Wednesday, June 22, 2011
JEM's My Encounter Interviews Rabbi Dr. Immanuel Schochet

From JEM’s My Encounter Blog…

Yesterday we went out to Wilmington, Delaware to interview Rabbi Dr. Immanuel Schochet. He was visiting his daughter and son-in-law - the Vogels, the Chabad Shluchim in Delaware – for Shavuos.

We covered many topics in this important interview.

The well-known and scholarly Schochet family spent war time in Switzerland, then moved to Holland, and finally came to Canada in 1951. Rabbi Schochet studied at Chabad Lubavitch Yeshiva from 1952-1959. After his marriage in Toronto in 1961, the Rebbe encouraged him to pursue his University studies diligently, even supporting him financially with jobs from Merkos L'inyonei Chinuch in New York!

He wrote many many articles for Merkos, and translated and wrote many books. There were edits that the Rebbe made to his works, and many of them are in letters that he gave to be published in Igros Kodesh. R. Schochet told us that after a couple years his work didn't need much editing, as he learned from his mistakes and got to know the Rebbe’s style. One of the memorable changes that the Rebbe made was on a biography of the Baal Shem Tov. In the course of his research, R. Schochet quoted from many sources, not necessarily from Sifrei Chassidus, and sometimes from non-religious historians. The Rebbe was very vocal in opposing this, telling him that although they are surely credible scholars, when it comes to a holy Tzaddik, their outlook and opinion simply cannot be accurate. On this topic, the Rebbe expected him to use sources that were only from the Rebbeim and credible Sifrei Chassidus.

The Rebbe’s office had an official translator named Uriel Tzimmer, who knew quite a few European languages. When the Rebbe got a letter in a language that he didn’t know, Mr. Tzimmer would translate them (and the Rebbe would reply in English, Yiddish or Hebrew). After Mr. Tzimmer's passing, the Rebbe’s office contacted Rabbi Schochet and asked him if he could help translate some letters as well, because of his European origin. He readily agreed. He also figured that it would be exciting work, seeing firsthand what the Rebbe gets to see! In reality though, among the important correspondences, there were trivial matters - even ‘nudging’ and ‘kvetching’ - that he came across. He asked the Rebbe if he could just give over the gist of these letters instead of translating word-for-word. The Rebbe absolutely refused – “You can tell many things from how the person wrote, and what else they wrote as a lead up to their issue. It will help analyze their problem, and give insight if there are other underlying issues that need to be addressed…”

There are a many more interesting anecdotes, and beautiful expressions of the Rebbe’s care that he shared, but this is off the top of my head.

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