For the 20th anniversary of the June 12, 1994 death of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson ("the Rebbe"), this week we published my interviews with Rabbis Joseph Telushkin and Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz, authors of new biographies on the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement’s seventh and final leader. But there's more!
Rabbi Chaim Miller, compiler of the widely used Gutnick Edition of the Chumash, has also penned a new biography of the Rebbe, titled "Turning Judaism Outward." His book weighs in at 590 pages, in the ballpark of Telushkin's 640-pager but more than double the length of Steinsaltz's 250-page volume.
Miller and his publisher stressed that they sought for "Turning Judaism Outward" to be complete and comprehensive in its treatment of the Rebbe's entire life, which spanned from 1902-1994.
"Everyone who has written about the Rebbe's life picks and chooses the bits that they personally feel are impressive. That's the 'short, long way,'" Miller said in a press release. "You get some nice information, but in the end you lack a really substantial picture. It's a bit like eating the dessert before the main course—it tastes good to start with, but then you don't feel satisfied."
"We felt it was important to address the Rebbe's life in its entirety, with all of its paradoxes and mysteries," said Meyer Gutnick, director of Kol Menachem, the book's publisher. "It's a greater challenge, an impossible one really, but that doesn't mean we can't try."
The book is garnering praise from national Jewish leaders, including Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Hoenlein said "Turning Judaism Outward" will "prove to be a fascinating read even for those distant from Chabad or who knew little about this dominant figure in Jewish life."
"I am awed by [Miller's] work, and am now even more awed than ever before by the Rebbe's personality and prodigious accomplishments," wrote Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, former executive vice president of the Orthodox Union.