz puts it all in this book, a highly readable, well-argued yet honest portrayal of the Rebbe and his movement. Steinsaltz doesn't fear controversy or questions - he clearly takes the approach of a modern Chassid, but displays his own perspective clearly as such. Individual Chassidim may find details of the book they disagree with, but that is to be expected. In the end, it is a well balanced synthesis of biography, history, philosophy and reflection.

An excellent insider's look at the Rebbe and the modern Chabad movement.
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on May 7, 2014
Dear Rabbi Steinsaltz,
I have the privilege to be one of the first to read your newest book, "My Rebbi." Congratulations!. I was able to recognize your unique style and unparalleled ability to represent the truth. Your amazing skills as a teacher, your sincerity, love and kindness, shine throughout.

I was glad to read when you pointed out that the Rebbe's European education and knowledge of European life helped him to turn Chabad into a worldwide movement. Thoughout the book we can sense his tremendous loyalty to the previous Rebbi, his loneliness and at the same time, his strength and vision Your book is bringing us closer to the Rebbe.

It is difficult to imagine a different picture on the cover of your book. It is a wonderful picture as is the name of the book.

May I wish you good health and success in your future work. And a lot of nachas from your children and grandchildren. May you be blessed for many years to come.
With deep respect,
Z. Brodkin
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on July 8, 2014
This review was updated August 2, 2014.

One can not write a book about the Rebbe, without explaining lucidly, what a holy man, a "tzaddik" is:

"Life as we see it is not all there is. There is more to existence than our physical and material concerns. When we reach above the mundane and seek to connect with a Transcendent Being - that is an act of holiness. Some of us are more holy than others, to be sure. The holy person may be an exalted figure or someone simple - possibly your grocer - but you may feel that he is connected with something "other," that he is constantly thinking, feeling and experiencing a connection to something beyond our ordinary comprehension. knowledge.".

Rabbi Steinsaltz likes to clarify every detail:

"I myself have met holy people, foremost among them the Rebbe. In these holy people, we see the connection with the beyond or hear it more in the spaces between sentences - more so than in their words. As they speak, we understand that there is more above the line and below the line, or in between the lines."

Interesting, the young Rebbe did not attend a yeshiva. He was ordained as rabbi in Berlin. He studies engineering in Berlin and differential equations at the Sorbonne in Paris, His wife, the daughter of the previous Chabad Rebbe. Yosef Yitzchack, studied literature in Paris, At his wedding there were five thousands guests.

In many ways, the younger Menachem Schneerson, the future Rebbe, was not different than other Jewish deeply observant intellectual or scientist. My feeling after reading Adin Steinsaltz book is that each one of us can seek inside our own sparks of holiness. But we can not do this alone. The Rebbe did not want anyone to open the letters. He refused to use a machine that opens envelopes; "A machine does not feel what is the soul of a person".

As the Rebbe breathes from the pages of this book, this for me is not just a leisure or a curiosity reading. "We do not ask of a tzaddik, "What did he write?" He or she may not have written anything at all, yet still be a tzaddik. The question is also not "What did he say?" He may not have said anything worth repeating - and still be a tzaddik. The question is even not "What did he do?" Unconnected to a social or religious hierarchy, the essence of a tzaddik is in what he is. The essence of being a tzaddik is something primordial, like the essence of a precious stone. A precious stone does not have to do anything: it simply exists."

This is what Rabbi Steinsaitz says about the Rebbe during "yechudut" with a Chassid:

"The Rebbe was not in a normal state of consciousness, but in a state of heightened consciousness. In the yechiduyot with him, it seemed that he was taken over by some sort of divine inspiration. Latent powers within his soul seemed to me - and to many, many others - to manifest themselves in these moments, and the words that issued from his mouth during the yechiduyot were at the very least, I and others believe, "hidden prophecy" - words emanating from a place beyond the Rebbe's conscious rational intellection, even if no explicitly prophetic vision was expressed. I reported in the early pages of this book my personal impression that the Rebbe was clearly a holy man, a tzaddik. I firmly believe that he possessed some sort of supernatural capability, and that he was in contact with another level of being - which I do not hesitate to call Divine."

"In general, words spoken by a great rebbe in the course of yechidut - whether they are words of advice or blessing, instruction or encouragement - are widely believed by his Chasidim and even many others to have a prophetic quality to them. The Chasid will base the most important of his or her life's decisions upon the rebbe's responses."

Both the author of this book, Adin Steinsaltz and his subject, The Rebbe are holy men. Whether you are Jewish or not or you are young or old this book is about a very Holy Man speaking through the lips of another Holy Man.

The book left me with a deep yearning to speak with someone like the Rebbe once in my life. This is not a conversation with the best friend, your doctor, your teacher, a celebrity and so on. If it were not by the Chasidic tradition, "yechidut" would have had disappeared. Such a conversation would completely change my life.
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on September 28, 2014
I agree with EPA18’s rating but for exactly the opposite reasons. This is a mediocre biography of a very interesting, devoted, religious man who pursued admirable objectives with an honest, open heart. The author has several problems. His remarkable position, being so close to his subject and privileged to witness the Rebbe’s inner thoughts and confidences, promises readers a unique opportunity. Rabbi Steinsaltz’a potential objectivity was wasted, and worse, it was whitewashed. The result is a boring account and lost opportunity.

I am one of EPA18’s interested, unenlightened observers who wants to learn about Chabad and Orthodox Jewish thought and reasoning. I welcomed my chance to read his biography and gain a simple if not complete explanation of Jewish Orthodoxy written by an insider. Perhaps it’s impossible to do in biography and I should have chosen an elementary textbook beginning with alef and ending with zed. However biography imputes a potential of instruction. Unfortunately this one isn’t fulfilled. I came away with little understanding of Chabad, its leaders, how their organization functions or why it even exists in the first place. This is not my fault, I am a careful, patient reader. I waited for instruction, waded through pages of admiration and stylized formality, and it never appeared. Give me something, I thought, anything to grasp, a foothold, a chance to gain the simplest understanding of why the Rebbe is so important, what brought people to mentally prostrate themselves and give their entire lives to his instructions. Why does it happen? Rabbi Steinsaltz failed because there were so few facts, illustrations or explanations, and I closed the book discouraged and disappointed.

Rabbi Steinsaltz is a solidly good writer. His devotional purity is transparent and quite beautiful, admirable and encouraging. This reader was jealous he had such a mentor. The Rebbe appears truth seeking and wonderfully religious, so close to God it is almost painful to think of him as less than angelic. Although not a sanctified or even a punctilious comparison for some, if Jews could consider the Catholic doctrine of sainthood, the Rebbe would qualify.

I cannot comment on technical, religious issues. I leave that to more qualified readers, and such comments are already addressed. I comment only on Rabbi Steinsaltz’s book as a standard, approachable biography that competes with accounts of other famous people. This book does not play in that venue. It is an ode, a praise and almost a psalm. Regrettably, it is as a marginal biography.
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on May 24, 2014
I got this book as soon as it came out, and at once read it- I could not put it down, and would highly recommend it to any one.
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on May 18, 2014
Wow written very well and understandable yet very deep if you read into it - What a great man !
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My Rebbe is a biography of the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe (1902-1994) Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who led the Lubavitch chassidic movement, also called “Chabad,” for forty years. The term “rebbe” was developed by the early chassidim to distinguish their spiritual leaders, who they felt had supernatural and telepathic powers, over the rabbis who are spiritual leaders of non-chassidim. Schneerson or “the rebbe” as many call him, transformed the almost moribund sect into a vital many-member world-wide group.

Like other chassidim and many non-chassidim, Chabad theology is based on mysticism, but while others attempt to hide the secrets of mysticism, fearful that it will confuse the average Jew, Chabad openly reveals and praises mystical secrets. The rebbe composed many writings filled with his understanding of mysticism. One of his first books, for example, was a calendar in which he showed that every day had its “own esoteric, mystical meanings.” Chabad also differed from other chassidim in encouraging its adherents to obtain knowledge, although like many other chassidim, it is wary of secular knowledge. In fact the name Chabad is an acronym of chachma, bina, and daat, which many understand as “facts,” “understanding of the facts,” and “knowledge.”

Steinsaltz tells about the origin of the chassidic movement in the eighteenth century and about the Chabad offshoot under Schneur Zalman of Ladi (1745-1812). He describes how the sixth rebbe, Yosef Yitzchak, the father-in-law of the seventh rebbe, settled in the US in 1940. There were “so few Chabad members (at that time) that someone would stand on the street to recruit the tenth man for afternoon prayers.”

The seventh rebbe was highly educated, including in secular subjects. Many chassidim felt that the rebbe had a serious defect because he studied secular subjects. Yet, when he arrived in the US at age 39, he worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard supervising the electrical installation of naval battleships.

Steinsaltz tells us that the rebbe did not want to accept the role as rebbe but once he was pushed to accept it, he assumed it and spent all his time doing the work, never taking a vacation during the forty years he was rebbe. He states that the rebbe was a lonely man because of his high intellect; he found it virtually impossible to form a close relationship with other people. However, he was very close to his father-in-law the sixth Rebbe and followed his customs. Steinsaltz tells readers that the sixth rebbe started the idea of sheluchim, sending chassidic emissaries throughout the world to teach chasiddus, but the seventh rebbe expanded the program and even included women as sheluchim. He continued the practice of late 10 AM morning services; encouraged girls as young as three to light Shabbat candle; encouraged women to wear beautiful wigs rather than covering their hair because the wigs were more “appealing and promoted the observance of this custom;” and much more.

Significantly, although the notion that the rebbe is the messiah is an important part even basic to the belief of a segment of Chabad, but not all members, Steinsaltz makes it clear that the rebbe never condoned the idea. He explains the difference between this group and those who reject the idea that Rabbi Schneerson was or is the messiah. He states that the rebbe unfortunately followed the custom of the prior rebbes of not naming a successor and this resulted in the tensions and discord that exists today in Chabad.

I found the book interesting as a biography and as a history of a segment of Jews, and I think that even people who are not mystically-minded will enjoy it.
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on May 24, 2014
I'm a Chabadnik and there is still quite alot in the book that I wasn't aware of. Great read for people who want to know about the Rebbe's life.
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on June 8, 2014
I have found this book to give a small peak into the Rebbes life
Rabbi steinsaltz has produced a master piece and easy read book for all people
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on April 5, 2015
I have read two other biographies, and this is the most personal. Also the most emotional.I think this biography took me deeper into modern-day CHABAD then any of the others. Last summer my family and I lived about four blocks from 770 for about three weeks. I wish I'd read this book before I took that trip. A lot of the questions that I had about the Rebbe and about CHABAD were answered by this book. I feel a deep personal connection to the Rebbe that i understand better now.
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