Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson
Russian-born rabbi (b. April 14, 1902, Nikolayev, Russia [now in Ukraine]--d. June 12, 1994, New York, N.Y.)
He was a towering figure in Orthodox Judaism and for 44 years the charismatic spiritual leader of the New York-based Lubavitch Hasidic movement. He built a religious empire from the remnants of a Russian flock, whose numbers had been decimated to a few thousand by the Holocaust, into a powerful following of some 200,000 believers worldwide. Schneerson attracted members by using several strategies: converted campers (dubbed "mitzvah tanks") that served as recruitment centres canvassed New York City; toll-free telephone numbers, satellite television hookups, and faxes of Talmudic disquisitions were made available; full-page newspaper advertisements were published; and Schneerson himself, a mesmeric figure with piercing blue eyes and a flowing white beard, dispensed blessings and a crisp new dollar bill to each Sunday morning visitor. A Sorbonne-educated scholar, Schneerson became the seventh Lubavitcher grand rabbi in 1950 following the death of his father-in-law. Schneerson, though he had not traveled beyond Crown Heights, Brooklyn, the site of the Lubavitch World Headquarters, in 37 years, had a strong influence on Israeli politics, both within the Knesset (parliament) and among the electorate. Because many of his followers revered Schneerson as the potential Messiah, his death caused great consternation, especially when his hoped-for resurrection failed to take place. He was childless and did not designate a successor.
23 July 2004
Russian Nikolayev, also spelled Nikolaev, or Nikolajev, city and administrative centre of Mykolayiv oblast (province), southern Ukraine. The city lies along the estuary of the Southern (Pivdennyy) Buh River, about 40 miles (65 km) from the Black Sea. It was founded in 1788 as a naval base after the Russian annexation of the Black Sea coast, near the site of the ancient Greek Olbia. In 1862 a commercial harbour was opened, and in 1873 a railway was built to the port. It is now one of the most important Ukrainian Black Sea ports, serving the Kryvyy Rih area and extensive steppe grain lands. Mykolayiv is one of the largest shipbuilding centres of Ukraine. The city also has a wide range of other engineering and consumer-goods industries. An alumina-processing plant utilizing imported bauxite was built in the 1970s in the suburb of Zhovtneve. Mykolayiv is a modern city in appearance, laid out on a gridiron pattern of broad streets. The city has shipbuilding and teacher-training institutes. Pop. (1993 est.) 519,000.
23 July 2004
On January 17, 1951, the Rebbe formally accepted the leadership of Chabad-Lubavitch by delivering the traditional maamar (discourse of Chassidic teaching) at a gathering marking the first anniversary of his father-in-law’s passing. On that occasion, the Rebbe said (free translation):
Here in America people like to hear things expressed in the form of a "statement"--preferably a provocative and shocking statement. I don't know if this is the best approach, but as our Sages have said, "When you come to a city, do as its custom."'
The three loves--love of G-d, love of Torah and love of one's fellow--are one. One cannot differentiate between them, for they are of a single essence. And since they are of a single essence, each one embodies all three.
This is our "statement": If you see a person who has a love of G-d but lacks a love of Torah and a love of his fellow, you must tell him that his love of G-d is incomplete. And if you see a person who has only a love for his fellow, you must strive to bring him to a love of Torah and a love of G-d--that his love toward his fellows should not only be expressed in providing bread for the hungry and water for the thirsty, but also to bring them close to Torah and to G-d.
When we will have the three loves together, we will achieve the Redemption. For just as this last Exile was caused by a lack of brotherly love, so shall the final and immediate Redemption be achieved by love for one's fellow.
At that gathering, the Rebbe also laid down what was to become the leitmotif of his teachings and activities: that ours is the generation entrusted with the task of bringing to fruition the very purpose of creation, which Chassidic teaching defines as “making a dwelling for G-d in the physical world.” Ours is the generation, said the Rebbe, which will herald the Age of Moshiach--the era of goodness and perfection which is the end-goal of man’s millennia-long effort to bring to light the divine image in which he was created.
Told by the Rebbe, Summer 1962 (free translation)
The fifth Rebbe of Chabad, Rabbi Sholom DovBer, was once asked: "What is a Chassid?"
Replied the Rebbe: "A Chassid is a lamplighter. The lamplighter walks the streets carrying a flame at the end of a stick and goes from lamp to lamp to set them alight. He knows that he is not giving the lamp anything that it does not already possess--he is only revealing its potential for light."
"What if the lamp is in a desert?" asked the disciple.
"Then you must go and light it. And when you light a lamp in a desert, it will cease to be a desert."
"What if the lamp is at sea?"
"Then you must dive into the sea, and go light the lamp."
"But Rebbe, I do not see the lamps!"
"Because you are not a lamplighter."
"How does one become a lamplighter?"
"Refine yourself, and you will see the lamp within your fellow."
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