11 Ways The Lubavitcher Rebbe Forever Changed The World
This Saturday is the twenty-first Yahrtzeit, the anniversary of the passing, of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
Born in Nikolaev, Ukraine in 1902, the Rebbe’s life encompasses many of the epochs of the 20th century: The rise and fall of Communism, the Holocaust, modern Israel, the cultural revolution of the Sixties and the dawn of the age of the Internet.
What is more, the Rebbe believed that every person, regardless of their background, could be empowered as a conduit to spread goodness and kindness in the world. Together, those combined acts could illuminate the world, elevating it and bringing true transcendence.
While far from even a partial summary of the vast accomplishments of the Rebbe, the following is a glimpse at how the Rebbe, through his vision and the dedication of his emissaries in the Chabad movement, have forever changed the Jewish world.
1. Judaism in the public thoroughfare
Today Chanukah menorahs are a common site in the public sphere – from midtown Manhattan to the south lawn of the White House, from the Eiffel Tower in Paris to the beaches in Hawaii.
For centuries Jews were conditioned to keep their Judaism quiet. The Rebbe celebrated America’s freedom to serve G-d and brought not only Chanukah, but every holiday and almost every commandment to the public thoroughfare.
To be Jewish is not something that takes place in the synagogue, but along every step of life, spreading light and goodness to even the darkest places.
The Rebbe, however, clarified the importance of experience and interaction as the key to bringing these valuable lessons to future.
Instead of viewing children as merely unfinished adults, the Rebbe viewed the vigor, openness, and pursuit of truth among youth as a unique advantage they could teach and inspire world-weary adults. In the same vein, the Rebbe would dedicate special talks to children, engaging with their minds and hearts with the deepest secrets of the Torah.
From public rallies in the 1950s, the gamification of Jewish involvement with the Tzivos Hashem network in the 1980s, Shabbat meals on campus and beyond, the Rebbe understood that it was through action that the innate energy of youth could be catalyzed and focused, ultimately inspiring their elders as well.
The Rebbe was an orthodox rebel, a traditional radical. In the sixties, the rest of the Jewish Establishment looked on in disdain at what was happening to their youth and cried, “Student unrest! Hippies and Freaks! This is certainly a deranged and lost generation.”
The Rebbe’s approach declared, “Finally the iceberg of America is beginning to melt! Finally, its young people are demonstrating that conformity is not the sum of life’s goals! They have smashed the idols of false progress — they need now only be led back to the living waters of their heritage.”
4. The Power of the Feminine Soul
The Rebbe was once visited by an influential New York politician and his wife. Seeing that the wife, an accomplished lawyer in her own right, was silent in the conversation, the Rebbe turned to her and asked: “Why aren’t you saying anything? These are the days of women’s rights…”
When the world struggled with including women within the rubric of Jewish tradition, the Rebbe had already long empowered women to be leaders and thinkers, masters of Jewish future and bringers of light in the world.
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