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The life and Times of the Tzemach Tzedek (1789-1866)

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1789 - Birth

Rabbi Menachem Mendel—who was to became known as the as the ‘Tzemach Tzedek’, the title of his most famous work—was born in the city of Liozna on Erev Rosh Hashanah 5549, to his parents Rabbi Shalom and Rebbetzin Devorah Leah Shachna. Rabbi Shalom was the son of Rabbi Noach Altshuler, a respected disciple of Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk, Devorah Leah was the daughter of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the first rebbe of Chabad.1

1789 - French Revolution begins; George Washington elected first president of the United States

1791 - Catherine established the ‘Pale of Settlement’, an area in European Russia into which Russian Jews were transported

1792 - Passing of Menachem Mendel’s mother, Rebbetzin Devorah Leah

In the year 1792 a dark cloud hung over Rabbi Shneur Zalman. He was aware of strong spiritual opposition to his intense spreading of the secrets of Torah and that his life was in danger. Before Rosh Hashanah of that year, his daughter Devorah Leah prayed that her life be taken in place of her father’s. On the second day of Rosh Hashanah, she fell ill. She passed away on the 3rd of Tishrei (the fast of Gedaliah), at the age of 26.2

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1792 - Enters Cheder, Begins Formal Education

Before the passing of Menachem Mendel’s mother, Rabbi Shneur Zalman promised to devote special attention to Menachem Mendel. After her passing he took him under his wing and raised him as his own, from this time on, Menachem Mendel would sleep in the study of Rabbi Shneur Zalman. On the 11th of Tishrei after the ‘Shiva’ for his mother, Rabbi Shneur Zalman brought Menachem Mendel to ‘Cheder’. 3

1793 - Louis XVI executed by guillotine, Reign of Terror begins in France

1796 - Death of Catherine the Great; Paul I crowned emperor of Russia

1799 - Death of George Washington

1801 - Paul I assassinated; Alexander I crowned emperor of Russia

1803 - Marriage

When Menachem Mendel was only eight years old he was already studying at an advanced level, at this early age Rabbi Shneur Zalman suggested him as a match for his granddaughter, Chaya Mushka. On the 5th of Kislev 5564, at the age of 14, Menachem Mendel married his first cousin, Chaya Mushka, the daughter of Rabbi Dovber, Rabbi Dovber would later become the second rebbe of Chabad.4

1804 - Napoleon Bonaparte crowned emperor of France

1805 - Rabbi Menachem Mendel Appointed as Halachic Adviser

When Rabbi Menachem Mendel was only fifteen, Rabbi Shneur Zalman appointed him—together with his great uncle, Rabbi Yehuda Leib Boruchovitch, know as the Maharil—to research and respond to Halachic inquiries that were sent to Rabbi Shneur Zalman.5

1805 - Birth of Rabbi Menachem Mendel’s first son, Baruch Shalom

Baruch Shalom, the eldest son of Rabbi Menachem Mendel, was born on the 22nd of Cheshvan 5566 (14th of November 1805). Rabbi Shneur Zalman was very fond of his great grandson and from a very early age would spend some time with him every day. Rabbi Baruch Shalom was an exceptionally humble person and refused any formal leadership position. He passed away at the age of 63 in Lubavitch.6 The seventh rebbe of Chabad, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (1902-1994), was his direct descendant.

1805 -The battle of Austerlitz: Napoleon Bonaparte defeats the combined armies of Russia and Austria. Lord Nelson defeats the French-Spanish fleets in the Battle of Trafalgar

1808 - Birth of Rabbi Menachem Mendel’s Second son, Yehuda Leib

The second son of Rabbi Menachem Mendel, Yehuda Leib, was exceptionally gifted. His Grandfather, the second Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Dovber, was very fond of him and devoted much time to him, even waiting for him to arrive before delivering a Chasidic discourse. After the passing of his father the Tzemach Tzedek, Rabbi Yehuda Leib settled in the city of Kopust (Kopys), establishing the Chasidic dynasty of Chabad-Kopust. He passed away a few short months later, in the year 1866.7

1812 - Napoleon’s Grande Armée invades Russia

1812 - Passing of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi

On the 8th of Tevet, whilst fleeing from Napoleon's army, Rabbi Shneur Zalman stopped in the small hamlet of Piyena just south of the city Kursk. A little more than a week later he fell ill. On the 24th of Tevet, after the conclusion of Shabbos, Rabbi Shneur Zalman passed away. Rabbi Menachem Mendel was present at the time of his passing and accompanied him to his final resting place in the town of Haditch. After his grandfather's passing he stayed for a while in Haditch near the resting place of Rabbi Shneur Zalman.8

1812 - Rabbi Dovber Succeeds his Father as Rebbe

After the passing of Rabbi Shneur Zalman, his son, Rabbi Dovber succeeded him as the second rebbe of Chabad. Rabbi Dovber led the chabad movement until his passing on the 9th of Kislev 5588 (28th of November,1827).

1813 - The Town of ‘Lubavitch’ (Lubavitchi) is Established as the Base of Chassidus Chabad

On the 18th of Elul 5573, (13th September 1813), after traveling through white Russia, (now Belarus) in search of a town in which to settle permanently, Rabbi Dovber arrived in the town of Lubavitch and settled there. Rabbi Menachem Mendel also moved to Lubavitch and spent his days deep in Torah study. This town was the epicenter of the Chabad movement for the next 102 years, until the fifth Chabad rebbe, Rabbi Sholom Dovber fled to the city of Rostov during the 1st World War (1915).9

1814 - French defeated by allies in War of Liberation, Napoleon exiled to the island of Elba

1814 - Birth of Rabbi Menachem Mendel’s third son, Chaim Shneur Zalman

Chaim Shneur Zalman, the third son of Rabbi Menachem Mendel, was born a few years after his great grandfather Rabbi Shneur Zalman passed away and was named after him, the name Chaim was added later. Three years after the passing of his father, he traveled to the town of Liadi, where his great-grandfather and namesake had lived. He established there a branch of Chabad and lived as rebbe for eleven years. He passed away in the year 1879.10

1815 - Napoleon escapes Elba, the ‘Hundred Days’ begin, Napoleon is defeated by Wellington at Waterloo, exiled to S. Helena

1815 - Birth of Rabbi Menachem Mendel’s fourth son, Yisroel Noach

The fourth son of the Tzemach Tzedek, Yisroel Noach, was an outstanding Torah scholar; Rabbi Menachem Mendel appointed him to head the Yeshiva in Lubavitch. He also delegated to him general oversight of the many Halachic inquiries he received. After his father's passing, he stayed in Lubavitch for a few years before moving to the town of Nizhyn in 1869, where he served as rebbe for approximately fifteen years, until his passing in 1883.11

1822 - Birth of Rabbi Menachem Mendel’s fifth son, Yosef Yitzchok

Yosef Yitzchok was the fifth son of the Tzemach Tzedek. In the lifetime of his father he moved away from Lubavitch to live with his father-in-law Rabbi Yaakov Yisroel of Cherkas (the latter was married to the fourth daughter of Rabbi Dovber, Devorah Leah). Later he accepted the position of rebbe in the town of Ovruch, where he passed away in 1876. 12

1825 - Tsar Alexander dies of typhus, Nicholas I becomes Tsar

1826 - Joseph-Nicéphore Niepce takes the world's first photograph

1826 - Russo-Persian War begins (1826–1828)

1826 - Arrest and Release of Rabbi Dovber

On the 28th of Tishrei 5587, (29 October 1826), the second Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Dovber was arrested on false accusations of financial misconduct and was escorted to the city of Vitebsk to stand trial. The accusations also resurrected some of the old claims against the chassidic movement more generally. The authorities soon realized that the charges against him were baseless and he was released on the 10th of Kislev (December 10th) 1826.13

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1826 - Marriage of Rabbi Menachem Mendel’s oldest daughter, Devorah Leah, to Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Zalmanson

1827 - Passing of Rabbi Dovber, the Second Rebbe of Chabad

In 1827 Rabbi Dovber spent the month of Tishrei in Haditchi, near the gravesite of his father, Rabbi Shneur Zalman. On his way back to Lubavitch he fell ill and was forced to stop in the town of Nizhyn. There he passed away on Wednesday, the 9th of Kislev 5588 (28th of November 1827), just under a year after his release from arrest, and exactly 54 years since his birth.14

1827 - The Decree of the Cantonists

In the summer of 1827 Tsar Nicholas I, extended the decree of the Cantonists to include Jews. From this point on, young Jewish boys would often be seized and forced into a 25 year term serving in the Russian army, with devastating impact on generations of Jews living in the Russian Empire. During his time as Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel exerted great effort, at his own personal risk, to save Jewish children from this decree. He established an organisation called ‘Chevras Techiyas Hameisim’ to help these children, and on at least one occasion delivered a Chassidic discourse to a large gathering of Jewish troops15

1828 - Russo-Turkish War begins (1828–1829)

1829 - Rabbi Menachem Mendel Accepts the Position of Rebbe

After the passing of Rabbi Dovber, Rabbi Menachem Mendel was reluctant to formally accept the position of rebbe. This continued for approximately a year and a half, until the Holiday of Shavuot 5589 (1829). During the run up to the holiday there was a concentrated effort amongst the Chassidim to prevail on Rabbi Menachem Mendel to accept the mantle of leadership. A group of senior chassidim traveled to Lubavitch for Shevuos to further this cause. Finally, on the day before the holiday, they prevailed and Rabbi Menachem Mendel formally accepted the position of rebbe.16

1831 - Polish revolt against Russia fails

1831 - Marriage of Rabbi Menachem Mendel’s second daughter, Roza Freida, to Rabbi Schneur Schneersohn, grandson of Rabbi Dovber,

1833 - Slavery abolished in British Empire

1834 - Abraham Lincoln elected to state legislature in Illinois

1834 - Birth of Rabbi Menachem Mendel’s youngest son, Shmuel

Rabbi Menachem Mendel’s youngest son was born on the second of Iyar 5594 (11th of May 1834). After the passing of the Tzemach Tzedek; Rabbi Shmuel became the fourth Rebbe of Chabad.17

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1836 - The Publication of Torah Or

Starting approximately from the year 1806, Rabbi Menachem Mendel began transcribing the teachings he heard from his grandfather, Rabbi Schneur Zalman. He would go on dedicate his entire life to their preservation, perpetuation, clarification, publication, and further development. In the year 1837 he published a collection of these talks together with his own glosses, titled ‘Torah Or’. Together with its sequel ‘Lekutai Torah’ (printed in 1848, see below), it became a mainstay of the Chassidic corpus.18

1836 - Forced Closure of Jewish Publishing Houses

In 1836 the Tsarist Government closed all the Jewish printing presses with the exception of the Romm publishing house in Vilna. This severely limited the ability of the Jews in the Russian Empire to print, holding up the publication of many chassidic books. Permission was given for a second printing press to be opened in Zhitomir (Zhytomyr), but for various reason this was not opened for a number of years. This forced Rabbi Menachem Mendel to postpone his planned sequel to Torah Or.19

1837 - Queen Victoria becomes queen of Great Britain

1841 - Opening of a Yeshiva in Lubavitch

As part of his mission to combat the secularization of the so called “haskalah” movement, Rabbi Menachem Mendel opened a Yeshiva in Lubavitch. He appointed his son Rabbi Yisroel Noach and his son-in-law Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Zalmanson to head this Yeshiva. At its height this Yeshiva had over 100 students. In the year 1850 the Yeshiva closed due to fears that it had been infiltrated by agents of the government.20

1843 - The Tsarist Government Convenes a Conference in Petersburg

During the leadership of the Tzemach Tzedek, members of the so-called “Haskalah” movement to secularize and russify the Jewish population tried extremely hard to influence traditional Jewish life. To this end, they convinced the government to convene a conference in Petersburg in the year 1843. Their intent was to overhaul the Jewish education system in Russia and introduce secular subjects into the curriculum. The Tzemach Tzedek attended together with Rabbi Yitzchok Volozhin as representatives of traditional rabbinic authority and communal leadership. During the conference Rabbi Menachem Mendel argued strongly for traditional Jewish values. In addition to successfully preventing the implementation of many of the proposed secularizing measures, Rabbi Menachem Mendel succeeded in getting a law passed that extended the Pale of Settlement for the Jews. As a result of this conference Rabbi Menachem Mendel was given the title ‘Honorary Citizen’ by the Tsar, in recognition of his work.21

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1843 - Preparing Lekutai Torah for Publication

On his return from Petersburg; having successfully countered the attempt of the so-called ‘Haskalah’ movement to secularize Jewish life. Rabbi Menachem Mendel immediately began to work on the second volume of his grandfather’s teachings, which would eventually be published in 1848, under the title Lekutai Torah.22

1846 The Establishment of The Settlement Schedrin

During this period the Jews in the Russian Empire were extremely limited with regards to what kind of professions they could pursue and in which areas they were permitted to live. Due to this, many Jews lived in abject poverty, with no way to support their families. In order to relieve some of this pressure and to assist Jewish families in need, Rabbi Menachem Mendel established the settlement of Schedrin. He initially settled about sixty families, each with a rent free agricultural allotment for a period of 25 years. Approximately fifty years later the town had grown to a population of 4000.

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1848 - Lekutai Torah is Published

In 1848, Lekutai Torah, the sequel to Torah Or (published in 1836), was finally published in Zhitomir (Zhytomyr), after its publication had been stalled due to the closure of the Jewish printing presses by the Russian government. In this volume Rabbi Menachem Mendel included many more of his own commentary glosses than he had in Torah Or.23

1851 - Named a ‘Hereditary Honorary Citizen’

Rabbi Menachem Mendel was appointed a ‘Hereditary Honorary Citizen’ after he established the settlement of Schedrin. Russian law stipulated that anyone who purchased land to settle Jews was entitled to this honor three years after the land was purchased. This title was officially granted in 1851.24

1853 - Crimean War begins as Turkey declares war on Russia

1855 - Nicholas dies. His son, Alexander II, becomes Tsar

1856 - Crimean War ends, The Treaty of Paris is signed

1856 - The Decree of the Cantonists is Abolished

Tsar Alexander II abolishes the Cantonist decree after Russia’s defeat in the Crimean war.

1856 - 1858 Fire in Lubavitch

Many fires burnt in the town of Lubavitch during the period it served as the center of Chassidus Chabad. However, a particularly destructive fire burnt sometime between the years 1856 and 1858. This fire consumed much of the town including the house of Rabbi Menachem Mendel, destroying much of his handwritten work and almost his entire library, including unpublished manuscripts in the hand of his grandfather, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi.25

1861 - Abrahm Lincoln is elected President and the Civil War begins in the United States

1859 - 1866 Falls Ill — Passes Away

During the month of Kislev, 5620, Rabbi Menachem Mendel fell gravely ill, this illness continued for six years. On the evening of the 13th of Nissan 5626 (28th of March 1866) his condition took a turn for the worse, at 12:30am, surrounded by the many Chasidim who had gathered, Rabbi Menachem Mendel returned his soul to its maker. During his leadership Rabbi Menachem Mendel had attracted hundreds of thousands of Chasidim to Chabad. He left behind six sons, five of whom became rebbes in their own right.26

Footnotes
1.
See Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, Sefer Ha-sichot 5703 (Kehot Publication Society, 1986), 154.
2.
See Chaim Meir Hillman, Beis Rebbi, (Berditchev, 1902), 115 .
3.
See Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, Sefer Ha-sichot Kayitz 5700 (Kehot Publication Society), 65.
4.
See Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi Maamarei Admor ha-Zaken 5564 (Kehot Publication Society, 1981), 343.
5.
See Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, Igrot Kodesh (Kehot Publication Society, 2013), 8
6.
See Chaim Meir Hillman, Beis Rebbi, (Berditchev, 1902), 240.
7.
See Chaim Meir Hillman, Beis Rebbi, (Berditchev, 1902), 241.
8.
See Chaim Meir Hillman, Beis Rebbi, (Berditchev, 1902), 90-92.
9.
See Rabbi DovBer Levine, Toldos Chabad Be’Russia Ha’Tzaaris (Kehot Publication Society, 2010) chapters 37-39.
10.
See Chaim Meir Hillman, Beis Rebbi, (Berditchev, 1902), 243.
11.
See Chaim Meir Hillman, Beis Rebbi, (Berditchev, 1902), 244; Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, Sefer Ha-sichot 5687 (Kehot Publication Society, 1992), 255.
12.
See Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, Igrot Kodesh (Kehot Publication Society, 2013), 147-151; Chaim Meir Hillman, Beis Rebbi, (Berditchev, 1902), 245.
13.
See Chaim Meir Hillman, Beis Rebbi, (Berditchev, 1902), 199-201; Rabbi DovBer Levine, Masar Ve-ge'ulat Admor Ha'emtzoie (Kehot Publication Society, 1998).
14.
See Chaim Meir Hillman, Beis Rebbi, (Berditchev, 1902), 201-204.
15.
See Avrohom Chanoch Glitzenshtein, Sefer Hatoldot Lha’Tzemach Tzedek (Kehot Publication Society, 1986), 96.
16.
See Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, Igrot Kodesh, Vol. 4 (Kehot Publication Society, 1983), 506-507.
17.
See Chaim Meir Hillman, Beis Rebbi, (Berditchev, 1902), 246. Rabbi Menachem Mendel had a seventh son, Yaakov. He was born before Shmuel but the exact year is unknown. He passed away at an early age. See Chaim Meir Hillman, Beis Rebbi, (Berditchev, 1902), 239. There are also reports of an 8th son born to Rabbi Menachem Mendel, who was named Yerachmiel, he too passed away at a young age. See Shneur Zalman Duchman, Lisheimah Ozen (Brooklyn, 1963, 56.
18.
See Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, Igrot Kodesh (Kehot Publication Society, 2013), 42.
19.
See Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, Igrot Kodesh, Vol. 4 (Kehot Publication Society, 1983),. 563.
20.
See Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, Reshimat Hayoman (Kehot Publication Society, 2006), 379 and 460.
21.
See Rabbi DovBer Levine, Toldos Chabad Be’Russia Ha’Tzaaris (Kehot Publication Society, 2010) chapters 67-78.
22.
See Chaim Meir Hillman, Beis Rebbi, (Berditchev, 1902), 236.
23.
See Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, Igrot Kodesh (Kehot Publication Society, 1983) 4 p 563 See Chaim Meir Hillman, Beis Rebbi, (Berditchev, 1902) p 236 and Rabbi DovBer Levine, Toldos Chabad Be’Russia Ha’Tzaaris (Kehot Publication Society, 2010), 9.
24.
See Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, Igrot Kodesh (Kehot Publication Society, 2013) p 12 and chabad.org/2529074.
25.
See Rabbi DovBer Levine, Toldos Chabad Be’Russia Ha’Tzaaris (Kehot Publication Society, 2010) chapter 63.
26.
See Chaim Meir Hillman, Beis Rebbi, (Berditchev, 1902), 238-239.
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Anonymous Brooklyn May 16, 2016

Dates Very Well done.
Important to note: The Dates Do not follow the Chabad tradition past on from Rebbe to Rebbe. Reply

The life and times of Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch (1789-1866)