The Rocking Rabbi and the Singing Rabbi. These are the two names that I have heard used referring to Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, zichrono livracha (may his memory be for a blessing). However, I have never thought of him as a Soul Doctor. I have always known that Reb Shlomo was a big person in the kiruv (literally means to come close, but also used as a slang term to refer to the reaching out to non-orthodox Jews and helping them become orthodox) movement. However, after seeing Soul Doctor, a musical biography of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach’s life, I understand the reasoning behind the name of the show and why he was a Soul Doctor.
The show’s plot is rather amusing. It begins and ends at a concert that Reb Shlomo performed at in Vienna. The play takes the viewer through many portions of his early life, from his early days a young child in Vienna till the point when he is giving the concert in Vienna. The actors and actresses really make this show a hit. They were always engaging the audience to clap and at many times even sitting in an empty seat next to an audience member. The music was comprised of a mix of new songs made especially for the show (using Carlebach tunes) Carlebach’s Hebrew songs (some having been translated into English,) and some his English songs. The one tune that was used most often was Le’Man Achai, Reb Shlomo’s favorite song. Though there was a mispronunciation of a Hebrew word in one of his songs, overall the play was amazing and given the chance I would definitely see it again.
However, I do have some criticism about the play. I feel as if they misrepresented some aspects of Judaism. For example, they claimed that the Chabad Chassidim (aka Lubavitch) wants everyone to be exactly like them and not plain orthodox. If this were any other Chassidic sect, I would not have care about this generalization. But I know that Chabad Chassidim just wants to help bring those who wish to be brought closer to God (Hashem). Another issue with the play is that they said that Reb Shlomo’s father’s synagogue (shul) was in Brooklyn, when in reality it was and still is in Manhattan.
The one thing I loved most about the play was the message it sends to the Jewish world. It says that there is more than one way to approach kiruv as well as practicing Judaism. Music is rooted very deep in Tanach (Hebrew word referring to the entire old testament) as a way of getting closer to Hashem. We see in Samuel Chapter 10 Verses 5-6 that in order to reach the necessary spiritual level to receive prophecy, the prophets would use music. This shows us that music is the best way to get closer to Hashem.
Reb Shlomo was constantly criticized by the rabbis of his generation for touching and kissing women. I cannot say that I agree with what he did and I cannot say that the rabbis were wrong for criticizing him. What I can say is that I understand why at times it would be necessary to hug and kiss a person of the opposite gender. I have listened to my female friends talk to me about their problems, with tears in their eyes. It would of probably made them feel better if I hugged them. Every person can use a good hug once in a while.