Sholom Dovber Schneersohn

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Sholom Dovber Schneersohn
Sholom Dovber Schneersohn
TitleLubavitcher Rebbe
Born24 October 1860 OS
Died21 March 1920 NS
SpouseSterna Sarah (daughter of Yosef Yitzchok of Ovruch)
ChildrenYosef Yitzchok Schneersohn
Jewish leader
PredecessorShmuel Schneersohn
SuccessorYosef Yitzchak Schneersohn
Began10 September 1892 OS
Ended21 March 1920 NS
Main workYom Tov Shel Rosh Hashana, 5666, Sefer HaMaamarim, 5672
DynastyChabad Lubavitch

Sholom Dovber Schneersohn (Hebrew: שלום דובער שניאורסאהן) was the fifth Rebbe (spiritual leader) of the Chabad Lubavitch chasidic movement. He is known as "the Rebbe Rashab" (for Reb Sholom Ber). His teachings represent the emergence of an emphasis on outreach that later Chabad Rebbes developed into a major theme.[1]


Early life[edit]

Schneersohn was born in Lubavitch, on 20 Cheshvan 5621 (24 October, 1860), the second son of Shmuel Schneersohn, the fourth Chabad Rebbe.[2] In 1882, when his father died, he was not quite 22 years old, and his brother Reb Zalman Aharon was not much older. A period followed, during which both brothers fulfilled some of the tasks of a rebbe, but neither felt ready to take on the title and responsibilities. Over this period he gradually took on more responsibilities, particularly in dealing with the impact of the May Laws regarding the Jews, and on Rosh Hashanah 5643 (10 September 1892 OS) he accepted the leadership of the Lubavitch movement.[3]

Schneersohn married his cousin, Shterna Sara Schneersohn. She was the daughter of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn of Avorutch, a son of the Tzemach Tzedek. They had one son whom they named Yosef Yitzchok after Shterna Sara's father. Yosef Yitzchok later succeeded his father as Rebbe.[citation needed]

In Central Europe[edit]

In 1903, he spent two months in Vienna, where he met Sigmund Freud for consultation. One theory identifies his case with that of an unidentified rabbi referred by Freud to Wilhelm Steckel around the same time, who employed electrotherapy. This rabbi told Steckel that from 6 until his marriage at age 18, he was sexually molested by one of his attendants. The trauma engendered a severe neurosis, causing the paralysis of the rabbi's left hand.[4][5] The treatment had some success, restoring some feeling to the hand, but the rabbi could not stay in Vienna for longer than two months. When the rabbi returned home, he attempted to continue his treatment with a small machine that he had purchased in Vienna, but experienced no further improvement and eventually gave up.[4]

Later life[edit]

In 1916, as the fighting in World War I neared Lubavitch, Schneersohn was deported to Rostov-on-Don. As Bolshevik forces approached Rostov he considered moving to Palestine,[6] which was part of the Ottoman Empire at the time, and prepared all the necessary paperwork; his only extant picture comes from his Turkish visa since he usually refused to be photographed. But eventually, he decided to stay in Rostov, where he died on 21 March 1920 (2 Nisan 5680).[7]

During the construction of the "Rostov Palace of Sport" on top of the Old Jewish Cemetery in 1940, his remains were secretly moved by a religious group of Chassidim to a different burial site where they are located to this day in the "Rostov Jewish Cemetery." His grave is visited daily by followers of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, who come from all over the world.[8]


Schneersohn established the first Chabad yeshiva, Tomchei Temimim, in 1897. In 1911 he established another yeshivah, Toras Emes, in Israel, and in 1916 he established a yeshivah in Georgia. Avrum Erlich has argued that it was these institutions that made Lubavitch the dominant of the various Chabad Hasidic movements.[9]

He maintained a lengthy correspondence, not only with Chabad Chasidim in other countries, but also with non-Chabad chasidim and members of other groups who wrote to him for advice. He also met with other Jewish and Hasidic leaders, working with them on issues such as education, unity, policy, and strategy.[9] He was held in high esteem by the Chofetz Chaim, so much so that the Chofetz Chaim declared of him, "the words of the [Lubavitcher] Rebbe are holy, and anyone who argues [or] disagrees with him [should know that] it is as if he is disagreeing with Moses."[10]

Schneersohn promoted Jewish agricultural settlement, and the creation of employment for Jews, particularly those displaced by the May Laws.

He was a prominent opponent of Zionism, both in its secular and religious versions and a staunch ally of Reb Chaim Brisker. In 1903 he published Kuntres Uma'ayan, which contained a strong polemic against Zionism. He was deeply concerned that secular nationalism would replace Judaism as the foundation of Jewish identity.[11] Together with Reb Chaim he joined and supported Machazikei Hadas - a union of Eastern European haredim and the forerunner of the Agudah[7] - but in 1912, when the Agudah was formed in Katowice, Reb Chaim raised 18 objections to its constitution, and Schneersohn kept Lubavitch out of the Agudah.[12]

After the February Revolution, elections were called for Jewish city councils and a General Jewish Assembly. Schneersohn worked tirelessly to organize a religious front with a center and a special office to deal with it all. For this reason, he called a unique conference of all the Torah giants throughout Russia. This conference was held in 1917 in Moscow, and was preceded by a meeting of the leading Rabbis, to decide the matters to be discussed there. This smaller meeting was held in Petrograd. However, because the participants in this meeting were few and in a hurry to return home, the Moscow conference failed to yield proper results. Thus, it was necessary to convene once again in Kharkiv in 1918, to discuss the elections for the General Jewish Assembly.[13]

His worries about the Mountain Jews, or Berg Yidden, led him to send a famous Mashpia, Rabbi Shmuel Levitin of Rakshik, to the Caucasus to set up institutions to bring them closer to traditional Judaism,[2] setting a precedent for his two successors as Lubavitcher Rebbe, who conducted similar activities.

Distinguished disciples of Schneersohn include Reb Itche Der Masmid, Reb Levi Yitzchak Schneerson, and Reb Zalman Moishe HaYitzchaki.[14] The Malach.[15]

Published works[edit]

Schneersohn was a prolific writer on Chabad theology. Much of his work has been published in Hebrew, and some of it has been translated into English and is available online.[citation needed]

  • Sefer HaMa'amarim - a 31-volume set of Chasidic discourses, according to the years set. The most important of these include two three-year-long cycle of discourses beginning "Yom Tov Shel Rosh Hashanah 5666" ("Samech-Vov") and "B'shaah Shehikdimu 5672 (Ayin-Beis)". They serve today as major in-depth encyclopedic introductory works into "oral" Chabad Chassidism (as opposed to the "written" one, i.e., Tanya) studied in Chabad yeshivas.
  • Igros Kodesh - six volume set of letters
  • Toras Sholom - compilation of public addresses
  • Kuntres Uma'ayan - basic Chasidic text on self-transformation (as opposed to self-nullification as taught in Musar philosophy) and battling evil desires in an intellectual, Kabbalah-based way
  • Kuntres HaTefillah - explanation of Chabad Chasidic prayer
  • Kuntres HoAvodah - even more in-depth analysis of Chabad Chasidic prayer
  • Maamar Veyadaata - To know G-d, explanation of the unity of G-d with the created Universe and how to reach the understanding and appreciation of it
  • Maamar Heichaltzu - On Ahavas Yisroel, mystical aspects, sources and reasons for a love to a fellow Jew (and explanation of how exactly the dictum of loving one's fellow as oneself is the basis of all the Torah, including seemingly not related areas of it)
  • Kuntres Eitz HaChayim - The Tree of Life—essay on the importance of learning (how learning of Judaism can transform a Jew's life and personality and change his perception on his purpose in life), order of learning (for Chabad yeshivah students), and focus of Jewish learning.
  • Chanoch Lana'ar - The Ethical Will
  • "Hagaos" Scholarly glosses on Tanya,[16] The Siddur,[17] Torah Ohr and Likkutei Torah
  • Issa B'Midrash Tehillim - Bar Mitzvah Maamar—mystical aspects of the commandment of tefillin; a Chasidic discourse usually recited by a Chabad boy at his bar mitzvah
  • Some of his published works in Hebrew

Publication gallery[edit]


  1. ^ The Messiah of Brooklyn: Understanding Lubavitch Hasidim Past and Present, M. Avrum Ehrlich, Chapter 7
  2. ^ a b Encyclopedia of Hasidim, entry: Schneersohn, Shalom Dovber. Naftali Lowenthal. Aronson, London 1996. ISBN 1-56821-123-6
  3. ^ Shneerson, M. M. (2003). Hayom Yom. Brooklyn NY: Kehot Publication Society. p. 16.
  4. ^ a b Maya Balakirsky Katz (October 2010). The Visual Culture of Chabad. Cambridge University Press. pp. 62-67.
  5. ^ David Biale et al., Hasidism: A New History. Stanford University Press, 2018. pp. 303.
  6. ^ Shneerson, M. M. (1992). Toras Menachem Hisva'aduyos vol.1. Israel: Lahak Hanochos. p. 4. החליט לנסוע לארץ ישראל
  7. ^ a b "הדף לא נמצא".
  8. ^ "Rostov Celebrates Schneersohn's Birthday". Archived from the original on 2013-12-03.
  9. ^ a b The Messiah of Brooklyn: Understanding Lubavitch Hasidim Past and Present, M. Avrum Ehrlich, Chapter 3
  10. ^ Shemu'os Vesippurim, Refoel Kahn, vol. 1, pp. 144-145
  11. ^ Shalom Goldman (2009). Zeal for Zion: Christians, Jews, and the Idea of the Promised Land. UNC Press Books. pp. 272–73. ISBN 978-0-8078-3344-5. Retrieved 9 May 2013. The most eminent Orthodox rabbis of the first decade of the twentieth century, among them the Lubavitcher rebbe Sholom Dov Ber Schneersohn, issued powerful condemnations of political Zionism. Schneersohn, in 1903, warned that the Zionists "have made nationalism a substitute for the Torah and the commandments… After this assumption is accepted, anyone who enters the movement regards himself as no longer obliged to keep the commandments of the Torah, nor is there any hope consequently that at some time or another he will return, because, according to his own reckoning, he is a proper Jew in that he is a loyal nationalist.
  12. ^ [1] Archived February 4, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ The Four Worlds, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, Kehot, 2006, pp. 87-90. ISBN 0-8266-0462-5
  14. ^ Yiras Hashem Otzaro, Yisroel Alfenbein, Israel, 2005, p. 95.
  15. ^ Mintz, Jerome R. (1992). Hasidic people: A place in the new world. Harvard University Press. p. 21. ISBN 0-674-38115-7. Such a man was Rabbi Chaim Avraham Dov Ber Levine HaCohen, a respected Lubavitcher rabbi and sage who was known as the Malach (Angel). In 1923 he had emigrated to the United States where he received the respect and honor accorded a distinguished Talmudic scholar. In Europe the Malach had been held in high esteem by Rabbi Sholom Dovber Schneersohn (1860-1920)
  16. ^ printed in the back of "Kitzurim V'Haoros al HaTanya"
  17. ^ Printed in Siddur Torah Ohr and Siddur im Dach

External links[edit]

Religious titles
Preceded by Rebbe of Lubavitch
Succeeded by