Rabbis were Twin Towers of wisdom and Yiddishkeit

Robert A. Cohn is Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of the St. Louis Jewish Light.

BY ROBERT A. COHN, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus

By a coincidence that Jews who follow the Mystical Tradition would regard as having great spiritual significance, the 20th yahrzeit, anniversary of the passing of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the revered and legendary Chabad Rebbe, coincided within two days with the death of another large-than-life sized rabbinic figure, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, who had roots with Chabad, but later became the founder of the Jewish Renewal movement.

These Twin Towers of Yiddishkeit and Jewish Wisdom, like the great Rabbis and Sages of old, will continue to dwell among us through their writings and their unique gifts to the global Jewish community.  To be sure the Rebbe and Rabbi Schachter-Shalomi were not “two peas in a pod.”  The Rebbe was

the seventh — and to date the last — of the worldwide leaders of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement which he headed for 44 years, spreading its influence to the four corners of the globe and developing a following so fervent that at one time a substantial faction was convinced that he was the promised Moshiach, or Messiah.  Rabbi Schachter-Shalomi shared with Rabbi Schneerson a rabbinic countenance and charisma that endeared him to his many followers in the Jewish Renewal movement which he founded.

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, author of “Rebbe: The Life and Teachings of Menachem M. Schneerson, the Most Influential Rabbi in Modern History,” says that the Rebbe was “arguably the most well-known rabbi since Moses Maimonides.”

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Rabbi James Stone Goodman, local spiritual leader of Neve Shalom, part of the Jewish Renewal Network, wrote admiringly of the leader founder of his movement (read his commentary at http://bit.ly/schachter-shalomi).

Both movements share a love of K’lal Yisrael, of the total Jewish community, regardless of affiliation or degree of Jewish knowledge.  Indeed there are many Jews locally, nationally and globally who would probably have no Jewish affiliations at all if it were not for the warm and welcoming practices of Chabad and Jewish Renewal.

With the recent 20th yahrzeit of Rabbi Schneerson of Chabad, and during the shloshim, or 30-day morning period for Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, of Jewish Renewal, let us honor their memories for a blessing and emulate their great Wisdom and love of the entire world Jewish community.