Monday, 19 January 2009

Yahrtzeit of the Alter Rebbe - Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi - 24 Tevet

Yahrtzeit 24 Tevet

Born: 1745
Died: 1812 (24 Tevet)

Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liady was the first Rebbe of the Chabad Lubavitch dynasty. His father’s name was Baruch, and because of this his last name would become Baruchowitz (son of Baruch.) He was an exceptionally brilliant young man and it is told that his soul was a Neshama Chadasha – a new soul. This is a kabbalistic expression teaching the very high level of the soul which has no need to come to the world for perfecting itself in the normal sense of other souls which come to repair themselves in this world. For more information about the nature of the “new soul,” see the Arizal’s work Shaar HaGiglulim (Gate of Reincarnations) where he describes the different level of souls and their need for repair. 

For more information about the life of the Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s father Baruch and his teachers, see the previous Rebbi – Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak of Lubavitch’s “Lubavitcher Rabbi’s Memoirs.”

In this beautiful two volume work, one gets a view of the life of the hidden Tzaddikim and their efforts in bringing the Torah – including the hidden aspects – to the masses. 

The name Schneur is actually a combination of the two words “Shnei Ohr” – meaning “Two lights”. The Rebbi exemplified what this meant, because he became an authority in both the revealed Torah through his magnum opus in Halacha (Jewish law) – the Shulchan Aruch Harav, and through the hidden Torah (Kabbalah) in his work “Tanya” – a masterpiece that tells of the battle of the animal soul and the G-dly soul to be found inside the average person.

The Alter Rebbe’s son, who would take over the Nesius (the leadership of the Chabad movement) would become known as R’ Dov Ber Shneuri – because his father was named “Schneur”. All the descendants afterwards would become known as Schneerson (the son of Shneur.) 

The Alter Rebbe lived at the time when the great giant in Torah known as the Gaon of Vilna (Rabbi Eliyahu Kramer 1720-1797) lived. In fact, when the Alter Rebbe had spent some time learning already – he was faced with a decision of continuing his learning either from the leader of the Misnagdim (those opposed to the teachings of Chassidut) or from the leader of the Chassidim at the time – the Maggid of Mezritch – Rabbi Dov Ber, the student of the Baal Shem Tov. It is said that he made up his mind regarding to whom to turn, based upon just one point that entered his mind…

Rabbi Schneur Zalman was already an outstanding Talmid Chacham (great Torah sage) even in his early twenties (and before!) His question in continuing his progress in attaching himself to G-d revolved around the two areas – learning and prayer. Which was the better – learning or prayer?! Rabbi Shneur Zalman thought to himself – if I am interested in learning more – then I must travel to Vilna. If I am interested in learning how to pray, I must travel to the Maggid. Since I already know how to learn, I will turn my attention to learning how to pray. And with this, the Alter Rebbe made his path towards learning from the Great Maggid!

The Alter Rebbe would end up taking the reins (reign) of the main teachings of Chassidut as taught by the holy Baal Shem Tov. He would become the first of 7 Chabad Rebbes to live – all whose “soul” purpose was (is) to fulfil the ultimate blessing in the world of the bringing of Moshiach. In fact, this process began in great measure with the Baal Shem Tov, who was told by Moshiach himself, while on an ascent to heaven (Aliyat Neshama) that he (the Messiah) would come when the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov would spread outwards. This became the mission of the Baal Shem Tov, who passed it on to the Maggid, who passed it to the Alter Rebbe, who passed it continually onwards until it reached the 7th Lubavitcher Rebbe who put tremendous stress on doing everything we can to bring Moshiach RIGHT NOW!

To understand more about the Alter Rebbe would take many books. A brief posting as this can do no more than give this simple outline for the reader to think over.

Now, it is up to the reader interested in learning more to begin the process of learning just who this special soul was (is), what his teachings are, the legal and the mystical and to begin to understand G-dliness as taught through the teachings of the holy Baal Shem Tov.

Should you wish to learn more of the Alter Rebbe’s teachings, or more about the Alter Rebbe, do be in touch with Rav Eliyahu directly

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