The Smiling Rabbi


Interesting anecdote about this book cover. It’s a composite of two different Rabbi faces, i.e. it’s not any specific Rabbi, so that I wouldn’t poke fun unnecessarily at someone. That’s how much of a tzadik I am.

From the back cover:

Rabbi Shlomo Levi Birenshmaltz (ZATZHA”L: of blessed, blessed memory), like dozens of others, was truly a unique man in our generation, and his death left a gaping void of hyperbole in our hearts.

He was a man of so many opposites. Intelligence and love. Compassion and bravery. Sweeping knowledge and searing insight.

Those who knew him knew that his smile could light up a room. This flies in the face of contemporary assumptions that religious people aren’t happy. Torah invented happiness. Torah invented smiling (As the verse says: “…And Moshe smiled, and thus he spake.” (Leviticus 69:420)). And who should be a better proof of that than a true master of Torah? An absolute embodiment of Simchas Chayim, he taught us all what it means to love life. He truly loved all people – even non-Jews.

Yet he wasn’t afraid to fight. He fought for what he believed in. He fought change. He fought the status quo. He fought the internet. He fought education. He fought women’s elbows. For a man of such gentle disposition, he could surely transform into a raging giant when Truth was on the line.

He wasn’t without his faults, of course, and this book does not gloss over them. It merely paints them in the best possible light. After all, is not imperfection a more believable and relatable form of perfection? Could it not be said that – like the quintessential job interview response – his biggest fault was he had so few faults?

For surely Rabbi Shlomo Levi Birenshmaltz was a God amongst men. Granted superhuman abilities from birth, and raised in an illustrious family with a long lineage of Rabbis, we can only look up to him in awe. Collectively, we are all equal in God’s eyes, each with our own unique challenges and gifts; but he was definitely better than the rest of us.

It is our hope that this biography serves as an inspiration of what you could become if you were born a completely different person.

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