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Reb Zalman

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When I started planning this latest leg for TWJ, the first place I wanted to visit was Boulder, and not because I could get to hike with the Adventure Rabbi.

For more than two decades, this scenic college town has been the home of Rabbi Zalman Hiyyah Schachter-Shalomi, the founder of the Jewish Renewal movement and one of the leading spiritual teachers of our time.

Days before I i was due to arrive, Reb Zalman cancelled our appointment because of a medical issue. Now, after more than a month on the road, I returned to Boulder for our interview. It’s fitting in a way that this was the culmination of my latest journey. Along the way, I’ve met several people whose lives were changed by him and, I’d like to think, I was more prepared now then I was then.

Reb Zalman met me at the door in brown leather slippers and ushered me downstairs into a library teeming with volumes on Eastern spirituality, psychology, and Jewish thought. He seemed robust for 86, but when I asked about his health he shook his head. His mind, though, was sharp. Occasionally he had to search for a word, but he carried on easily for more than 90 minutes, sprinkling his phrases with Yiddishisms, quoting Biblical passages from memory, and dropping seamless references to Jung, Hindu poets, and Ray Bradbury novels.

I confess I’m not entirely sure how to process the footage, but I’ll try and figure out some way to present it in the coming days. In the meantime, I’ll post just this short clip, Reb Zalman’s final words before we signed off.

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