The Rebbe

Short biography

On Nissan 11, 5662 (1902), in Nikolayev, Russia, Menachem Mendel was born to the Kabbalistic Torah Scholar Rabbi Levi Yitzchak and his wife Rebbetzin Chana Schneershon. Later on, the son grew up to be known as the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson Zatza”l, is the seventh leader in the Chabad dynasty. For tens of thousands of his chassidim, and millions of admirers, he – the “Rebbe”, is the most dominant Jewish figure of our generation, and the one who caused the greatest Jewish awakening in the world.

From an early age, he showed tremendous intellectual capabilities and, by the time he reached the age of Bar Mitzvah, he was already considered a great prodigy in the study of Torah. One of the well-known stories from the Rebbe’s childhood years: When he was 9 years old he dived into the Black Sea to save a little boy who was drowning in the sea. Along with his greatness in Torah, even then the Rebbe noticed every drowning soul, and hurried to save them.

In 1929, the Rebbe married Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, the daughter of the previous Rebbe in the Chabad dynasty. The Rebbe and the Rebbetzin were married for 59 years until the Rebbetzin’s death on Shvat 22 5748 (1988). The Rebbe and the Rebbetzin had no children.

After his wedding, the Rebbe studied at the University of Berlin, and later on at the Sorbonne in Paris. During these years, it seems that the Rebbe’s knowledge of mathematics, medicine and science also began to flourish.

With great miracles, in 1941, the Rebbe survived the terrible Holocaust in Europe and arrived in the United States. Immediately on his arrival, the Rebbe began to spread Torah and Judaism throughout America and the entire world. During those years, the Rebbe also wrote profound Torah essays, which when published aroused immense admiration among Torah scholars from all over the world.

On Shvat 10 5710 (1950), after many pleas from thousands of chassidim, the Rebbe accepted the leadership of the Chabad movement. Within a short time, many Chabad institutions developed around the world, on an unprecedented scale. In accordance with the directives issued by the Brooklyn-based Chabad Center, the spreading of Judaism reached new heights, and Chabad houses were opened in thousands of countries, cities, campuses, and neighborhoods.

On Monday, March 2 1992, while praying by the resting place of his father-in-law, the Rebbe suffered a stroke. A little over two years later, during the early morning hours of Tammuz 3 5754 (June 12, 1994) the Rebbe’s soul ascended to the heavens, leaving a whole nation in mourning.

The Rebbe expresses spirituality in the world and provides a bridge to ascend and connect to G-d. Just as the head elevates all the other parts of the body, so the Rebbe raises everyone to a higher spiritual level and as the acronym of Rebbe reveals – he is the Rosh Bnei Israel.

The Rebbe embodied a special combination of features, and each feature in itself deserves to be highlighted and appreciated. He was an immense genius in all parts of the Torah, who discovered new depths in the treasury of Jewish thought. He was a highly educated man, versed in all aspects of the world with rare leadership ability, that inspired hundreds of thousands of people to reach their full potential. He was a visionary, who knew how to properly evaluate processes and look into the future. Deep in his heart, he held tremendous love for every Jew and the small problems of the common man occupied him completely. His pleasant ways, impressive stature and heart-piercing eyes.

His radiant figure continues to accompany the Jewish nation even now. His teachings and leadership are a torch of fire that illuminates our way. The world of Shlichus and the Chabad houses he founded continue to illuminate the world – and so does the Chabad House of Ramat Beit Shemesh Gimmel, established under the Rebbe’s leadership and acting according to his directives – to lead the neighborhood, the city and the world towards the ultimate goal – the true and complete redemption speedily in our days!

Short stories

Feeling Every Jew

Ephraim Steinmetz, a businessman from Caracas, Venezuela, relates the following story:

Every time I visited the United States, I would call the Rebbe’s secretary and set a time for a private audience. Once, in the seventies, I called the office as usual, but the chief secretary, Rabbi Hodakov, asked me to give up the privilege this time. “Many people are waiting to meet with the Rebbe, and the Rebbe is tired,” he said. “I know you love him and do not want to bother him”…

“Of course I don’t want to bother him,” I said, “but I am traveling in a week to Japan, please ask for the Rebbe’s blessing.” Rabbi Hodakov took my flight details and promised to ask for the Rebbe’s blessing. I was supposed to travel first to my parents for Shabbat, from there to continue to San Francisco and then to switch a plane to Japan.

When I arrived at the airport in San Francisco, moments before I boarded the plane, I heard on the airport’s announcements system: “Mr. Steinmetz, you have a phone call.” Surprised, I went over to the phone and there I heard… Rabbi Hodakov.

“How did you know I’m here?” I wondered. Rabbi Hodakov explained that he knew I was visiting my parents, he called Chicago and my father told him I was on my way to Japan.

“Please give me the address where you will be staying in Japan,” Rabbi Hodakov requested. “I have a package for you.”

I gave him the address and he said, “You have the Rebbe’s blessing, may you have a good trip and a lot of success.”

When I arrived in Kobe Japan, the package was already waiting for me. It was a package from the Rebbe and inside it was a prayer book (siddur) and a book of Tanya, with a note stating that I should give it to someone who would need them. So what does one do with a Siddur and Tanya in a Japanese city? I took them to the synagogue.

At the synagogue, I met a good friend I knew from Venezuela. His name is Ben David, he was a pearl merchant who had arrived in Japan to buy pearls. He was happy to meet me.

Then he asked, “What do you have in your hand?”

I opened the package and showed him, and then he started crying.

It turned out that he has a regular custom, from a young age, of learning every day the daily portion of Tanya. He has been in town for already six weeks but he forgot the Tanya in Venezuela. “I called my son, he promised to send me the book but the package has not arrived yet.”

“The Rebbe saw my sorrow and sent me a Tanya book!” he said.

In Miami you can see the Western Wall

Bentzion Rader relates: In 1967, before the Six Day War, the Rebbe initiated what later became the first of the “Ten Mitzvah Campaigns” – a tefillin-laying campaign for every Jew. At that period, an acquaintance asked me why the Rebbe chose the commandment of tefillin. “Why not a more universal mitzvah, like keeping kosher?” He asked.

Later on that year when I met the Rebbe for a private audience (“Yechidus”) I asked him my acquaintance’s question. He replied that there were two reasons for his choice. One reason is, that the Talmud states that once a Jew puts tefillin on his head – even once and only in his life – he rises to a higher level in his Judaism. The second reason the Rebbe gave was: “When a Jew in Miami sees pictures of Jews at the Western Wall putting on tefillin, he feels an urge to put on tefillin himself.”

In 1974, I received a phone call from an American who had done business in England many years ago, and was a client of my accounting firm. This person now lived in Miami, and he wanted me to fly there to meet with his accountant and discuss some business details. Can I come to Miami for a meeting?

I agreed and a few weeks later, I flew to Miami. I landed late at night and we arranged to meet for breakfast the next day. In the morning, my client’s partner feared that I might wake up late because of the late hour I landed, and arrived at the hotel to wake me up. He knocked on the door, and when he didn’t receive any answer – I was in the middle of praying and couldn’t stop – he opened the door and saw me wrapped in a tallit and wearing tefillin. He said nothing and left the room.

After praying, I traveled to the restaurant where we had arranged to meet. Everyone sat down to eat breakfast but I only drank orange juice. The accountant – who was Jewish – was surprised to hear that I only eat kosher food. The partner went on to say that in the early hours of the morning, he saw me “wearing a long cloth with boxes on his head and arm”.

“You put on tefillin”? the American accountant asked.

“Yes!” I replied. “And you don’t?”

“I haven’t put on tefillin since my bar mitzvah in New York about fifty years ago,” he said. “But recently I saw a photograph of Jews at the Western Wall putting on tefillin and I felt an urge to put on tefillin myself.”

Almost the same words the Rebbe had told me over seven years ago.

After the meeting he put on tefillin in my room.

The Rebbe's Ohel

Politicians and military personnel, authors and intellectuals, ordinary Jews and even non-Jews, found in the Rebbe an address for their questions and ideas, and sought his advice and blessings. The Rebbe received hundreds of letters every day.

Even after his passing, thousands of letters continue to arrive. Even those who cannot reach the Rebbe’s Ohel personally, send that which lies upon their hearts by fax or email. The letters are printed and placed on the Rebbe’s holy resting place, without anyone seeing what is written in them.

Write whatever you desire, and mention your full Jewish name and your mother’s name (for example, Yaakov son of Rebecca, Dina daughter of Leah).

Email Address: ohel@ohelchabad.org
Fax number: 718-723-4444
Office phone: 718-723-4545

You can also write to the Rebbe using this form >

Writing to the Rebbe

The letter is sent directly to the Rebbe’s Ohel, printed there and placed on the Holy resting place
The content of the letter remain confidential and no one sees it

לתרומת זכר למחצית השקל