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Love According to the Rebbe

Love According to the Rebbe


What if someone said to you, "I love you, but I don't like your children?" You'd probably say: "You may think that you love me, but you don't really. You don't care for what I care most deeply about. Obviously, you don't know anything about me, and you don't know what love is, either!"

The Torah commands us to "Love your fellow as yourself." The Torah also tells us to "Love the L-rd your G‑d." This prompted the disciples of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1812) to ask their master: "Which is the greater virtue, love of G‑d or love of one's fellow?"

True love means that you love what your loved one loves Rabbi Schneur Zalman replied: The two are one and the same. He then explained: G‑d loves every one of His children. So ultimately, love of one's fellow is a greater show of love for G‑d than simply loving G‑d. Because true love means that you love what your loved one loves.

Rabbi Schneur Zalman was the founder of the Chabad branch of Chassidism, and his teachings on the love of G‑d and man form an integral part of the philosophy and ethos of Chabad. Following Rabbi Schneur Zalman's passing in 1812, his son and successor, Rabbi DovBer, settled in the town of Lubavitch which served as the movement's headquarters for the next 102 years. Was it by coincidence or design that Rabbi DovBer chose a place whose name means "Town of Love"? Lubavitchers (as Chabad Chassidim are also known) will simply answer that there's no such thing as "coincidence", for even the seemingly minor events of our lives are guided by divine providence and are replete with significance.

On the 10th of Shevat, 5711 (January 17, 1951), a group of Chabad-Lubavitch Chassidim gathered at 770 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, New York. The occasion was the first anniversary of the passing of the sixth Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, and the official acceptance of the leadership of Chabad-Lubavitch by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who from that evening on would be known as the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe or simply, "the Rebbe".

That evening, the Rebbe also spoke about love — about the interrelation between love of G‑d and love of one's fellow. But the issue had become more complex since the first Chabad Rebbe had spoken of it seven generations earlier.

Much had transpired in the interim: the "enlightenment" movement, which alienated many young Jews from their heritage; World War I, which displaced much of European Jewry (in 1915, the town of Lubavitch was destroyed and the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe fled to the interior of Russia); Communism's war on Judaism (in 1927, the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe was arrested for his efforts to preserve Jewish faith and practice throughout the Soviet empire, and sentenced to death; international pressure achieved his release and emigration from Russia); and the Holocaust, which terminated 1000 years of flourishing Jewish life in Europe.

The destruction of European Jewry was a fresh memory to those present that winter evening in 1951 when the Rebbe assumed the mantle of leadership. Now they were in America, physically safe, but the spiritual future seemed bleak. The "melting pot" ethos of the New World did not encourage the cultivation of a Jewish identity and the observance of a Jewish way of life.

In Rabbi Schneur Zalman's day, it was universally accepted that a Torah way of life was the actualization of the bond between a Jew and his/her Father in Heaven. In 1951, the small minority of Torah-observant Jews in America were an object of contempt and derision by many of their own brethren. The most they could reasonably hope for was to persist in their own beliefs and try to pass them on to their children.

So it was not as simple as, "I love you, but I don't like your children." The feelings of the typical Torah-committed Jew in 1951 probably went something like this: "G‑d, I love You and I love Your children — those who act towards You as children towards their father. I'm not that excited about those who disavow their bond with You." They might have even felt that their love of G‑d was purer because it excluded those "rebellious" children.

That evening, after delivering the maamar (discourse of Chassidic teaching) which in the Chabad tradition marks a Rebbe's formal acceptance of his role, the Rebbe smiled and said: The Talmud says that "When you come to a city, do as its custom." Here in America it is customary to "make a statement"; I guess this means we should follow the local custom.

So the Rebbe issued a "statement":

The three loves — love of G‑d, love of Torah and love of one's fellow — are one. One cannot differentiate between them, for they are of a single essence... And since they are of a single essence, each one embodies all three.

The Rebbe went on to explain that the fact that "each one embodies all three" has a twofold implication. It means that unless all three loves are present, neither of them is complete. But it also means that where any one of the three exist, it will eventually bring about all three.

A person who loves G‑d, and is open to this love, will eventually come to love what G‑d loves — all His children. And his love will drive him to wish to bring G‑d's children close to Torah — because that's what G‑d loves. One who loves the Torah, will eventually internalize the recognition that the Torah's purpose and raison d'etre is to lovingly bring together G‑d and all His children. And one who truly loves a fellow Jew will inevitably come to love G‑d, since love of one's fellow is, in essence, the love of G‑d; and he will be driven to bring his fellow Jews close to Torah, which is the expression and actualization of their bond with G‑d.

When there is love of G‑d but not love of Torah and love of Israel, this means that the love of G‑d is also lacking. On the other hand, when there is love of a fellow Jew, this will eventually bring also a love of Torah and a love of G‑d...

So if you see a person who has a love of G‑d but lacks a love of Torah and a love of his fellow, you must tell him that his love of G‑d is incomplete. And if you see a person who has only a love for his fellow, you must strive to bring him to a love of Torah and a love of G‑d — that his love toward his fellows should not only be expressed in providing bread for the hungry and water for the thirsty, but also to bring them close to Torah and to G‑d.

When we will have the three loves together, we will achieve the Redemption. For just as this last Galut (exile) was caused by a lack of brotherly love, so shall the final and immediate Redemption be achieved by love for one's fellow.

In the six ensuing decades, the Rebbe's words became the mission statement of thousands of Chabad Houses and outreach centers throughout the world. More significantly, they heralded a sea change in the way that Jews regarded their heritage, their G‑d, and each other. It is no exaggeration to say that the "statement" issued that evening by a 48-year-old Holocaust survivor changed the face of world Jewry.

By Yanki Tauber; based on the teachings of the Rebbe.
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Lusia Shindelman Los Angeles May 24, 2015

love has different colors like a rainbow Reply

JDV October 25, 2014

To love what your loved one loves Yes, but people change in a marriage. My husband is entirely different than when we were dating and should I love his hobbies - that he loves - when they are more important than I am? Reply

Josef Springfield , MA November 1, 2012

children Without them there would be culture nor traditions. Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, MA January 25, 2010

to LOVE to Love G_d with all one's heart, with all one's soul and with all one's might is about all mankind. I read some questions about does this include Gentiles?

For me, there is a deep problem with the question and only because LOVE is unconditional kindness (Winston Churchill)
Life is, a door/ life is adore. This is about us ALL.

To assume we, the Jews, have a corner on G_d's love is the opposite of humility and it is an arrogant and wrong perspective. If this were true, then I would say, everyone is a Jew, and that we've all been in each others' tents, around the world, through past lives.

There is no way I could encounter a G_d who eliminates the world, a world of G_d's creation from the meaning of LOVE itself.

I believe God was lonely and so God created a world, and we are aspects of divinity but the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. And this is about ALL creation: and how we spark each other.

My God is ONE, and this means all people, all creation. Unity in diversity. Reply

Anonymous Allinge, Denmark January 25, 2010

Love Love G-d, fellowman and the Torah . Does love include the gentile man? Reply

M.H.Sufrin London, U.K. via January 22, 2010

Love or loose In reply to love or loose, I have just returned from Columbia, Maryland. I have never experienced such warmth and kindness. We were total strangers at first and each member of the community with whom we came into contact could not do enough for us. In my own city £1,000 of pounds are collected easch week to help poor families. Food parcels are sent out etc. In the town of the terrible earthquake Jews are doing as much as they can to help. Drs. etc. have flown in from Israel etc. We are a wonderful nation who know how to practice kindness. Have good day. Reply

Beverly Kurtin Hurst, TX April 23, 2009

Love or Loose About 1900 years ago we Jews were expelled from Israel and were spread throughout the world. Why? Because the Romans expelled us? No. Because of our unwarranted hate of each other which remains to this day. We Jews are like little children in the same family who can’t get along. Go to almost any Christian Church and the instant someone notices you are new they will approach you, introduce themselves, ask your name, shake your hand…and if they had tails, they’d be wagging, they show you how happy they are to see you in their church. But walk into most shuls today and the first four words you will hear are not “Welcome to our shul,” but “You’re in my seat.” WHAT IS WRONG WITH THAT PICTURE? On PBS (Palestinian Broadcasting) Scott Simon asked a self-hating Jew, “Is there a need for Israel anymore?” He later apologized for that unmanageable question. But my question is, “If Jews in Israel can’t love one another, why should G-d permit us to stay there?” Reply

rami dressler n y, ny. usa January 28, 2009

i as a non religious Jew, i admire and respect the work of the Rebbe... since my son Joshua became religious i am leaning to do the same. thank you for all you all do. Reply

Anonymous via January 11, 2008

Rebbe 'Rebbe, Ich hob dir lib' Reply

Lisa Providence, RI April 19, 2007

Love If I was divorced with children, I wouldn't marry a man if he didn't "fit right in with the family"! Reply

Anonymous Saint Petersburg, Florida March 23, 2007

Rebbe's comments on Love Rebbe's comment that we are all sons of Abraham and essentially, there are no "'outsiders" was of great comfort to me.
I study this beautiful man's teachings and read as much as possible about his comments on every aspect of life.
I am not of the Jewish faith......'am a Gentile who is learning how to be a better person in this world, all from the Rebbe!
I bless the day I found, quite accidentally on the internet. Reply

Anonymous January 30, 2007

Love according to the Rebbe Just gazing at the holy Rebbe's face warms my heart and inspires love. I am so grateful to Hashem that we have him. I too was very far from Torah and Yiddishkeit until I came under his influence. His life and work are such an inspiration and strength for me, and for all Jews, if only they would know of his tremendous love for each and every one of us. Thank you for bringing him to the forefront. Reply

Chaya January 30, 2007

If I could talk face to face to the Rebbe today I would say thank you Rebbe for everything you did and everything that you stand for. I would not be here without his never ending guidance. The Rebbe has been and continues to be the light of my life. I was as far removed from yiddishkeit as one can be, but he came into my life and turned it around. Today I do not move without thinking "what would the Rebbe say?" To me he is always here with me just as I knew he was with each one of us every time I wrote to him. Through his love of Yidden he broke through every possible gates, and certainly he broke through the kelipah which surrounded my heart all those years ago. On behalf of all those who do not realize just what our Holy Rebbe is, I thank him....for me, for you, for all of us Reply

Attila Veress Brasov, Romania January 30, 2007

This commandment is the core of the Torah As Rabbi Akiva said "This commandment is the core of the Torah".
We can't live in harmony and complementarity with other people without love - the three loves. And we should never forget the golden rule "What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow man." This could be a good start. If one loves G-d eventually the other loves will come too. Thank you for your wonderfull article.
We can find different formulations of the golden rule in every religion -but the message is the same. Reply

eldad January 29, 2007

may Moshiach come now and may we be immeadietly reunited with our Rebbe! Reply

jackie yaffe kfar saba, israel January 29, 2007

love what a truly inspiring, moving statement. i am a very latecomer to the wonderful concept of Chabad. But I have a thirst to understand so much more. Reply

Anonymous phila, pa June 25, 2006

love and marriage Why do Lubavitchers feel that marriage must be rushed?? What is wrong with waiting to get to know your future spouse, giving it time before making such fast and not too well thought out announcements?

Sure it's wonderful to find the right person, but how do you do that when you do not allow the man and woman to know each other first? To know each other's families first? I don't get it. Why the rush? What is wrong with time? Give these kids some time, a gift from G-d! Reply

Eric S. Kingston North Hollywood, CA April 10, 2006

Someday is NOW
Someday we'll see all loves are one
Someday we'll see each other as one
Someday we'll love and we won't ask how?
The only sorrow my friend
is we don't see someday is NOW Reply

Dr. Daniel Rubin Beverly Hills, california February 10, 2006

This powerful "statement" by the Rebbe explains why and how as a nice middle class assimilated medical student trying to make sense of the world, I B'H became a Baal Tshuvah. My relationship with Chabad continues to be a source of ongoing inspiration and joy. Reply

eldad February 8, 2006

The Lubavitcher Rebbe is truly the Rosh Bnei Yisrael (head of the Jewish people). The Rebbe feels the pain of every Jew even in the most far flung corners of the planet. Just as the brain feels the pain of the toe nail, the Rebbe feels all our pains. Without the Rebbe we wouldn't know the greatness of Ahavat Yisrael. The Rebbe is truly a "sheperd of faith" who cares for every Jew and causes our faith to be sustained in G-d and in our fellow Jew. . . May G-d send Moshiach now and may we be reunited we our dear Rebbe now! Amen Reply