Biography of Menachem Schneerson

Commentary by Dr. Gerhard Falk


The Rebbe

The Rebbe is a Yiddish expression  referring to Menachem Mendel Schneerson (1902-1994). Menachem Schneerson was indeed a Rabbi, as are  a good number of others. Therefore it would appear that merely using the phrase the Rebbe could refer to hundreds if not thousands of Jewish clergy. However.  Menachem Schneerson was so extraordinary a human being that the title Rebbe at once identified him and no one else.

This essay is gleaned from “The Rebbe: A Brief Biography,” which it appears on a  Chabad web site.

According to that biography, Schneerson was the seventh leader of the Lubavitch-Chabad dynasty, and has been designated as the most phenomenal Jewish personality of modern times.

Lubavitch is a town in White Russia. The name means city of brotherly love, like Philadelphia, which means the same thing in Greek. Chabad is an acronym consisting of three Hebrew words, Chochmah, or wisdom; Bimah, or understanding; and Dakat, or knowledge.

There are a few human beings whose intellectual capacity is so much greater than those of us who are merely ordinary women and men that we must concede that once in a while Shem Yisborach instills an intellect in a human being which seems beyond comprehension to us. Such was the capacity of Menachem Mendel Schneerson. When only 13 years old, having reached his bar mitzvah, the Rebbe was considered a Torah  prodigy.

He was married to the same woman for 60 years but had no children.

Menachem Schneerson studied at the University of Berlin as well as at the University of Paris, known by the name of its founder, Sorbonne. In these universities, he studied mathematics, majoring later in engineering. Rescued miraculously from the Nazi Holocaust, the Rebbe and his wife arrived in the United States on June 23, 1941, in the middle of the Second World War.

Once in the United States, the Rebbe disseminated Torah and Judaism, and founded three central organizations. These are: “Central Organization for Jewish Education”; a publication society, and a social service agency. Over the years, the Rebbe published a number of treaties, responsa on Torah subjects, and other publications which gave him immense recognition as a genius scholar.

Not satisfied with scholarship alone, he became the leader of the  Lubavitch movement after the death of his father.

He taught that every good deed brings humanity closer to the ultimate goal, that is, universal understanding of God and the role of cosmic perfection as Jews in the time of the Moshiach (The Rebbe never claimed to be the Moshiach. The word Moshiach means “smeared”).

Because of the Rebbe’s teaching and personality, the Chabad movement has become worldwide. The movement is a reflection of the Rebbe’s ability to know what tomorrow will bring and how to deal with the future. It is said of him, “he charted the course of Jewish history.” A man of encyclopedic knowledge, he spoke numerous languages and was proficient in science and mathematics as well. Most important was his teaching that no human being should be excluded from participating, in his outreach to every woman or man, adult or child, and even infants.

It is no exaggeration to say that this short essay cannot possibly do justice to the life of the man, who was far more than what can be displayed here. The Rebbe gave the world a new sense of purpose and gave our Jewish community the confidence needed to overcome the endless difficulties which we American Jews have caused ourselves.

I urge all of you who read this brief summary to read is much as you can about this exceptional leader of the Jewish people. His life was a blessing and his memory a gift from Shem Yisborach.

Shalom u’vracha.

Dr. Gerhard Falk is the author of numerous publications, including The Assault on Democracy (2017).

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