Students and faculty at Yeshiva University in New York City are preparing for an evening on Monday, Feb. 3, showcasing the special relationship between the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory; and the Rav, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, of righteous memory, and Rabbi Soloveitchik’s affinity for Chabad Chassidsim and the Rebbe. The program is expected to draw scholars, students and admirers from around the New York metropolitan area.
The lives of these two preeminent Jewish leaders spanned the better part of the 20th century. Both were born in Eastern Europe, and eventually led vibrant Torah movements in the United States. In the early 1930s, they both studied in Berlin, where they first became acquainted.
The Rav’s affinity to Chabad Chassidism is well-documented. He was strongly influenced by his study of the early Chabad works, particularly Tanya, Likkutei Torah and Torah Ohr, seminal works of Chassidic philosophy penned by Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, and his writings are dotted with numerous references to these documents. It is also well-known that he spent his formative years in the town of Khaslavitch, where the Jewish population was primarily comprised of Chabad Chassidim, and where he learned at the feet of a Chabad Chassidic schoolmaster, about whom he once said: “He taught me how to live Judaism and not just practice it.”
During their years in America, the two men met only on rare occasions. The Rav paid a visit to the Rebbe in 1964, following the passing of the Rebbe’s mother, and once again after the passing of his mother-in-law. A more public display of their deep regard for one another came in 1980, when the Rav participated in a Chassidic gathering at 770 Eastern Parkway in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y., celebrating 30 years of the Rebbe’s leadership of Chabad.
However, their personal connection and intellectual affinity ran far deeper than is commonly known. Presentations at next month’s program are expected to bring to light aspects of this relationship.
Of special interest will be a talk by Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky, chairman of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch, the educational arm of Chabad-Lubavitch. A native of Boston, Krinsky was the first student at the Maimonides School, which the Rav founded in 1937. As the Rebbe’s personal secretary, he would often serve as a liaison between the two leaders, bringing the Rav new Chabad publications and discussing communal matters with him at the behest of the Rebbe.
Other presenters will be three former students of the Rav, who served as Rosh Yeshivah at RIETS, the rabbinical seminary of Yeshiva University: Rabbi Moshe Weinberger, recently appointed mashpia (spiritual mentor) at RIETS; Rabbi Dr. Jacob J. Schacter, professor of Jewish history and Jewish thought at Yeshiva University; and Rabbi Zevulun Charlop, dean emeritus of RIETS. Rabbi Yosef Y. Jacobson, a noted Chabad scholar and lecturer, will also speak.
The evening—planned for Monday, Feb. 3, from 8:15 p.m. to 9:45 p.m., at the school’s Wilf Campus, Furst Hall, Room 501—is co-sponsored by the Chabad Club of Yeshiva University; the Student Organization of Yeshiva and Jewish Studies Council (SOY/JSC); and Chabad of Washington Heights.
The program is one of many that will take place this year related to the Rebbe’s life, legacy and ongoing impact on the world. The 20th yahrtzeit (anniversary of the passing) of the Rebbe will take place on the third day of the Hebrew month of Tammuz (Gimmel Tamuz), corresponding to July 1, 2014.