Thursday, January 3, 2019

The Chassidic Rebbe and His Snoopy Tie

On January 3, 2000, the final edition of the “Peanuts” comic strip appeared in the daily edition of newspapers worldwide. For the followers of Charlie Brown and his gang, it was the end of an era. The syndicated daily comic strip began on October 12, 1950 in nine newspapers. In its heyday in the 1960s, the strip was carried in over 2,600 newspapers, with a readership approximating 355 million people in 75 countries, and was translated into 21 languages. The 17,897 Peanuts strips, produced by Charles M. Schultz, Peanuts’ author and illustrator, were described by Syracuse University professor, Robert Thompson, as “arguably the longest story ever told by one human being.”

Among those fans of Charles Schultz’ artistic brilliance was a psychiatrist who happens to also be a Chassidic Rebbe. Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twerski (born in 1930), is the son of the Hornesteipler Rebbe of Milwaukee, WI, and maternal grandson of the Bobover Rebbe who was martyred in the Holocaust. Rabbi Dr. Twerski became a world-renowned expert on drug and alcohol addiction, and founder of the Gateway Rehabilitation Center in Pittsburgh, PA. Rabbi Twerski enjoyed reading “the funnies” as a child, and as an adult, he enjoyed “light reading” including Peanuts comic strips. One day, Rabbi Dr. Twerski was counseling an addict who rationalized each time he relapsed to alcoholism, continuously denying he was an addict. Rabbi Twerski showed him the famous Peanuts cartoon of Lucy moving the football each time Charlie Brown lined up to kick it, causing Charlie to fall backwards. Yet Charlie irrationally continued to trust Lucy to hold the football for him. The patient immediately understood how he was rationalizing his condition.

Rabbi Twerski began collecting Charles Schultz’ wisdom and displayed relevant ones on a bulletin board titled, “Post-Graduate Education.” Eventually Rabbi Dr. Twerski received permission from United Feature Syndicate, Inc., owners of Peanuts at the time, to use Peanuts artwork in his books on self-esteem and other mental health issues. Rabbi Dr. Twerski suggests that each of the Peanuts characters have issues: Lucy’s bravado masks her low self-esteem, Charlie Brown feels inadequate, Snoopy lives in a fantasy world, Schroeder and Lucy’s relationship describes unrequited love and Linus and his security blanket reflect many aspects of addictive behavior.

Rabbi Dr. Twerski met Charles Schultz four times, including their final meeting just two days before Schultz’ passing. Rabbi Dr. Twerski often wears Snoopy ties as a tribute to Schultz, generally not part of the raiment of a Chassidic Rebbe.

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