On the 20th day of Cheshvan is the birthday of a great Jewish leader, who by his life and work has inspired our people far and wide. His name is Rabbi Shalom Dovber Schneersohn. He was the fifth generation, in direct line of succession from Rabbi Schneur Zalman, author of the famous work Tanya and others, the founder of Chabad Chassidism. Rabbi Shalom Dovber was the son of Rabbi Shmuel and the father of the sixth Lubavitcher Rabbi, Rabbi Joseph I. Schneersohn.

The life story of Rabbi Shalom Dovber is recorded in detail in the diary of his son. Here we find some interesting facts, about a dream come true, and about the life of a little boy who was to become a great Rabbi and leader.

Rivkah, the wife of Rabbi Shmuel, was a woman of unusual grace and charm; she was G‑d-fearing and of the finest character. She knew and appreciated the saintly qualities of her husband. Once, as she was leaving his study, the hem of her dress was caught in the door. The door could be opened only from inside, and in order to release her dress she would have had to knock at the door and have her husband open it. But she did not want to interrupt him and trouble him from his desk. So she stood there silently by the door for a very long time, until her husband, the Rabbi, chanced to open the door. Such were the parents of Rabbi Shalom Dovber.

Now, one night on the 10th of Kislev (a day after the birthday, as well as the Yahrzeit of Rivkah's grandfather, Rabbi Dovber the son of Rabbi Schneur Zalman) Rivkah had a dream. In her dream she saw her mother and her grandfather with smiling faces. Her mother said to her "Rivkah you and your husband should have a scroll of the Torah written." And her grandfather added, "You will be blessed with a fine son." Rivkah woke up with a start.

All day long she thought about her dream, but decided not to mention it to her husband. Then, on the night of the 19th of Kislev (the day on which her great-grandfather, Rabbi Schneur Zalman, was liberated) the dream was repeated. This time there appeared also her great-grandfather. Once again Rivkah was told about writing the Sefer Torah, and about the forthcoming birth of a fine son. Then the mother turned to the old man, her grandfather "Zaida, bless her." This he did, and Rivkah answered in a loud and clear voice, "Amen" which woke her up.

Her husband now asked her why she called out "Amen!" Rivkah got up, washed her hands and then related to her husband about the two dreams she had had. Rivkah had heard her husband once say that there were two opinions about dreams, one that believed in dreams, and another that did not, but that a good dream is always worth materializing. Now she wondered what he would say.

"This is a good dream," he said, "and should be fulfilled." Preparations were made to get the finest parchment for the Sefer-Torah, and a pious scribe was engaged to write it. By Rosh Hashanah the Sefer-Torah was well and completed, and on the day after Yom Kippur the Siyum (festive completion) was celebrated. Forty days later, on the 20th day of Mar Cheshvan, in the year 5621 (1861), Rivkah gave birth to a boy, who was named at the Brith Shalom Dovber.

When Shalom Dovber was 3 years old, he was brought to Cheder, which was held in the Beth Hamidrash of the boy's grandfather, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch (the famous author of 'Tzemach Tzedek'). Every day the boy would visit his grandfather, who took time off to play with him and question him about what he had learned that day in Cheder. The boy loved his father and grandfather dearly, and when the latter died, the boy was filled with grief, and became even more attached to his father.

Many are the stories about the piety and unusual qualities of the little boy. One of the stories worth remembering: Shalom Dovber was then about four years old. He happened to be with his mother when the tailor brought her a garment he had made up for her. The boy busied himself around the tailor, and, without any particular thought in mind, pulled out a piece of material from the tailor's pocket. The tailor blushed and began to stammer an explanation that he had really meant to return the piece of cloth which was left over, but had forgotten to do so. When he was gone, the mother said to her boy, "See, what you did to that poor man; you shamed him and made him unhappy. You must be careful never to shame anybody, even if you do not mean any harm." The boy felt very sorry and cried bitterly. For a few weeks he carried the burden of the sin, then one day he asked his father, "Father, how can one make good the sin of shaming someone?" His father told him what to do, and asked him what had happened. "I just wanted to know," the boy replied. Later, his mother asked him why he didn't want to tell his father what had happened. To which the boy replied gravely, "Is it not enough that I sinned by shaming someone? Would you have me sin again by bearing tales and saying bad things about someone?" To tell the whole story to his father would have meant telling him also about the dishonesty of the tailor, and this he did not want to do.

Shalom Dovber loved his studies, and by the time he became Bar Mitzvah, he was already a great scholar. The older he grew the more time he devoted to his studies, for which he had an unsatiable appetite.

In the year 5640, when he was 19 years old, his father began to call upon him in his public work. There was a great deal to do, for the position of the Jews under the Russian Czars was very difficult. It was constantly necessary to see influential people both at home and abroad, to have them do something to protect Jewish life and property and ease their economic plight. By this time, his son, Rabbi Joseph Isaac, who was later to suceed him, was born (12th day of Tammuz, 5640).

After Rabbi Shalom Dovber's father died (5643), he secluded himself for a whole year in study and prayer. For several years later he had to receive medical treatment in health resorts, as his health was not too good. During his trips abroad he had occasion to meet with important people and serve the cause of his downtrodden brethren. He also kept on writing Chassidic literature, many volumes of which have been published, and which are still studied by students of Chabad.

Despite his frail health, he devoted himself to his public work, helping his brethren materially and spiritually, but only about ten years after his father's death, did he accept the leadership officially, succeeding his father. In 5657 he founded the famous Lubavitcher Yeshivah Tomchei Tmimim in Lubavitch, Russia, later transferred to Poland and the United States, with many offshoots and branches in various parts of the world. On the second day of Nissan, in the year 5680, he passed away, and was laid to rest in the city of Rostov (on the Don River) in Russia.

Many are the followers and students in all parts of the world who are inspired by his selfless devotion to his people, by his piety and holiness, and who, as Rabbis and leaders in their own communities, try to continue the golden thread of tradition which they picked up under his guidance. They are the 'bright candles' lighting up the dark corners of the earth, as the great Rabbi Shalom Dovber had wanted them to be.