The Rab­bi and the Nuns: The Inside Sto­ry of a Rabbi’s Ther­a­peu­tic Work with the Sis­ters of St. Francis

Rab­bi Dr. Abra­ham J. Twer­s­ki, M.D.
  • Review
By – August 1, 2014

In his lat­est book, The Rab­bi and The Nuns, the pro­lif­ic Rab­bi Dr. Abra­ham Twer­s­ki describes the arc of his pro­fes­sion­al life. From his deci­sion as a young man to change direc­tion from his intend­ed path as the head of his family’s Chas­sidic dynasty and instead pur­sue med­i­cine, to his decades-long career as a psy­chi­a­trist and coun­selor, Rab­bi Twer­s­ki tells a sto­ry of per­son­al, reli­gious, and social change. 

As a man raised and edu­cat­ed in the chas­sidic tra­di­tion, Rab­bi Twerski’s strength as a sto­ry­teller is hard­ly sur­pris­ing. His use of sto­ries and per­son­al anec­dotes as he illus­trates his path is a con­sis­tent and per­son­able way for him to com­mu­ni­cate with his read­ers. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, in his enthu­si­asm to make his points, he some­times over­whelms the voic­es of the oth­er actors in his sto­ries, and the tone moves more toward that of a doc­tor present­ing his clin­i­cal notes than a care­giv­er describ­ing the tri­als of his patients. 

Yet his com­pas­sion for those he cares for is appar­ent through­out the book, most espe­cial­ly in his descrip­tion of his work relat­ed to addic­tion. It is in these sec­tions that Rab­bi Twerski’s pas­sion comes through so power­fully that even the most cyn­i­cal read­er must fall under his charis­mat­ic spell. How Rab­bi Twer­s­ki dis­cov­ered and then worked tire­less­ly to strength­en addic­tion treat­ment pro­grams is a sto­ry that needs to be told, and this book suc­ceeds in high­light­ing and cel­e­brat­ing this amaz­ing success. 

In addi­tion to Rab­bi Twerski’s per­son­al jour­ney, the book is a fas­ci­nat­ing brief his­to­ry on the devel­op­ment of Amer­i­can psy­chi­a­try and reli­gious life in the sec­ond half of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry. Rab­bi Twerski’s sto­ries of his patients out­line a grow­ing under­stand­ing of men­tal ill­ness and treat­ment, as well as the changes tak­ing place in reli­gious orders. Trac­ing these sub-tex­tu­al themes adds some impor­tant heft and com­plex­i­ty to Rab­bi Twerski’s writing. 

Rab­bi Twerski’s per­son­al reflec­tions are thought­ful and thought-pro­vok­ing. An atten­tive read­er will be reward­ed with hid­den gems of insight about the intri­ca­cies of faith and the human mind.

Relat­ed content:

Deb­o­rah Miller received rab­bini­cal ordi­na­tion at the Jew­ish The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary. She lives in New Jer­sey with her hus­band and daugh­ter, where she serves as a hos­pice chap­lain and teacher.

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