Friday, October 8, 2010

A Unique Letter to Professor Luchins

Torah and philosophy. How does the wisdom of our Sages differ from that of a modern-day secular scholar? Or do all “great minds” think alike? The following is an insightful letter to Dr. Abraham Luchins, famed American Gestalt psychologist and pioneer of group therapy, in which the Rebbe decries the ethics seriously lacking within western thought, versus the moral clarity of Torah.

With special thanks to his son, Dr. David Luchins, professor of American politics and international relations and founding dean of Touro’s Lander College for Women, for the letter and to Rabbi Ephraim Mintz, director of the Jewish Learning Institute.

The Rebbe Archive would like to present a photo of the Rebbe seeing off the thousands of guests who came to spend the month of Tishrei with him of 1961.

Good Shabbos

By the Grace of G-d
14 Teves 5731
Brooklyn, NY

Prof. & Mrs. Abraham S. Luchins
53 Fordham Court
Albany, NY 12209

Greeting & Blessing:

This is to thank you for Vols. II and III of Wertheimer’s Seminars Revisited, which I have just received. While I have had no time as yet to look into them more closely, I have thumbed through the pages. In doing so, I was again reminded of the saying of our Sages to the effect that “if anyone says the nations of the world have a Torah, do not believe it; but if one says that they have science, do believe it.”

In fact, I had occasion to discuss the subject at the farbrengen. The point of the said statement is that in the non-Jewish world it is possible to find outstanding thinkers and philosophers who might find solutions to the various problems confronting humanity, yet they can go through the process of thinking with complete detachment, so that the solutions which they come up with remains theoretical, and do not touch upon their own lives. Indeed, the thinker or philosopher or scientist might, in his personal life, act quite contrary to the high moral and ethical concepts which he expounds.

It is quite different in regard to our Torah, which is our wisdom and science in the eyes of the nations. For to us Torah means teaching and guidance (from the word horo’o), that is to say, that it penetrates and permeates our lives. This is because it has the power to compel, as it were, the Torah student and follower to translate the solution which it provides into practical deed. It gives the Torah Jew the strength to resist and subjugate the yetzer hara, as our Sages of blessed memory express it: barati yetzer hara, berati Torah tavlin (“I have created the yetzer hara, but I have also created the Torah as an antidote”).

With all good wishes for your hatzlocho in your work, as well as in your good influence to spread and strengthen the light of the Torah and mitzvoth to the utmost of your capacities.

With blessing,

P.S. I was pleasantly surprised to see in the press that your son actively participated in the Convention of the Union of Orthodox Congregations in Washington.