Friday, July 5, 2019

“The Rebbe”

Jews worldwide observe the yahrzeit (anniversary of death) of the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of blessed memory, on the 3rd of Tammuz, which is observed tonight and tomorrow.

“The Rebbe” was born on April 18, 1902, in Nokolaev, Russia. His last name, Schneerson, indicates that he was a descendant of the originator of the Chabad movement, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi. Rabbi Menachem Mendel’s erudition was recognized at an early age. He spent his formative years immersed in the study of Torah, and, later, in addition, studied at the Sorbonne in Paris, France, and the University of Berlin, Germany, where he interacted with other notable Torah personalities, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner, and Nehama Leibowitz. In 1929, Rabbi Menachem Mendel married Chaya Mushka, the daughter of the (sixth) Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson (1880-1950), who assumed the mantle of leading the Chabad Hassidic movement in 1920.

Rabbi Menachem Mendel and Chaya Mushka arrived in the United States in June, 1941, joining his illustrious father-in-law, who, in March, 1940, became the first European Hassidic leader to immigrate to the United States. Rabbi Menachem Mendel helped create Chabad’s Central Organization for Jewish Education, Chabad’s Kehot Publication Society and a social service agency. About a year after the passing of the sixth Rebbe in 1950, Rabbi Menachem Mendel, one of two sons-in-law of the previous Rebbe, became the leader of Chabad. He made outreach a fundamental pillar of the mission of Chabad, and encouraged the creation of Lubavitch centers and Chabad Houses all over the world. During the Rebbe’s more than 40 years of leadership, he became one of the most beloved and recognized religious leaders in the world, primarily due to the Rebbe’s love for every fellow Jew, and his tremendous charisma and brilliance. He created “mitzvah campaigns” to educate the masses of Jews devoid of any Jewish knowledge. Under the Rebbe’s leadership, Chabad, and its growing army of shluchim (emissaries), placed in cities and on campuses world-wide, stressed 10 areas of Jewish life: women lighting Shabbat candles, men laying tefillin, placing a mezuzah on one’s doors, studying Torah, giving tzedakah (righteous charity), collecting Jewish books, observing kashrut (the dietary laws), loving one’s fellow Jews, committing to Jewish education of children and observing the laws of family purity.

On March 2, 1992, while praying at his father-in-law’s gravesite, Rabbi Schneerson suffered a stroke that paralyzed the right side of his body, and prevented him from speaking. He passed away two years later on June 12, 1994, corresponding to the 3rd of Tammuz. His burial site, adjacent to that of his father-in-law, has become a pilgrimage site for tens of thousands of Jews, who come to pay respects to one of the generation’s most pious, successful and visible Jewish leaders. The entire burial area has become a holy space reserved for prayer and contemplation.

May the Rebbe’s memory be a blessing!

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