Jun 24, 2014
The Rebbe I Knew
Photo: JEM Living Archive

Op-Ed by Yanky Kramer: The recently published books about the Rebbe cannot give you the fire; the kedushah, the battle for only the most pure yiddishkeit.

By Yanky Kramer

A Lubavitcher, by definition, loves the Rebbe. We learn from him, follow his instructions and strive to live up to his expectations.

Our relationship with the Rebbe naturally spills over to others. We feel that itís only fair that we share our Rebbe with the world, for in truth, the Rebbe is, by all classifications, everyoneís Rebbe.

Great steps in sharing the Rebbe have been undertaken lately, including the publishing of several biographies of the Rebbe, each attempting to transmit the Rebbe to broader audiences. To share the wealth. And undoubtedly, many a reader will be inspired.

However, hereís the issue.

My son brought home a copy. Now, while he purchased it as a gift for someone on his mivtzoyim route, I found him reading it on the couch, cover to cover.

The results were immediately apparent. He began talking of the Rebbeís charisma, of his character and sterling personality. How could I put it into words? It just felt wrong.

In frustration, I sat down to pen this letter.


My dear son,

I spent three years learning at 770, and many more months visiting. I have spent thousands of hours at the farbrengens, learning the Rebbeís sichos and reading his letters. The Rebbe is my source of life.

Nothing could be more important to me than you having that same relationship. It is for this reason that since you were born I hung a picture of our Rebbe in your crib, and as soon as you could comprehend, I told you stories of the Rebbe.

Therefore, it pains me to watch your understanding of the Rebbe get tainted.

Sure, itís important to share the Rebbe with the world. But in such a book - if the author does his work well - there is a depth, a clarity, which must be compromised. The Rebbe himself is veiled in modern language and stylish trimmings.

Let me say it bluntly: This is not the Rebbe I knew.

The books cannot give you the fire; the kedushah. The battle for only the most pure yiddishkeit, chinuch al taharas hakodesh, growing a beard, America iz nit andersh, shleimus hoíoretz, the emunah in Moshiach.

It cannot convey the Simchas Torah, pure, hecher-fun-velt dancing; the tzomah lecho nafshi; the choked plea for Geulah, the austere tone of the maamor - divrei elokim chayim.

Itís just not it.

So why should you make that compromise for yourself?!

You might say that you will distill this from the sichos, and no harm is done by reading a book. you might also add that since you are reading it with knowledge that its not for you, your perspective will not change. But my son, thatís simply not true. While outwardly you may feel you are getting closer to the Rebbe, in truth you are slowly distancing yourself.

Please understand. When you read the Rebbeís name without the appropriate titles, over and over, you undoubtedly become desensitized. When you read descriptions of the Rebbe in worldly language, you are getting a worldly version.

When you read impressions from distant people, there is no way their words will not carry some of that distance in them.

Your mind is not made of rubber. Once it has been impressed, itís impossible for it not to be affected. You are forever denying yourself of having a healthy, pure, chossid Rebbe relationship.

I know I havenít really conveyed my feelings. There is much more. Oh, how I wish to transmit this to you.

Because our Rebbe, to me, is not a genius, mystic or social revolutionary. Thatís not who I handed my pan to. Thatís not who I said líchaim to. Thatís not my life inspiration.

To me, our Rebbe is a Tzadik, a Torah Yid, a servant of Hashem.

Better said, to me our Rebbe is a Rebbe. The Rebbe.

Most Read Most Comments

Opinions and Comments
So True
You make an excellent point. Well said. If only more people shared your views!
(6/24/2014 10:02:26 PM)
Couldn't disagree more
(6/24/2014 10:11:00 PM)
Surprisingly... I agree!
Well said without any rambling
(6/24/2014 10:11:17 PM)
Powerful Words
I'm resonating with your thoughts. When I read parts of those books, I was uncomfortable with some of the reference to the Rebbe.
(6/24/2014 10:13:16 PM)
I was crying
Thank you rabbi Kramer for articulating so beautifully what my soul has been crying about .I also respect the way you wrote ,expressing your pain,without lashing out on anybody. I feel you have an acharya us to spread your message to our children.
(6/24/2014 10:14:17 PM)
The books are not written for Unzer!
Don't become ufgeklert, retain the pnimiyusidke emese ahavah for our Rebbe!
(6/24/2014 10:16:04 PM)
Great mighty and awesome
My G-d is not (merely) "great, mighty and awesome", yet that is how we describe him in Tefillah, because as humans, we use human words. These human words do not belittle our G-d or distant us from Him nor denying ourself of a relationship with G-d.

The same applies to the Rebbe - we CAN use human words such as genius, mystic, social revolutionary to describe him without diminishing his stature. He still remains great, mighty and awesome by any measure, even yours. Kop Doctar
(6/24/2014 10:16:12 PM)
I share very much your opinion ! I read one of the books that just came out and felt bad to see how the words were far from what really the Rebbe is. WE HAVE TO LIVE IT, FEEL IT ! There is no warmkeit from the book ! Gevalt !
(6/24/2014 10:18:23 PM)
A chassid
Well said, thanks for sharing, each of the books are replete with inaccuracies.
(6/24/2014 10:25:59 PM)
I'm with you
Short simple and to the point. The books are wonderful but not for our children. We need to convey what we saw, not what others are telling. Not through research. Through having lived with the rebbe. May we be zoicheh to the Geulah now!!
(6/24/2014 10:27:11 PM)
important comment
"in such a book - if the author does his work well - there is a depth, a clarity, which must be compromised"

i beg to disagree. true some books must be tht way. but by defenition, a biography could and should be a correct overveiw. it MUST be done today. yesterday. for our sake.
(6/24/2014 10:27:12 PM)
Gut gezogt!
I didn't buy any of these books for this reason.

Which one is the best of the three though?
(6/24/2014 10:34:09 PM)
You've expressed yourself quite clearly. However for those of us that were born after gimmel taamuz, its very hard to get the "had to be there" feeling. Yes we should try to connect to those who were there, but not all of us are capable.
I completely agree with the desensitizing that happens, but what can we do... were stuck in a catch 22
(6/24/2014 10:34:33 PM)
It's the only way
Lubavitchers today lost a lot of connection to the rebbe. We lost the pride of being part of lubavich that is "lechatchila Ariber", moshiach and lemala mtam vdaas.
With all of technology and the transformation of the world, people just lost the "chushim" to perceive the rebbe the way you describe.
Therefor when a Lubavitcher reads these books it gives him pride to be part of Chabad and a student of this great rebbe.
It may be sad, but its reality.
(6/24/2014 10:40:31 PM)
true, however...
while I can understand completely with the point being made in the article, I would like to say that for all those who did not grow up with the rebbe, did not see the rebbe, hear the rebbe... this book can help them understand the rebbes impact on the world. and while it may not give them the feelings you have, it can give them a certain level of understanding. of course watching rebbe videos and learning sichos and maamorim are crucial, but don't completely discredit the books. while it is hard for many to realize, many of the younger generation feel to the rebbe what the older generation feel to the previous rabbaim. the fire and connection you feel, they did not have the opportunity to experience.
(6/24/2014 10:43:19 PM)
thank you
for putting this in clear words. i have already said to many people, that while these books have done a nice job, and they are good to give to those not yet totally "in", i would not keep them in my house. they do not portray the rebbe the way i want my kids seeing the rebbe.
(6/24/2014 10:43:47 PM)
I ditto the sentiments
I have been quoted saying "I do not want my children to learn about The Rebbe from these books"

No one should!
(6/24/2014 10:44:26 PM)
To number 1
If only more people shared the authors views... Then what??
(6/24/2014 10:46:33 PM)
Thank you!
Thank you for articulating what has been bothering me!
I couldn't explain what was wrong, but as a Lubavitcher I felt instinctively that the books were missing something. I feel that a true chosid does not try to explain our connection to the Rebbe, it just IS.
(6/24/2014 10:47:13 PM)
So powerful honest an signs name.
(6/24/2014 10:47:47 PM)
To number 7
In Davening the only words describing Hashem's greatness are those that are mentioned in Tanach, it clearly says (Megilah 25a) that one should not add his own praises of Hashem.
(6/24/2014 10:58:07 PM)
Generation gap
I honestly think this divide is a generational one.

Let me be blunt to the author: Your son did not grow up with the Rebbe.

No matter how hard you try to convey the feelings that you felt, it is utterly impossible to do so with human limitations. As many stories you tell or as many pictures as you hang your children will not be able to feel the awe that you felt when you went to visit the Rebbe. To stand before the Rebbe for dollars, to watch him dance on Simchas Torah, to hear a farbrengen - these are elements of our past. I did start reading one of the books (not important which one) and what I feel is sadness for those who will never experience what I was so lucky to have felt. For anyone younger than 28 (approx) there is no memory of the intense rush of emotion that I felt when I went to the Rebbe.

If these books help to shed light on another aspect of the Rebbe then so be it. It doesn't mean that what you are offering is lacking, this is just another dimension. In today's generation our kids can benefit from multi dimensional exposure to who our Rebbe was, is and always will be.
(6/24/2014 11:07:49 PM)
Very well said!
The Rebbe is our Mishaleach! We are the Rebbe's shluchim to bring Moshiach and spread yiddishkeit all over!
May we merit the coming of Moshiach speedily now!
(6/24/2014 11:09:58 PM)
The Rebbe Lives--Adam Ha Elyon, MHM
Thanks to HaShem Yisborach I am too A.D.D. to even sit down with one of these books. Listening to Rabbi Reuvan Wolf and Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsberg, scanning "A Chassidisher Derher"....Halevai I should do Chitas properly.
(6/24/2014 11:12:58 PM)
agree and disagree
Of course NO book could ever hope to "capture" the Rebbe. With the 20th Gimmel Tammuz approaching it keeps running through my mind that there is now a whole generation who did not personally experience the Rebbe. So I understand how the young people feel, they are trying to grab what they can. But I agree with the author of the article that these books will not replace that experience, and I would recommend instead to watch the farbrengens that were videotaped, and listen to the ones from the pre-video era that were audiotaped -- honestly when you hear that first Yud Shvat you understand much more of what the Rebbe was about than by reading any of these books. Along these lines I suggest that parents speak only Yiddish at home so the children will become fluent and be able to understand the Rebbe without the intermediary of a translation. And if the parents themselves don't know Yiddish, this is a good incentive to learn.
(6/24/2014 11:14:55 PM)
I agree with #7
I agree with you. Although it is not the same as we are describing Hashem in davening, I get your point. It is valid and well articulated. Maybe write an Op-Ed Response.
(6/24/2014 11:21:19 PM)
This is book is not for us its for the the world to learn about the Rebbe
(6/24/2014 11:34:59 PM)
dear generation gappers
these books do not bridge the gap they CREATE it.
(6/24/2014 11:46:00 PM)
add to the list
add to the list of the rebbes battles:
having many children. a minyan.
a book that doesnt disscus these values, is a crime the rebbes legacy.
(6/24/2014 11:50:31 PM)
difference between misleading lying
to lie is to misquote.
to missead is to only quote the parts u like.

a biography on the rebbe that doesnt describe the rebbes distain for olam haze and its values, is missleading at best.
(6/24/2014 11:54:21 PM)
!00% agree
I don't want to read these books (I came to Crown Heights in 1978, in my 20's) and wish other Chassidim wouldn't. I would rather spend the time learning the Rebbe's Torah and fulfilling his hora'os. I am eagerly waiting for JEM to release a video purely of Chassidim trembling as they approach the Rebbe for dollars, the bochurim running as if for their lives to hide when the Rebbe approached 770, and people showing other signs of emotion, so that the younger generation can witness, not just the mayors and dignitaries, but the plain, honest-to-goodness Chassidim relating to the Rebbe. Not that this is everything, but it's at least something. Of course some Chassidim are going to read these books no matter what some of us say. If they choose to do so, let them be only drawn closer in their hiskashrus in the process.
(6/24/2014 11:56:37 PM)
rewriting history
atwisted version of the rebbe.
i could write a book on the chofetzchayim, quoting only true quotes, and make him sound a zionist.
fact: this book does not reflect most of the rebbes sichos and letters. therefore it doesnt discus the rebbe. at all.
(6/24/2014 11:58:38 PM)
Ploiney Ben ploiney
My father obm lived in Reb ŰÝű
Mochkins home in 1953 .
He once asked ÝŠ ŰÝű " What is A Rebba ?
So ÝŠ ŰÝű answeard him
" every thing you see by the Rebba
Every thing you hear by the Rebba
Is only a šų„Óš To who the Rebba is "
(6/25/2014 12:04:21 AM)
my mashpia said its better to read a goisher book
he explained:
a secular book may fill my head wih garbage, but wont ruin my veiw on torah, yidishkeit and the rebbe.
this book will. forever.
(6/25/2014 12:06:00 AM)
thank u
i will read this out to my class tomrow.
(6/25/2014 12:11:00 AM)
some clarity!

mr kramer, please keep on writing.
(6/25/2014 12:12:14 AM)
go yanky kramer!
i like your pen. i hope your son does too...
(6/25/2014 12:13:17 AM)
just like the bochur in his video!!!!
(6/25/2014 12:38:00 AM)
Yeh. But.
Well written. Your passion, pain and frustration are palpable. But your son cannot experience your Rebbe as you did. No one who didn't when he was alive can. You wish your son would experience that which you did, and therefore wish he would what - mimic your footsteps. 1 - Impossible, 2- Unfair. Classic parent pitfall. Not allowing a child their own fingerprint. Stay in the family business it's good for you.

The closest your child will get to your experience will be possible if you consistently model and truthfully believe in what you model. He will see things through his mind's eye and appropriate to the current rebbe-less Lubavitch create for himself what's appropriate for his generation.

Trying to shoehorn in your live rebbe experience into his post 3 tammuz reality is misplaced love.

And telling him your experience was so special (i.e., his can't match it) is classic "they don't make things the way they used to" old man talk.

If someone born after 3 tammuz creates a real productive relationship with the rebbe through his teachings and videoed and documented personae, there's something in that that is superior to your in-person experience - affected by the physicality.

To each generation their own. Cherish yours and let him find and cherish his.
(6/25/2014 12:41:54 AM)
agree with number 11
most valid point
(6/25/2014 12:44:36 AM)
where are the rabbonim?
this is precisely when we need clear directions.
(6/25/2014 12:46:47 AM)
we want
more articles like this
(6/25/2014 12:48:08 AM)
whats your issue?
why can u guys not grow up?
th rebbe was human. an exceptional human. but still human.
(6/25/2014 12:50:14 AM)
It's definitely a challenge, but I have to add this:.
These books are bestsellers for a reason; they do what the prototypical Chossid USUALLY can't do, which is to bring down†many of the ideas and novelties of what the Rebbe is to a crowd that isn't interested in hearing THOSE WORDS verbatum, like, "Ker a velt heint", or "We want Moshiach now".They WANT to hear about how amazing and smart the Rebbe was, yet theres no denying the beauty and value to hearing and learning the original, authentic sichos and farbrengens.. (Which btw I completely agree with comment 25 about regarding how one can more naturally become in sync with the Rebbes inyonim in their pure form.)
However, I cannot say that reprimanding those amoungst the youth who seek to "bring down" the Rebbe to their level is a good idea. Isn't that the whole koch, for the last 20 years, to bring the Rebbe "down", doh lematoh? It may be a slight game of semantics, but the point is, what do you expect? Even with all of the incredibly positive things that could be initiated by bochrim, and all people for that matter, like watching the farbrengens, etc, the burning fire with which you the author personally experienced with the Rebbe, and moreover, so deeply want to instill in your son! can't possibly match up with whatever emotions your son may (or may not) get from being a Chassidisher bochur and Chossid. You can't tell someone how to feel, but the matziv being what it is, and whatever intentions people may have, it just can't compare to having BREATHED REBBE.
After ranting, my point is simple: Don't chastise your son for reading those books, even though on the purest of levels you're 100% correct. I hear your point, and I really get it; you don't want your son to have a cold, quasi-intellectual viewpoint of the Rebbe, you want him to have what you have, a bren tzum Rebben!
Except that I'm not sure how you truly, truly do that today...
(6/25/2014 12:50:33 AM)
well said
could not have said it better. this ought to be published and distributed to every lubavitch home.
(6/25/2014 12:52:15 AM)
Thank you
This is so right, so well expressed. The books are an excellent medium to make the Rebbe's teachings and example accessible to all Jews. But they do not express who the Rebbe is as OUR REBBE. Keep your mind, your memories, your essence as a chossid pure.
(6/25/2014 12:53:18 AM)
shakespere was just some drunk goy
yes, thats what the rebbe said. but u wont find it in that book. so tell me, is it an honest potrayal?
(6/25/2014 12:54:31 AM)
i read one book and regret it
its not for a chossid
(6/25/2014 12:55:16 AM)
every word a gem.
(6/25/2014 12:55:56 AM)
straight from the heart
and touched mine
(6/25/2014 12:59:09 AM)
M.Z. agrees 100% and thanks the author
I read (part of) the excerpt of one of these books, and had to stop. It was too distasteful to read the Rebbe's and Rebbetzen's names over and over, no title, no respect. My neighbor was given a different one of these books as a gift from his student,and he had the same reaction.

Even before he accepted the nesius, the Rebbe was the RaMaSh, not Mendel C"VS!

To me this is the same as listening to Rap or Rock and Roll music with Jewish words. It MAY help someone who was nurtured on that trash move towards kosher music. But why would a chassidishe family play it in their home?

These books don't belong in our homes. For someone who is still floundering in the secular world, MAYBE these could be a bridge to Yiddishkeit, but for our kids, it's contamination.

Please - we don't call any of our Rebbes' by their birth names, It's the Alter Rebbe, not Shen... Za.... We have a Mitteler Rebbe, the Zemach Tzedek, the Rebbe Maharash, the Rebbe Rashab, the Freidiker Rebbe/Rayatz, and THE REBBE.

If you don't teach your children to respect the Rebbe, they won't. Instead of learning about the Rebbe from his sichos, the videos, the emotion in his voice, if instead of that they learn about the Rebbe from a book geared to the secular world, then you have denied your children a part of their heritage.
Please think carefully about this, and discuss it with your mashpia.
Thanks for listening
(6/25/2014 1:04:11 AM)
Best seller list
Getting these books to be on top best seller lists doesn't add anything to the Rebbe's greatness. Obviously.
Yet, hundreds of thousands of people have now been reading about the Rebbe. A great accomplishment. Obviously.
Yet for chasidim this is the hispashtus of the Rebbe, not his essence.
Learn a maamar of the Rebbe, in the original or in translation, and connect to the Rebbe's essence.
Want to be connected to the hispashtus? Read the bios.
(6/25/2014 1:04:33 AM)
to 44
there is a diference between bringing the rebbe down, and pulling him down.
for a bochur, reading this book, will make him more worldly, not more connected. for a mekurav, its good.
(6/25/2014 1:07:43 AM)
like poro aduma
purifies the impure, and has the opposite affect on the pure.
(6/25/2014 1:08:54 AM)
Yaasher Koach
Thank you for the article, it was fantastic. You put things in their proper perspective. So hartzig! Devorim min halev nichnasim el halev! I needed to hear it.You're so on target, bullseye!
(6/25/2014 1:40:41 AM)
you write very well
dear rabbi kramer,
how could contact you?
(6/25/2014 2:16:12 AM)
we need a normal book on the rebbe. one that says the true story.
(6/25/2014 2:17:48 AM)
important point
there are hundreds of thousands of frume yidden who would be nisrachek by reading one of these books. they will think the rebbe is modern etc. besides for being false, it will drive them away from chassidus and the rebbe.
(6/25/2014 2:23:36 AM)
(6/25/2014 2:24:20 AM)
Hayom yom of 24 Sivan a few days ago!!
A Chossid once wrote to the Friediker Rebbe, asking how he can have Hiskashrus since the Rebbe never saw him.

The Friediker Rebbe answered: Real hiskashrus comes from learning the Rebbe's Torah
Learning the Rebbe's Maamorim and Sichos, learning and farbrenging together with Anash and Tmimim, saying Tehillim after davening (that's the Friediker Rebbe's takana), and learning Torah every day -- that's Hiskashrus!! ( from Chitas for kids and adults too)

I never saw the Rebbe myself but I ll trust the Rebbe ' s advice best. We have plenty if our Rebbe s directives to the chassis im about how to "still "connect to the Rebbe after Yud Shvat happened, just apply it nowadays .
Number 24 i don't agree with you. My mom told us so many stories of mundane every day life if her own mother that even thou i never lived with my Bubby i feel so connected and as if i know her! The Rebbe sais to clinge to the chassidim and attend their farbrengens, which stories are very much part of the farbrengens. Share, share your stories, and we can still have stories nowadays as well, there s truly plenty of them.

I have bought one of the books for myself because I felt i wanted to know more my Rebbe, and feel more connected.
And My Rebbe( on the day i got the book by mail) told me in hYpmyom that the Truest way i can connect is by learning the Torah the Rebbe taught, etc.

(6/25/2014 2:30:01 AM)
I meant number 22, sorry 24. That when we are shared stories of the Rebbe, it is very helpful indeed. Of course not as seeing the Rebbe for ourselves, but we post-3 Tammuz can have our own stories as well. There s plenty of stories. Our Rebbe is very much with us. Of course, ratzoneinu liros es malkeinu. We have a Neshama , we ain't "only human"!! Let's remember that more often, and we ll know we can expect the impossible of ourselves, because our Neshama can. ( the way to reveal the Meshama is by learning Torah, i just watched the Rebbe say in a simcha video...) hatzlocho Rabo my friends and companions !
(6/25/2014 2:39:07 AM)
To the children of this generation: watch Rebbe videos!!
Watch Rebbe videos.
The best way to get a glimpse of our Rebbe
(6/25/2014 3:46:21 AM)
to all critics
if someone doesnt like the book please go ahead and write a better book
(6/25/2014 3:59:24 AM)
Rabbi Lesches said many times
If you want to know what Abaya & Rovo ate, what clothes they wore and what type of house they lived in, ask a Talmud professor. If you want to know what they SAID, ask a Rosh Yeshiva!
(6/25/2014 4:04:02 AM)
Learning the Rebbe's Sichos with my teens on Parshas Korach and Gimmel Tamuz this past Shabbos does it for me. Those books aren't coming into my home whilst I have a say.
(6/25/2014 6:42:19 AM)
Great for FFB Lubavitchers but an insult to the rest of us
For those of us who came to Chabad after 3 Tammuz, these books and JEM videos add a realism and human dimension to the Rebbe that just learning sichos cannot. Yes, we must study his words and his actions. To you, he was a living and breathing human being. To you, a Tzadik for sure, but also a person. To me and those of us who came later, we need his biographies and descriptions in all their mundane detail to help give us a sense of being in the Rebbe's presence.

Consider yourself blessed to have been there. Please don't deny the rest of us the chance to supplement our understanding.
(6/25/2014 7:38:14 AM)
I saw the Rebbe as a child, have learnt the entire likutei sichos and a number of years of hisvaduyos, watched videos of farbrengens and dollars, and yet I still find that books like these help me appreciate the Rebbe even more and add to my hiskashrus. I don't think I'm the only one.
(6/25/2014 8:10:27 AM)
I find the books add a new dimension to my hiskashrus
THere is absolutely no way the books can or should replace learning, videos, as the primary form of hiskashrus , but I find that paradoxically, reading about the Rebbe and Rebbetzin in more basar v'dam terms adds to my awe of them, my small bit of understanding that they are ish elokim on one hand , but on some level--people, but so much more and so not people in the conventional sense, they are not abstract figures to me now. it is inspiring that they DID have conversations, feelings, a goshmiousdike life AND are simultaneously tzaddikim, nosi' b'yisrael and not at all people in any conventional sense like you and I. I find it very moving.
(6/25/2014 8:25:42 AM)
To #66
VERY WRONG. I came to Chabad in the end of the Mems.
I read the books and I learn the Sichos etc. and I saw a few years. THE REBBE i met in those few years was not the muindane Rebbe in those books. They DO NOT describe what I felt being in the Rebbe's presence.
(6/25/2014 8:48:46 AM)
Citizen Berel
To Mr. generation gap 22.

You need to get out more. Bochurim, the good ones, not necessarily the biggest lamdonim, can smell a rat and know that these offerings are chazer treif. They have plenty bren and rich connection. Just spend time with bochurim, they might inspire you.

We have mashpiim and we have moshiach vetoirasoi. You don't need to worry about the Rebbe and you do not need to worry about the generations connection to him, you need to concern yourself about yourself.

You connection to the Rebbe may be based on experience and you may still be thriving off those fumes, but our connection is based on the Rebbe himself, his etzem, our etzem -- his Torah.

So keep your watered down product to yourself, because these books -- they aint my Rebbe, they don't don't even talk about him.
(6/25/2014 9:04:03 AM)
What to convey to the post Gimel tammuz generation.
When the Fierdiker Rebbe was visiting Eretz Yisroel in 1929 a elderly Jew approached him, gave him Sholoim Aleichem and said "Ich hob gekend eir tateh" I knew your father" ( The Rebbe Rashab.) To which the Rayat"z replied, "Ir hot gezen mein taten, ir hot em nisht gekent." You saw my father, you didn't know him"

Any book describing the Rebbe can only describe what the author perceives or heard about from others. There is the well know response of the Alter rebbe to his son ' You are looking thru physical eyes therefore you see physicality".

What can one do to transmit to the new generation a feeling of Hiskashrus.

The lder Chassidim must share their hergeishim of what happened to a chossid in the presence of the Rebbe and what he felt.

Every time it was like Matan Torah in the sense of "Roi'im es Hanishma shoim'im as hanireh." One saw sound and heard sight. Our reality changed. Our world changed. The physical world, the pleasures of this physical world, the lure of the Yetzer Horeh became Shoimim es Hanireh, they became distant and not real or desirable, and instead Kedushe, Toireh, and an amazing burning passion and love for Rebbe and for Atzmus in ah guf became the true reality. One was literally elevated to a different world, a world where one sensed the truth and holiness in G-dliness and in Toiroh and Mitzvois. Looking and listening and watching the Rebbe, was watching the embodiment of G-dliness as expressed thru a Guf Gashmi. Being with the Rebbe by a farbraing placed you literaly Hecher fun velt, where your NH'B was not dominant, rather the NH"E was. It is in fact very hard to describe the feeling but at least the new generation needs to hear that that was what the Rebbe was. Vayeilech Moshe Vayidaber es Kol Hadevorim Hoeileh. When you looked at the Rebbe he "spoke to you the reality of Hashem and Torah you saw and sensed the truth of Toiroh and Mitzvois and Hashem as the only truth that existed and that made being a Yid and going on shlichus etc so much deeper & easier and meaningful.

We are now all crippled, without the rebbe, we are missing such a major part of our body. But as the rebbe said to the Nechei Milchama, the Israeli soldies, disabled war veterans, you should be called exceptional soldiers not crippled soldiers because when one limb is missing other limbs become exceptional and make up for the missing limb.

The new young generation in fact are not crippled by not seeing the Rebbe but are rather exceptional Chassidim, as so many of them have an amazing Hiskahrus, and love for the Rebbe, doing Shilichus, Hafotseh and fulfilling the directives of the rebbe even better then the older generation. The Rebbe has his ways of connecting to his Chassidim. We just have to make the Keli for it.

The books are not the Keli. Some of the events and stories in can be utilized as such a keli but there are better sources for these events and stories.

May we be zoiche bkoroiv mamesh to be able to see the Rebbe once again beinei basar but not with megushemdike eyes.
(6/25/2014 9:04:23 AM)
You had to be here
How can we explain to an outsider what it was like to live in the kings courtyard?
(6/25/2014 10:43:39 AM)
Please fardry nisht a kop!
Whatever your son gets from it is Gut!
You can add MORE to it is noch besser!!
But please don't fardry him and turn him off .
He will figure it out, Just give him his space to navigate it all.
(6/25/2014 11:17:59 AM)
These books are very good for the masses,mekurovim, and Anti Moshichitm (who are chassidim and consider the Rebbe human with kedusha)
Obviously that Moshichitm who regards the Rebbe as a prophet , infallible these books are a chillul Rebbe
(6/25/2014 11:18:35 AM)
The Rebbe is supernatural so everything they used to describe him is what their perspective was. For those of us who did not get the privilege to be by the Rebbe these books are meant to show us the Rebbe's great personality. Of course children of eligible age should be the ones reading not 8 or 9 year olds. The children have to learn first about the Rebbe the way the Parent wants their children to think of the Rebbe and then to get a bigger picture they can read these books. I think of the Rebbe in the way my parents taught me and after reding these books i still think of the Rebbe the way I thought of the Rebbe before. I have just gained a greater understanding on the Rebbe with these books! And also why are you attacking these authors? They are just trying to help Klal Yisroel with these books! Why for everything that happens there is always a huge fuss!?!?!?! I salute the authors who have wrote these amazing books! They will help in the chinuch for our children! Kol Hakovod and keep them coming!
(6/25/2014 12:02:01 PM)
Some of the books are not even appropriate for a mekurav.
Do you want your mekurav to be drawn to a Rebbe or to a Jewish leader?
(6/25/2014 12:53:36 PM)
Chochom "ma hu" oimer...
From what he says to others you can tell who he really is (Frierdiker Rebbe).
A person who presents the Rebbe in such modern light, obviously values that image himself.
Chassidishe shluchim manage to present the real Rebbe to their baalebatim without a problem. If you believe that it's attractive, you will be able to share it.
(6/25/2014 1:05:49 PM)
Menachem Shemoi
His book is for the general public and not a textbook for chassiddim as such.
It will bring out diverse reactions and it has, clearly.
Some will be inspired by the stories.
To the chossid this is not a book that will be useful, but for the general public it is well written and in no way derogatory.
(6/25/2014 1:52:19 PM)
Chill out. Stop Hating.
This author's been sipping on kosher haterade. Leave people who read the bios alone! Nobody every argued that the Rebbe's greatness can be captured in a biography so the very point the author argues with is imaginary. It's not "distancing" someone to read about the Rebbe's life. On the contrary. And nor does it take one away from learning sichos and the Rebbe's maamarim. On the contrary it inspires people to learn the Rebbe's Torah even more.

Typical of the narrow-mindedness and superiority complex infecting the community...
(6/25/2014 1:58:42 PM)
To all those who belive "The younger generation" needs this,
I was born after 3 Tamuz. I never saw the Rebbe. and yet, through watching videos, hearing stories, looking at pictures, learning the rebbe's Torois, and seeing the example my parents and Chassidim who WERE there set, I got a glimpse of who and what the Rebbe is. I understood what the Rebbe wants from us, and what needs to be done to have hiskashrus to him. I understood that although I don't understand, although I will never experience what the "older generation" experienced, I can still get a taste of it and long for it.
I read the biographies, and in no way did that give me a desire to do what the Rebbe wants, the way learning a Sicha does. In no way did it give me that feeling of awe the way chassidishe stories do, and in no way did it strengthen my Hiskashrus the way watching a farbrengen does. The books were excelently written, much time and effort was put into them, and I thank the authors for doing a great job in letting OTHERS know and learn about the Rebbe, but it's not for us. Not even for the "younger generation". So, to #14, 15, 22, and any others who share their view - yes there is as gap, yes we won't know the Rebbe the way you did, but these books aren't the solution, and they even help increase the gap. This isn't how the Rebbe would advise us to connect to him. Stick to the Rebbe's teachings and directives, and only then will you begin to feel.
(6/25/2014 2:00:57 PM)
there has been some confusion here. its not a question between sichos and story books, its a question between books who tell us about the rebbe and those who fit the rebbe into a different model.

its a question of telling the true story of chassidus and bittul to hashem, over modern half-baked judaism.
(6/25/2014 3:39:14 PM)
the fact that you did not feel you sullied your perception by reading it, shows where you were before reding it...
(6/25/2014 3:43:34 PM)
if its not for kids
its not for anyone.

sice when are we so strong that we are allowed to read anything?

do we learn enough chassidus a day, that we are so sure we wont be affected.

and if when you read book you are not planning on being affected, then why did you open it?
(6/25/2014 3:46:06 PM)
thank you collive
more article like this pleeeeeease
(6/25/2014 3:46:40 PM)
the comments are flying here, faster than on tznius articles...

(6/25/2014 3:47:53 PM)
great piece
really enjoyed
(6/25/2014 3:48:42 PM)
the rebbe is crying
as he reads some of these posts.

yesomim. orphans. please, get to know our father. the real thing.
(6/25/2014 3:50:13 PM)
just the opposite
only those who were there b4 3 tammuz could read it, because they have a solid veiw anyways.

the danger is when the post 3 tammuz youth read it, and actually believe that this is the rebbe.

this is rewriting history.

ask the rebbes chassidim. reb yoel, rabbi cunin, rabbi sudak, rabbi groner, etc: is this the rebbe you knew?

some honesty. just some.
(6/25/2014 3:53:56 PM)
thank you for the beautiful article
i havent read anything like it in a long time. yanky, you should write more. your pure chassidisher pen could do so much.
(6/25/2014 3:55:50 PM)
its real
you know, for a change, this is a real person, with a name, writing a real letter. kudos to you!
(6/25/2014 3:56:53 PM)
It's very important
I think this is a very good conversation for us to all be having as Chassidim. But I am having a very hard time supporting this new trend of being so dismissive of these books and thumping our chests claiming "we don't need em" ...

This is like a naturalist getting upset if you take anti biotics when all the medicine we need is found in nature. I don't need medicine, I only let the nature Hashem created heal me. There is nothing wrong with taking medicine. Hashem created this too.

We need to put in perspective that none of us as Chassidim will ever claim "this is the only way to truly know the Rebbe", of course not! But I just don't understand how reading one book going over in glorious detail everything the Rebbe is to us and how he cared for us and loved us, and made it his life goal as a Tzaddik, as a Rebbe, as a father to us, to make the world ready for Moshiach is so offensive to you.

If you want to paint every one of us, Chassidim just like you, as lacking that we found some sort of pride or inspiration or rekindled spark of hiskashrus through these book then I do not agree.

I think people will be pushed away by this trend of "very holy Chassidim" better than the rest of us who are looking down on your fellow brothers and sisters. Please consider this alternative perspective.
(6/25/2014 5:01:27 PM)
i too was born after 3 tammuz
i read part of one book and was revolted.
the supporters of these books are people who r looking for ways of making peace with their own lifestyle. enough said.
(6/25/2014 5:32:36 PM)
I happen to think it's healthy to read these books. Filling the house with Rebbe pictures and talking about Rebbe Rebbe the entire day is not going to create hiskashrus, it's going to create something unhealthy. I say this as chabad from birth. Yes, learning the sichos and ma'amarim is a requisite but so is learning about the rebbe as a person because yes, the Rebbe was a person, and these bios are part of that journey. It's also important to read about how 'outsiders' viewed the Rebbe because only hearing things from one perspective does not create chassidim but mindless parrots.
(6/25/2014 6:01:28 PM)
Moshiach in Dee Gazetten

When the N.Y. Times and the Wall Street Journal and other papers around the world write about these books and discuss the works of Rebbe it is writing about Moshiach in Dee Gazzetten as the Alter Rebbe foretold would happen.

Moshiach Now!!!
(6/25/2014 7:15:31 PM)
Dude, read the book.
I don't understand how people feel like they have a right to comment on a book that they have not read.
(6/25/2014 7:23:05 PM)
I was very nervous that 20 years after Gimmul Tammuz there were no true chassidim left, but apparently I was wrong. We have such incredible Temimim and Eltere Chassidim, even bochurim who are setting us right, even young children born nuch the darkest day in our lives, who are setting all us lowly faux chassidim straight. Chalilah a person could read a book about the Rebbe and become closer, and strengthen his hiskashrus! What I have learnt from this article and the previous video is that if you can't have a strong hiskashrus with the Rebbe through Sichos and Maamarim then you must not be a true Chassid. Selachti!
(6/25/2014 7:44:34 PM)
thank you
i apreciate this op-ed.
just wondering if author feels same way about all 3 ? or was the one by R Steinzaltz better because he is a chassid.
(6/25/2014 7:46:24 PM)
these posts are not about the rebbe either
the Rebbe would not be proud of all this arguing and knocking people's views.
to the author: your son could be reading goyishe books or watching movies. be happy he wants to read about The Rebbe. and it can enhance all the warmth and hiskashrus you're trying to Instill in him
(6/25/2014 7:57:53 PM)
very well said
what a shame some have fallen so low, they cant even feel the influance of the book on themselves. soe people have really lost it. oh, i pity their kids...
but after all, we are all chassidim.
(6/25/2014 11:36:06 PM)
I agree
Anyone who is against this article missed the whole point!!!
Everyone should read the letter of the Rebbe from GIMMEL TAMUZ 5750 there the Rebbe explains what a Rebbe is and to #74 every chassid believes the Rebbe is a prophet the Rebbe even said we should publicize that anti or meshichist it's a clear Horoah shoftim nun alef
(6/26/2014 12:59:47 AM)
Crown Heights resident since the 1950's
I am amazed at the number of comments on this article. I do wonder how many of you have actually read all three books. Each one has great merit and each one has shortcomings. For those of us who were blessed to be living here in the years when The Rebbe was with us, we must realize that our experiences are different from the younger generations- as expressed by 15, 22, 39, 66, 67, 68 75. Those of us who were blessed not to have experienced The Holocaust, the ghettos and concentration camps- of course we cannot fully understand what our unfortunate brethren experienced. HOWEVER by reading about the Shoah we develop our own understanding, albeit second hand, nut an understanding that is important. Rabbi Millers book provides the reader with a thoroughly researched book about The Rebbe in the critical years of Jewish history. Rabbi Telushkin provides a warm highly readable book filled with actual personal memories of individuals he interviewed. Thus he presents a nostalgic experience. Rabbi Steinsaltz discusses a farbreng, a sicha and factual information about chabad and the Rebbe. For a very personal portrayal of The Rebbe written by a woman who lived in Crown Heights - a presentation of life evolving about the Rebbe, I suggest you read Beyond the Dollar Line by Chana Sharfstein. This is not a biography, but incidents and stories connected with The Rebbe and gives the reader a warm portrayal of real life experiences. We cannot turn the clock back, this is our situation. I suggest you read these books and enrich yourself with all that is good in them. Tracht gut vet zein gut- focus on the positive.
(6/26/2014 10:48:00 AM)
to #97
I am #24. I did read Rabbi Steinsaltz' book and IMO it does not have the problems some people are complaining about... it did not attempt to be a biography, but is more like a memoir. The tone is warm and respectful.
(6/26/2014 4:45:22 PM)
Love a fellow Jew
For all of us who have strong feelings on both sides of this table, let's not forget one of the basic tenents of the Torah, and the Rebbe's teaching to love our fellow Jews.
(6/27/2014 1:27:48 AM)
how to give it over to are children?
The Rebbe always said it's the women who sets the tone in the house- example when the wife is happy the whole house feels it so too, it's the women's achrayus to bring and give the chayos of the Rebbe to their children. the men or women who are starting out have to either have contact with elder chassidim who will give them the feeling of the chayos of the Rebbe or if not then building hiskashrus with the Rebbe as the Rebbe said himself by learning maamarim, chassidus etc.. also if i may add watching videos and if it's part of your life to write panim in the Igros Kodesh. but most of all daven to HASHEM for help that u want hishkashrus with the Rebbe and if u mean it- Hashem will answer.
(6/27/2014 2:36:00 AM)
Beyond The Dollar Line
I agree with comment 101. How could we possibly get an idea of who the Rebbe was if he is no longer with us? We must read anecdotes written by those who have had the honor of meeting the Rebbe and spending time with him. Beyond the Dollar Line by Chana Sharfstein is one such book, regarding personal experiences that really highlight the amazing character of the Rebbe.
(6/27/2014 9:59:20 AM)
the right books
of course we have to read books, but the right ones. not those that depict the rebbe the wrong way.
(6/27/2014 11:05:44 AM)
Wow, thank you!!
That's exactly how I felt but didn't have the words to express it...
(6/28/2014 7:42:01 AM)
well done
I 100% agree!
(6/29/2014 8:44:50 AM)
There are real alternatives, and to 13, 14, 39, 66 etc.
Kramer makes an excellent point, and has articulated my own misgivings about these books very well. Any focus, no matter how valid, on particular amazing aspects of the Rebbe's genius, sensitivity etc, distract from an attempt to draw inspiration by connecting to the spiritual essence of what the Rebbe is and was.
To posters 13, 14, 39, 66 etc, yes- those who didn't merit being there physically at the farbrengens, tekios, kos-shel-brocho etc obviously feel a serious void in their ability to relate to certain things on a personal level. However there is enough media available today, B'H, that anybody seriously interested can fill the gaps. Between listening to all the farbrengens, reading the igros kodesh, and watching the videos available , one can somewhat live the experience of many important events in Lubavitch history with the Rebbe.
'Ein hakb"h bo bitrunyo im briyossov', but for a chossid, these books are not the answer.
Congratulations Rabbi Kramer for making the point so eloquently.
(6/30/2014 2:29:31 PM)
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