The letters of our thoughts are the ideas present in our mind before they come to realization . . . Thoughts that are, yet not felt . . . The words of the subconscious . . . of the soul . . .


Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Rebbe and Foundation by Isaac Asimov

I've heard the story before . . . now I found it in print.
Does anyone know the veracity of the story?
The Soul of a Conflict:

Mister Menachem

"Editors note: In 1995, William Morrow & Company published the first widely-distributed book of the Rebbe’s teachings, Toward a Meaningful Life, by Rabbi Simon Jacobson, editor-in-chief at Vaad Hanachot Hatmimim/The Meaningful Life Center. Among the many responses received at our office was a letter from a woman who, as a child of five had met the Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneersohn. That letter described her first meeting with the Rebbe in 1946, “When he was not yet the Rebbe and ... walked freely around the neighbourhood (of Crown Heights).”[17] Below is an extract from a second letter that describes subsequent “sidewalk conversations” with the Rebbe.

Dear Rov[18] Jacobson,

Kol hakavod[19] on Toward a Meaningful Life. The book is a beautiful kiddush Hashem,[20] and does full justice to the Rebbe himself.

As a yiddishe maidele[21] who was born into a traditional family in Crown Heights in 1940, and who had the great zchus and mazal[22] from Hashem[23] to know the Rebbe as a beloved childhood friend – whose name was Mister, or so I thought then - the book brings tears to my eyes and overwhelming feelings both of joy and loss to my heart. Since I read Toward a Meaningful Life, I have been deluged with memories of events that I’d forgotte"

I knew the Rebbe first as Mister, and then when I learned that Mister was not his name (as I thought it was when I was 5) I asked him his name. But I just couldn’t get the name that he told me – he must have been saying Schneerson – so he told me that we had similar names, and could I say Menachem. That I got immediately, and so he told me to call him Mr. Menachem. Which I did.

It was not until I saw a picture of him, taken about 1950, that I realized that my beloved Mr. Menachem was also the Rebbe. I had been praying for the Rebbe forever, or so it seemed, but I never knew that I was also praying for one of the dearest friends I ever had…

Mr. Menachem always asked me what books I was reading. When I was seven – Spring of ’48 I think – I discovered Science Fiction in the library on Schenectady. I loved it. I gave him rave reviews of two authors, Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov. He was intrigued by the idea of teaching children science through fun-to-read novels. I always told him he should read them, that he would love them. He always told me that he only read Jewish books. Then one day, a year or more later, I told him about Asimov’s book “Foundation”. If you haven’t read Asimov’s Foundation Series then I should tell you it’s about a secret foundation set up by a psychohistorian name Hari Seldon. The purpose of psychohistory and the Foundation was to perfect the Universe. Which is basically what I told him.

Anyway, Mr. Menachem later told me he read the book – which floored me – and told me to concentrate on Asimov, not Heinlin. [And he was right.] He then went on to tell me he’d written to Asimov and had gotten a reply. I was thrilled – that Asimov thought enough of him to write back [Told you I didn’t know who I was talking to. At that point I had no concept of what he truly was, much less what he would become.] He was corresponding with Asimov, and as far as I was concerned that was even better that writing to Jackie Robinson[24], which I think I told him.

Then he asked me what I thought of the idea of setting up a foundation. I thought it was better than Asimov and Robinson combined and told him so. He then told me he was setting up a foundation. I was so excited I started jumping up and down, telling him I wanted to join, please, please please. He said I could. Well, he did set it up, and I did join for a while. He was talking about Chabad and his shluchim. Maybe other things that I haven’t found out yet. Who knows?

Kol tuv,[25]

Nechama Cohen
Tamiment, PA