Ein­stein and the Rab­bi: Search­ing for the Soul

  • Review
By – May 16, 2017

How does a Jew bal­ance belief with sci­ence, body with soul, when fac­ing the trau­mas of life? Albert Ein­stein, who first grasped the fun­da­men­tal rela­tion­ship between ener­gy and mat­ter in the cos­mos, once com­fort­ed a bereaved rab­bi with these words:

A human being is part of the whole, the Uni­verse. He expe­ri­ences him­self, his thoughts and feel­ings as some­thing sep­a­rate from the rest. Striv­ing to free one­self from this delu­sion is the one issue of true religion.

Rab­bi Nao­mi Levy was stunned by the pow­er and sim­plic­i­ty of that state­ment when she first came across it. It echoed what she intu­itive­ly felt: that God and the uni­verse are mir­rored in human beings through the soul. And she felt com­pelled to find out how Ein­stein came to write that letter.

As the founder and rab­bi of the spir­i­tu­al com­mu­ni­ty Nashu­va in Los Ange­les, Rab­bi Levy has long helped peo­ple deal with loss, and with the hurt they have inflict­ed on oth­ers. She has coun­seled cou­ples, com­fort­ed par­ents and chil­dren, and dealt with rage and sor­row. This book draws upon those expe­ri­ences to guide her read­ers toward a more ful­ly inte­grat­ed life.

She val­ues med­i­ta­tion, music, and spend­ing time in nature. But unlike self-help books with vague tips about deep breath­ing, warm baths, and sooth­ing music, she grounds her advice in tra­di­tion­al Jew­ish prac­tice: the Sab­bath, the pow­er of prayer, the wis­dom of Jew­ish texts, the mean­ing of holiness.

Her lessons are drawn from the painful yet touch­ing sto­ries of the peo­ple she coun­sels. There’s the suc­cess­ful man who feels emp­ty and dis­con­nect­ed from his own fam­i­ly, and who finds a way to open up to his young son by unplug­ging from tech­nol­o­gy on Fri­day nights. There’s the woman who feels deep heart­break and guilt for a traf­fic acci­dent that cost a pedes­tri­an his life, and who finds heal­ing through forgiveness.

Nao­mi Levy also writes with an open heart about the tragedies and chal­lenges of her own life, start­ing at the age of fif­teen, when her adored father was mur­dered. She talks can­did­ly about her own hus­band and chil­dren, and describes her fears and anx­i­ety when she under­went a painful and pro­longed series of sur­gi­cal operations.

She also solves the mys­tery of why the rab­bi of her book’s title reached out to Ein­stein. That rab­bi was Robert Mar­cus, one of the first chap­lains to enter Buchen­wald at the time of its lib­er­a­tion. This book is worth read­ing just for the mov­ing sto­ry of how Rab­bi Mar­cus, and an unsung hero named Judith Feist, nur­tured the res­cued Buchen­wald boys” back to life.

Rab­bi Levy quotes David the Psalmist: I called to God from my nar­row­ness, and God answered me with a vast expanse.” Any­one who feels that need to con­nect with some­thing larg­er than them­selves can find a path­way in this inspir­ing book.

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