Habad Portraits: Interesting People, Events, and Curiosities in Habad Hasidism
Looking at the title of Chasidic ethnographer Rabbi Chaim Dalfin’s latest work, it would be easy to conclude that “Habad Portraits” is the sort of book that only appeals to either adherents or the academics studying them. Such an impression would be wrong.
Presenting a collection of the stories not often told about the Chabad-Lubavitch movement from the viewpoints of those not often heard from — the first volume, which was just released, begins with the tale of Rabbi Menahem Nahum Schneersohn, the only son of the Second Lubavitcher Rebbe but over whom the dynasty passed, and ends with selections from the memoirs of Barry Gourary, whose famous dispute with his uncle, the Seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, ended up in federal court — the book offers a peak into the lives of the ordinary citizens whose devotion to Judaism and Chasidic teachings weathered a storm of challenges stretching from the late 18th century and on into the current one. In doing so, it also points out that the challenges of “then” are the same as today’s and that in the rush to respond to the pressures of a foreign society and restless youth, perhaps what is needed is a heartfelt farbrengen.