Menachem Mendel Schneerson

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Rabbi M.M. Schneerson

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (April 18, 1902 – June 12, 1994), referred to by his followers as The Rebbe, was a prominent Charedi (traditional Orthodox) Jewish rabbi who was the seventh Rebbe (spiritual leader) of the Chabad/Lubavitch branch of Chassidic Judaism. He was fifth in a direct paternal line to the third Chabad/Lubavitch Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn (known as the Tzemach Tzedek), his namesake.

In 1950, upon the death of his predecessor, father-in-law and cousin Rabbi Joseph Isaac Schneersohn (Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn), known as the "Previous Rebbe" or Rebbe Rayat"z (an acronym of his name), Rabbi Menachem Mendel assumed the leadership of Chabad/Lubavitch. He led the movement until his passing in 1994, greatly expanding its worldwide activities and founding a network of institutions of Jewish study and Torah outreach. He raised the issue of Jewish messianism to the forefront of the Jewish world, and was hailed by some Lubavitchers during his lifetime as the long awaited mashiach (messiah). He had no children, but his legacy remains with over 2,600 institutions he initiated throughout his lifetime.

View on Noahides

Main article Judaism and Other Religions

What Rabbi Alan Brill labels the “dualistic” variety of the exclusivist position is really the counterpart to the “metaphysical” variant of inclusivism described above. Here too the real realm of action is not this world, with individual people and nations, but the metaphysical realm of primal and cosmic forces. In this schema, Israel represents cosmic good; the nations represent the primal evil. And while this trend tends to reject philosophy as universal, it should not be considered in accord with the mainstream Kabbalah of Gikkitila or Cordovero.

Rabbi Isaac Luria

The predominant source for these sentiments is the writings of the Kabbalist rabbi Isaac Luria who stated that gentiles do not have souls. Israel is locked into a cosmic battle of Kabbalistic redemption and earthly gentile impurity. Our continuous sins cause us to descend into the shells instead of redeeming ourselves.

For Luria, the historical situation of exile is a manifestation of the cosmic reality of rupture and evil. The gentiles are not merely the Other, or the anti-Israel, as in the less metaphysical approaches of Rashi; they are the same stuff as the evil at the beginning of creation. The internal logic of this myth leads to the radical notion – unsupported by classical Jewish texts – that non-Jews have no souls.

While the influence of Luria on subsequent Jewish history has been overstated, his notion that non-Jews lack souls was a significant, and dangerous, innovation. It moved the exclusivity of Rashi to a new and potentially dangerous realm.

Dualism has room for rereading

This dualism needs to be reread from our vantage of connection to the classic texts.

In the first half of the nineteenth century, Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Chajes dealt with these texts by claiming that rabbinic texts were written in a binary black and white, good and evil style for didactic purposes.[15] While this is a fine approach for dealing with rabbinic texts and it should be developed further, the demonic dualism and the dehumanization texts also need to be addressed.

An example of the possibilities of rereading can be seen in the history of the statements in Tanya written by R. Schneur Zalman of Liady, the founder of the Chabad Hasidic dynasty. He clearly states at the beginning of his work Likkute Amarim (Tanya) that, as presented in Lurianic writings, gentiles do not have souls.[16]

Nevertheless, this dualistic statement was transformed by later generations of Chabad thinkers into a historical inclusivism, in which the gentiles today are part of the messianic progress; or into a hierarchal inclusivism, in which the gentiles have greater needs to purify themselves.[17]

Bringing Hasidism to the gentiles of America

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, the seventh leader of Chabad Hasidism, armed with a messianic sense of current era, wanted to bring Hasidism even to the gentiles of America. He does not need to rewrite the offensive text because, for him, since times have changed, the text does not apply. All gentiles are now seen as capable of appreciating the Divine light of Torah. He was also in favor of school prayer and acknowledged the Christian and civil religion of America as a necessary moral force. In some of his homilies he even invokes "in God we trust" printed on United States currency as showing that we share one God.

The "spreading of the wellsprings" of Chassidic teachings should not be limited to Jews alone, but should be extended outward to non-Jews as well. As [Maimonides] states, the purpose of giving the Torah was to bring peace to the world (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Chanukah 4:14). Similarly, he writes that every Jew is obliged to try and influence those who are not Jewish to fulfill the Seven Laws of Noah. Maimonides also states that one of the achievements of the Messiah will be to spiritually refine and elevate the nations of the world until they, too, become aware of God to the point where Godliness will be revealed to every flesh, non-Jews.

Since the rewards of Torah come "measure for measure" it follows that among the efforts to bring the messianic age must be the effort to spread the Seven Laws of Noah, as well as the wellsprings of Chassidic teachings associated with them, outward to non-Jews. Indeed, the Prophets tell us, "Nations shall walk in your light." Although the Torah was given to the people of Israel, it will also serve as a light to the nations.[18]

It was important to take the trouble to present these rereading, even though many modern Jews do not have an interest in Hasidic doctrine, in order to show that even seemingly impossible to reread texts can be reread, even by conservative thinkers.

Forcing Adherence

When a Jew contemplates violating Jewish law, there is an obligation upon Jews not only to prevent him (physically if necessary and possible) from violating the law, but also there are obligations to teach him or her about the law and to induce or persuade compliance. Indeed, in a post-emancipation society, limiting Jewish sinning rarely is done with coercion and force, and is typically done through persuasion and teaching. As noted above, in this author's opinion, the halacha as generally understood by most authorities rules that there is no obligation to persuade and teach Noachides about the Noachide law. None of the classical commandments designed to deter sinning by Jews (except the biblical prohibition of lifnei iver, which was discussed in part 2 of this section) is generally thought to applicable to Noachides. Thus, there is no obligation of tochacha (to rebuke) a Noachide who sins, there is no notion of arvout (cooperative activity) that compels collective responsibility, and no obligation to separate a Noachide from sin.

One modern responsa stands out as advocating an approach completely different from that generally accepted by Jewish law. The strongest case that a Jew is obligated to teach and persuade a Gentiles to keep the seven commandments is found in the writings of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson of Lubavitch, in one of his classical responsa. After quoting Maimonides, Malachim 8:10 discussed in part one, Rabbi Schneerson states:

It is obvious that this obligation [found in Maimonides, Malachim 8:10] is not limited only to a Jewish court, since this commandment is unrelated to the presence of a ger toshav (resident alien), and thus what is the need of a beit din. . . . Thus, this obligation is in place in all eras, even the present, when no gera toshav can be accepted and it is obligatory on all individuals who can work towards this goal. So too, this commandment is not limited to using force -- where, in a situation we cannot use force, we could be excused from our obligation -- since the essence of the obligation is to do all that is in our power to ensure that the seven Noachide commandments are kept; if such can be done through force, or through other means of pleasantness and peace, which means to explain [to Noachides] that they should accept the wishes of God who commanded them in this rules. This is obviously what is intended by Maimonides.

In Responsa Tashbetz (3:133) it states that even in a case where there is no prohibition of lifnei iver, such as two sides of the river, still it is prohibited to assist Noachides who wish to sin, since "we are obligated to separate them from sin." In reality, we have no source for the obligation to separate a Noachide from sin, if it is not derived from the remarks of Maimonides discussed above [Malachim 8:10] that we are obligated to coerce them into accepting commandments, and thus, of course, we may not assist them in violating them.

Rabbi Schneerson concludes by stating:

From all of the above, it is clear that anyone who has in his ability to influence, in any way, a Noachide to keep the seven commandments, the obligation rests on him to do so, since that was commanded to Moses our teacher. Certainly, one who has connections with Noachides in areas of commerce and the like, it is proper for him to sustain the connection in order to convince and explain to that person, in a way that will reach that persons heart that God commanded Noachides to keep the seven commandments...

Alternative View

In Rabbi Michael J. Broyde's review of the literature, the weight of halachic authority is contrary to this analysis, although it certainly is morally laudatory (all other things being equal) to convince Noachides to keep and observe the Noachide laws. Three proofs can be adduced which indicate that the ruling of Rabbi Schneerson is not accepted by most authorities. First of all, as he himself notes, his position assumes that there is an obligation to separate a Noachide from sin. As noted in detail in part 2 of this section, nearly all authorities reject that assertion. Second of all, it assumes the halachic correctness of the opinion of Maimonides concerning the general obligation to compel observance by Noachides; this author suspects that the normative halacha is codified in favor of those who disagree with Maimonides and thus rejects the rulings found in Maimonides 8:10. Finally, it assumes that even within the position of Maimonides the obligation to compel observance includes within it the obligation to persuade. No support is advanced to that proposition, and by analogy, one could easily assert that merely because compulsion is mandatory (when possible) to prevent a violation, persuasion need not also be mandatory. In addition, proof that there is no obligation upon any individual Jew to teach Noachides their laws can be found in the many responsa that permit the teaching of Noachides about their laws: these many responsa all permit this activity -- but none rule it obligatory or compulsory.

In addition, this author believes that systemic jurisprudential concerns within halacha for reciprocity (which are constantly present and which are beyond the scope of this paper) mandate symmetry of obligation between Noachide and Jew. Jewish law certainly does not compel Noachides to enforce their legal system on Jews and certainly does not authorize Noachides to punish Jews for violations of Jewish law. To impose an un-reciprocal obligation upon Jews would violate jurisprudential norms found in Jewish law, where systemic obligations to act for the benefit of others is typically only imposed when those others are obligated to do the same were the situation reversed. Noachides are not obligated to enforce Jewish law; Jews thus are not obligated to enforce Noachide law.


Early life

A photo of Rabbi Schneerson in his youth

Born in Nikolaiev, Ukraine, Rabbi Schneerson received mostly private education. He had two younger brothers, Dovber and Yisroel Aryeh Leib. He was enrolled in the secular Yekaterinoslav University for part-time study of mathematics at the age of 16. His father, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson, a renowned kabbalist who served as the Chief Rabbi of Yekaterinoslav (Dnepropetrovsk) from 1907-1939, was his primary teacher. He intensively studied Talmud and rabbinic literature, as well as the chasidic view of Jewish mysticism and Kabbalah. He received his rabbinical ordination from Rabbi Yosef Rosen (the Rogatchover Gaon). He became engaged to Chaya Mushka Schneerson in Riga in 1923 and married her five years later in 1928, after being away in Berlin. During those two years in Berlin his landlord was his distant secular cousin, Dr. Michael Wilensky. He returned to Warsaw for his wedding, and in the announcement of his marriage in a Warsaw newspaper,"a number of academic degrees" were attributed to him. Following the marriage, the newlyweds went to live in Berlin, Germany, to study mathematics and philosophy at one of its universities. According to Laufer, Rabbi Joseph Dov Soloveitchik of Boston was also studying at the university in Berlin at the same time and lived nearby. "Whenever he had a question about an academic or religious text, he would stop over at Schneerson's house and consult with him." In a hagiographic biography, Laufer, citing a rabbi who heard from Soloveichik himself and a Kfar Chabad rabbi who heard it from associates of Soloveichik, says that "even though Rabbi Schneerson did not spend much time at his studies, his marks were always higher than Soloveichik's". Moreover, "the Rebbe was known to have received several advanced degrees in Berlin, and then later in Paris." Another witness in Laufer's book, a resident of Tel Aviv, claimed that everyone knew the Rebbe was attending university, and that despite his low-key presence, "everyone knew that a unique personality was in town." Professor Menachem Friedman, on a trip to Berlin 70 years later, was only able to find records of classes taken for one and a half semesters. Rabbi Schneerson's attendance was recorded at the University of Berlin in a "record of the students who audited courses at the university without receiving academic credit." However, he was unable to find any records for the other six years that Rabbi Schneerson was in Berlin.

According to Lubavitch hagiographies, quoting eyewitnesses during his time in Berlin, he forged friendships with two other young rabbis studying in Berlin: Joseph Soloveitchik and Yitzchok Hutner. Soloveitchik's son has denied that they knew each other in Berlin; however, the validity of this source is disputed.

In 1931 Rabbi Schneerson's younger brother, Yisroel Aryeh Leib, joined him in Berlin. He arrived and was cared for by the family as he was seriously ill with typhoid fever. He soon changed his name to Mark Gurari and attended classes at the University of Berlin from 1931 to 1933. In 1933, Rabbi Schneerson helped Gurari escape from Berlin, but with Gurari's increasing secularism and his relationship with Regina Milgram, a secular woman, the brothers grew apart. Gurari escaped to Mandate Palestine in 1939 with Milgram where they married. (ISBN 0-9647243-0-8) Vol. II, p.134, quoted: [1])


In 1933 Rabbi Schneerson moved to France. According to hagiographies authorized by Lubavitch and eyewitness reports, he attended classes at the Sorbonne in Paris. Israeli anthropologist Menachem Friedman, on a visit to France in 1996 was unable to find any documentation from the Sorbonne records, but found that from 1935 to 1938 he studied at the École spéciale des travaux publics, du bâtiment et de l'industrie (ESTP), a Technical College in the Montparnasse district. He completed a diploma in electrical engineering , and received a licence to practice. [2] He lived for most of his time in Paris at 9 Rue de Boulard in the cosmopolitan 14th arrondissement in the same building as his brother-in-law Mendel Hornstein [3]. They also studied together at ESTP, but Hornstein failed the final exams. He did not escape the Holocaust and ultimatly perished in Treblinka. [4]

Rabbi Schneerson learned to speak French, which he put to use in establishing his movement there after the war. The Chabad movement in France was later to attract many Jewish immigrants from Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia.

America and leadership

In 1941 Rabbi Schneerson escaped from France on the Serpa Pinto, the last boat to cross the Atlantic before the U-boat blockade began, and joined his father-in-law, Rabbi Joseph Isaac Schneersohn, in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, New York. He spent some time working in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. In 1942, his father-in-law appointed him director of the movement's central organizations, placing him at the helm of a budding Jewish educational and chasidic outreach empire across the United States, Canada, Israel, and North Africa.

From left to right, Rabbi Joseph Isaac Schneersohn; Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson

Rabbi Joseph Isaac Schneersohn died in 1950. His followers immediately began pressuring Rabbi Schneerson, then known as the Rama"sh (an acronym of his name) to succeed his father-in-law. At first he steadfastly refused, saying that his father-in-law "lived on." In that "vacuum", another candidate for leadership emerged: Rabbi Shemaryahu Gurary, Joseph Isaac Schneersohn's elder son-in-law, married to his elder daughter. Gurary, known as the Rasha"g, failed to capture support among the chasidim, who continued pressuring Rabbi Schneerson to relent and accept the position of "Rebbe". On the first anniversary of his father-in-law's passing, with the encouragement of his wife, he finally relented and became The Rebbe.

Gurary became a devoted follower; however, his son Barry Gurary resented what he perceived as Rabbi Schneerson's "usurpation" of what he thought should have been his father's position, and various intra-family disputes arose, including ownership of the books and manuscripts from the Chabad library, see "Barry Gurary" article for details.

Rabbi Schneerson undertook to intensify the outreach program of the movement, bringing in new "recruits" from all walks of life, and aggressively sought the expansion of the baal teshuva movement. His two most famous followers, outside of Chabad early shluchim (emissaries), were Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach and Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi.

Other Orthodox Jews were bothered by the fact that Lubavitch outreach efforts extended to them as well as to non-affiliated Jews. The Satmar sect attacked him for not sufficiently opposing Zionism, a philosophy considered heretical by that group. The proximity of Crown Heights to Satmar enclaves in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and the "conversion" of some prominent Satmar chasidim to Chabad caused friction, culminating in an incident in which a group of Lubavitchers walking through a Satmar neighborhood, on their way to visit a synagogue to spread Rabbi Schneerson's message, were set upon and beaten by a mob. Nonetheless, Rabbi Schneerson and Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum, the Satmar Rebbe, held each other in high esteem.


A photo of Schneerson in the 1950s

Part of Rabbi Schneerson's vision was the training of thousands of young Chabad rabbis and their wives, who were sent all over the world by him as shluchim (Hebrew: "emissaries") to further Jewish observance.

Rabbi Schneerson oversaw the building of schools, community centers, youth camps, college campus centers (known as "Chabad houses"), and reached out to the most powerful Jewish lay leaders and non-Jewish government leaders wherever they found themselves. The United States Congress and President issue annual proclamations declaring that the Rebbe's birthday, usually a day in March or April that coincides with his Hebrew calendar birth-date of 11 Nisan (a Hebrew month), be observed as Education and Sharing Day in the United States and a few other countries around the world.

Schneerson instituted a system of "mitzvah campaigns" called mivtzoim; these encouraged Jews to increase their level of Jewish religious practise. They commonly centred on issues such as keeping kosher, lighting Shabbat candles, studying Torah, the laying of tefillin, helping write Torah scrolls and teaching women to observe the niddah laws of Jewish family purity (laws pertaining to menstruation and ritual immersion afterwards in a pool of water known as a mikveh). Lubavitchers went to street-corners, and rode in "Mitzvah tanks", mobile outreach centers, encouraging Jews to increase their religious observance. He also launched a campaign to promote observance of the Noahide Laws among gentiles.

Rabbi Schneerson's activities spread to many far flung areas of the Jewish world. Since the time of the Rebbe Sholom Dovber Schneersohn, Chabad had been involved with the Sephardic world. Schneerson was revered by Rabbis Israel Abuhatzeira (known as Babba Sali), Meir Abuhatzeira, Yitzchak Kadouri and Mordechai Eliyahu (a former Chief Rabbi of Israel). The latter two often visited him in Brooklyn, while the others maintained a correspondence with him. In the late 1970s, Rabbi Schneerson joined with other organizations to orchestrate an exodus of Jews from countries such as Iran, laying the framework for Sephardic Hasidim. There are currently several Sephardic Chabad congregations.

Scientists who called on him, such as Herman Branover, professor of physics at Ben-Gurion University in Beer-Sheva, Israel, noted that he had a keen understanding of scientific issues. Branover himself, a Russian-Israeli authority on solar energy, is an active member of the Lubavitch movement. He frequently turned to Rabbi Schneerson for advice on his scientific research. According to the millionaire mining magnate Joseph Gutnick of Australia, it was Schneerson who pointed out to him the precise geological points on a map of Australia to commence mining for gold. He was also given guidelines in his search for diamonds. Gutnick was subsequently appointed by Schneerson as his main representative to the Israeli government, and was instrumental in the election of Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister of Israel in 1996.

Schneerson giving a public speech

Rabbi Schneerson rarely chose to involve himself with questions of halakha (Jewish law). Some notable exception were with regard to the use of electrical appliances on the Sabbath, sailing on Israeli boats staffed by Jews, and halakhic dilemmas created when crossing the International Date Line. Responsa literature on the subject reflect the great deference that prominent arbiters of halakha showed Rabbi Schneerson.

Rabbi Schneerson rarely left Crown Heights in Brooklyn, except for frequent lengthy visits to his father-in-law's gravesite, the ohel ("tent"), in Queens, New York. Upon the death of his wife in 1988, he further secluded himself, first in his home on President Street and after the traditional year of Jewish mourning, moved into his study above the central Lubavitch synagogue at 770 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn (commonly referred to as either "Lubavitch World Headquarters", or as "770").

It was from "770" that Rabbi Schneerson directed his emissaries' work. He would hold court at all hours of the day and night, involving himself in every detail of his far-flung movements' developments, being known as a man who did not sleep much. People who had appointments with Rabbi Schneerson were commonly summoned to see him at extremely late hours. The highlight of his public role would be displayed during special celebrations called farbrengens ("celebrations") on Sabbaths, holy days, and special days on the Chabad calendar when he would lead the packed hall with long talks called maamorim ("[scholarly] talks") or sichos ("[scholarly] discussions"), and with songs called nigunim, that would last all night. They would often be broadcast via satellite to Lubavitch branches all over the world.

Later life

In 1977 Rabbi Schneerson suffered a massive heart attack while celebrating the hakafot ("circling" [in the synagogue]) ceremony on Shmini Atzeret. Nonetheless, he insisted on finishing the ceremony with the customary dancing. Despite the best efforts of his doctors to convince him to change his mind, Rabbi Schneerson refused to be hospitalized. This necessitated building a mini-hospital in "770." Although he did not appear in public for several weeks, he continued to deliver talks and discourses from his study via intercom. On Rosh Chodesh Kislev, the first day of the Hebrew month of Kislev, he left his study for the first time in over a month to go home. His followers celebrate this day as a great holiday each year, for his miraculous recovery.

Schneerson in later life

In 1983, on the occasion of his 80th birthday the U.S. Congress proclaimed Rabbi Schneerson's birthday Education Day, USA, and awarded him the National Scroll of honor.

As the movement grew and more demands were placed on Rabbi Schneerson's time he ended the practice of meeting followers individually in his office. In 1986 Rabbi Schneerson replaced these personal meetings, known as Yechidut, with a weekly receiving line in Seven-seventy. Almost every Sunday thousands of people would line up to meet briefly with Schneerson and receive a dollar, which was to be donated to charity. People filing past Schneerson would often take this opportunity to ask him for advice or to request a blessing. This event is usually referred to as 'Sunday Dollars'.

Following the death of Rabbi Schneerson's wife in 1988 he withdrew from some public functions and became generally more reclusive. In 1991, he stated that: "I have done everything I can do to bring Moshiach (the Jewish Messiah), now I am handing over to you (his followers) the keys to bring Moshiach." A final campaign was started to bring the messianic age through acts of "goodness and kindness" and his followers placed advertising in the mass media such as many full-page ads in the New York Times urging everyone to contribute toward the messiah's imminent arrival, by increasing in their good deeds.

In 1991, Rabbi Schneerson faced an anti-Semitic riot in his neighborhood of Crown Heights which became known as the Crown Heights Riot of 1991. The riot began when a car accompanying his motorcade returning from one of his regular cemetery visits to his father-in-law's grave accidentally struck an African American child who subsequently died. In the rioting, an Australian Jewish graduate student was murdered, many Lubavitchers were badly beaten, and much property was destroyed.

In 1992 Rabbi Schneerson was felled by a serious stroke while at the grave of his father-in-law. The stroke left him unable to speak and paralyzed on the right side of his body. Nonetheless, he continued to respond daily to thousands of queries and requests for blessings from around the world. His secretaries would read the letters to him and he would indicate his response with head and hand motions.

Despite his deteriorating health, Rabbi Schneerson once again refused to leave "Seven-seventy" . Several months into his illness, a small room with tinted glass windows with an attached balcony was built overlooking the main synagogue. This allowed him to pray with his followers, beginning with the Rosh Hashana services and after services, to appear before them by either having the window opened or by being carried onto the balcony.

During these appearances his followers would chant the traditional salutation of a Rebbe and, generating some controversy, append to it the title of Moshiach: Yechi Adonenu Moreinu v'Rabbeinu Melech Hamoshiach l'olam voed! - "Long live our Master our Teacher and our Rabbi King Messiah forever and ever!"

When sung before him in his last months, Rabbi Schneerson vigorously encouraged the singing by swaying to and fro and swinging his hand, as he had done during the singing of other songs at the numerous farbrengens over the years. From this and his previous public statements his followers "extrapolated" that he acceded to their wish that he be the "Messiah". He passed away in 1994, unable to verbalize and say anything to confirm his followers' longed-for dream that he be the actual long-promised Jewish Messiah. However, many believe that he continues to be the Messiah, and that he will lead the Jewish people to redemption, though this matter is controversial.

Some contend that most Chabad Chassidim believe that Rabbi Schneerson is the Messiah, and that the controversy is truly about whether or not to publicize that fact -- but it is manifestly unclear how large that percentage is [5]. For more information on this controversy, see the article on Lubavitch.

After his death, a bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressmen Charles Schumer, John Lewis, Newt Gingrich, and Jerry Lewis to bestow on Rabbi Schneerson the Congressional Gold Medal. On November 2, 1994, the bill passed both Houses by unanimous consent, honoring Rabbi Schneerson for his "outstanding and lasting contributions toward improvements in world education, morality, and acts of charity".

US President Bill Clinton spoke these words at the Congressional Gold Medal ceremony "The late Rebbe's eminence as a moral leader for our country was recognized by every president since Richard Nixon. For over two decades the Rabbi's movement now has some 2000 institutions; educational, social, medical, all across the globe. We, (The United States Government) recognize the profound role that Rabbi Schneerson had in the expansion of those institutions."

The Rebbe was laid to rest on the 3rd of Tammuz 5754 (June 12, 1994), next to his father-in-law, the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe (Rabbi Joseph Isaac Schneersohn). The Ohel is built over their graves. When entering the Ohel, the six Rebbe is buried to the right, and the seventh Rebbe is buried to the left. Established by philanthropist Rabbi Joseph Gutnick of Melbourne (Australia), the Ohel Chabad-Lubavitch Center on Francis Lewis Boulevard, Queens, NY is located adjacent to the Rebbe's Ohel. The Center is open 24 hours a day, six days a week. It includes a synagogue, library and a comfortable place for people to compose their letters to the Rebbe. Ohel Chabad-Lubavitch also provides prayer books, head coverings, non-leather shoes and light refreshments.


Chabad Hasidim believe that there is no successor to Rabbi Schneerson, and that he is in that sense still their leader. Many believe that he will return as the Messiah; this view has led to controversy with other Orthodox groups and within Chabad itself. Many, quoting Talmudic passages such as Ya'akov avinu lo meis ("our forefather Jacob did not die") (Talmud Ta'anit 5b), and statements that the Rebbe himself made, insist he has not died at all, and refuse to put the typical honorifics that Jews normally use for the dead (e.g. zt"l or Zecher Tzaddik Livrocho, "may the memory of the righteous be for a blessing") after his name. All, however, still consider him to be the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

Political activities

United States

Both Democrats and Republicans politicians sought his support. Generally, Lubavitch tends to support more conservative politicians such as those who back school prayer, are anti-abortion, pro-Israel, and are generally supportive of Bible values, about which Rabbi Schneerson was publicly vocal. Aspirants for the job of mayor, governor, congressman, senator, in the states of New York and New Jersey would come calling and have their pictures with the rebbe published in newspapers with large Jewish readerships and voters.

Rabbi Schneerson predicted, paid close attention to, and rejoiced in, the fall of communism in Eastern Europe starting in 1989. Under the Bolsheviks his father-in-law had been imprisoned and tortured and had his massive collection of writings confiscated, and the movement banned on pain of exile to Siberia. So too his father Rabbi Levi Yitzchock Schneerson was imprisoned and sent to live in exile in Alma Ata, Kazakhstan. His father was never freed and died in Alma Ata. Throughout the years of Communist repression of religion, Rabbi Schneerson maintained intensive contacts with an underground network of his followers in the Soviet Union. Once the Iron Curtain fell, he quickly sent hundreds of new emissaries, known as shluchim, to the former Soviet Union. During the Desert Storm war against Iraq in 1990-1991, messianic fever ran high as Rabbi Schneerson interpreted events in the light of Torah and midrash, declaring that: "Moshiach is already here, all we need to do is to open our eyes to see him."


Rabbi Schneerson never visited the State of Israel, where he had many admirers and critics. He held a view similar to Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, that according to Jewish law, it was uncertain if a Jewish person who was in the land of Israel was allowed to leave. One of Israel's presidents, Zalman Shazar, was a religiously observant person of Lubavitch ancestry, and his visits to Rabbi Schneerson were reunions of sorts. Prime Minister Menachem Begin and later Benjamin Netanyahu also paid visits and sought advice. In the elections that brought Yitzhak Shamir to power, Rabbi Schneerson publicly lobbied his followers and the Orthodox members in the Knesset to vote against the Labor alignment. This was the only time he took a public political stance. It attracted the media's attention and led to articles in Time, Newsweek, and many newspapers and TV programs.

During the Six Day War in 1967 and the Yom Kippur War of 1973, Rabbi Schneerson publicly called for Israel Defence Forces (IDF) to capture Damascus, Syria and Cairo, Egypt. He was vehemently opposed to any IDF withdrawals from captured territories and opposed any concessions to Arabs. He lobbied Israeli politicians to pass legislation in accordance with Jewish religious law on the question Who is a Jew and declare that "only one who is born of a Jewish mother or converted according to Halakha (Biblically based Jewish religious law) is Jewish." This caused a furor in the United States. Some American Jewish philanthropies stopped financially supporting Chabad/Lubavitch since most of their members were connected to Reform and Conservative Judaism.

Responsa by Rabbi Schneerson

Rabbi Schneerson is known for authoring a voluminous collection of responsa. They encompass a wide array of topics. He addresses several modern issues, such as matters pertaining to outer space, fossilization, science, human behaviour, anatomy, geology, psychiatry, cosmetology, Torah subjects, Jewish holidays and Jewish education.

The majority of his responsa is printed in Igrot Kodesh (Hebrew and Yiddish) and Letters from the Rebbe (English).

Books by Rabbi Schneerson

The reader should note this list is incomplete
  • Likkutei Sichot - 39 volume set of the Schneerson's talks on the Torah portions, Jewish Holidays, and other issues. (16,867pp)
  • Igrot Kodesh - 36 volume set of Schneerson's Hebrew and Yiddish letters. (11,948pp)
  • Hayom Yom - An anthology of Chabad aphorisms and customs arranged according to the days of the year.
  • Haggadah Im Likkutei Taamim Uminhagim - The Haggadah with a commentary written by Schneerson.
  • Reshimot - 7 volume set of Schneerson's writings discovered after his death. (2,190pp)
  • Hadran al HaRambam - Commentary written by Schneerson on Mishneh Torah.
  • Sefer Hasichot - 10 volume set of the Schneerson's talks from 1987-1992. (4,136pp)
  • Sefer Hashlichut - 2 volume set of Schneerson's advice and guidelines to the shluchim he sent.
  • Torat Menachem - 30 volume set of Maamarim and Sichos from 1950-1959. (Based on participants' recollections and notes, not proofread by Schneerson).
  • Torat Menachem Hisvaaduyot - 43 volume set of Maamarim and Sichos from 1982-1992. (Based on participants' recollections and notes, not proofread by Schneerson).
  • Letters from the Rebbe - 5 volume set of Schneerson's English letters.


Rebbes of Lubavitch

  1. Shneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1812)
  2. Dovber Schneuri (1773-1827)
  3. Menachem Mendel Schneersohn (1789-1866)
  4. Shmuel Schneersohn (1834-1882)
  5. Sholom Dovber Schneersohn (1860-1920)
  6. Joseph Isaac Schneersohn (1880-1950)
  7. Menachem Mendel Schneerson (1902-1994)

Time-line of Lubavitcher rebbes

Template:Start box Template:Succession box Template:End box

See also

External links

The Ohel

Writings available online


Historical sites