I am slowly coming back to my Jewish roots and have been exploring different synagogues. I try to understand the philosophy behind each group, but am especially struggling to understand Chabad.

There seems to be such a difference in observance between the rabbi and the rest of the congregation, and yet, at the same time, the bond between them seems so close.

I guess what I'm really asking is: how could a group so committed to halachah also be so tolerant and accepting of Jews with lifestyles so different from their own?


Chabad reflects the teachings of the first Chassidic master, Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, as they were applied to the modern day by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson of righteous memory, known affectionately by Jews worldwide as simply, "The Rebbe." The Baal Shem Tov taught the value of unconditional love and the Rebbe showed us how to make that practical in Jewish life today. Specifically, he taught us how to:

  • Distinguish between the individual and a specific behavior s/he may do.
  • Understand how lack of observance is often to no fault of the person, but rather due to external factors, such as a lack of a proper Jewish education.
  • Focus on the positive: The soul within and its unlimited potential.
  • Know the value of just one mitzvah or good deed all on its own.
  • Realize that what matters most is not on which rung of the ladder you're standing, but the direction in which you're moving.

A Chabad House is nothing more than all these lessons in real life. Well, these and yet more. I recommend you read about the rest, about the history of Chabad and about our unique approach to G‑d and our fellow in our What Is Chabad? FAQs.

Let me know if this helps.

Rabbi Yisroel Cotlar