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3****Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson
Born: Nikolayev, southern Ukraine 1902
Died: New York, 1994

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the leader -"the Rebbe"- of the Lubavitch movement of Chassidic Judaism for forty four years, was a paradoxical man.
While he barely set foot outside his neighborhood (Crown Heights - New York) during his entire leadership, his influence was felt worldwide. While he was considered one of the worlds foremost religious scholars, he was also recognized as a brilliant scholar in mathematics and science. While he appeared to be an Old World leader whose community was somewhat cloistered, he was thoroughly knowledgeable about the modern world and reached out enthusiastically to society at large, to Jew and non-Jew alike, encouraging the pursuit of virtuousness education, and unity.
Menachem Mendel Schneerson was born on the eleventh day of Nissan. His father, Rabbi Levi Yitzchock Schneerson, was a renowned scholar, his mother, Rebbitzen Chana Schneerson, was an aristocratic women from a prestigious rabbinic family. He had two younger brothers, Dovber and Yisroel Aryeh Leib.. When Menachem Mendel was five years old, the family moved to Yakaterinoslav, now Dnepropetrovsk, where his father was appointed chief rabbi.

From early childhood, Menachem Mendel displayed prodigious mental acuity,
leaving school for private tutoring. By the time he reached bar mitzva, he
was considered a Torah prodigy, and during his teenage years, he immersed
himself in the intricacies of Torah study. In 1923, he met Rabbi Yosef
Yitzchock Schneerson - then the Lubavitcher Rebbe- who drew him into his
inner circle giving him various responsibilities; five years later, in
Warsaw, he married the Rebbe's second eldest daughter, Chaya Mushka
(1901-1988).

A short while later, the couple moved to Berlin, where Rabbi Menachem Mendel
had already begun studying mathematics and science at the University of
Berlin, Because of the Nazi rise, the young Rabbi and his wife left Berlin in
1933 for Paris, and he continued his studies at the Sorbonne. Primarily,
however, he immersed himself in prayer and religious study, and was referred
to by his father-in-law on various matters, including the preparation of
Lubavitch publications. He also served as his father-in-law's private
secretary and traveled on his behalf to visit various Jewish leaders in
Europe.

When the Nazis occupied Paris, the couple was forced to escape the city. On
June 23, 1941 they arrived in New York, where Rabbi Yosef Yitzchock
Schneerson appointed his son-in-law head of Lubavitch's educational arm, as
well as the movements social-service organization and its publishing house.

In 1950, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchock passed away. Although Rabbi Menachem Mendel
was the obvious successor, he was initially reluctant to accept the mantle of
leadership. A year later he formally assumed the title of Rebbe, explaining
to members of the movement that while he would be devoted to his work as
leader, each man and women was ultimately responsible for his or her own
actions, and for his or her pursuit of G-dliness.

The ensuing forty-four years of the Rebbe's leadership saw Lubavitch grow
from a small movement nearly devastated by the Holocaust to a worldwide
community of 200,000 members. The Rebbe, recognizing the unique needs of the
current generation and anticipating the societal needs of the coming decades,
began to establish education and outreach centers, offering social-service
programs and humanitarian aid to all people, regardless of religious
affiliation or background. He established a corps of Lubavitch emissaries
(shluchim) and sent them out to build Chabad - Lubavitch centers worldwide,
to serve the spiritual and material needs of the local communities. Today
there are more than fourteen hundred Chabad-Lubavitch institutions in
thirty-five countries on six continents.

By blending his intense religious and secular training with deep compassion
and insight, the Rebbe quietly became a leader to whom other leaders - those
in politics, business, and religion - turned for advice. Beginning in 1986,
he would personally greet thousands of visitors each Sunday, distributing
dollar bills that were meant to encourage the giving of charity; many people
saved the dollar bills as a memento of their visit with the Rebbe, a
testament to being moved by his presence.

With the fall of communism and the miracles during the gulf war, the Rebbe
stated that these are heralding a time of peace and tranquillity for all
mankind, the time of Mashiach (messiah). To this end the Rebbe placed much
emphasis on the traditional Jewish teachings regarding the time of Mashiach,
placing great emphasis in the studying of these concepts. The Rebbe also oft
repeated the statement of our sages that through doing just one good deed we
can usher in the era of Mashiach. May it be speedily in our days.

In 1992, at the age of ninety, the Rebbe suffered a stroke; he passed away
two years later, on June 12, 1994. Shortly thereafter, a bill was introduced
in the US house of representatives to bestow on the Rebbe, the Congressional
Gold Medal. The bill passed both houses by unanimous consent, honoring the
Rebbe for his "outstanding and lasting contributions toward improvements in
world education, morality, and acts of charity".

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson
 A d d r e s s i n g   t h e   f o l l o w i n g   T o p i c s:

  JEWISH UNITY

One of the comprehensive mitzvot of the Torah is the mitzvah of ahavat
yisrael, the love for a fellow Jew, which is said to be a great principle of
Torah, and the bases of the entire Torah.  Essentially, the mitzvah points to
the unity of all Jews, as if they constitute a single entity.   As such, any
action by a Jew, whether negative or positive is consequential to the entire
Jewish people.  Certainly the fulfillment of mitzvot by any individual Jew
affords the Jewish people tremendous strength. Every Jew - wherever he or she
may find themselves, even a solitary Jew in the most remote corner of the
earth must remember that they are part of the whole Jewish people and
representatives of the entire Jewish people - the one people ever since the
Torah was given at Mt. Sinai, until the end of time.  The division of Judaism
into “Orthodox, Conservative, Reform,” etc. is artificial, for all Jews have
one and the same Torah, given by the one and same G-d, though there are more
observant Jews and less observant Jews.   To tag on a label does not, of
course, change the reality of Jewish essence If you find a Jew who has love
of G-d, but lacks love of Torah and the Jewish people, tell him that his love
shall not endure.   If you find a Jew who has love of the Jewish people but
no love for G-d or the Torah, work with him to fan that love, for he will
come to an enduring love of G-d, Torah and the Jewish people.

   
CHILDREN
Contrary to the conventional perspective which regards children as potential
human beings who do not reach their full worth until maturity, Jewish
tradition perceives children as worthy and deserving of our greatest
resources of time and energy to create an environment that is both physically
and spiritually nurturing for it is the children who embody the purity of
intent, sincerity, faith and enthusiasm for life. In America, most parents,
however well intentioned, have been more concerned about their children's
material, rather than spiritual, well being. Having themselves faced economic
hardships as immigrants or the children of immigrants, and having found that
religious conviction and principles not infrequently proved “restrictive” in
a materialistic society, they decided to do their utmost to shelter their
children from the economic hardships which they had experienced They were
thus primarily
interested in providing their children with careers and
professions and other means of economic security, leaving it to their
children to find their own way eventually, in regard to such things as
religion and a world outlook. However well meaning the parents may have been,
the result is the same.   It fostered a way of life where principles have
been sacrificed to expediency, and time honored traditions have been
relinquished for material gains, actual or imaginary….The bankruptcy of ideas
and ideologies have left many young people terribly disillusioned, morally
and spiritually.   A void has been created in their hearts and minds which
they do not know how to fill.

  FREE CHOICE
One of the main distinguishing features, which set man apart from all other
creatures, is the free choice of action, which the Creator bestowed upon him.
Man can use this Divine gift either for self-destruction and the destruction
of everything around him; or he can choose the right way of life, which would
elevate him and his environment to the highest possible perfection.

  
TIME
Time belongs to those things
over which man has no control or influence. Time
just stretches on and we can neither slow its march, nor speed it, nor can we
change its quantity and make an hour last more or less than sixty minutes.
But this is only superficially true. Actually, time holds out for us
possibilities not existing in other things.  For Time is like a vessel which
is highly elastic, with an infinite unlimited.  For Time is like a vessel
which is highly elastic, with an infinite absorptive capacity.  It has the
power of expanding or contracting, depending upon how much or little we put
into it.  We can fill our time with unlimited content, or waste it away, and
the very same unit of time may mean infinity to one, or shrink to nothingness
to another.  Its true measure varies in direct proportion to what is achieved
in it.

  
BODY AND SOUL
The human being is a composite of body and soul.  Consequently, all his
affairs and activities likewise contain elements of both body and soul- the
material and the spiritual.  One’s mundane and routine activities are
generally motivated by material and physical gain.  Yet the “soul” within
all these mundane affairs calls out for recognition- for the infusion of
these ordinary affairs with an awareness of greater objectives and a higher
purpose.  The giving of charity, and the support of Torah education for
Jewish children-these are the spiritual incentives that ought to motivate one
in his daily activities.Each one of us is a microcosm of all Creation. The
achievement of harmony between one's soul and one's material life, is the
achievement of harmony between the heaven and earth.

  
FAITH IN G-D
The intellect must service to uncover the inner absolute intuition and faith
in things which lie beyond the realm of the intellect: the faith and
intuition which are the heritage of every Jew, therewith to illuminate his
entire being and to guide him in his daily living to a life inspired by Torah
and mitzvoth. Faith in G-d,
is deeply engraved in the Jewish heart and soul;
all that is necessary is to bring it forth to the surface so that it
permeates the daily life in all its aspects.  This means that one ought
always to feel reassured and convinced that G-d will help overcome all
difficulties in life, both material and spiritual, since “G-d is my light and
my salvation”.  One must feel especially certain that they are able to carry
out their intended purpose in life, and to do so with joy, with the assurance
of G-d’s light, help and fortitude to carry out this mission.
 
 
ISRAEL
G-d enabled the Jewish people to live as sovereigns in the Holy Land, the
place of our forefathers - the land promised to the Jews by G-d. This reality
places a special burden and privilege upon Israel's citizens and its
government, to preserve the Jewish integrity of the country.  Its educational
system must be founded and inspired by Jewish values and the Jewish tradition
so that its citizens grow to be proud keepers of their Jewish heritage. In
its relations with other nations, those responsible for representing its
government in foreign affairs, must proudly assert its Jewish pride and
traditions, which is certain to enhance the esteem with which Israel will be
regarded.
Jewish law sets for the criteria necessary for Israel's peace and safety:
these can only be achieved from a position of military strength and secure
borders.  Any signs of strategic vulnerability are sure to encourage
terrorism in Israel and abroad.


   
EDUCATION
Education that is merely concerned
with the transmission of information is
doomed to failure. It must serve the greater and more noble purpose of
cultivating the student's moral character.  The development of a student's
mathematical skills, knowledge of history, science, etc., cannot be divorced
from his growth as a well-functioning and productive member of society.
It behooves us to acknowledge that children reared with a strong
consciousness of a G-d who watches over them and bids them to conduct their
lives with sensitivity, honesty, respect and compassion for others, have far
less difficulty checking their behavior against those criteria.
It is this consciousness
- sorely lacking today among our youth that must be
nurtured a priori, within each child, so that he knows even before he learns
to read and write, that there is “an eye that sees, and an ear that hears”,
observing all of our actions.  Certainly before a student maps out his or her
career path and financial future - she/he must have a strong awareness of
his/her responsibility to those around them, and of those precepts upon which
any functioning human society depends, as mandated by G-d, such as that “I
may not take what does not belong to me,” and that “I may not cover what
belongs to my friend.” Our reality, however, is sadly remote from this
ideal.  Eighty-four percent of America's children are educated in its public
schools.  Since the 1962 Supreme Court decision that formal recognition
within the public schools of a Supreme Being is unconstitutional, G-d has
effectively been eliminated from the cognitive experience of million of
children attending public schools.  Growing up to believe in G-dless world,
these children are deprived the opportunity to explore and fulfill their
innate potential to aspire to a higher kind of existence than is the norm
today.  

 
MARRIAGE
Love alone is not enough to sustain an eternal bond between husband and
wife.  It is their commitment to G-d and the dedication of their lives to the
eternal values that gives their union an eternal foundation upon which to
thrive.  By inviting G-d into their relationship, the union between man and
woman achieves a sacredness which is carried through to every aspect of their
lives.

 
HARMONY
The home should be perceived
as a microcosm of the universe: The harmony that
permeates the home and the family extends beyond, fostering harmony between
families, communities and ultimately, the nations of the world.  In the
absence of harmony between one’s own family, we can hardly expect to find
harmony between strangers.

 
THE ELDERLY
Ours is a society in which
one's value is too often measured in terms of
physical strength.  This has engendered feelings of uselessness among many
elderly, which in turn, contributes to depression.  The Torah perspective,
which prefers wisdom to physical strength as a measure of value, holds the
elderly in high esteem.  For it is with age and the experience of life that
one gains wisdom.  Whereas the physical strength of an aging person is
generally diminished, the faculties of the mind are enhanced.  It is for this
reason that the elderly must occupy and utilize their mental faculties, and
aspire to greater spiritual growth.  I advocate the establishment of learning
institutions for the elderly for this express purpose.  

  THE PHYSICALLY CHALLENGED
If an individual is handicapped, he or she is challenged by Divine Providence
to uncover hidden abilities and energies to overcome his/her handicap, and to
attain higher levels of achievement than others who are not similarly
handicapped. I strongly recommend a change in the term “handicapped ”- and
prefer the term “outstanding” or “excellent ones,” for it is their
excellence that enables them to transcend whatever physical limitations they
may have.

 
CHARITY
The giving of charity, which brings sustenance to a needy individual, is a
life sustaining act one that effectively allows us to imitate G-d, “the
animator of the living,” and provides each person with the noblest direction
in life - to “walk in His ways.”  The Hebrew word tzedaka, commonly
translated as “charity,” literally means “justice” or “righteousness.” 
‘Charity” connotes a generosity of spirit giving of the rich to the poor. 
Tzedaka, on the other hand, implies that one is fulfilling his/her
obligation, and giving not of one's own, but that which has been entrusted by
G-d to that individual, to give to others.  

  PRISON REFORM
The Torah enumerates and defines many forms of punishment for sinners and
convicted offenders, from simple fines to flogging and even capital
punishment.  Yet nowhere does it suggest incarceration as a form of
punishment.  This is simply because the purpose of existence is to establish
a G-dly abode in this world, which is accomplished  by utilizing our
individual, Divinely endowed strengths and talents in the service of G-d. 
With all other forms of punishment, the individual suffers the penalty, is
cleansed of his sin, and is then restored to freedom where he is expected to
resume a productive life in the making of a more G-dly world.
As a prisoner, however, one is denied the freedom to fulfill his Divinely
ordained mission, and hence, his reason for living.  This is the consequence
of the death penalty, a punishment which,  if warranted by Torah, is the only
atonement the offender can obtain.  However, to allow one to live, and yet to
deprive him of living, is inhumane.

 
SELF FULFILLMENT
If you see what needs
to be repaired and now how to repair it, then you have
found a piece of the world that G-d has left for you to perfect.  But if you
only see what is wrong and what is ugly, then it is you yourself that needs
repair. There are ethereal beings who bask in the Divine light of spiritual
worlds.  But it is human beings, who struggle with the darkness of a material
world who shall ultimately arrive at the Essence.  

 
THE POWER OF THE INDIVIDUAL
Let no one think:
“Who am I and what am I to have such tremendous powers of
building and destruction."” For we have seen, to our sorrow, what even a
small quantity of matter can do in the way of destruction through the release
of atomic energy.  If such power is concealed in a small quantity of matter -
for destructiveness, in denial of the design and purpose of Creation, how
much greater is the creative power entrusted to every individual to work in
harmony with the Divine purpose.  For in this case one is also given special
abilities and opportunities by Divine Providence to attain the goal for which
we have been created: the realization of a world of goodness and holiness.
People often perceive themselves in terms of their constraints as mortal
beings.  Yet there are times that call for transcendent actions.  One must at
times do more than they can possibly do.  For each mortal is endowed with a
G-dly soul - and G-d transcends mortal constraints.

  
REDEMPTION
All good actions unite to make the world as a whole progressively better. 
Even when a moral relapse seems very much in evidence, with many yet to
become wiser and more faithful, the world as a whole is essentially becoming
more purified with every passing year, everyday and every minute, for no
instant passes without many good deeds. The final redemption is no longer a
dream of the distant future, but an imminent reality.  This generation is the
final generation of exile and the first generation of redemption.

May the merit of the tzaddik
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson protect us all,
Amen!  

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