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Orthodox Judaism: Lubavitch and Chabad

Lubavitch Hasidism, most commonly presented through its organizational arm, the Chabad international movement, is based out of Crown Heights, New York.

The Chabad-Lubavitch movement formed from the writings of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, who published the Tanya, in 1796. The Tanya contains the key to Jewish mystical and spiritual awareness, according to Chabadnicks. Following Shneur Zalman, there have been six other Lubavitcher Rebbes, each designated by his predecessor.

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson was chosen as the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe  in 1950. Schneerson, known as the Rebbe, served as the heart and soul of Chabad for 44 years, he was the spiritual leader, as well as, intellectual and organizational leader of the movement. In 1994, Schneerson, at the age of 91, died childless and with no designated successor. Chabad leadership decided that he would be the final rebbe, this decision sparked much speculation and expectation that Schneerson was the Messiah. Many felt that the Chabad movement would dwindle and collapse after his death, but just the opposite occurred. The current headquarters of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement was originally purchased in 1940 to serve as Schneerson's residence after his rescue from Nazi occupied Warsaw. The movement blossomed during the ten years that Schneerson lived at the house until his death, and following his death in 1950 the building was converted into an office. Chabad-Lubavitch international still operates out of the same building to this day, although it has been expanded several times. The building is so closely associated with the movement and so iconic, that at least 15 replicas exist around the world (some more exact than others).

The Lubavitch movement's infrastructure has expanded almost 30 percent since the Rebbe's death. It has become a world-wide Jewish outreach movement. More than 3,700 emissary couples work in more than 100 countries worldwide. Since 1995, more than 400 shlichim (emissaries) were assigned to new posts and more than 500 new Chabad institution have been established, bringing the total to nearly 2,600 institutions (seminaries, day camps, schools, etc) worldwide. According to headquarters, almost one million children participates in Chabad activities worldwide in 1999.

The movement's major thrust focuses on observing for one's self and transmitting to others the beauty, depth, awareness and joy inherent in the Torah­true way of life. By doing so, it strives to revitalize Jewish life by intensifying the individual's relationship to G­d, and deep sense of devotion and love towards one's fellow man.

The name Chabad (Chochmah, Binah, Daat) refers to the three intellectual sephiros (Divine Emanations). The philosophy of the founder, the Alter Rebbe, stressed the use of the intellect to guide the emotions. Thus, each individual hasid had to work on himself/herself, rather than simply rely on the Rebbe/Tzaddik's saintliness. Another name used in Lubavitch Hasidism is ChaGat (Chessed, Gevurah, Tiferes), which refers to the first three of the seven emotional sephiros/character attributes that derive from Chabad. The emphasis in Chagat Chassidus is on emotional fervor and devotion. Consequently, a hasid must attach himself/herself to the Rebbe and let his righteousness carry the hasid along.

The Lubavitch Rebbe, as Nasi HaDor (leader of the generation) has the responsibility of setting the direction of the generation.

Chabad-Lubavitch operates an extensive outreach effort to encourage Jews to return to traditional practices. As part of this effort, Chabad operates the Mitzvah Campaigns to encourage Jews to perform 10 specific mitzvot, the intention being that through their fulfillment, the individual and the family will come to experience a deeper and more fulfilling relationship with their Jewish heritage. These mitzvot are:

1. Ahavas Yisroel: The love of one's fellow Jew.

2. Chinuch: Torah Education.

3. Torah Study.

4. Tefillin: The donning of Tefillin, every weekday, by men and boys over 13.

5. Mezuzah: The Jewish sign on a doorpost.

6. Tzedakah: Giving charity every weekday.

7. Possession of Jewish Holy Books.

8. Lighting Shabbat and Festival Candles.

9. Kashrut: The Jewish dietary laws.

10. Taharas Hamishpocho: The Torah perspective on married life.

Chabad also urges that efforts be made to inform the public at large about the nature and meaning of the Seven Laws of Noah.

Sources: Green, David B. “This Day in Jewish History, 1940 Chabad Buys Its Landmark New York Home,” Haaretz, (August 17, 2015)
Shamash and Fischkoff, Sue. "Black Hat Blitz."
Moment Magazine. August 2000.