Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson succeeded to the line of chassidic masters that began with the Baal Shem Tov, and carried it into the modern day. He studied Talmud and Kabbalah from his father, and later from his father-in-law, the previous rebbe of Lubavitch. He received rabbinical ordination from the Gaon of Rogatchov, Rabbi Yosef Rosin, as an adolescent.

He also studied at the University of Berlin from the years 1928–1932, attending classes of Erwin Schrödinger, John Von Neumann, Wolfgang Köhler among other distinguished scientists and philosophers, and later attained a diploma in electrical engineering after studying at the Sorbonne from 1934–1938. In 1941 he escaped occupied France. Upon arrival in America, he was enlisted as an engineer on classified military projects.

With the passing of his father-in-law, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, in 1950, after an entire year of petitions and pressure he accepted the mantle of leadership of the Lubavitch chassidim.

Immediately he began sending agents to assist Jewish communities worldwide. In the Sixties he embraced the spirit of nonconformity, which he saw as a spiritual reawakening. Through his work, tens of thousands of Jews returned to their roots and their spiritual heritage, as thousands of institutions were established in every part of the globe.

Every day, bags of mail arrived at his door with requests for advice and guidance. He read each one personally, and much of this book is based on his responses. However, his frequent informal public talks—or farbrengens—are the major source. These have been edited and published in over forty volumes.

In the Eighties, he told his students they must also be concerned with the spiritual welfare of non-Jews, encouraging all people to follow the instructions given to Noah and his descendants. He pushed for spirituality and ethics to be introduced into the public school system, stating that this was the only way to establish a stable society.

In recognition of these efforts, in 1983 the United States Congress proclaimed the Rebbe’s birthday “Education Day USA,” and awarded him the National Scroll of Honor.

Throughout his life he was driven by a vision of the messianic era, and this came to a fore in his later years. He saw the advances of science, of communications technology, glasnost and other events as signs of a new era dawning. He repeatedly told his students that their entire goal must be to prepare the world for these imminent times.

In 1995 the Rebbe became the first to receive posthumously the Congressional Gold Medal, an award granted to only 130 Americans since Thomas Jefferson, for “outstanding and lasting contributions.”

His students consider him to remain their teacher and leader of the Lubavitcher chassidim, even after his passing in 1994. Men of spirit such as this live forever, in this world as well.