(1783) R. Schneur Zalman is appointed maggid in Liozna

In 1783 R. Schneur Zalman was appointed to the position of maggid (preacher) in the town of his birth, Liozna. From this time he began delivering public discourses on a regular basis, and his teachings were disseminated far and wide.

For more about the oral teachings of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, click here.

(1783) The debate in Minsk

Throughout this period, a campaign of harassment was waged against the chassidic community by elements of the Lithuanian rabbinic establishment known as mitnagdim (“opponents”). Edicts of excommunication, issued in the influential cities of Vilna, Minsk and Shklov, were publicized everywhere, inciting the population to persecute members of the chassidic “cult.” In response, Rabbi Schneur Zalman arranged for a debate to be convened, and there he vindicated the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov and the chassidic way of life. The debate was a momentous occasion, and many erudite young scholars joined the ranks of the chassidim.

Read The Debate in Minsk.

(1787) Persecution against the chassidim intensifies

An announcement condemning the chassidic movement was issued by eighteen rabbis in the Mohilev region, escalating tensions between the chassidim and their opponents. R. Schneur Zalman counseled his followers to ignore the onslaught, avoiding polemical argument and seeking only peace.

Read Immanent Transcendence: Chassidim, Mitnagdim and the debate about tzimtzum

(1788) Passing of R. Menachem Mendel of Horodok

Eleven years after settling in the Holy Land, Rabbi Menachem Mendel passed away on the first of Iyar in the year 5548 (1788). He is buried in Tiberias.

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

(1789) Birth of the Tzemach Tzedek

Rabbi Menachem Mendel, later famed as the Tzemach Tzedek, was born to R. Schneur Zalman’s daughter Devorah Leah on the 29th of Elul 5549 (1789). His mother passed away when he was only three years old (see below), and he was raised in the household of his grandfather. In 1827 he became the third rebbe of Chabad.

(1790) R. Meir Raphaels elected to the Vilna community council

Since the beginning of Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s leadership, the situation in Vilna had steadily been improving. The chassidic prayer group was reestablished first in the home of R. Eliezer ben Chaim, and later in the home of R. Meir Raphaels. In 1790 R. Meir was elected to the Vilna community council, and the situation continued to improve until approximately 1797.

(1791) Passing of R. Baruch, father of R. Schneur Zalman

(1792) Passing of Devorah Leah, daughter of R. Schneur Zalman

Read A Mother’s Greatest Sacrifice.

(1793) Louis XVI of France executed by guillotine

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

(1796) Publication of the Tanya

In 1796 the Tanya, the foundational work of Chabad Chassidism, was printed for the first time. In this very accessible text Rabbi Schneur Zalman explains the key components of the Chabad methodological approach to devotional service of G‑d, along with the relevant mystical doctrines.

For more about the Tanya, click here.

(1798) Rabbi Avraham of Kalisk reacts to Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s Tanya

R. Avraham of Kalisk was a disciple of the Maggid of Mezeritch, and a leader of the chassidic community in the Holy Land. The Tanya’s lucid explanation and clear methodology led him to criticize his friend and colleague Rabbi Schneur Zalman, writing in a letter that “too much oil threatens to extinguish the light.”