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Home » Chabad, The Rebbe

The Rebbe

Submitted by on July 6, 2008 – 11:16 pmNo Comment | 3,054 views
This Shabbat marks the Yhartzeit (anniversary of passing) of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe. His interest and reach was truly global as the rebbe cared for every Jew. It is with this in mind that I offer this essay. I hope you will take a moment this coming Shabbat to reflect on the lessons that we might take from the life of the rebbe.

Beloved and respected

To many he was a saintly scholar, to others, a spiritual giant. Some knew him as an inspiring leader, others as a dear friend. But above all, anyone who came in contact with him agreed that a persona of the Rebbe’s vision, spirit and selfless dedication comes along perhaps once in a generation.Beyond the sheer magnitude of his leadership, beyond the wide scope of his knowledge and warm sensitivity of his understanding the Rebbe was beloved and regarded by all simply for being “ the Rebbe”.

Mature In Youth

Born in the Russian town of Nikolaev in 1902, Young Menachem M. Schneerson moved with his family to Yekatrineslav at the age of seven. Even at that young age he already showed promising signs of maturity and leadership.In her memoirs, his mother, Rebbetzin Chanah, of blessed memory, told of a pogrom in which a group of Jews hid in an underground shelter to escape the murderous mobs. Some of the children began to cry and the adults worried that the loud sobbing would expose their hiding place to the mob.

The Rebbe, then a young child himself, approached the children in a calm and mature manner, gave them some candy and coaxed them into a quiet game, thereby saving the lives of the entire group.

In his parent’s home, the Rebbe learned the true nature of Jewish responsibility and leadership. His Father, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, was the chief rabbi of Yekatrineslav. He constantly encouraged his congregation to continue their Jewish practice and observance despite the dangers posed by the strict Communist regime.

Royal Marriage

In 1929 the Rebbe married Rebbetzin Chaya mushka, daughter of the then Lubavitcher Rebbe, and went on to university studies in Berlin and Paris. It may have been there that his formidable knowledge of mathematics and science began to blossom.More influential though, to his particular approach to the understanding of Judaism, were his combined studies under his father and father in law. The Rebbe developed a unique ability to unite the exoteric and the esoteric, the simple and the complex, utilizing both his deep mystical knowledge and broad scientific understanding of the world.

The Rebbe came the United States in 1941. Upon his arrival, his father in law, the previous Rebbe, appointed him to head the educational, social and publishing departments of the Chabad Lubvavitch movement.

With penetrating insight, he recognized the potential for a Jewish reawakening in the United States. The Rebbe began to teach, inspire and help transform American Jewry into a vibrant and dynamic community.

A True Leader

In 1950, upon the passing of his esteemed father in law, the Rebbe took over the mantle of leadership. Standing at the helm of the Chabad Lubavitch movement, he set out on an ambitious program. Single handedly, the Rebbe chartered a new course for himself, his followers and the entire Jewish generation.

Through a vast and global network of Hebrew day schools, Chabad houses and outreach centers the Rebbe strove to reach every Jew on the face of the earth. Sending “Shluchim” (personal emissaries) to all corners of the world, his message of hope and inspiration was spread to Jews the world over.

From Australia to Thailand, from Siberia to Alaska people return to their tradition, regaining in the process their sense of Jewish dignity and pride.

Recognizing the precarious position of post-holocaust Jewry, the Rebbe instructed his followers to search out in love the very same people who were once hunted down in hate. It was the mystical answer to an unprecedented tragedy where all other answers had failed. The Rebbe saw that a massive act of evil can be redeemed only through a massive act of good: in this case through saving lives, souls and identities on an unprecedented scale.

The Rebbe taught us, a generation of holocaust survivors a profound lesson. He challenged us to remember that survival alone is never enough, in order to survive physically, one must be able to thrive and prosper spiritually.

The Rebbe led by example. In forty-four years of leadership the Rebbe never took a day off. In 1959, after he returned from a Chabad summer camp where he went to address the children, a Chassid asked how he had enjoyed his trip to the mountains? The Rebbe told him that he was still working to recover the hours he had lost through traveling back and fourth.


Throughout the years the Rebbe would periodically hold farbrengens (Chassidic gatherings) for his many followers. Thousands of Chassidim, young and old, would gather from all over the world to spend some time with the Rebbe.

Nobel laureate Eli Wiesel once described a farbrengen in the following manner: “The Synagogue at once seems both huge and intimate, at the center is the Rebbe. The Chassid in me looks at him with wonder. There is something profoundly moving about his personality, disturbing and reassuring at the same time. In his presence one seems more authentically Jewish. Seen by him one comes closer with one’s own Jewish center.

Dollars of Blessing

Every week, on Sunday afternoon, the Rebbe would stand for hours on end as people came from all over the world to visit with him. People with questions, people with problems or people who just needed a blessing. All came to the Rebbe for comfort, solace and help.

With a kind smile and a warm heart, the Rebbe gave each person a dollar bill, to be given to charity. Some received his blessing, others a word of encouragement and yet others some reassurance and advice.

The Rebbe’s courage, strength and leadership stand as the inspiration behind the work of Chabad world-wide. Rather than a testimony to his memory, it is a vibrant manifestation of the Rebbe’s living and enduring legacy.

It is this legacy that motivates us to forge onward. To work towards a time of everlasting peace, a tine if great knowledge and prosperity. The time of the messianic revelation.