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Foreword

Foreword

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The Lubavitcher Rebbe’s monumental religious projects are well known, but less familiar is his formidable theological prowess and his unique theological weltanschauung that has in fact served as the inspiration for his social programs. Over the course of decades, in numerous talks and writings, the Rebbe probed the depths of Scripture, the Talmud, the Midrash, the philosophical, Kabbalistic and Chasidic literature, offering both new insight to numerous texts, as well as original perspectives on the entire range of general metaphysical questions and Jewish philosophical issues. It appears fair to say that his comments on these matters amount to a comprehensive and consistent theological system, which has even its own logical infrastructure. However, information related to this system is scattered throughout the Rebbe’s numerous speeches and writings, at times fully expressed and at times in mere nuance. I attempt in this book to present this theology as the comprehensive and integral system it is.

It should be noted, that I have taken the liberty to paraphrase as well as to provide analogies to facilitate the presentation of unfamiliar concepts. Generally, as its cover implies, this book should be treated as no more than the author’s personal reflections on the Rebbe’s teachings. As for style, I have chosen to adopt neither the posture of the polemicist who preaches the superiority of his doctrine, nor that of the critic who assesses and evaluates, but rather something akin to that of the tour-guide who wishes to familiarize his fellow travelers with the local terrain and to highlight to them its notable features.

In truth, to do justice to the task undertaken here it is necessary to devote a work of far greater proportions, undertaking a careful scholarly study, setting the thought-system under discussion against the background of other Jewish systems, and more specifically against earlier Chasidic writings, and moreover, earlier Chabad-Lubavitch teachings. Such a work would aim to demonstrate where the Rebbe interprets earlier Chasidic texts in a unique light or offers totally new insight.

But as the years have passed, preoccupation with other matters, for better or for worse, has deprived me of the opportunity to realize this goal.

Consequently, this work is not without considerable shortcomings. First, the work is not exhaustive but merely illustrative of the Rebbe’s theology. Second, in a rather arbitrary way, it casts only some topics against the background of but some earlier thought systems, though usually the systems of major importance. Third, and most important, it is not free of generalizations when it portrays concepts as the Rebbe’s original insight, as some of these ideas are to be found, at least in some form, in previous writings (the Chabad Chasidic classic popularly known as Samach-Vov would be a notable example).

Nevertheless, it appears justified to maintain, as this book does, that the general thrust of the Rebbe’s theology, whilst firmly rooted in classic Chasidic teachings, is strikingly innovative. Indeed, even those relevant perceptions that were expressed previously are no longer isolated thoughts, but are now incorporated into a total system. Where he is not the creator of the building blocks, the Rebbe is the master architect who incorporates these blocks into an impressively innovative edifice, in which, in turn, each brick assumes new meaning. There is perhaps nothing as telling as the fact that in his index to the classic Chasidic work, Tanya, first published in 1953, the Rebbe did not even mark an entry for Dirah Betachtonim, the key phrase of his theological system. It was only after several decades of expounding this theology that the Rebbe personally added the entry.

The Rebbe has furthered many Chasidic teachings to their logical conclusion, thereby continuing the tradition of the great Chasidic leaders to progressively reveal the hidden mystical dimension of Judaism. And it is these teachings that this book attempts to paraphrase.

More than two decades have passed since this book was originally conceived, some fifteen years since it was initially committed to writing, and more than a decade since the Rebbe referred it to Agudas Chasidei Chabad’s publishing department. As the book gathered dust, the Rebbe added countless new insights to its subject matter. (English style has also changed during this time; particularly, the once pervasive use of the masculine gender is, appropriately, no longer normative.) I nevertheless leave the book as it stands, in the hope that though somewhat dated it remains an acceptable contribution towards understanding the remarkable theology of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

Rabbi Faitel Levin
Melbourne, Australia
11th of Nissan 5762

Rabbi Faitel Levin, author of Halacha, Medical Science and Technology and founding editor of The Australian Journal of Torah Thought, is Australia's most sought after lecturer on Halachic issues. Presently, Rabbi Levin is rabbi of the Brighton Hebrew Congregation in Melbourne.
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