Two Interviews with the Rebbe in the 1950s
By Herbert Weiner


This article is excerpted from 9 1/2 Mystics - the Kabbala Today. Herbert Weiner is author of Wild Goats of Ein Gedi and 9 1/2 Mystics - the Kabbala Today, published by Macmillan.

Alone with Little Moses

The heavy wooden door of the red brick house at 770 Eastern Parkway has a gothic trim that is carried over into the stained glass windows. The building, both within and without, must have been very impressive at one time. Old residents of the neighborhood recall, with a touch of malice, that it was formerly owned by a doctor about whose practice there had been some lifted eyebrows. People who now see young bearded men in their black hats and coats going in and out are aware that the structure now houses some kind of Jewish religious group, but there cannot be many passersby who know what is really going on, that here is the headquarters of a unique spiritual realm whose authority extends into many lands and whose ruling head exercises an almost absolute control over the lives of tens of thousands of followers.

Menachem Mendel Schneersohn is the name of the man whose office is to the left of the entrance, behind some windows whose shades are always drawn. He is the present Lubavitcher Rebbe and a direct descendant in the seventh generation of Schneur Zalman, the original founder of this Hasidic dynasty. He is also the son-in-law of the previous Rebbe.

To 770 Eastern Parkway have come thousands of visitors, curiosity-seekers, and "fellow travelers" such as Zalman Shazar, the president of Israel, and Jacques Lipshitz, the sculptor. There are also many who come to beseech the Rebbe's intercession for their troubles, for though Menachem Mendel Schneersohn is a man who has studied at the Sorbonne and speaks a dozen languages, he is also a tzaddik (saintly person), looked upon by some of his followers as a miracle worker. Stories of miracles are to be readily heard at 770 Eastern Parkway, but they are of a peculiar Lubavitch flavor, that is, with a rational explanation. An example is the story of the American soldier in Korea who one day wandered off from his squad looking for a stream in which to wash his hands before opening his can of C rations. A shell struck the squad's position, killing every one of his comrades. Today the young veteran vows he owes his life to a visit he had made, just before shipping out to Korea, to the Rebbe of the Lubavitcher movement. The latter had counseled the young man to observe, even while in combat, as much as he could of the Jewish Law, including the commandment to wash one's hands before eating.

There are hundreds of other examples, but the Rebbe and his followers do not like their movement talked about as if it were only a collection of miracle tales. The plain facts of the history of the movement, they point out, are more wonderful than all the stories about the powers of the Lubavitcher Rebbes. Founded about two hundred years ago in northern Russia, it has since been active in many other countries and is today in some ways stronger and more influential than when it first began. Though mysticism lies at its core, the Lubavitcher movement has been blessed with a flair for organization and public relations that has enabled it to strike firm roots in environments as diverse as communist Russia, North Africa, and the United States. As in the past, thousands of Lubavitcher followers continue to accept the Rebbe's word as authoritative, not only in questions of ritual, but in matters of health, livelihood, and, if it comes to it, life itself.

The first of my many visits to Lubavitcher headquarters took place in 1955. I found an office where several men were typing, chattering, or using the telephone. The one girl working in the office had on a plain long-sleeved dress. The steel filing cabinet, the telephones studded with interoffice buttons, the quiet activity, all created a businesslike atmosphere, hardly what I had expected to find at the headquarters of a sect of mystics.

As for an appointment with the Rebbe himself, I was directed to Rabbi Hodakov, the Rebbe's personal secretary, a thin, fair man, who at the moment was using one of the several phones on his desk at the other side of the office. "Incidentally," my informant added, "Rabbi Hodakov was a member of the Latvian government before our Rebbe's predecessor made him his secretary."

When Rabbi Hodakov had finished his phone conversation and finished with two bearded young men who had been waiting to speak to him, I walked over to his desk. He extended a limp hand and asked if I spoke Yiddish. There was a quizzical but good-natured expression in his light blue eyes as I indicated my purpose in seeking an audience with the Rebbe. Rabbi Hodakov turned the pages of a little black book and murmured that the Rebbe's calendar was filled for the next six months but he would see what he could do for me. The Rebbe received people only three times a week, beginning at eight o'clock in the evening.

I asked how long these evening sessions lasted.

"Oh, sometimes till three, sometimes till five o'clock in the morning," he smiled. His smile, charming and rather bashful, showed a trace of pride when he mentioned the Rebbe.

I asked if the Rebbe slept during the day after these meetings.

Rabbi Hodakov raised his brows. "During the day the Rebbe is busy directing the activities of the Lubavitcher movement in every part of the world."

"When does he sleep?"

The answer was another slightly mysterious smile and a shrug. Then he made a note in his black book and told me that I could see the Rebbe four weeks hence at ten o'clock in the evening. "Anybody can get to see him, but, of course, there have to be priorities, and," the bashful smile appeared again, "sometimes people have to wait a long time."

"Incidentally," I asked, "how many followers of the Lubavitcher movement are there in the world?"

"How many Jews are there in the world?" answered Rabbi Hodakov good-naturedly.

Later I learned that Rabbi Hodakov's reply had not been altogether facetious. Lubavitcher Hasidim regard the Rebbe not only as their own leader but also as the spiritual shepherd of all Israel in his generation. "He is to us," one of his closest disciples explained, "what Moses was to Israel in his time. Not that the Rebbe is to be compared to Moses, 'like whom there has been none other since.' But the Rebbe is like a little Moses, like 'a picture whose size has been reduced.'" That is the difference, my informant went on to say, between the Lubavitcher Hasidim and other Hasidic sects. The other Rebbes are interested mainly in their own Hasidim, while the Lubavitcher Rebbe considers himself responsible for the spiritual and bodily welfare of every Jew, no matter where he lives or what he believes. In this respect he follows the first Lubavitcher Rebbe, who taught that "Israel is really one soul with different bodies."

Alone with the Rebbe

I arrived for my appointment with the Rebbe at 10 P.M., but was still waiting after midnight when a young student ran into the outer office to announce that the "case" from California, a man who had flown in to consult with the Lubavitcher Rebbe about a business problem, had just left. That meant it was my turn, and clutching my notebook, I hurried past several people in the hallways whose appointments with the Rebbe would be even later. Remembering that there are thousands who depend on the Rebbe for major and even minor decisions in their lives, and that a worldwide spiritual network, including schools and charities and publications, waited on the personal attention of this one man, I made a resolution not to stay long.

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe, was folding some papers at a desk in the far corner of a large, rather bare room. His fedora hat, neatly tailored frock coat, and carefully arranged tie, all black, set off the pallor of his face. The brim of his hat was bent, casting a shadow over his deep blue eyes, which looked up with a direct but good-humored expression. I extended my hand, forgetting for the moment that the Hasidim do not offer their hands to the Rebbe, who is to them a holy vessel and not to be touched casually. But Rabbi Menachem Mendel didn't seem to mind the impropriety; he shook my hand and motioned gently toward the chair by his desk, suggesting in a soft voice that I address him in English, although he would reply in Yiddish.

Before I could begin my inquiries, he asked me what kind of work I was engaged in and what I had studied. My notebook with its proposed questions remained closed, and I found myself chatting freely about matters I had not expected to discuss. The Rebbe listened, nodding his head from time to time to indicate understanding, and gradually the sense of urgent haste I had felt in the hallway began to ebb away.

Suddenly a buzzer sounded, a signal from Rabbi Hodakov, the Rebbe's secretary, that almost a full hour had passed since my interview began. Hastily I turned to my prepared questions and asked how Lubavitcher Hasidism, a mystical movement, had become so skillful in worldly matters like public relations and methods of business efficiency. The Rebbe folded his hands on his desk and in a measured voice outlined his answer, which was punctuated by an occasional mild cough.

Lubavitch's interest in public relations is simply a practical extension of its special interpretation of the oneness of G‑d. G‑d is in everything, and therefore evil has no real existence. But it must appear to have real existence, so that man might have freedom of choice. It might seem to us an evil thing for one man to cut another with a knife, yet there are occasions, as for example a medical operation, when a good and not an evil purpose is served by the cutting of a man. So also, what appears evil in our sight is, in the light of a higher wisdom, really good. To believe otherwise, to believe that evil has a positive existence, is to be driven in the end to the conviction that there are two divine powers rather than one. The oneness of G‑d implies that everything is ultimately justified.

Again the buzzer sounded, but the Rebbe indicated that I needn't hurry. I turned to my central question: how could the Rebbe assume responsibility for giving advice to his Hasidim not only on religious matters, but on medical problems or business affairs, especially when he knew that his advice was binding?

Menachem Mendel did not seem offended. "To begin with, it is always pleasant to run away from responsibility. But what if running might destroy the congregation, and suppose"--the good-humored smile in the Rebbe's eyes stronger--"they put the key into your pocket and walk away? What can you do then—permit the books to be stolen?"

I was surprised to hear him hint at the well-known fact that it had taken the Hasidim more than a year to persuade Rabbi Menachem Mendel to become the seventh Rebbe of the Lubavitcher movement. But this wasn't the answer to my question, which I tried to press by leafing through a copy of the Tanya (a collection of the writings of the first Lubavitcher Rebbe, Schneur Zalman) to find a letter in which the Alter Rebbe tells his Hasidim that they must not ask him for help in non-spiritual matters. The Rebbe interrupted my search to say that I was probably looking for Letter 22. "That letter," he pointed out quietly, "was printed after Schneur Zalman's death, and besides," he smiled, "despite the letter, he did give advice in material matters."

Sensing after a moment that his explanation did not satisfy me, the Rebbe cleared his throat and continued. "When a man comes with a problem, there are only two alternatives—either send him away, or try to help him. A man knows his own problem best, so one must try to unite oneself with him and become batel, as dissociated as possible from one's own ego. Then, in concert with the other person, one tries to understand the rule of Divine Providence in this particular case. And, of course, if the man who comes to you shares your ideas and faith, there is immediate empathy" (he used the English word).

But didn't the power of the Lubavitcher movement stem directly from this faith of the Hasid in his Rebbe? Rabbi Menachem Mendel demurred gently, "I'm not so sure."

The buzzer rang again, and I looked at the Rebbe to see if my interview was over. Instead of sending me away, however, he began talking about Conservative and Reform Judaism. His voice remained soft, but the opinions were firm. "The great fault of Conservative and Reform Judaism is not that they compromise, but that they sanctify the compromise, still the conscience, and leave no possibility for return." The Rebbe went on to explain that though the Lubavitcher movement encourages every Jew to observe as many of the commandments as he could, even if only a few, it insists that the Jewish religion as such should be identified exclusively with the Orthodox tradition; otherwise, a repentant Jew who wants to "return" would not know what there was to return to.

When the buzzer rang once again, I rose to leave, but Rabbi Menachem Mendel stopped me: "Wait—now I would like to ask you a question," he said, and I sat down again. "How is it that you are not Orthodox?" Surprised, I offered something about not being able to believe that the whole of the Torah was given by G‑d.

"Yet you believe in the oneness of G‑d," the Rebbe pressed. "And if you follow out the implication of that belief logically, then you must come to the mitzvot, the commandments, as surely as theorems follow from axioms." Again the Rebbe used English words. I remained silent, and after a moment he leaned back in his chair and spoke as if answering himself, "But I guess in America people don't feel the need for a full logical shitah, system of belief, as they do in Europe."

For the fifth time the buzzer rang and, disturbed at the thought of all those people waiting outside, I made a determined effort to leave. But as I stood up the Rebbe stopped me again. "You haven't asked, but probably you'd like to know, what Hasidim think about miracles?" I remained standing while Rabbi Menachem Mendel asserted that even science recognizes all "laws" as mere probabilities and that there is no way to foretell every event in nature with certainty. He cited the throwing of dice as an example, a strange mashal (illustration), I thought to myself, for a Hasid to use.

After he had finished expounding the Hasidic view of miracles, I asked him if it would be possible to see him again when I had become more familiar with the Lubavitcher movement. "Gladly," he smiled, "but not until after the High Holidays."

Actually, my first meeting with the Rebbe had brought me no closer to understanding what it was that made a Lubavitcher Hasid. I knew now that Rabbi Menachem Mendel was a warm and sincere leader, a man who, though in absolute control of a large and influential organization, lived modestly and devoted every minute of his waking hours to the advancement of Torah and the needs of other human beings. That such a man could arouse love and admiration in his followers was not at all surprising, but this alone could not be the explanation of the amazing vitality of the movement.

I knew that I had not yet begun to understand the inner dynamic of Lubavitch.

I arranged with Rabbi Hodakov for my second appointment with the Rebbe. It was more than a year now that I had been trying to "understand" Lubavitch—the faith and loyalty of its Hasidim, the success and continued vitality of its organization, its resistance to the degeneration common to hereditary spiritual dynasties. The obvious explanations did not really satisfy. After all, other religious groups had offered the same escape from personal responsibility, the same feeling of historic mission, the same sense of community.

The Lubavitcher Hasidim themselves had a ready explanation: "We have had great Rebbes." But I was beginning to believe that part of the "secret" might be precisely that Lubavitch depended less on its Rebbes than did other sects. That warm mystic mood of Hasidism, that sense of G‑d's spirit pulsating through all creation, the inner marrow or lechut, as they called it, was not entrusted for communication to the personal powers of a single man. Other Hasidic leaders in Schneur Zalman's day had been as great; there was the saintly Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev (d. 1804), for example, and the gifted Nachman of Bratzlav (d. 1810), but their sects had remained vital for only as long as the founders were vividly remembered. Schneur Zalman, however, had constructed a system whereby the delicate and ephemeral grasp of the unworldly could be captured in "vessels" of rational formulation—vessels which could on demand be made to pour forth their supply of "living waters." The meticulous concern for organized study, for well-edited textbooks, for public relations and good business procedure, all so apparently incongruous in a sect of mystics, was actually a key to Lubavitch's special history. These vessels of thought and organization had made of Hasidism "something you could get your hands on."

Yet to the Lubavitcher Hasid, the secret still lies in the greatness of his Rebbe, and it is true that without this faith of the Hasid in his Rebbe, there would be no Lubavitcher movement. But can one understand how such a faith operates without sharing in it? I thought not, and brought to my second meeting with the Rebbe an eagerness to identify, if only for a moment, with the Hasid's faith. I also brought with me a cold and a slight fever, which I now suspect had something to do with my experiences that evening.

The Second Private Audience with the Rebbe

My appointment was again for ten P.M. I came on time, though knowing by now that with respect to appointments, Lubavitch followed the dictum of another Rebbe, the Kotsker, who maintained, "Where there is a soul, there cannot be a clock." On arrival, I found a group of Hasidim in the study hall, listening to one of their comrades who reputedly had a gift for remembering every word of the Rebbe's discourses. Several weeks ago the Rebbe had spoken Torah, and since then the Hasidim had been gathering to hear this man with the photographic memory "repeat the Torah."

The buzzer rang. The Rebbe was waiting. I grabbed my notebook and escaped into the hallway.

The quiet of the Rebbe's office and his soft-spoken greeting were like balm after the "disputation."

"Shalom aleichem, Rabbi Weiner," Rabbi Menachem Mendel smiled, extending his hand.

I protested that, after a year of visiting 770 Eastern Parkway, I knew that a good Hasid should not take the Rebbe's hand.

"We don't have to begin that way," he said, beckoning me toward a chair. He looked a bit paler than when I had first seen him a year ago and there was more gray in his black beard, but the same grave smile played in his deep blue eyes.

I opened my notebook and sat back in the chair, again conscious of how comfortable and relaxing it was in the Rebbe's office. Then I remembered that this was my last chance and resolved to ask even the most embarrassing questions in an effort to solve the enigma of Lubavitch. I explained to the Rebbe that more than a year had passed since I began trying to understand the movement, and that I had come to him now with a confession: I did not understand. Would he mind if I started this interview by asking him about the character of a Hasid?

Rabbi Menachem Mendel smiled and told me to go ahead; as before I could speak English but he would answer in Yiddish.

"Isn't the fact that Hasidim turn to the Rebbe for almost every decision in their lives—isn't this a sign of weakness, a repudiation of the very thing that makes a man human, his b'chirah, freedom of will?"

The Rebbe's answer came without hesitation, as if he had dealt with the question before. "A weak person is usually overcome by the environment in which he finds himself. But our Hasidim can be sent into any environment, no matter how strange or hostile, and they maintain themselves within it. So how can we say that it is weakness which characterizes a Hasid?"

I pressed my question from another angle and told him that I sensed a desire in chabad to oversimplify, to strip ideas of their complexity merely for the sake of a superficial clarity. As a matter of fact, I blurted out, all his Hasidim seemed to have one thing in common: a sort of open and naive look in their eyes that a sympathetic observer might call t'mimut (purity) but that might less kindly be interpreted as emptiness or simple-mindedness, the absence of inner struggle.

I found myself taken aback by my own boldness, but the Rebbe showed no resentment. He leaned forward. "What you see missing from their eyes is a kera!"

"A what?" I asked.

"Yes, a kera," he repeated quietly, "a split." The Rebbe hesitated for a moment. "I hope you will not take offense, but something tells me you don't sleep well at night, and this is not good for 'length of days.' Perhaps if you had been raised wholly in one world or in another, it might be different. But this split is what comes from trying to live in two worlds."

The Rebbe's ad hominem answer encouraged me to be personal in return. "But you too have studied in two worlds, and your Hasidim are rather proud of the fact that you once attended the Sorbonne. Why then do you discourage them from studying in the 'other world'?"

"Precisely because I have studied, and I know what the value of that study is," the Rebbe replied quickly. "I recognized its usefulness. If there are people who think they can help G‑d sustain the world, I have no objection. We need engineers and chemists, but engineering and chemistry are not the most important things. Besides, to study does not mean only to learn facts. It means exposure to certain circles and activities which conflict with a believer's values and faith. It's like taking a person from a warm environment and throwing him into a cold water shock-treatment several times a day. How long can he stand it? In addition, studies in college take place at an age when a man's character is not yet crystallized, usually before the age of thirty. Exposure then is dangerous."

There was a slight pause, and then I asked the Rebbe if he would object to being questioned about himself. He shrugged smilingly. Well, then, I said: the boys at 770 Eastern Parkway claimed that the Rebbe was able to see things they could not see and that he was not mere flesh and blood. He himself, in our last interview, had given me a rather more rational explanation of the powers of the Rebbe, saying that they were a matter of empathy. But I wanted to know whether he regarded himself and his six predecessors as mere flesh and blood.

For the first time he hesitated over his answer. "Are you asking me to tell you about myself?" he smiled. "I don't think you should write about me and my beliefs. But I can tell you what the position of the Rebbe is in Hasidism. We are, of course, all of us only flesh and blood, and I'm not responsible for all the stories you may hear. But you must approach the facts of the case without preconceived theories. Science, after all, means the willingness to observe facts and follow them to whatever conclusions they will lead, not to try to push the facts into a desired pattern."

"Do you believe, then, that the Rebbe has special insight and can see things and know things beyond the comprehension of ordinary people?" I still wanted a clear answer.

"Yes," said the Rebbe.

"And is this power given only to the Rebbe, or to other men also?"

"As a believer," replied the Rebbe, "I am convinced that it can only be given to a 'keeper of Torah and mitzvot.'"

At that moment, a question I had not planned to ask came to my lips. "What is a b'rachah?"

"What?" asked the Rebbe, slightly startled.

"What does it mean when somebody comes to ask you for a blessing?"

"Are you asking me what I mean by a b'rachah?" the Rebbe deflected the question. "Better that I tell you what Hasidism means by it. A man is affected by many levels, higher and lower. It is possible for the tsaddik, the Rebbe, to awaken powers slumbering within a man. It is also possible to bring him into contact with a higher level of powers outside his own soul. A person lives on one floor of a building and needs help from the floor above; if he can't walk up himself, someone else must help him get that help."

"Does that mean that the Rebbe can help a man up to a higher spiritual plane?"

"That's the hardest way," answered the Rebbe. "The easier way is to bring these powers down upon him."

I asked about miracles, and this time the Rebbe replied immediately. "To believe in the creator, and to believe that there is a continuous relationship between the creator and the creation, is necessarily to believe that the creator can do anything with His creation."

We spoke about religious faith and I suggested that many people would like to believe but found it hard. Rabbi Menachem Mendel disagreed. "It's not so hard for people to believe. There are millions who believed in Gandhi and millions who believe in the Pope, and even atheists when pressed to a corner come up with belief."

When I protested that in most cases doubt seems to overwhelm faith, the Rebbe nodded. "There can be doubts. To question G‑d, however, is the first indication that one believes in something. You have to know something about G‑d even to question Him. But we must try to overcome doubts by a constant feeding of the spirit. Just as a body that has been kept healthy can overcome a crisis, so a soul can defeat its crises and its doubts if it is constantly kept healthy."

"In that case, why are there so many without faith?"

The Rebbe looked at me directly. "They are afraid of their faith. They are afraid of following out the consequences of the faith which they would arrive at by honest observation of the facts. They are afraid that they might have to abandon some of their comfort or give up cherished ideas. They are afraid of changing their lives."

I brought up another problem. Several weeks before I had heard him say that America, rather than Israel, was the place where Jewish life could flourish best. How did he reconcile this attitude with the commandment to leave the galut, the Diaspora?

"What is galut? Galut means the estrangement of a person from his essential self. If a person moves from an environment where he observed the commandments and had a Jewish soul and comes to America where he forsakes the Torah while growing rich, free, and comfortable, he has nevertheless gone into exile, because he has left himself. It's not just assimilation, it's worse, it's what we call in English an inferiority complex. It is the admission that one's own values are inferior to the values of those around one. In Israel, too, it may be possible to go into galut, to forsake the Torah and lose the spirit which is our essential nature, to be 'like unto all the nations.' In addition," the Rebbe said quietly, "America has not only the largest Jewish population in the world, but great material resources. Even as the spiritual can affect the material, so with material resources one can do things for the spirit."

The buzzer at the Rebbe's desk sounded. Rabbi Hodakov was reminding us that others were waiting. I decided to ask a final question. "Many Jews today are searching," I said to the Rebbe, "they want to return. What would you say to them to help them find their way?"

The Rebbe paused for a moment. "I would say that the most important thing is 'no compromise.' I would send to them the words spoken by the prophet Elijah: 'How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be G‑d, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.' Compromise is dangerous, because it sickens both the body and the soul. A compromiser who tries to mediate between religion and the environment is unable to go in either direction and unable to distinguish the truth."

But would not people reject such rigid alternatives?

"This is the contribution of Chabad Hasidism," the Rebbe pointed out. "It's important to know that one must do everything, but at the same time we welcome the doing of even a part. If all we can accomplish is to save only one limb, we save that. Then we worry about saving another."

The buzzer rang again, and I rose, but the Rebbe motioned for me to wait. To my surprise, he informed me that he had carefully read some articles about religion in Israel which I had published in Commentary (July and August, 1955). Another hour passed as Menachem Mendel Schneersohn gently but firmly offered his criticism of the pieces. It was after three o'clock in the morning when I left the Rebbe's office and guiltily passed a bearded young man who was still waiting for his appointment. The secretary's office was closed, but from the street through a window I could see the Rabbi Hodakov was bent over his desk, his head buried in his arms.

The next morning when I returned to retrieve a briefcase I had left in the office, Rabbi Hodakov was still at his desk. His eyes were red and the phylacteries were on his head and arm. While he recited the morning prayers, one of the boys attended to his busy telephone. Two of the older students came up to me as I was leaving the office. They had heard that I had spent almost three hours with the Rebbe early that morning, and they wanted to know what I thought now about their Rebbe. Their eyes shone with pride as they awaited my reply. I remembered that the Rebbe had said that the open look in a Hasid's eyes was not naiveté but the absence of a kera, a split.

Indeed, I thought, there is no split at Lubavitch. It offered its followers a world in which the mind was never confused by contradictions; where life was not compartmentalized; where the tensions between heart and mind flesh and soul, G‑d and His creation were all dissolved in the unity of a higher plan. And any doubt or confusion that arose might be clarified by making oneself "as nothing" before the Rebbe, who in turn made himself "as nothing" before the will of G‑d.

No, there was no kera in the eyes of the Hasidim who awaited my answer. They nodded their heads enthusiastically as I expressed my admiration for their Rebbe. I confessed to them that before leaving early that morning, I had asked the Rebbe for his personal blessing. What was more, my cold of last night was much better. They shook my hand as if I were paying them a personal compliment, for, after all, in this respect too there is no split in Lubavitch, where the Hasidim "are only the branches and the Rebbe is the root."

There is something immensely attractive in a "way" which provides answers for all questions, whether they be details of personal life or problems of cosmic significance. It is reassuring to have a logical explanation for chaos and to learn that G‑d is most revealed where He seems to be most absent. It is heartening to believe that what seems like meaningless accident is actually the revelation of G‑d's most hidden essence and that pain is the chastisement of love; but not all souls are able to turn darkness into light with the help of such a clear system. There are many individuals whose struggle with darkness is more agonized and torturous, because they themselves are deeply touched and at times almost overcome by this darkness. Such individuals may be drawn to another rabbi who called himself a "moon man," one whose strength and even faith was subject to periods of waxing and waning.