Nachum Lamm, known as Norman Lamm, entered the rabbinate just as the second half of the 20th century was getting underway. In 1951, he was ordained at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary at Yeshiva University (YU), where he had previously earned a degree in chemistry. In 1966, he would go on to complete a Ph.D. in Jewish philosophy at YU’s Bernard Revel Graduate School. By this point, he was already teaching at YU himself. In 1976, he was appointed the institution’s third president, and he would continue as Chancellor and Rosh Yeshiva until his retirement in 2013. His impressive career, as an influential rabbi and public intellectual, is inseparable from the institutionalization of a distinctly American mode of Jewish living and thinking that is now generally referred to as “Modern Orthodoxy.” Rabbi Lamm passed away on May 31. He was 92 years old.

In thinking about Lamm and his intellectual legacy, there are two obvious elements that come to mind: 1) the ethos of Torah Umadda (loosely: “Torah together with worldly knowledge”) associated with Yeshiva University; and 2) his work on the ideal of “Torah for Torah’s sake” as espoused by Rabbi Hayyim of Volozhin, the most influential student of the Vilna Gaon. Yet at the very center of the “centrist” ideology articulated by Lamm, we find a third element, namely Chassidism, through which—as he put it—“Judaism experienced an infusion of vitality” and “relearned the principle of self-transformation and renewal.”1

The appreciation that follows reflects on Lamm’s personal reception of Chassidism’s living heritage, the place of Chassidism in his scholarly work, his engagement with Chassidism in the fashioning of his famous derashot (sermons), and on Chassidism as his preferred model for developing the relationship between Torah and worldly knowledge.

Attention will also be given to the interplay of resonance and dissonance that arises when we consider the influence of Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, whose 26th yahrtzeit will be marked this week. According to his son-in-law, Rabbi Mark Dratch—executive vice president of the Rabbinical Council of America—Lamm viewed the Rebbe as one of those rare leaders who “bore the weight of world Jewry on his shoulders.” Dratch also pointed to the importance of Lamm’s Chassidic family background, saying that “he had a chassidic heart.”2 As we shall see, Lamm himself was explicit about his desire to extend the Chassidic mode of heartfelt worship to the cognitive pursuits of the mind as well.

Receiving Chassidism’s Living Heritage

Both of Lamm’s parents were born to Chassidic families; “the atmosphere in my parents’ home,” he wrote, was “not hasidic in practice, yet it was filled with the lore and love of Hasidism.”3 His paternal grandfather, Yaakov Dovid Lamm, had been a rank-and-file chassid of the Belzer Rebbe; his maternal grandfather, Rabbi Yehoshuah Baumol (1880-1948), hailed from the Chassidic heartland of Galicia, and robustly exemplified the fusion of halachic mastery and spiritual piety that was his heritage. A recognized prodigy, Rabbi Baumol had been appointed Rosh Yeshiva at the Chassidic court of Vizhnitz while still in his teen years, and after coming to New York in 1920, he became one of America’s leading rabbinic authorities, admired for his aristocratic grace and warm charisma, as well as for his immense learning.4

Among Lamm’s personal links to the living legacy of Chassidism were also, in his words, “two saintedThe seminal place of Chabad teachings in Rabbi Soloveitchik’s intellectual world is evident from his philosophical treatise hasidic masters in whose modest synagogues I prayed in my youth, and from whom I learned the wonders, the charm, the mystery, and the teaching of Hasidism, Rabbi David Yitzchak Isaac Rabinowitz, the Skolier Rebbe (1896–1979), descendant of the Baal Shem Tov, and Rabbi Yisrael Elazar Hopstein, the Kozhnitzer Rebbe (1898-1966), descendant of the Maggid of Kozhnitz.”5

Lamm’s maternal grandfather, Rabbi Baumol, was a constant presence and a formative influence during the first 21 years of his life. It was he who initiated Lamm into the rigorous creativity of Torah scholarship, and also into the profundity of the Chassidic ethos. Marking the first yahrtzeit of his grandfather, Lamm wrote of the “painful sentiment … of having lost a part of myself.”6

Rabbi Lamm’s grandson, Rabbi Ari Lamm—CEO of the Bnai Zion Foundation—commented that “while some in the YU community tend to assume that only litvaks (heirs to Volohzin’s tradition of elite Talmudism) ‘know how to learn,’ my grandfather never bought into that. He knew firsthand that Chassidim were equally robust in their Torah scholarship.”7 Moreover, his construction of a “Chassidic model” of Torah Umadda, which will be discussed below, is explicitly anchored in Rabbi Baumol’s ethical will wherein he transmitted “the principles by which he lived” to the members of his family.8

While it was Lamm’s first great teacher who introduced him to Chassidism as a set of principles to live by, it was his second great teacher who introduced him to Chassidism as a set of concepts to think with. The latter individual, of course, was Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik (1903-1993), scion of the dynasty of Volozhin and Brisk, and the most eminent and influential member of the YU faculty. In Lamm’s eulogy for his teacher, he stated that Rabbi Soloveitchik’s “affection for Habad,” beginning with his childhood exposure to Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi’s Tanya, “would remain with him to the end.”9

The seminal place of Chabad teachings in Rabbi Soloveitchik’s intellectual world is evident from his philosophical treatise, Halakhic Man, which ostensibly defends a purely halachic approach to Jewish religiosity. In truth, however, it draws deeply and explicitly on Tanya (referred to with the title Likkutei Amarim), and on the important compendium of Rabbi Shneur Zalman’s discourses, Likkutei Torah, to craft a sophisticated spiritual phenomenology according to which the two personas of the “homo religiosus” and the “cognitive man” can cohere in a single individual.10 This was an expression of what Lamm described as the Rav’s broader “effort to bridge the worlds of emotion and reason, of Halakhah and Agadah, of Hasidism and Mitnagdism.”11 As will become clear below, Lamm would continue his teacher’s path of synthesis.

Rabbi Lamm, center, sits beside Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik (left), in 1977.
Rabbi Lamm, center, sits beside Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik (left), in 1977.

In Halakhic Man, Rabbi Soloveitchik also cites Nefesh Ha-hayyim, the posthumously published treatise of his own ancestor, Rabbi Hayyim of Volozhin. A significant section of that work is devoted to an explanation of the kabbalisitic concept of Tzimtzum (the primordial “contraction” of the divine) and its significance for our understanding of the relationship between G‑d and the world. Yet when Rabbi Soloveitchik takes up Tzimtzum as a central concern of his own religious phenomenology, he makes it clear that “I am making use of the interpretation of this concept as it is to be found in the teachings of Habad Hasidism.”12 This point is significant in the present context because in Lamm’s doctoral dissertation—written under Rabbi Soloveitchik’s tutelage—he took up the question of how Nefesh Ha-hayyim responded to the ascent of Chassidism, and pointed out that some nuances of the interpretation of Tzimtzum remained an enduring locus of differentiation between the respective paths of Volozhin and Chabad.13

It was while working on his doctorate that Lamm most deeply immersed himself in the study of Chabad texts, especially Tanya and Likkutei Torah, and also engaged Rabbi Soloveitchik on the substance of the texts he was studying.14 Lamm later recalled that Rabbi Soloveitchik knew Chabad thought “very well—very very well.” “I would ask him a question sometimes about Chabad, regarding which he hadn’t opened the Sefer Tanya in forty years, and he knew it cold. I was constantly amazed by it.”15

Chassidism in Lamm’s Scholarly Works

In his dissertation, and in subsequent works, Lamm argued that Nefesh Ha-hayyim was by no means an anti-Chassidic tract, as some have supposed, but was actually a significant gesture of reconciliation; an acceptance of the Chassidic invitation to dialogue that he saw to be implicitly encoded in the Tanya. Rabbi Hayyim’s conciliatory technique, he argued, “consisted of accepting the theological strictures, modes, and even vocabulary of Hasidism, especially that of Rabbi Shneur Zalman, but so reformulating them that the basic Mitnaggedic position is salvaged and elucidated.” In his view, the contrast between the approach of the Vilna Gaon and his student, Rabbi Hayyim, could be “expressed colloquially” via the distinction between responding to Chassidism with “no, never!” or with “Yes, but.”16

This attentiveness to the ways in which the “vocabulary” of Chassidism, especially as inscribed in the Chabad corpus, was adopted by Rabbi Hayyim echoed many years later in a conversation between Lamm and Chabad of Alaska’s Rabbi Yosef Greenberg. When the latter pointed out that Halakhic Man relied on Rabbi Shneur Zalman not only to describe the potency of mystical fervor, but also to underscore the centrality of Torah study and cognition, Lamm agreed, saying that Rabbi Shneur Zalman created “a new vocabulary” and Rabbi Soloveitchik had “no choice” but to use it.17

A somewhat updated version of Lamm’s dissertation would eventually be published as Torah for Torah’s Sake in the Works of Rabbi Hayyim of Volozhin and his Contemporaries.18 Following the 1972 publication of the Hebrew version of this book (Torah Lishmah), Lamm inscribed a copyLamm inscribed a copy and sent it to the Rebbe as a gift and sent it to the Lubavitcher Rebbe as a gift. In a letter penned to express his thanks, the Rebbe noted that “this is a topic of interest to me, all the more so since in several places the book deals with issues that stood at the center of the controversy between the Chassidim and the Mitnagdim during that period.”19

From this point onward, Lamm would continue to send the Rebbe his new publications, and the Rebbe’s secretariat would reciprocate by sending Lamm new publications from Chabad’s Kehot Publication Society. Studying these scholarly volumes, Lamm would often pen letters sharing his reflections and appreciation with his close friend of many decades, Rabbi Dr. Alter B.Z. Metzger, who served as professor at Yeshiva University’s Stern College for Women. A Chabad chassid, lecturer and author who earned a doctorate from Columbia University, Metzger would often share Lamm’s glosses with the Rebbe. Metzger's son, Rabbi Joshua Metzger, director of Chabad of Midtown Manhattan, recalls that the Rebbe would oft times respond with comments on Lamm's letters.

Having originally entered the scholarly field of Chassidism from a more comparative perspective, Lamm would go on to concentrate more closely on the teachings of the great Chassidic masters, rather than on the more peripheral questions of conflict and reconciliation. Before his appointment as President of YU, he offered courses on Chassidic thought to undergraduates within the more informal framework of YU’s Erna Michael College (now Isaac Breuer College) of Hebraic Studies. This project was given lasting expression in his capacious anthology, The Religious Thought of Hasidism: Text and Commentary (Ktav Publishing House, 1999), which has yet to be surpassed in terms of its topical scope, its diversity of source material, and its organizational coherence.

Lamm’s scholarship is certainly in dialogue with the work of academic scholars. Yet, rather than follow a path of pure academia he instead chose the vocation of a communal rabbi, a public intellectual and a builder of institutions. Over time his work moved from the realm of critical analysis into the realm of constructive philosophy and theology, and it was aimed at a much broader audience.

His 2002 book, The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism, is a fine example of his scholarly move from analysis to construction. As the subtitle intimates, Lamm saw the Shema prayer as the locus of ultimate synthesis between the “objective” obligations of the halachah and the “subjective” arousal of religious feeling; the very tension that he understood to be at the heart of the struggle between the Chassidim and the Mitnagdim. Taking up Judaism’s most fundamental expression of religious commitment and identity, he argued that when it comes to the Shema “each side—spirit and law—shows understanding of the other.” While “spirituality defers to law” as to when and how the Shema is to be read, “the law not only accommodates but requires spiritual intention … and defines its minimum expression.”20

Though The Shema draws from the entire span of Judaism’s legal and interpretive tradition, it is the great Chassidic masters who provide the book’s ideological and methodological backbone. The first part culminates with a call to bring the radical Chassidic understanding that “only G‑d truly exists”21 (which was accepted, on Lamm’s account, by Rabbi Hayyim of Volozhin) from the realm of theological principle and spiritual experience into the realm of action. This belief, he wrote, should become “a value that governs our conduct,” “energizes the worshiper to spiritual ambition,” and motivates an “active program” towards realizing “the existential unity of humanity.”22

The second part of the book turns to the commandment “you shall love the L-rd your G‑d” (Devarim 6:5), dwelling most centrally on two Chassidic masters who both seem to have had a special place in the author’s heart: Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi and Rabbi Zadok Hakohen of Lublin. Ultimately, however, the purpose of this work is not careful analysis and differentiation but rather holistic integration and construction. Many disparate voices, including some from far beyond the Chassidic canon, are elegantly marshaled to enunciate Lamm’s own thinking.

The Derashot: Enmeshing Torah in Personal and Public Life

During his years as a congregational rabbi, from the 1950s to the mid-1970s, Lamm’s sermons or derashot richly exhibited his appreciation not only of Chassidism’s religious ideas but also of the interpretive creativity and literary craft displayed by the Chassidic masters.23 Here Lamm is at his most eclectic. In addition to the influences already mentioned, he draws on such luminaries as Rabbi Elimelech of Lizensk, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (The Apter Rav), Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev. These derashot are also notable for the particular ways in which they reflect the sichot (“talks”) of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who he would describe as “the most important Jewish manhig (leader) of my lifetime.”24

This letter was sent by Rabbi Lamm to the Lubavitcher Rebbe—who he addresses as “teacher of all Israel”—in 1972, along with a copy of the Hebrew edition of his book, Torah Lishmah: “It will be a great honor for me, and this will be my reward for all my toil, if your honor could devote a few precious moments … to take a look at my work … especially since many issues are relevant to the teachings of Chabad …”
This letter was sent by Rabbi Lamm to the Lubavitcher Rebbe—who he addresses as “teacher of all Israel”—in 1972, along with a copy of the Hebrew edition of his book, Torah Lishmah: “It will be a great honor for me, and this will be my reward for all my toil, if your honor could devote a few precious moments … to take a look at my work … especially since many issues are relevant to the teachings of Chabad …”

The Rebbe’s influence is most clear in a sermon dating from 1971, which is essentially a paraphrase of an edited talk by the Rebbe that had been published, in pamphlet form, exactly one year prior.25 In addition to the Torah content of his talks, the Rebbe also provided a model for the application of Chassidism’s spiritual teachings and ethos to the pressing public issues of the day. As Ari Lamm put it, “my grandfather really admired the Rebbe’s sense of public spiritedness, and was intrigued by his involvement in the political life of America and Israel.” As an example, he pointed to Lamm’s 1976 call “for more religious expression in the public life of this country, even in the public schools.” Echoing the Rebbe’s decades long campaign for the cultivation of a shared non-denominational religiosity—in schools, public spaces, and public life—he declared that “we need not only the political clarion-call and the trumpeting of new programs, but also genuine prayer and awareness of a Higher Power.”26

It is not only Lamm’s position that is notable here, but also that he ensconced this discussion of public policy within a wider Torah discussion of the spiritual significanceHe ensconced the discussion of public policy within a wider Torah discussion of the spiritual significance of prayer with which prayer must be endowed. Weighing in on a contemporaneous debate over whether a certain presidential candidate was too religious, Lamm turned to a discussion between two sages of the Mishnah to emphasize the centrality of heartfelt prayer when faced with personal or collective crisis, and to chastise those who were comfortable with religious gestures but not with religious meaning: “It is too much for the devotees of the cult of the secular to abide the symbolism of the highest office in the land being occupied not only by a president who prays, but by a praying president.”27 This is strikingly similar to the way that the Rebbe's discussions of public policy were intertwined within his broader Torah talks.28

On another occasion, discussing the “kulturkampf” between religious and secularist factions in Israel, Lamm spoke of the “Law of Return” and upheld the Rebbe’s insistence that halachah be enshrined as the final arbiter of “who is a Jew”:

The “Who is a Jew” issue is another one in which the religious side has the far greater merit … This represents a real problem, and one must agree with the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s major thrust in demanding an amendment to the law (adding the words “according to the Halakhah”), even if one is willing to question some of his techniques or political ramifications and demands. We are here speaking of our very identity as Jews, and the point is therefore a profoundly psychological and spiritual one, as well as a legal and technical one.29

In 1988, however, Lamm distanced himself from “certain Hasidic elements” who, in his words, have “set the ‘who is a Jew’ question as the highest priority of political action.” By contrast, he complained, “our camp needs an injection of courage right now.” Lamm clearly found the Rebbe’s principled position compelling. Yet this was evidently counterbalanced by his desire to also cultivate a “moderation” that would not “be confused with indecisiveness.”30

In other derashot during his years at the pulpit, Lamm took note of the ways in which Chabad seemed to be uniquely attuned to the spiritual seeking and spiritual needs of Jews who were in various ways disenfranchised from, or disenchanted with, their own heritage. This applied to young Jews in America who were, as a result, now looking “not to a Marcuse, not to Leary, but (להבדיל אלף הבדלות), to the Lubavitcher Rebbe” for new inspiration.31 In a talk on the situation of Russian-Jewish immigrants in Israel he expressed vexation that their absorption into Israeli society was for the most part an entirely secular enterprise: Other than a single ulpan in Kfar Chabad and “one or two others,” he noted, “all others are in secularist and anti-religious centers.”32

After returning from a trip to Israel in 1974, Lamm reported approvingly on the success of Chabad’s ongoing tefillin campaign, and applauded other Jewish organizations for their participation. Responding to those who would devalue religious arousal born of crisis, Lamm quipped, “better ‘foxhole religion’ than penthouse agnosticism.”33 This championship of authenticity born of adversity brings to mind an original and creative interpretation that Rabbi Lamm offered at the conclusion of derashah delivered the following year:

Permit me to conclude with my own interpretation of those four first words, adam ki yakriv mikem (Vayikra 1:2—lit. “a man, from you, who brings a sacrifice”). My explanation is: only one who is ready to give of himself, mikem, can be considered an adam — a real man, a genuine human being, an authentic mentsch.34

In the same derashah he praised the Rebbe’s chassidim for practicing “love and not hate,” and for eliciting “admiration from many diverse circles for their work, even if not always for their policies and politics.”

The influence of earlier Chassidic masters on Lamm’s derashot is clear; they provided the model for the authentic enmeshment of Torah in personal life. But it was specifically the Rebbe who led the way in extending that authentic enmeshment to the realm of policy and public life.

Rabbi Lamm (left) with Chabad representative to Alaska Rabbi Yosef Greenberg during Lamm's Summer 2001 visit to Greenberg's Chabad House. Lamm spoke admiringly of the "incalculable" and "historic" contributions of the Rebbe's emissaries to strengthening Judaism worldwide.
Rabbi Lamm (left) with Chabad representative to Alaska Rabbi Yosef Greenberg during Lamm's Summer 2001 visit to Greenberg's Chabad House. Lamm spoke admiringly of the "incalculable" and "historic" contributions of the Rebbe's emissaries to strengthening Judaism worldwide.

“The Chassidic Model” of Torah Umadda

In an important 1986 essay Lamm articulated his preference for the appellation “Centrist Orthodoxy” over “Modern Orthodoxy.” He made it clear that he was less interested in modernity and more interested in moderation. “Moderation,” he wrote, “issues from a broad Weltanschauung or world view rather than from tunnel vision.”35 Accordingly, his ideological project was to build a coherent space at the “center” wherein different interpretations of Jewish tradition could beTorah and worldly wisdom should be mutually enhancing balanced together in harmony, even if they did not necessarily agree. Torah and worldly wisdom (Torah Umadda), he likewise argued, should not be weighed against each other, but should rather be seen as mutually enhancing, “symbiotic or synergistic.”36

The latter argument, of course, was given its fullest treatment in his 1989 book, Torah Umadda: The Encounter of Religious Learning and Worldly Knowledge in the Jewish Tradition. This work draws on six different strands of Jewish thought to construct and appraise six models of the relationship between Torah and worldly knowledge. These are: 1) the rationalist model associated with Maimonides; 2) the cultural model associated with Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch; 3) the mystical model associated with Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook; 4) the instrumentalist model associated with the Vilna Gaon; 5) the inclusionary model, which is based on a reading of Maimonides via Rabbi Hayyim of Volozhin; and 6) the Chassidic model, which extends the worship of G‑d to every area of life, and by extension to every intellectual arena.

As David Shatz has noted, Lamm concludes his analysis by highlighting the advantages of the Chassidic model, and by drawing its implications for education.37

Chassidism, Lamm writes, provides

an overarching religious vision … of a world bursting with the potential and promise of holiness, yearning for the redemptive touch of the sanctifying soul, and the consequent bending of all one’s talents, propensities, physical needs, emotional fulfillments, and cognitive gestures to the service of the Holy one, so that every single facet of one’s total being becomes an offering of love to one’s Maker … Torah Umadda thus becomes just a specific application of a much broader religious principle.38

What Lamm calls for here is not a messy modernity in which a multiplicity of competing ideas and ideals live together uncomfortably. Nor are we left with a pragmatic truce between the sacred Torah on the one hand and the secular sciences on the other. We are rather left with a vision for a Chassidic sacralization that must ultimately pervade and transform the pursuit of “worldly knowledge” too; nothing is left within the realm of the secular.

It is striking that, both in structure and in substance, Lamm’s examination of the relationship between Torah and worldly knowledge is prefigured in a letter by the Rebbe, penned in 1949 and published in 1977.39 In structure, six categories of permissible study of worldly knowledge are outlined. In substance, the sixth category is distinctly Chassidic in its expansive scope, and is built on a close reading of a passage from Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi’s Tanya, Chapter 8.40

A letter Rabbi Lamm sent to the Rebbe in honor of the Rebbe’s 75th birthday, wherein he expresses his prayerful hope that the Rebbe would “merit many more years to disseminate the wellsprings of his teachings to the outside.”
A letter Rabbi Lamm sent to the Rebbe in honor of the Rebbe’s 75th birthday, wherein he expresses his prayerful hope that the Rebbe would “merit many more years to disseminate the wellsprings of his teachings to the outside.”

Broadly speaking, Rabbi Shneur Zalman places the study of worldly wisdom in the same category as other permissible activities that do not have the sanctity of a mitzvah. Engaging in such activities for one’s personal gratification, rather than in intentional service of G‑d, drags the soul into the realm of the unholy. Yet such activities are not irredeemable; they can later become encompassed in the realm of holiness if one subsequently draws on these activities to serve G‑d. For example, kosher food that later gives a person strength to pray becomes sacralized, even if it was initially eaten for personal gratification; worldly knowledge that later informs the understanding of a Torah topic likewise becomes sacralized, even if it was initially studied for personal gratification.41 If, however, such activities are intentionally engaged as an instrument of divine worship then they are immediately encompassed in the realm of holiness.

Had the discussion in Tanya concluded at this point, we wouldWorldly knowledge that later informs the understanding of a Torah topic becomes sacralized be left with a version of what Lamm called “the instrumentalist model,” embellished with a coherent mystical theorization that renders it vastly more robust. But, as the Rebbe points out in his 1949 letter, Rabbi Shneur Zalman does not stop there. In the specific case of worldly knowledge he explicates a further license that apparently does not depend on a specific instrumental intention, but requires only that “one knows how to apply them in the service of G‑d or for [the study of] His Torah.” “This,” he adds, “was the reason of Maimonides and Nachmanides, of blessed memory, and their coterie,” who engaged in such study.

The example of Maimonides is important, the Rebbe argues, because Maimonides was initially supported by his wealthy brother. Already in that early period he undertook the study of medicine, even though he did not yet have an instrumental need to earn his living as a physician. This is because Maimonidies, and others like him, had the sort of knowledge that subjects all elements of life and all forms of wisdom to what Lamm terms “an overarching religious vision.”

Accordingly, in embracing “the Chassidic model” of Torah Umadda Lamm seems to be echoing the Rebbe: Only a Maimonidean sort of visionary knowledge allows one to perceive how all intellectual activities can be enfolded within the central project of serving G‑d and studying His Torah.

Between Singularity and Synthesis

This agreement, however, only went so far. Lamm’s divergence from the Rebbe’s view can be discerned in their respective discussions of the ways in which modern science has uncovered a greater degree of unity in our understanding of nature. As the Rebbe put it:

In the past it was thought that each of the natural forces was a distinct power onto itself, and that the materiality of each entity in the world is compounded from many diverse elements. But the more the development of worldly knowledge progresses, the more we come to recognize that the multiplicity and differentiation in the formation of the elements is only an external function … to the point that it is recognized that the essence of the world’s being is comprised of the union of the two constituents; quantity [matter] and quality [energy].42

Lamm similarly wrote that “the theme of divine unity at the core of the Shema suggests intriguing parallels to the structure of contemporary science.”43 I have italicized the word “parallels” because it underscores that Lamm thought largely in terms of distinct, competing and parallel values—e.g. law and spirituality, Torah and worldly knowledge—which need to somehow be synthesized.

The Rebbe, by contrast, thought in terms of an axiomatic singularity, according to which everything must ultimately be viewed as emanating from a single source; all perceived contradictions fade away once their essence is discovered. From this perspective, the new unifying orientation of science does not simply “parallel” the unifying orientation of Chassidic teachings, but is rather a derivative thereof:

The revelation of the inner dimension of the Torah results in the developmentof worldly knowledgeas a matter of course (memeila) … It reveals the unity of G‑d in the world to the point that … the world itself becomes transparent to the unity of G‑d …44

Another important departure from the Rebbe’s approach is a more practical one. The Rebbe made it clear that the fundamental correspondence between Torah and science “has nothing to do with the question of studying in college or university, or the like.” Among other considerations, this was rooted in the fact that the study of science in such institutions is not based on an axiomatic vision of divine singularity, but to the contrary, on axiomatically atheistic assumptions. Science can be synthesized with Torah; secularism cannot.45

This practical consideration aside, the above distinction between singularity and synthesis might be aligned with Lamm’s own distinction between the divine perspective (“mitzido”) and the human perspective (“mi-tzideinu”).46 Lamm once wrote of the latter, “what this perspective loses in the realm of pure unity it gains in the vitality of dynamic relationship.”47

For Rabbi Nachum (Norman) Lamm, this was not simply a lofty ideal to write about, but one that he forged into a decades-long path of personal striving for the public good. His teaching, his publications, and his leadership all leave an indelible imprint.