Thursday, October 23, 2008

Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Shneersohn (1880-1950)

Rabbi Shneersohn was the 6th Rebbe of Chabad Lubavitch and I was told this story by my own rabbi. In times of difficulty I ponder the wisdom and bravery of this rabbi. There is another way to live. In the coming days and months and years, it will undoubtedly be important for us to remember this incident and see if we can't apply it to our own lives.

First a little background and then the incident.

Dealing with the Communist Authorities

Upon his father’s death on Nissan 2, 5680 (1920), Rabbi Joseph I. Schneersohn was requested by the entire Chabad world to accept the leadership of the movement and become the next Lubavitcher Rebbe.

By that time conditions had greatly changed. As a result of the war and the October Revolution, Russia was in a state of constant internal strife. As usual, the Jews suffered most.

In those days Rabbi Schneersohn found himself practically alone, facing a task that required superhuman effort - the rehabilitation of Jewish communal and religious life in Russia.

He fought his struggle on two fronts, the material and the religious. Russian Jews had been reduced to the most abject poverty and suffering, and the future of traditional Judaism was gravely threatened by the policy of the G-dless Yevsektzia. (The Jewish branch of the Soviet Communist Party, responsible for anti-Jewish activities. It was subsequently dissolved by the Soviet Government.)

During his single-handed fight for the preservation of traditional Judaism in Russia against overwhelming odds, Rabbi Joseph I. Schneersohn realized that a new country would have to supersede Russia as a great Torah center. He therefore founded a Lubavitch Talmudic seminary (Yeshivah) in Warsaw, in the year 5681 (1921), and helped many students and staff of his Russian seminary to make their way to Poland and continue their work there. The Lubavitch Yeshivah in Poland, like its counterpart in Russia, rapidly developed into a whole system of seminaries, and hundreds of students were enrolled in its many branches.

In the meantime, Rabbi Joseph I. Schneersohn fearlessly conducted his work in Russia, establishing and maintaining seminaries, Torah schools and other religious institutions.

At that time Rabbi Schneersohn had his headquarters in Rostov on the River Don, but because of libelous accusations it was necessary to move from there. He took up residence in Leningrad (St Petersburg) from where he relentlessly continued to direct his activities. He organized a special committee to help Jewish artisans and workers who wished to observe the Sabbath, and he sent teachers, preachers and other representatives to the most remote Jewish communities in Russia to strengthen their religious life.

Realizing the necessity of organizing Chabad communities outside Russia, the Lubavitcher Rebbe formed the Agudas Chassidei Chabad of the United States of America and Canada, and maintained regular contact with his followers in the New World.

In 5687 (1927) the Rebbe founded the Lubavitch seminary in Uzbekistan, a remote province of Russia.

His stand against those who wanted to undermine the Jewish religion became even more perilous. The Yevsektzia was determined to stop him, and even resorted to intimidation and mental torture.

“One morning, when the Lubavitcher Rebbe was observing yahrzeit for his father, three members of the Yevsektzia rushed into his synagogue, guns in hand, to arrest him. Calmly, the Lubavitcher Rebbe finished his prayers and followed them.

Facing a council of armed and determined men, the Lubavitcher Rebbe again reaffirmed that he would not give up his religious activities, whatever threats might be made. When one of the agents pointed a gun at him, saying: “This little toy has made many a man change his mind”, the Lubavitcher Rebbe calmly replied: “That little toy can intimidate only the kind of man who has many gods-passions, and but one world-this world. Because I have only one G-d and two worlds, I am not impressed by your little toy.”,2110169/Rabbi-Yosef-Yitzchok-Shneersohn-1880-1950-the-6th-Rebbe-of-Chabad-Lubavitch-A-Brief-Biography.html#articlepage

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