by Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
Menachem Mendel Schneerson inherited the line of chassidic masters that began with the Baal Shem Tov and carried it into the modern day. He studied Talmud and Kabbalah from his father, and later from his father-in-law, the previous Rebbe of Lubavitch. He received rabbinical ordination from the Gaon of Rogatchov, Rabbi Yosef Rosen as an adolescent.
He also studied the sciences at the University of Berlin from the years 1928-1932 when Albert Einstein and Erwin Schrodinger were faculty members, and then the humanities at the Sorbonne and mechanical engineering at the Paris Polytechnic Institute. In 1941, he escaped occupied France to arrive in America.
With the passing of his father-in-law, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson, in 1950, after an entire year of petitions and pressure, he accepted the mantle of leadership of the Lubavitch Hasidim.
Immediately he began sending agents to assist Jewish communities worldwide. In the sixties, he embraced the spirit of nonconformity, which he saw as a spiritual reawakening.
Through his work, many hundreds of thousands of Jews have returned to their roots and their spiritual heritage, as thousands of institutions were established in every part of the globe.
Every day, bags of mail arrived at his door, with requests for advice and guidance. He read each one personally and much of this book is based on his responses. However, his frequent informal public talks - or 'farbrengens' - are the major source.
These have been edited and published in over forty volumes.
In the eighties, he told his students they must also be concerned with the spiritual welfare of non-Jews, encouraging all people to follow the Torah's instructions given to Noah and his descendants. He pushed for spirituality and ethics to be introduced into the public schools, stating that this was the only
way to establish a stable society. In recognition of these efforts, in 1983, Congress proclaimed the Rebbe's birthday Education Day USA' and awarded him the National Scroll of Honor.
In 1995, the Rebbe was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, an award granted to only 130 Americans since Thomas Jefferson, for 'outstanding and lasting contributions.
The Rebbe's life and teachings resonate with his passionate vision of the Days of Moshiach, an eternal era of Divine revelation, peace and prosperity, and goodness and kindness, which the Rebbe proclaimed to be of immediate relevance. He interpreted the advances of science and technology, and other global trends and historic events as heralding this long-awaited era. He increasingly emphasized to all that our entire goal must be to prepare the world for these imminent times.
Adapted from Be Within, Stay Above By Rabbi Tzvi Freeman