The Secret of Chabad

The Secret of Chabad
Rabbi David Eliezrie

Toby (Maggid) / 432 pages

The Secret of Chabad is the riveting story of the world wide Lubavitch movement, and more specifically, the shluchim of Chabad who have set up oasis's of Judaism in every part of the world.

Let me cut to the chase: The book is absolutely riveting.

The book both opens and concludes with the story of Rabbi Gabi and Rivki Holtzberg. From the very first chapter to the end, you will be captivated and mesmerized by the stories of the shluchim around the world. The book is inundated with details on important people, places, and events. Sadly there is no index, which is a tremendous loss for the continued use of the book. Sources tell me, however, that the second edition, due out soon, will have one. Every chapter is essentially an independent account of the life and experiences of shluchim all over the world.

The first chapter, the life story and murder of Gabi and Rivki, is absolutely jaw dropping and full of suspense. There is an almost hour by hour account of the terror attack on the Chabad house in Mumbai, and the behind the scenes coordination and rescue efforts with the Israeli government, shluchim office in New York, and the Indian authorities. Other major themes and episodes in the book include:

  • A thorough presentation of the life of the previous Rebbe of Chabad, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson and his efforts to spread Judaism behind the Iron Curtain
  • Jewish life in Russia from the 19th-21st century. Including extensive accounts of dodging the KGB in the pre-Gorbachev era
  • The relationship between Chabad and non-Orthodox movements
  • The relationship between Chabad shluchim and their communities, including the often turbulent relationship with local federations
  • The relationship between Chabad and Zionism, and the State of Israel
  • The beginnings of what has become major Chabad centers around the world
  • The Rebbe's rise to leadership
  • How the shluchim fundraise and survive financially
  • The history and philosophy of Chabad’s Tomchei Temimim yeshiva network
  • How the children of the shluchim are educated
  • The Shluchim. The Shluchim. The Shluchim.

The author does not hesitate to share the good, the bad, and the ugly. There is much on the Rebbe, though it is not a book about him. It is a book about Chabad, and primarily the shluchim. The book steers clear of the messianic narishkeit that has sullied the goodness of the Lubavitch movement in general, and the good work of the shluchim, in particular. In this sense, the book is apolitical and is a celebration of all that is good and successful in Chabad.[1]  All important points are documented in the extensive endnotes.

This book has earned its place as an eternal testimony to a major chapter of Jewish history. Absolutely amazing. And the secret to Chabad's success? I'll tell you: God. He’s on every page.

[1] I will take this opportunity, however, to note that some of the more “disputed” details of certain personalities are omitted. For example, when mentioning the Rebbe’s brother, there is no mention of the fact that he left religious observance, even operating his store on Shabbat. So too, the author claims that the Rebbe was strongly opposed to people declaring him the Mashiach. I’m not convinced. There are other narratives, to say the least. Indeed, the variations in the many biographies about the Rebbe that have come out in recent years (Miller, Deutsch, and Steinsaltz) leave one scratching one’s head over a number of important details.

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