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The Lubavitcher Rebbe's Influence on the Jewish World, 30 Years Later

Growing Up at the Rebbe's Feet; Transcribing His Talks; the 3 Messages of the Rebbe for the Jewish People; the Situation in Israel

    Rabbi YY Jacobson

  • July 9, 2024
  • |
  • 3 Tamuz 5784

A YOUNG “YY” Jacobson, seen with his father, receives a blessing from Rebbe Menachem Schneerson. (Archive of Rabbi “YY” Jacobson/JEM Media)

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Class Summary:

The Jerusalem Post Interviews Rabbi YY Jacobson, Friday July 5, 2024.

Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak “YY” Jacobson does not seem to ever stop. With a popular YouTube channel featuring videos which reached millions of viewers worldwide, one of the largest

Jewish online learning centers, TheYeshiva.net, and its new Hebrew version, lilmod.net, books, and his Chassidic Heritage Institute (CHI), he is one of the most sought-after speakers in the Jewish world today, lecturing to Jewish and non-Jewish audiences across the globe.

 A teacher and mentor to tens of thousands, Jacobson is considered to be one of the premier Jewish scholars in Torah and Jewish mysticism, and one of the most successful communicators of Judaism today, culling his ideas from the entire spectrum of Jewish thought and making them relevant and accessible to contemporary audiences across the world, using his unique sense of humor and emotional intelligence.

IN MONSEY, New York, a vibrant ultra-Orthodox community awakens. Rabbi YY’s lavish home reflects the prosperous neighborhood, where I was graciously welcomed by Esti, his beautiful wife. It is almost inconceivable that this young-looking woman is a mother of seven.

Fifteen minutes later, in a whirlwind, Rabbi YY enters the room exuding energy and warmth, full of vibrant optimism.

His schedule is dizzying. He had just finished giving a morning lesson, and in one hour will be leaving to the airport on his way to attend a weekend gathering in Israel with survivors of the Supernova music festival massacre.

 The rabbi was assigned the role of being one of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson’s transcribers at the age of 17. I asked YY whether such a role was too heavy and stressful a burden on such young shoulders.

 “So I was there from a very young age,” he said. “My father was in close relationship with the Rebbe. And when I was a teenager, I had the merit of joining the team of oral scribes. It was a small team of people, and their job was to memorize [the Rebbe’s public addresses on Shabbat and Jewish holidays] and then transcribe [them afterward] throughout the week. I did it for a few years until the Rebbe fell and had a stroke in 1992.

 “The pressure was profound. But there was a tremendous sense of privilege and a historic thrill because the Rebbe’s talks were, first of all, very brilliant, profound, intricate; they also covered all segments of Jewish thought. He would bring the Talmud and the Zohar and the Kabbalah and Hassidism and philosophy and psychology and biblical studies and midrash and all of the different commentators. And then he would apply it psychologically to life and would talk about the contemporary issues.”

How significant was this experience in your life? 

“This really shaped a lot of my identity as a Jew, as a human being, my thought process. And today I feel that I have the privilege of sharing a lot of that wisdom and experiences with many people.”

How did it work exactly?

 “These talks went on usually for six to seven hours; on holidays they could even reach 15-20 hours. I would usually stay up the whole of Saturday night and very often Sunday night. We would sit together, the group, and review [the talk]. There were a lot of arguments and debates, and then it would be transcribed into different languages. Sometimes, if there were questions,

I would send to him a letter with different questions, and he would address [the questions] in writing.

You got to the top at such a young age. How do you continue from there?

 “You’re asking a very interesting question. It almost felt like I was on top of the mountain before I climbed it. So, after the Rebbe passed away, I had to start climbing the mountain.”

What do you think is the secret of the Rebbe? What made him so appealing to so many people?

“After the Holocaust, everybody was just looking for a little peace, a little security, a little comfort. It was a crisis that shook the Jewish world on so many different levels, physically, spiritually, socially, psychologically, emotionally, societally, and religiously, and after the Holocaust, I think God gave the Jewish world two smiles. One was Israel, and the second one was the Rebbe. 

“I have never met a person so self-effacing, no ego. The Rebbe saw himself completely as a channel, and because of that he was successful in identifying the spark and the greatness within the people. His greatness is because of the greatness of the people. 

“He managed to revive a nation in unprecedented ways. And he did it through selflessly becoming a channel, a channel for history, for faith, for love, for empathy, and for hope, and for the unshakable belief and conviction that the goodness in the human spirit is much more powerful than the evil and the toxicity. 

“I would say that since the destruction of the Second Temple, we don’t know of, I don’t know of, another leader who had such an impact on every Jewish community in the entire world.”

 Where do you see the Rebbe’s influence today, 30 years later?

 “I can sum it up to three major things. Number one, he represents a voice of hope, the unshakable faith in the potentiality of an individual and the Jewish people as a collective. No despair. No surrender. A belief in the indestructible spirit and destiny of the Jewish people, in Israel and also in the whole world, after so many years of exile, war, persecution, and pain.

“Number two, he represents, more than anybody else, unity and ahavat Yisrael. Because there are so many different types and different opinions and perspectives, it’s so easy to divide us. He strongly believed that the unity of the Jewish people is the core of our success. He believed that if you go to the deepest soul, you’ll find connections. So I think he embodies that very powerful idea. 

“The third element that represents the Rebbe is that he was a voice that made Judaism as relevant as could be. If it’s relevant, it’s alive.”

JACOBSON WAS born in 1972 in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, to a Chabad hassidic family. Both his parents are emigrants from the former Soviet Union; both grew up under the tyranny of Stalin. Their families suffered horrifically but ultimately made it

out to the United States. He is the youngest of five children. His father, Gershon, was a journalist for 50 years; he was the UN correspondent of Yediot Aharonot.

YY married Esti when he was 27. They have seven children between the ages of nine and 24.

 About two years ago, he founded CHI in Israel, which introduces hassidic Torah to journalists and influencers in Israel through a journey to the roots of the Hassidic movement in Poland.

Rabbi YY, an enthusiastic supporter of Israel, said that since October 7 “half of my heart is in Israel.” He comes frequently to Israel, visiting families of the hostages and helping the Supernova music festival survivors.

In sharp contrast to his open and inclusive stands in matters of education, where he maintains a very liberal approach that sees each child’s soul as unique and urges the parents to find and encourage its strengths, the rabbi’s stands on the subject of Judaism and the Land of Israel are uncompromising.

And he has clear and decisive conclusions about the events of October 7. 

“I think one of the biggest lessons is that every concession that Israel makes and has made based on goodwill and good intentions has proven to be a disaster and catastrophic for the Jewish people and a complete misunderstanding of reality. So I think that a major lesson from October 7 is that the entire approach has to be changed.

“The second conclusion is we will never appease the world by stretching out our neck. On the contrary, the world respects Jews who respect Judaism and respect their faith and respect their homeland. And the more Jews have the ability to be able to stand proud as Jews, the world will respect them.

 “I think another major lesson is that all the secular arguments that we made to explain why the State of Israel is ours have not worked. And I think we have to tell the world that God, the Creator of the world, gave one piece of land to Abraham, even if they don’t care. The fact that they know that the Jewish people believe it, that’s powerful.”

I asked the rabbi whether he is worried about the faith of the Jewish people in light of the growing antisemitism. 

“I am extremely optimistic about the Jewish people if they are open to becoming the people they’re supposed to be. We define nature. I’m not afraid of nature; we defeated all our enemies. I’m not afraid for the Jewish people. I’m afraid for us not knowing who the Jewish people is. We don’t understand our power. When people make fun of tefillin or Yom Kippur, we’re stripping ourselves of our power, of our infinity.

“If we can each transcend our ego and tune in to our deepest truth as individuals and as a collective, we have an amazing way forward. Miracles will happen.”

Please leave your comment below!

  • Anonymous -6 days ago

     Beautiful yy rocks moshiach now 

    Reply to this comment.Flag this comment.

Jerusalem Post Interviews Rabbi YY

Rabbi YY Jacobson
  • July 9, 2024
  • |
  • 3 Tamuz 5784
  • |
  • Comment

Class Summary:

The Jerusalem Post Interviews Rabbi YY Jacobson, Friday July 5, 2024.

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