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.