This Thursday I head off to Ohalah, what my wife Renée refers to as "a rabbis convention for unconventional rabbis." This will be the first such gathering since the death of Reb Zalman, tz"l, and will then take on special meaning. This post, A Year of Stories #26, marks the 1/2 year since his death on July 3.
A few days ago I received in the mail a hardcover copy of Rebbe, the biography of Reb Menachem Schneerson written by Joseph Telushkin. I had not ordered it, so you can imagine my surprise when I discovered a note inside explaining that it was a gift to me from a pair of philantropists who had underwritten the mailing. Wow, that's a lot of bucks - "gimme loot, chasadim!"
I immediately looked in the index for Reb Zalman's name, and of course, found a good number of references to him, as he was a musmach (he had been ordained) by the Central Lubavich Yeshiva in 1947. Through the subsequent years Reb Zalman had many interactions with the person who R' Telushkin calls "the most influential rabbi in modern history." Here is a story that Reb Zalman shared with the author about his Rebbe:
When Rabbi Zalman Schacter-Shalomi was Hillel director at the University of Manitoba in Winnepeg, Canad, he brought a group of students to meet with the Rebbe in Brooklin. At the conclusion of the rebbe's opening remaks, one of the students, intending to be blunt rather than disrespectful, asked him, "What's a Rebbe good for?" To this day Reb Zalman remembers his feelings at that moment: "I could have sunk through the floor in embarassment." However, the Rebbe didn't seem offended at all and responded to the query directly:
"I can't speak about myself, but I can tell you about my own Rebbe (his father in law). For me, my Rebbe was the geologist of the soul. You see, there are so many treasures in the earth. There is gold, there is silver, and there are diamonds. Bit if you don't know where to dig, you'll only find dirt and rocks, and mud. The Rebbe can tell you where to dig, and what to dig for, but the digging you must do for yourself."
from Rebbe, by Joseph Telushkin, Pg 209
also, see Reb Zalman's book The Geologist of the Soul: Talks on Rebbe-Craft and Spiritual Leadership
My late rebbe, R' Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, zt"l, (זכר צדיק לברכה) was a master storyteller. He taught, in the name of Abraham Joshua Heschel zt"l: "a mayse is a story in which the soul surprises the mind". "A Year of Stories" is dedicated to his memory. I invite you to forward the link to these stories so that they find their way into the hearts of other listeners and tellers.
Please consider offering a tax deductible donation to support this project and the work of DC's Jewish Renewal community Minyan Oneg Shabbat.
If you would like to be added to the growing list of
"Year of Stories" followers, let me know at RebMarko@gmail.com,
with "Year of Stories" in the subject line.
Mark Novak is a "free-range" rabbi who lives in Washington DC and works, well, just about everywhere. In 2012 he founded Minyan Oneg Shabbat, home to MOSH (Minyan Oneg Shabbat), MindfulMOSH (Jewish mindfulness gathering), and