TheВ Lubavitcher Rebbe,В Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory (1902-1994), the seventh leader in theВ Chabad-LubavitchВ dynasty, is considered to have been the most phenomenal Jewish personality of modern times. To hundreds of thousands of followers and millions of sympathizers and admirers around the world, he was — and still is, despite his passing — “theВ Rebbe,” undoubtedly, the one individual more than any other singularly responsible for stirring the conscience and spiritual awakening of world Jewry.В
TheВ Rebbe was bornВ in 1902, on the 11th day ofВ Nissan, inВ Nikolaev, Russia, to the renowned kabbalist,В talmudicВ scholar and leader RabbiВ Levi YitzchakВ andВ RebbetzinВ Chana Schneerson.В RebbetzinВ ChanaВ (1880-1964) was known for her erudition, kindness and extraordinary accessibility. Her courage and ingenuity became legend when during her husband’s exile by the Soviets to a remote village in Asian Russia she labored to make inks from herbs she gathered in the fields — so that RabbiВ LeviВ YitzchakВ could continue writing his commentary onВ kabbalahВ and other Torah-subjects. TheВ RebbeВ was named after his great-grandfather, the thirdВ Rebbe, RabbiMenachem Mendel of Lubavitch, with whom he later shared many characteristics.В
There is a story told about theВ Rebbe’sВ early life that seems to be almost symbolic of everything that was to follow. When he was nine years old, the young Menachem Mendel courageously dove into the Black Sea and saved the life of a little boy who had rowed out to sea and lost control of his small craft. That sense of “other lives in danger” seems to have dominated his consciousness; of Jews drowning in assimilation, ignorance or alienation–and no one hearing their cries for help: Jews on campus, in isolated communities, under repressive regimes. From early childhood he displayed a prodigious mental acuity. By the time he reached hisВ Bar Mitzvah, theВ RebbeВ was considered anВ illuy, aВ TorahВ prodigy. He spent his teen years immersed in the study of Torah.В
In 1929В Rabbi Menachem Mendel marriedВ the sixthВ Rebbe’sВ daughter,В Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, in Warsaw. (TheВ Rebbetzin, born in 1901, was chosen by her father, the sixthВ Rebbe, to accompany him in his forcedВ exile to KostromaВ in 1927. For sixty years she was theВ Rebbe’sВ life partner; she passed away on 22В Sh’vatВ in 1988.) He later studied in theUniversity of BerlinВ and then at the Sorbonne in Paris. It may have been in these years that his formidable knowledge of mathematics and the sciences began to blossom.
On Monday,В Sivan 28, 5701 (June 23, 1941) theВ RebbeВ and theВ RebbetzinВ arrived in the United States, having been miraculously rescued, by the grace of AlmightyВ GвЂ‘d, from the European holocaust. TheВ Rebbe’sВ arrival marked the launching of sweeping new efforts in bolstering and disseminating Torah and Judaism in general, and Chassidic teachings in particular, through the establishment of threeВ central LubavitchВ organizations under theВ Rebbe’sВ leadership:В MerkosВ L’InyoneiВ ChinuchВ (“Central Organization For Jewish Education”),В KehotВ Publication Society, andВ MachneВ Israel, a social services agency. Shortly after his arrival, per his father-in-law’s urging, theВ RebbeВ began publishing his notations to various Chassidic andВ kabbalisticВ treatises, as well as a wide range of response on Torah subjects. With publication of these works his genius was soon recognized by scholars throughout the world.
After the passing of his father-in-law,В Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, in 1950, RabbiВ Menachem M.В SchneersonВ reluctantly ascended to theВ leadership of the Lubavitch movement, whose headquarters atВ 770 Eastern ParkwayВ in Brooklyn, New York. SoonВ LubavitchВ institutions and activities took on new dimensions. The outreaching philosophy of Chabad-LubavitchВ was translated into ever greater action, asВ Lubavitch centersВ andВ Chabad HousesВ were opened in dozens of cities andВ university campusesВ around the world.
On Monday afternoon (March 2, 1992), while praying at the gravesite of his father-in-law and predecessor, theВ RebbeВ suffered a stroke that paralyzed his right side and, most devastatingly, robbed him of the ability to speak.В
Two years and three months later, theВ RebbeВ passed away in the early morning hours of the 3rd of the Hebrew month ofВ Tammuz, in the year 5754 from creation (June, 12 1994), orphaning a generation.В
Many leaders recognize the need of the moment and respond with courage and directions. This isВ theirВ forte — and an admirable one. Others, though their strength may not lie in “instant response” to current problems, are blessed with the ability of perceptive foresight — knowing what tomorrow will bring and how to best prepare. Still other leaders excel in yet a third distinct area, possessing a keen sense of history and tradition; their advice and leadership is molded by a great sensitivity to the past.
But one who possessed all three qualities was truly unique, standing alone in leadership. Such was theВ LubavitcherВ RebbeВ — the inspiration and driving force behind the success ofВ LubavitchВ today. Radiating a keen sense of urgency, he demanded much from his followers, and even more from himself. TheВ RebbeВ led, above else, byВ example.
He was a rare blend of prophetic visionary and pragmatic leader, synthesizing deep insight into the present needs of the Jewish people with a breadth of vision for its future. In a sense, he charted the course of Jewish history — initiating, in addition to reacting to, current events. TheВ RebbeВ was guided by inspired insight and foresight in combination with encyclopedic scholarship, and all his pronouncements and undertakings were, first and foremost, rooted in our Holy Torah. Time and again, what was clear to him at the outset became obvious to other leaders with hindsight, decades later.
From the moment theВ RebbeВ arrived in America in 1941, his brilliance at addressing himself to the following ideal became apparent: He would not acknowledge division or separation. Every Jew — indeed every human being — has a unique role to play in the greater scheme of things and is an integral part of the tapestry of GвЂ‘d’s creation.В
For nearly five of the most critical decades in recent history, theВ Rebbe’sВ goal to reach out to every corner of the world with love and concern has unfolded dramatically. No sector of the community has been excluded — young and old; men and women; leader and layman; scholar and laborer; student and teacher; children, and even infants.
He had an uncanny ability to meet everyone at their own level — he advised Heads of State on matters of national and international importance, explored with professionals the complexities in their own fields of expertise, and spoke to small children with warm words and a fatherly smile.
With extraordinary insight, he perceived the wealth of potential in each person. His inspiration, now accessible through hisВ writingsВ andВ videos, boosts the individual’s self-perception, ignites his awareness of that hidden wealth and motivates a desire to fulfill his potential. In the same way, many a community has been transformed by theВ Rebbe’sВ message, and been given — directly or indirectly — a new sense of purpose and confidence. In each case the same strong, if subtle, message is imparted: “You are Divinely gifted with enormous strength and energy — actualize it!”