Chabad in America (part 1)
7 months ago Jessica Kiroff 0
From Haven to Home, the Chabad movement in America is by far one of the most prevalent and strongest of both American and Jewish movements. Under the influence of the Rebbe, the Lubavitch movement became sensational, being that the Lubavitch Jews came to America seeking a safe haven to practice their religion freely, but over the years became an influential power force in America. Rabbi Schneerson in his turn, as Ronald Reagan had said, was one of the few Americans who “promoted the deepest ethical values of our civilization.”
Constant oppression and the mistreatment of Jews in the Soviet Union resulted in the vast majority of European Jews being secular: The fear of getting in trouble for practicing Judaism led to many Jews practicing it in secret, which resulted in the following generation not knowing much about their religion. The few remaining religious Jews were exclusive in who they allowed to pray with them; Jews that weren’t raised in a Torah educated family didn’t stand a chance in being allowed to participate in prayers, partake in religious festivals, and couldn’t do simple mitzvot because they simply weren’t educated enough to do them until Rabbi Israel Ben Eliezer, or the Baal Shem Tov (the Master of the Good Name), came about and countered the prevailing Judaism of his day and consequently founded Chassidism.
“Love of God, love of Israel, and love of the Torah” were the three precepts the Baal Shem Tov lived by. His message was revolutionary and his followers broke out with many Jewish norms, all of which scared the Jewish establishment. Early Hasidim worked themselves into ecstatic states during prayer, which was a deviation of common Judaism among the vast majority of elites. In 1760, when the Baal Shem Tov died, he was succeeded by Rabbi Dov Ber of Mezritch. Rabbi Dov Ber systemized the Baal Shem Tov’s teachings and layed down the groundwork for the preservation of his predecessor’s revolution. Upon Rabbi Dov Ber’s death in 1773, the Hasidic movement split into many small sects throughout Eastern Europe, each led by its own rebbe. One of those rebbes was Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidism. The movement he founded was based off of his innovation to combine a rigorous method of Talmud study, a source from which Jewish code of law (or Halakhah) is derived from, to Hasidisms mystical teachings and emphasis on joyful devotion to God and is known by two names: Chabad (an acronym of the hebrew words chochmah, binah, and da’at) and Lubavitch (the Russian Town where four Chabad rebbes were based).
In 1929, the sixth rebbe of Chabad, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, married off his daughter, Chaya Mushka, to Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who became the seventh and last rebbe of Chabad. Shortly after getting married, the young couple moved to Berlin, Germany where Rabbi Schneerson began his studies on mathematics and science at the University of Berlin. Because of the massive Nazi rise in Berlin, the couple moved to Paris where Rabbi Schneerson continued his studies at the Sorbonne. But being that his father-in-law referred to him on many various matters, he primarily immersed himself in religious education and the preparation of Lubavitch publications. Despite their success in Paris, once the Nazis occupied it, the family was forced to escape the city. On Monday June 23, 1941 Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson and Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka arrived safely in the United states. The previous year, on March 19, 1940, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn had landed safely in the United States, being miraculously saved from the Nazis in Warsaw.
Upon landing in the United States, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn announced to his followers “America is no different”. Later on, on January 24, 1983, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson elaborated on what the former had meant. In his speech, Rabbi Schneerson said “It is well known in regard to my father-in-law, the rebbe, that immediately upon arriving here to the United States, one of the first things he proclaimed was that he was coming here to make known, to emphasize, inspire and encourage others that ‘America is no different’. Therefore, he continued, he would carry all his activities which he started back in Europe. Some people wonder: The rebbe’s coming to the United States was a result of being forced, by Divine Providence, to flee from the other side of the ocean from the Nazi government, etc. So why did he come here? Because America is different, and one here can be safe naturally without miracles.” (Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson’s speech on January 24, 1983) Being that America was a safe haven for European Jews, Rabbi Schneerson acknowledged that America was different from the Nazi-invaded Europe. On the other hand however, Rabbi Schneerson agreed with his father-in-law and explained that America isn’t different since the core purpose of Chabad stayed the same overseas. “When we look at this essential point, indeed, America is no different, it is exactly the same.”
After the sixth rebbe had died, in January 28, 1950, it was clear to the world that his successor was his son-in-law Rabbi Schneerson. Once he accepted his role, he labored ceaselessly. He continued his father-in-laws “revolution” by creating Chabad’s worldwide network of shlichim, or emissaries, who go out to many different regions of the world, some being more exotic than others (such as Shanghai or Nepal), and dedicate their lives to running Chabad operations.
To Be Continued…
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