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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach's Chanuka Stories, Good All Year Long

This title isn't just an excuse for finishing the book, The Soul of Chanukah: Teachings of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach by: Shlomo Katz, and writing the review after Chanukah.  Being a fan of Carlebach's homey stories almost half a century, I'm totally serious and sincere when I say that the book shouldn't be limited to Chanukah.

I first heard of and heard in person Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach the winter of 1965-66 when he performed in the Great Neck Synagogue. His performance was one of the big events organized by the then new Youth Director, Joel Paul.  After the show, I was among the select group invited to a private home to hear more of his stories and songs.  If I'm not mistaken he performed again in Great Neck the following year.

At that time in my life I was becoming religious after a few years of attending NCSY events and by then reaching the level of Regional Vice President.  Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach's style and stories were very different from my NCSY rabbis who gave us a more intellectual Judaism versus the emotionalism of Carlebach.  Another difference that I noticed immediately was that he didn't demand perfection from us.

A few years later, I was married and living in Israel.  Reb Shlomo was there, too.  My husband and I went to a lot of his performances and knew many of his "chassidim," those who lived on the Moshav.

Carlebach's was a more "human" Judaism.  And I really loved his stories and still do.  They comfort and let us know that G-d loves us and appreciates our efforts, even when unsuccessful.  I think that is the element in the Shlomo Carlebach Torah Judaism that has made him more and more popular with each year since his death.  He never claimed to be perfect, and people understood from him that we must try harder.  G-d is waiting for us.

Here's a story from The Soul of Chanukah: Teachings of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach by Shlomo Katz.
‘When the lowest person in the world was a child, he was dreaming about being the holiest, most glorious person in the world. But something happened. Someone destroyed his dreams, and he gave up on the world.
It is so easy to lose our dreams. Why?
Because nobody really encourages them.
If someone can bring me back to the dreams I once had, he is my best friend in the world.This is what Chanukah does. This is why Chanukah is the greatest, deepest holiday in the world.
On Chanukah, God gives us back our dreams.’
That's why I consider this Chanukah book to be a book for the entire year for yourself, and to give as a gift to others.  It took me a while to read it, because there's too much in it to read quickly.  It's the type of book you want to savour and not finish until you have no choice.

Following are a couple of recordings of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach



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