Biography of the Rebbe Rashab

The Rebbe Rashab

Rabbi Sholom Dovber Schneerson (Rebbe RaShab) – (1860-1920)

A mystic of the highest order, the Rebbe Rashab authored the most comprehensive documents on mysticism to date, elegantly outlining the mystical infrastructure and its application to our lives. He wrote over 1500 discourses (‘maamorim’), totaling over 50 published volumes of teachings and responsa. Rabbi Sholom Dovber was a Rebbe – a leader – to thousands. He worked tireless on behalf of the Russian Jewish community during the difficult period of transition from Czarist Russia, through World War I, to the Russian Revolution. Recognizing the coming turmoil of the 20th century, in 1887 the Rebbe Rashab established Yeshiva Tomchei Temimim, dedicated to educating a new generation of young leaders to launch a spiritual revolution.

Biographical Highlights:1
1860: Born on 20 Cheshvan to the Rebbe Maharash and Rebbetzin Rivkah.
1875: Marries his cousin Rebbetzin Shterna Sara.
1880: Begins his work in public affairs.
1883: Begins guiding the Chassidim and accepts the post of Rebbe after the passing of his father in 1882.
1892: Endeavors to have the expulsion from Moscow rescinded; provides substantial financial subsidies to enable those expelled to settle in new places.
1893: Re-establishes the committee of communal affairs in Petersburg.
1897: Establishes Yeshivot Tomchei T’mimim.
1901: Visits Germany, France and Holland on communal concerns.
1902: Helps establish a factory for weaving and spinning wool, which provides 2,000 Jewish families with ample livelihood.
1904: Establishes committees to send matzot to Jewish soldiers in the Far East during the Russo-Japanese War.
1906: In Petersburg, successfully endeavors to halt the pogroms raging in Russia.
1911: Establishes Yeshivas Toras Emes in Chevron, Israel.
1915: Due to World War One, leaves Lubavitch and moves to Rostov, on the River Don.
1920: After Shabbat ends, on the eve of 2 Nissan, he passes away and is interred in Rostov. His only son, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak, known as the Frierdiker Rebbe, succeeds him as Rebbe.

Published Works:
Sefer Hamaamarim: 5643/44; 5646-50; 5651; 5652/53; 5654; 5655/56; 5657; 5658; 5659; 5660-62; 5663; 5664; 5665; Hemshech Yom Tov Shel Rosh Hashana – 5666; Sefer Hamaamarim: 5668; 5669; 5670; 5671; Hemshech B’sha’a Shehikdimu – 5672, 3 vol; Sefer Hamaamarim: 5672-76; 5677; 5678; 5679; 5680; Sefer Hamaamarim Likut vol. 1 (5644-5680); vol. 2 (5645-5678); Sefer Hasichot – Torat Shalom; Kuntres Hat’filla; Kuntres U’ma’ayan; Kuntres Eitz Hachayim; Kuntres B’inyanei Kolel Chabad; Kuntres Ha’avoda; Chanoch Lana’ar; Haga’ot Al HaTanya; Haga’ot Al Torah Or; Haga’ot Al HaLikutei Torah; Haga’ot  Al HaSiddur; Haga’ot  L’Patach Eliyahu – 5658; Igrot Kodesh (Responsa), 5 vol.

English Resources:
Kuntres Uma’ayon. Translated by Zalmon I Posner, 1991
With Light and with Might (Tonu Rabbanan Ner Chanukah, 5643 and Kol Hayotzei LeMilchemet Beit David, 5661). Translated by Rabbi Eliyahu Touger and Uri Kaploun.
Tract on Prayer (Kuntres Hat’filla). Translated by Eliezer Danziger, 1992
To Know G-d (VeYadaata, 5657). Translated by Eliezer Danziger, 1993
On Ahavas Yisroel (Heichaltzu)
Chanoch Lenaar. Translated by Eliezer Danziger, 1999.
Yom Tov Shel Rosh Hashanah 5659. Translated by Rabbi Yosef B. Marcus
(All published by Kehot Publication Society, Brooklyn, NY. )

Some Concurrent Events in History:
1860-69: Abraham Lincoln elected president of the United States – American Civil War begins – Austro-Prussian War begins – Karl Marx publishes Das Kapital.
1870-79: French Impressionists, Manet, Cezanne, Degas, Monet et al, hold their first show – Alexander Graham Bell invents first telephone – Thomas Edison invents the light bulb.
1880-89: Alexander III vows to kill one-third of Russia’s Jews, drive out one-third, and convert the remaining third – George Eastman invents the Kodak camera – Vincent van Gogh paints; Johannes Brahms and Petr Tchaikovsky compose; Thomas Hardy and Oscar Wilde write.
1880-89: French court martial incorrectly convicts Jewish army captain Alfred Dreyfus of passing military information to Germany – Theodor Herzl founds the Zionist movement – The X-ray is discovered
1900-09: Sigmund Freud publishes The Interpretation of Dreams – Physicist Max Planck lays groundwork for quantum theory – Wright brothers make their first flight – Russo Japanese War rages – Revolution breaks out in Russia after czarist troops fire on marchers in St. Petersburg – Albert Einstein publishes his Special Theory of Relativity based on the recognition that light always travels at a constant speed – Henry Ford develops the first Model T automobile.
1910-20: World War I is fought in Europe – Lenin leads a Bolshevik revolution; Bolsheviks execute Russia’s royal Romanov family.

Yom Tov Shel Rosh Hashanah – Tof Reish Samech Vov

(Rough translation of an excerpt of maamar one)

…It is known that the reason for the creation and the sustenance of the worlds, and the purpose of the soul descending in a body, is in order to draw down the revelation of the Infinite Light (Or En Sof) into this world through Torah and Mitzvot. And this is the concept of the unification of the transcendence of G-d (sovev kol almin) and the immanence of G-d (mimalei kol almin). As we say before every mitzvah, “For the sake of the union of the Holy One, blessed be He, with His Shechinah,” which is the aspect of the integration of the sovev kol almin and the mimalei kol almin. This is the drawing down of the revelation of the Essence of the Infinite Light (Atzmus Or En Sof) which is the ultimate purpose of the existence of the worlds and the descent of the soul.

As it says [Midrash Tanchumah Naso 16]:

“G-d had a desire to have a home in the lower world.”2

And like the home of a person, by way of an analogy, the essence of a person lives in his home.3 The same thing is above so to speak, the Essence of the Infinite Light of G-d is revealed below.4

As it says in the beginning of Eimek HaMelech5 (The Depth of the King):

“The creation of the worlds happened through the first tzimtzum6 that took place in the Infinite Light. And it left a hole (chalal) and a space (makom panoi), and this [vacuum or space that was created] is the source of the coming into being of the containers (kelim)7 and the existence of all the worlds.”

And after8 the tzimtzum, the revelation of the line (kav) is drawn down – this is the revelation of the light that will illuminate the containers and the worlds.9  (And through this [ie. the kav], creation was actualized, as it is known that the formation of the containers as well as the formation of the worlds in general, is through the kav and the power of the residue (reshimu10). Like a potential state (hiyuli11) that gives power, as is discussed at length in another place.)

And the general worlds that are structured in a form of light and vessels (orot ve kelim)12 are within the chalal and makom panoi that remains after the tzimtzum.

13 However, it says:

“And He placed them in the Garden of Eden to serve (l’avdah) and to guard (l’shamrah).” [Bereishit 2:15]

L’avdah are the 248 positive mitzvahs and l’shamrah are the 365 negative mitzvahs. This means to draw down additional light through the kav from the Infinite Light before the tzimtzum,14 until Moshiach comes [when] there will be the revelation of the Infinite Light in the space of the chalal as it was before the tzimtzum.

And seemingly it’s not understood: What is new about this: also before the tzimtzum the light filled the entire space!

The simple answer is that in the beginning when the Infinite Light filled the empty vacuum, there was no potential for the existence of the worlds. And if so, then the revelation would not have been in the worlds. However, after the creation of the worlds, when the Infinite Light that is before the tzimtzum is drawn down, then the revelation is in the worlds.15  And if so, before the creation, it was not possible for the light before the tzimtzum to be contained [by the worlds]. Nevertheless, after the creation, they were able to receive this light as well.

One can say that this idea is as it states in Eitz Chayim16 [on another topic]: Regarding the idea of the revelation of the kav, if the kav would have remained in the beginning, there would have been no potential for the existence of containers. After the creation, the light of the kav can shine in them without them being overwhelmed. Similarly, regarding the general light before the tzimtzum, after the creation of the worlds, they [the containers] are able to receive this light.

And one can say that an example for this is like the transmission of intelligence or knowledge from a teacher to a student. If in the beginning the teacher were to give over to the student the inner depths of his wisdom, the student would not be able to receive it. The teacher has to give over a limited light that is proportionate to the capacity of the student. After the student receives this diminished light and contains and integrates it in his mind, then afterwards he can come to the depth and innermost aspect of the intellect of the teacher (the sages say that [at forty] the student comes to the knowledge (daas) of the teacher) and he can receive it etc.

And one has to say that this is also because of the fixing (tikkun) of the keli. When a person begins to understand, the vessels of the mind begin to be repaired and refined. As it is known that when a teacher teaches a student with a lot of influence, the skills of the student become like those of the teacher.

And this example can be used to understand that after the creation of the worlds the light of the kav shines into them. It’s also known that the per17meating light [of the kav] polishes the keli from within, and the surrounding or transcendent light polishes the keli from without. And that’s why afterwards the kelim are able to receive light that is even higher than the revelation of the kav.

And the main thing is that this flow is through the Torah as it is written, “G-d gives strength [to His People]” and “There is no strength except Torah,” because through Torah the tzadikim are able to receive the Infinite Light that is higher and transcends the world without annihilating their existence. And the same with the worlds, they are able to receive the light through this, as it says in Tanya chapter 36.

So we see from this, that even though this light [that enters into existence] is the same light th18at filled the challal before the tzimtzum, however, the innovation is that the light is revealed in the worlds.19

And another explanation [regarding the innovation that is accomplished] is that there will be a revelation of light that is greater than the light that was there before. And these are the additional lights that are drawn down [and revealed] through Torah and Mitzvot. And these [lights] are of the innermost aspect and essence of the Infinite Light, which are even higher than the light that filled the challal [before the tzimtzum], as will be explained later.

And generally speaking, this [new dimension of light] is the revelation of the Infinite Light, sovev kol almin. And this was the purpose for the creation of the worlds.20 ….

* * *

Hemshech Samech Vov – View a summary of the 61 discourses that comprise this landmark maamar.



Show 20 footnotes

  1. From “HaYom Yom” by Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, compiled by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson. Kehas, Brooklyn, 1988.
  2.   See Tanya Ch.36 and beginning of 37
  3. At home you are comfortable to be yourself without defenses, masks, mechanisms etc. Your whole being is expressed there. The home you build in the physical world is meant to be a microcosm and reflection of the home for G-d and vice-versa. Truly understanding what a home is, is really understanding the purpose of existence.
  4.   Why can G-d not be at home in the upper worlds?  In the upper worlds, His revelation is present, not His Essence.
  5.   Written by students of students of the Arizal.
  6.   Tzimtzum – quantum leap – a conceptual vacuum in the light and revelation of the Divine – not a literal space like a hole in a bagel.
  7.   Or (light) is the transmission and energy, and kelim are the containers or receptacles for the transmission.
  8.   Not ‘after’ in time – conceptually ‘after’ ie. cause and effect.
  9.   A vacuum is created – light has been withdrawn; then a thin subtle line enters into the vacuum that will be the source for everything in the vacuum.  The tzimtzum allows the space and the kav illuminates.
  10.   Reshimu – a residue or mark that is left over after the tzimtzum.  The tzimtzum was not an absolute darkness, it contained a residue because the purpose of the tzimtzum is not to make darkness but to create existence – the only way to do so was to withdraw, but not completely. For the kav to illuminate the dark place and create existence, it also needs the power of the reshimu.
  11.   Hiyuli – nucleus in potential state that gives power. The reshimu is a state of being, but it cannot activate itself eg. In chemistry, something lies dormant in a substance and needs something else to be a catalyst for it to emerge. Eg electricity that needs a spark to be revealed. Why do you need the reshimu and the kav? We want to have fusion between darkness and light; don’t just want to have a foreign kav piercing darkness – the darkness (existence) would reject it as not being part of it if it did not have some aspect of G-dliness in it.
  12.   Form & function; body & soul; internal & external. Everything has two dimensions. See Toward a Meaningful Life, chapter on “Body & Soul”
  13.   Up till now has given brief description of creation – now addresses our role/avodah in creation.
  14.   Like a wire attached to a generator, through the wire we can draw additional energy.
  15.   Before it was just light, now after the tzimtzum existence perceives light; light permeates the kelim whereas before it wouldn’t allow the kelim to be.
  16.   The Arizal’s teachings recorded by Reb Chayim Vital.
  17. So when the teacher is absent, the student can still utilize this knowledge. He can not only quantitatively but qualitatively accept more light.
  18. Like making a clay pot.
  19. This is an innovation only from our perspective. We could say that the student can now teach – but this answer is not really sufficient.
  20. Where was this light if not before the tzimtzum? We draw out a light from G-d that was never revealed. G-d emanates a new light.

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18 years ago

Cant get enough of this funky stuff.

Rabbi Levi
18 years ago

We are looking forward to more of Samech Vov….

Rus Devorah Wallen
18 years ago

As always, you have the ability to take very sublime concepts in Chassidus and Kaballah and bring them to our understanding.
Thanks and yishar kochacho. Keep bringing the good stuff down for us.

Yeshiva bochur
18 years ago

BH your doing a great project.
Keep to the project.
Hafotzas hamaayonos to a totally new level.

18 years ago

This article is….

Infinitely wonderful and mega-enlightening. Very very wise and insightful. Full of compassion, meaning, etc. One of the greatest literary works ever.

Chaya Mushka L.
16 years ago

Thank You for the information of the Rebbe Rashab

Dovid Roetter
15 years ago

Please Have More Information.

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