Home » Uncategorized » Rabbi Doctor Aryeh Leib Solomon

Rabbi Doctor Aryeh Leib Solomon

1 December 2023

Although I had attended a secular high school in Sydney, Australia, and planned to continue to university, I was influenced by student emissaries of the Rebbe to take a break and spend two “gap” years studying Torah at the Yeshivah Gedolah in Melbourne.

Click here for full-color print version

I vividly recall those shluchim – Rabbi Yosef Minkowitz and Rabbi Hirshel Morozov – when they first came to my high school during the intermediate days of Sukkot. Although they spoke briefly, they spoke passionately about Judaism, in a language the students could relate to, and they moved the hearts of several youngsters like me, who became followers of the Rebbe. Later on, I heard it said that the Rebbe had compared education to nuclear energy, and that is certainly what happened that Sukkot. It was as if the Rebbe took a Yiddishkeit bomb and dropped it on Australia through those shluchim.

After two years at the yeshivah, I went on to Sydney University to study for a Bachelor of Arts degree.

In December 1974, during the summer vacation in Australia, I came to visit the Rebbe in New York.

During that trip, I was granted a private audience with the Rebbe. I knew it would be a life-changing moment and I meant to take full advantage of the opportunity, writing a long note to the Rebbe in which I enumerated all my issues and questions. When I finally came before him, I saw my note on his desk with many detailed pencil markings on it. I understood that the Rebbe had spent time reading everything I had written and had something to say about it all. I was awe-struck by that thought.

In my note, I had mentioned that I was becoming disenchanted with university. I had already completed two years toward a three-year Bachelor of Arts degree but I had no intention of continuing on with a fourth year, which would grant me the Diploma of Education, because I wanted to return to yeshivah.

I didn’t really need the Diploma of Education because any Jewish school would hire me without it – after all, as a religious person, I would serve as a good model for their students even without the extra certification. I had also written that because I believed that I had a natural teaching ability, I did not need the diploma.

Not surprisingly, the Rebbe did not agree with my plan. He said, “Despite what you write about the Diploma of Education, you should complete it. It will help you in many ways.” And he spelled out how it would help me in spreading Judaism and chasidic teachings and in furthering Chabad’s mitzvah campaigns.

I didn’t quite understand how this diploma would help me achieve such lofty goals, but I trusted the Rebbe and followed his instructions. Back in Sydney it all became clear. Midway through my studies toward that Diploma of Education, as part of that course, I was invited to participate in practice teaching, where the students actually go into classrooms to be mentored by experienced teachers. And the venue that was proposed for me was Moriah College, the largest Jewish day school in Sydney.

I accepted this assignment, and it was a very positive experience. The college even offered me a teaching job afterwards, but I wanted to go to yeshivah. I enrolled in the yeshivah in Kfar Chabad, Israel, and received my rabbinic ordination there. At that point, Moriah College contacted me again – this time they were looking for a rabbi, a new position that they had created, and since I was a known quantity, I was at the top of their list. (That Moriah College in those years would take a Lubavitcher as its rabbi was considered by many to be miraculous.)

I accepted their offer in 1984 and served as college rabbi for nearly four decades, during which time I have helped countless students to embrace Torah and mitzvot. I often recall that I only got to this position in the first place through the training component of the Diploma of Education which the Rebbe had urged me to complete.

Having the diploma helped me in yet another way. When I decided to pursue advanced degrees in education – first a master’s and later two doctorates – the Diploma of Education was a prerequisite for acceptance into post-graduate programs. Through my doctoral dissertations – which were subsequently published under the titles, “The Educational Teachings of Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson” and “Spiritual Education” – I was able to spread chasidic teachings, as the Rebbe told me I would.

That private audience – which lasted 13 minutes to be exact – significantly impacted my life in other ways as well.

For one thing, I told the Rebbe that I enjoyed those times of the year when I was “totally involved” in Yiddishkeit. For example, during the festival of Sukkot, I would spend entire days, from morning until night, teaching Jewish university students how to wave the lulav – the palm, willow, and myrtle branches – and how to make the proper blessings, which I found very gratifying. To this, he responded, “If you are keeping Jewish Law according to the Shulchan Aruch, you are automatically totally involved.” In other words, by keeping Jewish Law on an ordinary day, I would be just as involved in Judaism, and there was no need to wait for a special occasion to have this satisfaction.

At the conclusion of the audience, the Rebbe blessed me to be a shining light and an inspiration to others, and that my endeavors “should go from strength to strength.” And he also gave me blessings for my parents and family.

Over the years I would write reports to the Rebbe about my activities, and about the advancements in the religious observance of the students I was mentoring. I sometimes merited to receive the Rebbe’s response. His replies included blessings that these activities should increase and have an ongoing impact.

Today, when I meet the children and grandchildren of those students I mentored forty years ago – some of whom are themselves shluchim and rabbis, and others parents of beautiful, Torah-observant families – I appreciate the Rebbe’s assurance that, in education, every effort will yield cumulative dividends.

Rabbi Doctor Aryeh Leib Solomon is the Rabbi Emeritus of Moriah College in Sydney, Australia. He was interviewed in July 2016 and in August 2023.