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The Rebbe's "Exaggerated Love"

The Rebbe's "Exaggerated Love"


Paris, 1971. A rabbinical student stood on a busy boulevard, asking passersby if they were Jews and if they wanted to put on tefillin in the nearby synagogue.

Joseph Schoukroun, an aspiring young engineer born to a Jewish family in Algeria, was living a secular life, and did not know much about his heritage. When asked if he was Jewish, he answered in the affirmative. In response to the earnest young man’s offer to help him put on tefillin, his curiosity got the better of him, and he agreed to enter the synagogue.

There he put on tefillin for the first time, and then went on his way.

As the days passed, the question “are you Jewish” continued to play in his mind and gave him no rest. So he stopped by a bookstore and bought a few books about Judaism. As he read and absorbed the information, he began to make small changes in his life.

Time passed, and work brought Joseph to Brunoy, a suburb southeast of Paris. Upon inquiring about kosher food, he was directed to the Chabad yeshivah that had been founded there shortly after the end of World War II. He was greeted by two yeshivah students who engaged him in conversation. They soon realized that Joseph’s thirst for Torah knowledge was unquenchable.

The yeshivah regularly hosted seminars for university students to advance their Torah study, and they invited Joseph to join. He accepted their invitation and began to learn eagerly, spending eight months in the yeshivah learning Torah and living as an observant Jew. During that time he heard much about the Rebbe and wanted to visit New York and meet the Rebbe personally.

And so, Joseph booked an audience with the Rebbe. Following the established custom, Joseph composed a lengthy letter describing his background, the crossroads he was at and the many other questions he had, some pertaining to chassidic customs.

During the audience, Joseph read out his questions, and the Rebbe replied to each of them. Then Joseph said, “I have heard lots about you over the past eight months, and in my estimation, the Parisians have an exaggerated love for you.”

The Rebbe smiled and answered: “What can I do? I myself have an exaggerated love for every single Jew!”

Joseph, now known as Yosef, returned to France and continued his studies. He eventually married and built a beautiful Jewish family, and became involved in sharing the Rebbe's love and wisdom with many Parisian Jews.

Yosef Schoukroun with the Rebbe in the winter of 1992 (JEM The Living Archive).
Yosef Schoukroun with the Rebbe in the winter of 1992 (JEM The Living Archive).

(Adapted from Sichat Hashavuah 805 (June 6, 2002) and the personal diary of Yosef Schoukron - 1938-2012.)

Sefira Ross is a freelance designer and illustrator whose original creations grace many pages. Residing in Seattle, Washington, her days are spent between multitasking illustrations and being a mom.
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louise leon PA, USA June 26, 2017

Please explain how love of others can be " exaggerated". This makes no sense to me.
Thanx ! Reply

Darrell Salinas , CA July 7, 2017

The story of this people called the Jews has me eternally captivated. I am able to see persons,places,and events with great clarity as I focus on the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. "Ask Me and I will tell you great and unsearchable things." (Jeremiah 33.3) Reply

shifra July 4, 2017

I am glad he had so much love for Jews, but what about non Jews? i am a Jew and glad to be one, but will never for one minute believe i am better or higher or more spiritual than non Jews. I know too many deeply spiritual loving and selfless people who are other faiths to believe that.

it feels like a kind of spiritual racism. it makes no sense to me.

why don't we drop it and just love everyone and act like everyone is a Jew so to speak. when they had those terrible murders in France re Charlie Hebdo, lots of people said, Je suis Charlie Hebdo. A Muslim woman had a sign saying, " Je suis juif." I am a Jew.

She had not converted nor was she planning to, but she identified with us.

I identify with all people, and when we can do that, we will stop this senseless killing in the name of God. Reply

Eliezer Zalmanov for July 5, 2017
in response to shifra :

A little research into the Rebbe's life will show his care for all human beings in G-d's world, Jew and non-Jew. There are many stories an anecdotes along these lines, but here's one that stands out: Turning Disappointment into Food for the Hungry Reply

YY Israel July 24, 2017
in response to shifra :

I don't find it a contraction, that Rebbe's love for the Jews somehow imply the opposite --G-d forbid!--regarding others?!
And certainly this is incomparable to those whom you mention, who kill others in the name of their god, not because of their love for each other (I can testify to that) but rather because of their hate for others...

Imagine if someone berated you for loving your own family in a more unique way than you do others! Or, say for example one tells his wife how much he loves her, and she draws back and demands "what about my sister?! You don't love her to? What did she do wrong??"

And despite these facts and justifications, as Rabbi Zalmanov mentioned, and as can be found in innumerable other stories and talks (many of which can be found on this website), the Rebbe still had in his enormous heart boundless love for all people, regardless! Reply

Dovid July 2, 2017

I heard this story before with an added part where he asked the Rebbe: "why do all the Parisian chassidim have a big picture of you in their house?"
The Rebbe smiled and said something like - You would have to ask them, as they are the ones that are doing it. But if you ask me, I would say that since I have so much love for them, they reciprocate and feel so much love for me and it is common practice to place pictures of your family and loved ones in your house. Reply

YY Israel July 24, 2017
in response to Dovid:

Continuation to the story There were I think 10 questions that he asked the Rebbe, and the rabbis in my Yeshiva mention them often. The response to the question about the picture is like this:
The Rebbe smiled, and then said (I do not remember it vertabim):
"if a big picture is too much, it can be also a small picture!"

Yosef consequently took this to be an instruction, that every person must have a small picture of the Rebbe with him! Therefore he would always hand out pocket-sized pictures of the Rebbe for people to place in their wallets.

Rabbi Goorevitch from our yeshiva mentioned several times (if i remember correctly) that once Yosef's son approached him at the airport and asked the Rabbi to share a story about his father, Yosef.
The first story that came to mind was that question to the Rebbe regarding the picture.
To that, the son responded:
"Oh!! Now I understand my father's custom to hand out pictures of the Rebbe to people!" (Etc)
That's how Rabbi Goorevitch found out the second half of the story. Reply

Shaul London June 28, 2017

Wow, very inspirational Reply

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