Reb Yoel Kahan is a senior Chabad rabbi, who served as the leading Choizer and Meiniach for the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson. He served in this role from the beginning of the Rebbe's leadership in 1950 until his death in 1994. Today he continues to serve as the senior Mashpia in the central Lubavitcher yeshiva at 770 Eastern Parkway. His position as leading Choizer and Meiniach makes him the default authority on the Rebbe's teachings specifically, and he is universally recognized as the greatest scholar of general Chabad Chassidic doctrine and thought. He is referred to familiarly amongst Chabad Chasidim as Reb Yoel. He is the son of Refoel Nachman (Folle) Kahn, author of Shemu'os VeSippurim. He has no children.
He was born in the Soviet Union, on 16 Shevat, 5690 which corresponds to February 14, 1930. His father Refoel Nachman Kahan, studied in the original Yeshiva Tomchei Temimim, in the town of Lubavitch, White Russia and authored Shemu'os VeSippurim an authoritative and multi-volume compilation of historical accounts and anecdotes, culled from the traditions handed down by reliable Chassidim of earlier generations and his own experiences. At a young age he emigrated to the Land of Israel together with his family, and studied in Yeshiva "Achai Temimim" in Tel Aviv under the tutelage of the famous Mashpia Rabbi Chaim Shaul Brook. During his teen years he also studied privately with the famed Mashpia and teacher of Chassidic thought Rabbi Moshe Gourarie. He also knew and was influenced by Rabbi Nochum Goldshmidt and to a lesser degree, by Rabbi Shlomo Chaim Kesselman.
Arrival in New York
In 1950 Kahan traveled to New York in order to continue his studies at the central Yeshiva Tomchei Temimim at 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, New York. At the time 770 was also the home and synagogue of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, the sixth Rebbe of Chabad, and Kahn expected to be able to meet R' Schneersohn, whose teachings he had studied all his life. However, when he finally arrived in New York by sea it was too late, the man who was to became known as "the Previous Rebbe" had already died. Kahn remained in New York and soon became very attracted to Schneersohn's younger son-in-law, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who eventually became the seventh Rebbe of Chabad.
In recent years he has become a fierce critic of Chabad messianism, calling them hallucinators and arguing that referring to Schneerson as alive or praying for his continued long life makes a mockery of both Chabad and Schneerson. However, Kahan does believe that it is possiable that Schneerson will ultimately return as the then Messiah. This is a blend of two believes. 1. believing that Schneerson was the best candidate for the Messiah, and 2. believing like all Orthodox Jews in the principle of the resurrection of the dead, one of Maimonides' Principles of Faith.
- "Biurim U'Pninim" on Tanya (HaMa'or She'baTorah)
- Sefer Ha'Erchim (main editor and compiler - Kehot)
- Nos'im BaChassidut (Eishel-Kfar Chabad)
- Mahutam Shel Yisroel (Heichal Menachem)
- Shiurim BeTorat Chabad (Ma'ayanotecha)
- "HaModaim B'Chassidut" (Ma'ayanotecha)
- "Sugyot B'Chassidut" (Ma'ayanotecha)
- "Shiurim Al Sha'ar Yichud V'Ha'Emuna" (Ma'ayanotecha)
- Nos'im BaYahadut (tape series)
- "Machshevet haChassidut" (The phylosophy of Chassidut, 2 volumes)
- The empty chair, Neta Sela, Yediot Aharonot, February 7, 2007.
- Reb Yoel: There is only ONE derech in Chabad, Shturem News, 5 Shevat 5767