chabad hasidism

Chabad

Chabad-Lubavitch is one of the largest Hasidic movements in Orthodox Judaism, and is based in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. Chabad (חב"ד ) is a Hebrew acronym for Chochmah, Binah, Da'at (חָכְמָה, בִּינָה, דַּעַת ) meaning Wisdom, Understanding, and Knowledge. Lubavitch is the only extant branch of a family of Hasidic sects once known collectively as the Chabad movement; the names are now used interchangeably.

The movement took its name from Lyubavichi, the Russian town which served as the movement's headquarters for over a century. It has over 200,000 adherents, and up to a million Jews attend Chabad services at least once a year. Its adherents follow Chabad traditions and prayer services based on Lurianic kabbalah. As "Hasidim", they follow the Chassidus of Israel ben Eliezer.

Founded in the late 18th century by Shneur Zalman of Liadi, Chabad-Lubavitch has had seven leaders or rebbes. Menachem Mendel Schneerson succeeded his father-in-law, Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn in 1950, becoming the seventh leader of the movement, a position he held until his death in 1994.

Today the movement runs thousands of centers around the world, Jewish community centers, synagogues and schools, providing outreach and educational activities for Jews.

Philosophy of Chabad

The founder of the Chabad philosophy, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, developed an intellectual system and approach to Judaism intended to answer criticisms of Hasidism as anti-intellectual. Through an approach based partly on Kabbalah, Chabad philosopy methodizes an understanding of God.

Chabad philosophy incorporates the teachings of Kabbalah as a means to deal with one's daily life and psyche. It teaches that every aspect of the world exists only through the intervention of God. Through an intellectual approach and meditations, Chabad teaches that one can attain complete control over one's inclinations.

In a break with early Hasidism, Chabad philosophy emphasises mind over emotions.

"Chabad"

According to Tanya the intellect consists of three interconnected processes: Chochma (wisdom), Bina (understanding), and Da'at (knowledge). While other branches of Hasidism focused primarily on the idea that "God desires the heart," Rabbi Shneur Zalman argued that God also desires the mind, and that without the mind the heart was useless. With the Chabad philosophy he elevated the mind above the heart, arguing that "...understanding is the mother of...fear and love of God. These are born of knowledge and profound contemplation of the greatness of God."

According to Jonathan Sacks, in Rabbi Shneur Zalman's system Chochma represents "the creation in its earliest potentiality; the idea of a finite world as was first born in the divine mind. Binah is the idea conceived in its details, the result of contemplation. Da'at is, as it were, the commitment to creation, the stage at which the idea becomes an active intention." While in Kabbala there are clearly delineated levels of holiness, in Chabad philosophy these are grounded in the mundanities of peoples inner lives. So in reality - according to the Chabad analogy - Chochma is the birth of an idea in the mind, Binah is the contemplation, and Da'at is the beginning of the actualisation of an idea. Sacks argues that this provided a psychological formulation that enabled the hasid to substantiate his mystical thoughts. "This was an important advance because bridging the gap between spiritual insight and daily behaviour had always been a problem for Jewish mysticism."

Chabad philosophy argues that man is neither static nor passive nor dependent on others to connect to God. Shneur Zalman rejected all ideas of aristocratic birth and elitism - he argued for meritocracy where all were capable of growth, every Jew - in his view - was capable of becoming a Tzaddik.

Chabad can be contrasted with the Chagat (Chesed, Gevurah, Tiferet) school of Hasidism. While all Hasidim have a certain focus on the emotions, Chagat saw emotions as a reaction to physical stimuli, such as dancing singing or beauty. Shneur Zalman, on the other hand, taught that the emotions must be led by the mind, and thus the focus of Chabad thought was to be Torah study and prayer rather than esotericism and song. As a Talmudist, Shneur Zalman endeavored to place Kabbalah and Hasidism on a rational basis. In his seminal work, Tanya, he defines his approach as "מוח שליט על הלב" ("the brain ruling the heart").

Tanya

Tanya, Shneur Zalman's moral magnum opus, is the first schematic treatment of Hasidic moral philosophy and its metaphysical foundations. The original name of the first book is Sefer Shel Beinonim, the "Book of the Intermediates." It is also known as Likutei Amarim--"Collected Sayings." Sefer Shel Beinonim analyzes the inner struggle of the individual and the path to resolution. The philosophy is based on the notion that man himself is not evil; rather, every individual has an inner conflict that is characterized with two different inclinations, the good and the bad.

Some have argued that Shneur Zalman's moderation and synthesis saved Hasidism from becoming a Jewish breakaway movement, keeping it within the fold. Avrum Erlich writes: "Shneur Zalman was instrumental in the preservation of Hasidism within mainstream Judaism. It allowed for some of the mystically inclined Hasidim to reacquaint themselves with traditional scholarship and the significance of strict halakhic observance and behavior, concerning which other Hasidic schools were sometimes less exacting. Shneur Zalman also provided the opportunity for traditionalists and scholars to access the Hasidic mood and its spiritual integrity without betraying their traditional scholarly allegiances.

Torah study

Shneur Zalman fought against the perception that was prevalent in the early years of Hasidism that the movement neglected Talmudic study by focusing too heavily on mysticism and obscurantism. He emphasized that mysticism without Talmudic study was worthless - even dangerous. Without Talmudic study, he argued, the mind could never be elevated - and if the mind is not elevated, the soul will starve. On the other hand, he argued that while Torah was to be the focus of all study, it was also important to integrate the Torah's teachings into one's life. In a letter to Rabbi Joshua Zeitin of Shklow, Shneur Zalman wrote: "The Hasidim, too, set aside time for study. The difference between them and the Misnagdim is this: the latter set time for study and they are limited by time, whereas the former make the Torah their path of life."

Shneur Zalman taught that Torah must be studied joyously - studying without joy is frowned upon. He provided a metaphor: when a mitzvah is fulfilled an angel is created. But if the mitzvah was joyless then the angel too will be dispirited. Thus, while Shneur Zalman emphasized that Hasidism focus on traditional Jewish scholarship rather than on mysticism, he was emphatic that this must be done with the zeal and joy.

Role of a Rebbe

In its earlier formulations, Hasidic thought elevated the Rebbe (Hasidic leader, in this context) to a level above that of typical person. A rebbe was closer to God, his prayers were more amenable to Him, and a Hasid should satisfy himself with attachment to the rebbe and hence indirectly to God. A rebbe was to be a living example of perfection and would concern himself with intellectualism on behalf of the followers. According to Sacks, Chabad stressed the individual responsibilities of every Jew: "The rebbe...became more of a teacher and adviser, recognising the vocation of each of his followers, guiding them towards it, uncovering their strengths, and rejoicing in their achievements." Shneur Zalman focused on training his followers to become spiritually self-sufficient and to turn to their respective rebbes for instructions rather than intercession with God, miracles or blessings, though he did not teach that a rebbe does not possess the same powers as taught in other groups.

Role of a Hasid

Hasidism traditionally demanded that every Hasid personally participate in the dissemination of Torah and Judaism to one's surroundings and seek out the benefit of one's fellow Jew. Rabbi Sholom Dovber Schneersohn said: A Hasid is he who surrenders himself for the benefit of another. Beyond this, Chabad demands pnimiyut (inwardness): one should not act superficially, as a mere act of faith, but rather with inner conviction.

M. M. Schneerson's philosophy

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson strove, in his writings and lectures, to attain unity between opposites. He aimed to unite the mundane aspects of the world with the aspect of "godliness" in the world. Schneerson emphasized the concept of creating an abode for God on this world. Consequently, he sought to unite the modern world with the teachings of Judaism. He felt that the world was not a contradiction to the word of God, and it was to be embraced rather than shunned.

Schneerson taught that modern technology is not a contradiction to spirituality. For that reason, Chabad has consistently utilized modern technology to spread Judaism and Jewish thought. Since their inception, Chabad has used the radio, and later television, satellite feeds, and the internet to spread their message.

Role of the rebbe

Schneerson emphasised Chabad's view of a rebbe as a "collective soul", connecting his disciples with God. In a letter written several months after the passing of his father-in-law and predecessor, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, Schneerson writes that the role of a Rebbe is to develop the minds and hearts and to stimulating the faith of his followers.

Politics

Schneerson took a very hawkish view of the Israeli-Arab conflict. He maintained that as a matter of Jewish law, any territorial concession on Israel's part would endanger the lives of all the Jews in the Land of Israel and is therefore forbidden. He also insisted that even discussing the possibility of such concessions showed weakness and would encourage Arab attacks, and thus endanger Jewish lives.

In USA domestic politics Schneerson supported government involvement in education, welcomed the establishment of the United States Department of Education in 1980, but insisted that part of school's educational mission was to inculcate in children the religious values inherent in the Seven Laws of Noah. He called for the introduction of a Moment of silence at the beginning of the school day, and for students to be encouraged to use this time for such improving thoughts or prayers as their parents might suggest.

Bringing the Messiah

Schneerson became infused with a drive to "accelerate the coming of the Messiah". With increasing frequency over four decades, he repeated that the Messiah's arrival was imminent. He instructed his followers to become active in kiruv - with the aim of educating non-orthodox Jews about orthodox Jewish practices. This approach to outreach became known as Ufaratzta (from Genesis 28:14), a Hebrew word meaning "you shall spread out" to implore his followers to bring the messianic times closer by spreading Jewish observance.

History of Lubavitch

The Rebbes of Lubavitch

The movement originated in Belarus in Eastern Europe, then part of Imperial Russia under the Tsars. Chabad traces its roots back to the beginnings of Hasidic Judaism.

  • Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi (1745–1812), was the youngest student of Rabbi Dovber of Mezeritch and founded the Chabad dynasty (he is known as the Alter Rebbe). He defined the direction of his movement and influenced Hasidic Judaism through his two most famous works the Tanya and the Shulchan Aruch HaRav. Tanya is primarily mystical and expounds upon the Zohar. The Shulchan Aruch HaRav is an authoritative work on Jewish law amongst hasidim. The names "Schneersohn" and "Schneerson" began as patronymics by Rabbi Shneur Zalman's descendants. The first form of this name was "Shneuri" (Hebrew for "of Shneur"). This was later changed to "Schneersohn".
  • Rabbi Dovber Schneuri (1773–1827), son of Rabbi Shneur Zalman. Known as the Mitteler Rebbe. He authored many famous works, which aimed to categorize and render accessible mystical pursuits, particularly the various states of meditation in prayer. His magnum opus Sha'ar HaYichud aims to systematically explain the concept of God's unity with the universe.
  • Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn (1789–1866), grandson of Rabbi Shneur Zalman and son-in-law of Dovber, known for his responsa named Tzemach Tzedek. He was a major hasidic posek of his time. He also edited and annotated many of the Alter Rebbe's works, as well as authoring a vast amount of his own mystical works. He was politically active in resisting the Haskalah in Russia, and to this end forged an alliance with Rabbi Yitzchok of Volozhin, a major leader of the misnagdim.
  • Rabbi Shmuel Schneersohn (1834–1882), youngest son of Rabbi Menachem Mendel, known as "The Rebbe Maharash". His most famous saying is Lechatchile ariber — don't bother trying to go around or under obstacles, go right over them. He was politically active in defending Jewish interests against antisemitic elements in the Tsar's government.
  • Rabbi Sholom Dovber Schneersohn (1860–1920), son of Shmuel, known as "the Rebbe Rashab". He is known for founding the Tomchei Temimim yeshiva network and his opposition to secular and religious political Zionism. His long essays on Chasidus (Ma'amorim) are classical Chassidic works, and are studied in all Chabad yeshivas as an introduction to Chasidus.
  • Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn (1880–1950), only son of Sholom Dovber, known as the "Rebbe Rayatz" or the "Frierdiker Rebbe" (Previous Rebbe). He was the first Lubavitcher Rebbe in the United States. Following the tradition of his predecessors, he wrote lengthy ma'amorim, but also dedicated much time to more basic ma'amorim suitable for beginners. He kept a diary in which he recorded Hasidic stories he had heard; many excerpts of this diary have been published, and these are a major source of knowledge about Hasidic history in general and Chabad history in particular.
  • Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (1902–1994), sixth in paternal line from Menachem Mendel and son-in-law of Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn. He was successful in expanding the ranks of Chabad and spreading Orthodox Judaism in general. Even after his death he is revered as the leader of the Chabad movement.

Shneur Zalman of Liadi was the founder of the Chabad school of Hasidism. He became involved in the early Hasidic movement. His background as a youth had been in traditional Talmud study rather than hasidism. He was a prominent and youngest disciple of Rabbi Dovber of Mezeritch, the principle disciple of the founder of hasidism appointed the Rabbi in the town of Liadi he gradually built up a following as the Rebbe in the town of Liozna. Over time Chabad branched out into a number of dynastic groups in towns such as Lubavitch, Lyady, and Kapost. Doctrinal differences between these groups were minimal. Since the early 20th century, the other dynasties have ended and Lubavitch alone remains as a cohesive group, and the terms "Habad" and "Lubavitch" are now frequently used interchangeably both within the movement and without.

Shneur Zalman of Liadi

The Alter Rebbe became not only the leader of his own hasidic movement but a prominent figure in Hasidim in general through his writings. He was the first to codify the philosophy of Hasidism in a comprehensive way and the first to put the customs and halacha of hasidism into book form. He was the most prominent exponent of Hasidism throughout his life, and his influence on the movement was profound. He directed the movement away from obscurantism and towards more traditional forms of study. Chabad as a school of thought changed Hasidism, and this gave the Chabad movement prestige.

He was twice arrested by the Russian authorities of suspicion of sedition or spying - the exact details remain contended to this day, although the accusations against him were certainly false.

He supported the Tsar against Napoleon in French invasion of Russia (1812) arguing that the emancipation of the Jews would lead to laxity in observance. His death in 1812, while fleeing from Napoleon left the question of succession open.

Dovber Schneuri

Schneuri moved with the followers who preferred him to the small border town of Lyubavichi. He established a Yeshiva in Lubavitch, one of the earliest Hasidic yeshivas.

Like his father he was the subject of an arrest in 1828. DovBer began a campaign (in 1822, or 1823) to urge Jews to learn trades and skilled factory work. He continued in his father's philosophical path, encouraging the study of kabbalah alongside traditional halachic texts. He served as the Rebbe for 15 years, dying in 1827.

Menachem Mendel Schneersohn

Dovber's daughter, Chaya Mushka, born in 1789, married her first cousin, Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, a grandson of the Alter Rebbe (also born 1789) in 1806, and he became the prime candidate for succession upon Dovber's death. Other candidates included Dovber's son, Menachem-Nachum Schneuri and Dovber's brother-in-law, Schneur Zalman's son-in-law Chaim-Avraham Boruchovitch. Menachm Mendel became Rebbe in 1831 after a 3 year succession struggle, becoming known as the Tzemach Tzedek, the title of his reponsa, which in Hebrew is also the numerical equivalent of Menachem Mendel. He was active in the opposition of the Haskalah (enlightenment Jews). In retaliation, the maskilim slandered him to the government several times between 1840-1842. However his services to the crown earned him the title "hereditary honored citizen". He served as Rebbe for 25 years until his death in 1866. He is buried in Lubavitch.

Shmuel Schneersohn

Shmuel Schneersohn, the seventh son of Menachem Mendel, took over for his father following his death and served as Rebbe of the movement until his own death in 1882. As a leader of a prominent Hasidic grouping, he became active in fighting Anti-Semitic decrees and pogroms in Russia and beyond. He traveled widely to places such as St. Petersburg, Kiev, France and Germany to this end.

Sholom Dovber Schneersohn

Sholom Dovber Schneersohn, as the younger son of Shmuel Schneersohn, was not expected to succeed his father, his brother Zalman Aharon being the heir presumptive. Sholom Dovber rose to prominence interceding on behalf of the Jews in a number of issues including the May Laws, and was selected as Rebbe in 1892. In 1897 he established the Tomchei Temimim yeshiva.

He was a fierce critic of secular Zionism and a proponent of Jews taking on factory work and farming. He kept the Lubavitch movement out of the World Agudath Israel when it formed in 1912. He died in 1920, after 30 years of stewardship of Lubavitch.

Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn

Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, only son of Sholom Dovber took charge of the movement on the death of his father and led it until his death in 1950. He fought the Bolsheviks attempting to preserve Jewish life in Russia. In 1927 he was arrested and imprisoned in the Spalerno prison in Leningrad, and sentenced to death for spreading Judaism. After international protests his life was spared and he went on a world tour in the early 1930s. He returned to Warsaw in 1934, disillusioned with the secularism of the United States. He stayed in Warsaw with his Hasidim through 1940 and the capture of the city by the Nazis. A desperate struggle to save his life ensued. Ultimately he was granted diplomatic immunity, and arrived in New York in March 1940, reputedly with the help of Admiral Wilhelm Canaris. Most of the Chabad Yeshiva system was destroyed by Bolshevik governments and the Nazi invasion in 1941, and many of its students were killed.

His ten years in New York saw the seeds of Lubavitch emissary work, and its messianic drive that was later taken on by his son-in-law and successor Menachem Mendel Schneerson. In 1948, on his instruction Kfar Chabad was established in Israel.

Succession

He had three daughters, one married Mendel Hornstein, and died alongside him in the Holocaust. Another married Rabbi Shemaryahu Gurary and a third Chaya Mushka married Menachem Mendel Schneerson. Schneerson and Gurary became the candidates for succession on Yosef Yitzchak's death. After one year of declining to take over, Schneerson accepted leadership and turned the movement from a fairly prominent Hasidic sect into a large organization with a presence throughout the world.

Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who had been living in Berlin and Paris, France, since 1933, escaped from Paris via Nice in 1941 and joined his father-in-law in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, New York City. The worldwide headquarters of the Chabad movement is at 770 Eastern Parkway in the neighborhood of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and is referred to as "770" by Chabad adherents. Since assuming the mantle of leadership in 1951, aside from 2 short visits to the movement's upstate sleep away camp, and monthly visits to the gravesite of his predecessor, Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn in Queens, NY, the Rebbe never left Crown Heights until his passing in 1994.

Menachem Mendel Schneerson

On Menachem Mendel Schneerson's accession to the post of Rebbe a year after his father-in-law's death, he began turning the movement into a powerful force in Jewish life. His policies led to the establishment of Chabad institutions in over 900 cities around the world. He inspired many of his followers to dedicate their life's work to Chabad by talking of the impending messianic redemption.

His regular talk of the coming of the messiah-- and what some say are hints that he was to be the long promised saviour of the Jews-- led to the emergence of the idea that he was going to reveal himself as the messiah. This belief - first openly professed by Shalom Dov Wolpo in a 1984 book became commonplace within the movement in the years leading up to his death.

Schneerson's lack of offspring or a clear primary student exacerbated the messianism and his death in 1994 has led to a fundamental split in the Chabad movement between the messianists who believe that Schneerson is the messiah and the anti-messianists who either don't believe this, or believe that this should be a private belief.

The fragmentation in the movement from the top down into rival camps has not seriously impeded Chabad's activities around the world - indeed, it continues to open new institutions on a regular basis. However, the lack of the Rebbe's central authority has led to controversy within the movement as the competing faction vie for power and control. As of 2007 there are 3,300 Chabad institutions around the world. As of 2006 there were Chabad centers in 70 countries.

Current activities

Adherents

Chabad is currently thought to be the third or fourth largest Hasidic movement in Orthodox Judaism in terms of numbers of adherents, with only the Satmar, Ger, and Belz dynasties having more followers. There are over 200,000 adherents to the movement, and up to a million Jews attend Chabad services at least once a year.

Emissaries

Following the initiative of the sixth Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson spurred on the movement to what has become known as shlichus ("serving as an emissary [performing outreach]") after becoming Rebbe in 1950–1951. As a result, Chabad shluchim ("emissaries", sing. shliach) have moved all over the world with the stated mission of persuading non-observant Jews to adopt Orthodox Jewish observance. They assist Jews with all their religious needs, as well as with physical assistance and spiritual guidance and teaching. The stated goal is to encourage Jews to learn more about their Jewish heritage and to practice Judaism.

The movement, motivated by Schneerson, has trained and ordained thousands of rabbis, educators, ritual slaughterers, and ritual circumcisers, who are then accompanied by their spouses to many locations around the world. Typically a young Lubavitch rabbi and his wife, in their early twenties, with one or two children, will move to a new location, and as they settle in will raise a large family who as a family unit, will aim to fulfill their mandate of bringing Jewish people closer to Orthodox Judaism and encouraging gentiles to adhere to the Seven Laws of Noah.

Chabad Houses

A Chabad House or Center is a form of Jewish community center under their own religious auspices, often serving as the nerve center of all the educational and outreach activities of a shliach (emissary) rabbi and his colleagues or allies in any given community. Often until the community can support the building of its own building for a Chabad house, the "Chabad House" is located in the shliach's home, with the living room being used as the "synagogue". The term "Chabad House" originated in California with the creation of the first such outreach center on the campus of UCLA by Rabbi Shlomo Cunin.

The centers are informal in setup. They primarily serve both educational and observance purposes. Effort is made to provide an atmosphere in which the nonobservant will not feel intimidated by any perceived contrast between their lack of knowledge of Jewish practice and the advanced knowledge of some of the people they meet there.

Numbers

As of 2007 there are 3,300 Chabad institutions around the world. As of 2006 there were Chabad centers in 70 countries.

Pre-School -

Outreach activities

Mitzvah campaigns

The Rebbes of Chabad have issued the call to all Jews to attract non-observant Jews to adopt Orthodox Jewish observance, teaching that this activity is part of the process of bringing the Messiah. Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson issued a call to every Jew: "Even if you are not fully committed to a Torah life, do something. Begin with a mitzvah - any mitzvah - its value will not be diminished by the fact that there are others that you are not prepared to do".

Schneerson also suggested ten specific mitzvot that he believed were ideally suited for the emissaries to introduce to non-observant Jews. These were called "mivtzoim" - meaning "campaigns" or "endeavors." These were: lighting candles before Shabbat and the Jewish holidays by Jewish women; putting on tefillin; affixing a mezuzah; regular Torah study; giving Tzedakah; purchasing Jewish books; keeping kosher; kindness to others; Jewish education, and keeping the family purity laws.

In addition, Schneerson emphasized spreading awareness of preparing for and the coming of the Jewish messiah, in line with his philosophy. He wrote on the responsibility to reach out to teach every fellow Jew with love, and implored that all Jews believe in the imminent coming of the Messiah as explained by Maimonides. He argued that redemption was predicated on Jews doing good deeds, and that gentiles should be educated about the Noahide Laws. Chabad has been a prime force in disseminating awareness of these laws.

He was emphatic about the need to encourage and provide strong education for every child, Jew and non-Jew alike.

Camps

Chabad has set up an extensive network of camps around the world, most using the name Gan Israel, a name chosen by Schneerson for the first overnight camp. There are 1,200 sites serving 210,000 children—most of whom do not come from Orthodox homes. Of these, 500 camps are in the United States.

Campus

In recent years Chabad has greatly expanded its reach on university and college campuses. Chabad Student Centers are active on over 100 campuses, and Chabad offers varied activities at an additional 150 universities worldwide. Professor Alan Dershowitz has said that "Chabad’s presence on college campuses today is absolutely crucial", and "We cannot rest until Chabad is on every major college campus in the world".

Publishing

Distribution of Jewish religious literature. Kehot Publication Society (the Chabad publishing house) has promoted this by translating books into 12 languages, providing books at discounted prices, and hosting book-a-thons.

Fundraising

Funds for activities of a Chabad center rely entirely on the local community. Chabad centers do not receive funding from Lubavitch headquarters. For the day to day operations, local emissaries do all the fundraising by themselves. The monies fundraised in the local community is invested in that local community. The emissary takes a minimum salary and seldom goes on vacation. Sue Fishcoff writes: "Emissaries in the field may sink millions of dollars into their center, synagogues and Mikvahs, but their own homes are modest, again patterned after their Rebbe's lack of personal ostentation.

Influence

Chabad pioneered the post-World War II outreach movement which spread Judaism to many assimilated Jews worldwide, leading to a substantial number of baalei teshuva ("returnees" to Judaism). The very first Yeshiva/Rabbinical College for such "baalei teshuva", Hadar Hatorah was established by the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Chabad was also one of the first Jewish outreach organizations to use the World Wide Web as an outreach tool.

Chabad followers have had a notable influence on Jewish entertainment. Composer and rabbi Shlomo Carlebach began his outreach work as a representative of Chabad (he later moved away from the movement), Avraham Fried is also an adherent.

According to Steven I. Weiss, Chabad's ideology has dramatically influenced non-Hasidic Jews' practice with regard to Jewish outreach issues.

Customs

Chabad has specific minhagim ("customs") that distinguish it from other Hasidic groups. For example, they do not wear the fur hats common among other hasidim. Until the 1950s, most wore the Russian kasket; now most wear a black fedora. Almost all American Chabad Hasidim pronounce Hebrew according to the Lithuanian dialect. However, many native Israeli Chabad Hasidim pronounce Hebrew according to the Modern Israeli Hebrew dialect. Like many other Hasidic groups, Chabad attaches importance to singing Hasidic nigunim ("tunes"), usually without words, and following precise customs of their leaders.

Controversies

Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi was twice arrested by the Russians on trumped up charges, and later opposed Napoleon's emancipation of the Jews. The conduct of the sixth Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn during the Second World War was criticised by some scholars and some contemporaries. Some interpretations of its seventh leader, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson's theology has been controversial; became active in Israeli politics and was criticised heavily by Rabbi Elazar Shach for his messianic focus. Chabad messianism, the belief that Schneerson is the messiah and will return or that he never even died has led to some friction within the Chabad community. Since his death in 1994 some members of the movement have been in conflict. Financial battles have been ongoing between these factions since 1995, and the contested control over the headquarters in Brooklyn has led to strife.

Naming

In the seminal Hasidic work, Tanya, Shneur Zalman of Liadi defines "Chabad Hasidism" as "מוח שליט על הלב" ("mind ruling over the heart/emotions"). Chabad Chasidism considers this emphasis to make it fundamentally different from other forms of Hasidism, which are referred to as "Chagas"; this acronym refers to the emotional attributes of Chesed ("kindness"), Gevurah ("power"), and Tifereth ("beauty"), and implies that relatively speaking other Chasidic groups place a lesser emphasis on intellectual comprehension of Chasidic philosophy than that found in Chabad teaching.

Chabad

Chabad is sometimes written as Habad in English and in all the phonetic equivalents of the name in all the countries they operate in. Thus, as an example, Jabad is the Spanish form, particularly important to the Jews of Latin America, most notably Argentina, which has the largest concentration of Spanish-speaking Jews anywhere in the world and therefore has a large Lubavitch presence as well.

Lubavitch

Lubavitch is a small town now in Smolensk Oblast, Russia, (then Imperial Russia). The name of the town means "city of love, and Menachem Mendel Schneerson taught that this name symbolises the warm, loving approach of the movement. The movement was founded in Liozna, and then moved to Liadi, but it moved to Lubavitch after the Napoleonic War, and was based there for 102 years. In Hasidic Judaism, a dynasty normally takes its name from the town in Eastern Europe where it was based.

Notes

Further reading

  • Feldman, Jan L. Lubavitchers As Citizens: A Paradox of Liberal Democracy, Cornell University Press, 2003 (ISBN 0-8014-4073-4)
  • A Faith Grows in Brooklyn, photographs and text by Carolyn Drake. National Geographic February, 2006. For the online version click here.
  • Fishkoff, Sue. The Rebbe's Army: Inside the World of Chabad-Lubavitch, Schocken, 2003 (ISBN 0-8052-4189-2)
  • Hoffman, Edward. Despite All Odds: The Story of Lubavitch. Simon & Schuster, 1991 (ISBN 0-671-67703-9)
  • Jacobson, Simon. Toward A Meaningful Life: The Wisdom of the Rebbe, William Morrow, 2002 (ISBN 0-06-051190-7)
  • Ehrlich, Avrum M. Leadership in the Habad Movement: a Critical Evaluation of Habad Leadership, History, and Succession, Jason Aronson, 2000. (ISBN 076576055X)
  • Lessons in Tanya chabad.org (ISBN 0826605400)
  • Challenge: an encounter with Lubavitch-Chabad, Lubavitch Foundation of Great Britain, 1973 ISBN 0-8266-0491-9
  • Mindel, Nissan. The philosophy of Chabad. Chabad Research Center, 1973 (ISBN 082660417X)
  • Schneerson, Menachem Mendel. On the Essence of Chasidus: A Chasidic Discourse by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson of Chabad-Lubavitch. Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch, 2003 (ISBN 0-8266-0466-8)
  • Weiss, Steven I. "Orthodox Rethinking Campus Outreach", The Forward Jan. 20, 2006

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