It is important for us to know how our Great live and work, so that we can learn from them and improve our own life. Although we may not be able to do quite exactly as they, we can, in our own way, try to act like them, and, in doing so, give greater meaning and worth to our humble life.

The great personality I am going to talk to you about actually lived in our own lifetime, and he was recognized as a hero and spiritual giant by the whole world. When I tell you a few things about him, you will see why. There is so much that is worthwhile in all he achieved during his lifetime, that it is impossible to squeeze into a few short pages the many great things he did for you I and me and for all our people everywhere.

I am speaking of the saintly Rabbi Joseph Yitzchok Schneersohn, the famous "Lubavitcher Rabbi" of blessed, memory, whose first Yahrzeit will be observed this month, on the tenth day of Shevat.

The family name "Schneersohn" has its origin in the name of the ancestor Rabbi Schneur Zalman, who lived about two hundred years ago, and who was the founder of Chabad Chassidism.

Chabad is a word made up from the first letters of three Hebrew words: Chochmah - wisdom, Binah - understanding, and Daath - knowledge. It teaches that the Jew's life should be based on the wisdom of G‑d, the understanding of His ways, and that this knowledge should be expressed in our daily life, in observing all the Divine commands with reverence and love for the supreme majesty of our Maker, for His Torah and His children.

I could tell you volumes about Rabbi Schneur Zalman and his wisdom and teachings, but I must reserve the little space we have here for the saintly Lubavitcher Rabbi, the hero of our story today. He was the sixth generation removed from his great ancestor, the founder of the Schneersohn dynasty, who were leaders of Chabad and of our people as a whole.

The title "Lubavitcher" Rabbi has its origin in the town of Lubavitch in Russia, which was the "seat" of the leaders of Chabad for generations.

Rabbi Joseph Yitzchok was born seventy-one years ago. From a very early age he kept a diary where he wrote down things that happened to him and every good thing that he learned from his parents, teachers and other Jews he met. From his own notes we know that he was a very diligent boy and loved his studies very much. He learned whole volumes of the Torah and Talmud by heart which he could recite for hours. Indeed, be had to do this of ten, when his father or teacher examined him. He received many prizes from his father for being a good student. And do you know what be did with the money? He saved every bit of it, until he had a neat little sum. This he made into a Free Loan Fund, from which he loaned various sums to the poor traders of his town without interest, or even without as much as a thank you.

He was very kind and very brave. Once he went to the defense of a poor Jew whom a drunken constable attacked and accused of stealing a calf. Joseph Yitzchok knew that the Jew was innocent, for he had loaned him money to buy the calf. For interfering with a policeman, the young Joseph Yitzchok was arrested and he spent his time in jail reciting portions of the Torah and Talmud by heart, until he was released. He was about eleven years old then! in later years he was to see many more arrests for trying to help his fellow-Jews.

When he was but fifteen years of age, his father, Rabbi Sholom Dovber Schneersohn, already gave him the responsibility of an adult, by appointing him his private secretary. If you remember that his father was the head of the Chabad movement, which counted hundreds of thousands of followers, and that he was also a leader of world jewry in general, you can see what a responsibility rested upon the young secretary's shoulders. For problems and questions poured in upon his father in an endless stream, seeking information, enlightenment, advice, leadership, and help.

At seventeen, Rabbi Joseph Yitzchok married his young cousin, Nehamah Dinah, who proved a worthy life-partner to her brilliant husband. They were a strikingly handsome couple, where beauty of appearance blended well with purity of character.

As soon as he was married, his fatherplaced upon him the burden of directing the many Tomche Tmimim Yeshivoth founded by himself, where the teaching of Talmud and Chabad Chassidism was combined to produce scholars of rare character. Many of these students-and during half a century there were many, many thousands of them-later became leaders of Jewish communities in all parts of the world, the Old and New, including the United States.

The young Joseph Yitzchok carried out all his duties with a brilliance which would have done justice to a far older and more experienced person. At the same time he was constantly learning and training for the position which he would have to take over to succeed his father. When his father passed on in the year 5680 (1920), sadly mourned by the entire Jewish people, Rabbi Joseph Yitzchok, at the request of the numerous followers of Chabad, took over the leadership and became "Lubavitcher Rabbi."

Those were eventful days in Russia, and very sad and difficult for the Jews, especially. For, only about three years earlier the Russian Czar was deposed and assassinated, and the Bolsheviks became the rulers of Russia.

Even before the fall of the Czarist regime in Russia, the Jews suffered persecution and oppression. But the Schneersohn family had enjoyed a privileged position. This dated back to the Russo-Napoleonic war, when Rabbi Schneur Zalman was rewarded by the Czar for his patriotism and service to the country, with the title of "Privileged Citizen unto his Generations." The Lubavitcher Rabbis never used this privilege for themselves, but to help their persecuted brethren. In doing so they risked annoying the Czar and his ministers. They travelled abroad to plead with rulers of other countries to use their influence with the Czar and his court to deal more humanely towards the Jews of Russia. Such work spelled grave danger to their person.

But now that the Bolsheviks were in power, the position was even worse than before. For while the Jews suffered economically under the Czarist government, now they suffered this as well as religious persecution.

Living as you do in a democratic country, it will be hard for you to realize the courage and heroism it required to observe the laws of the Torah in Soviet Russia: the holy Shabbos, Kashruth, and so on. Imagine the courage and heroism it required to conduct Yeshivoth and work for the strengthening of religious observance in that vast country. To the Bolsheviks this meant "opposition to the Revolution," and all opposition was stamped out with cruel death.

Now, whilst some Jews continued to practise Judaism in secret, the Lubavitcher Rabbi openly defied the Bolsheviks, for he continued to spread the Torah in his Yeshivoth, founded many more throughout Russia, and urged all Jews to remain true to their faith and the study of the Torah.

Time after time the Bolsheviks threw the Lubavitcher Rabbi into prison. Each time he was arrested, he said goodbye to his devoted wife and children, for he did not know if he would ever see them again.

He could have saved himself just by promising to stop the teaching and spreading of the Torah, but this he steadfastly refused to do. More than once they threatened to kill him, but he faced his tormentors unafraid.

On one occasion a Russian secret agent pointed a pistol at his breast and warned the Lubavitcher Rabbi that he would shoot him if he continued to preach and work for the Jewish religion.

The saintly Lubavitcher Rabbi smiled contemptuously at his would-be murderer, and said: "This toy may frighten one who has many gods and one (this) world; but I have but one G‑d and two worlds, so if you take this one away from me, I still have the next, which is the eternal one. My life is granted me for the purpose of teaching the Torah to my fellow-Jews, and if I cannot do that, then my life is worthless to me."

After they imprisoned him in one dreadful place after another, his health began to be affected, and no wonder. Still he would not give in.

The Russian secret agents marvelled at such courage and heroism. That time, too, they let him go, but how much longer would they put up with his defiance?

Finally, the fateful day came when his life was in the balance. But through the efforts of the most influential foreign diplomats, the Bolsheviks (or Soviets) released the Lubavitcher Rabbi and he was allowed to leave the country. That was in the year 5688 (end of 1927).

Despite his ill-health, the Lubavitcher Rabbi worked with the zeal of a young and robust idealist, never thinking of himself, but planting and encouraging Judaism in every country he visited, be his stay short or long.

When United States Jewry had the honor and privilege of having the sainted Lubavitcher Rabbi in their midst (he came here early in 1940), they thought that the great man had earned a good rest, peace and comfort. But these thoughts were far from his mind. He threw himself into work with all his zeal, and be accomplished miracles.

Many are the institutions he founded in the United States and in Canada, such as Yeshivoth, schools for girls, and various organizations dedicated to different problems in Jewish life: education, relief for refugees and displaced persons, visiting the sick, publication of literature and holy books, etc. The Lubavitcher Rabbi had everybody in mind: the young school boy or girl, the farmer in a remote farm, the soldier in the battle field, and the remotest Jewish communities the world over. Three times a week his door was open to all callers, from near and far. On these occasions there were crowds of people waiting for an audience with the saintly Rabbi.

He found time for everyone who looked to him for help or advice, and there was not one who did not come away from him encouraged and uplifted, readier to face the future than before.

One of the most important organizations which the Lubavitcher Rabbi founded and personally conducted, is the "Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch" (World Central Organization for Jewish Education). It is known all over the world for its wonderful work for the betterment of Jewish education everywhere. And this "Talks and Tales" monthly magazine, which is one of many hundreds of publications published by the Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch, also came about by the personal initiative of the Lubavitcher Rabbi.

If you realize how fully his time was taken up with his public work, you would find it hard to believe that he is the author of many hundreds of works and writings in the fields of Torah, Chassidism, Jewish philosophy, history, and so on.

Sad indeed it is that he passed away (a year ago on the tenth day of Shevat) at the age of seventy. Throughout the year of mourning, his holy resting place, at the Old Montefiore Cemetery outside New York City, was visited by thousands who come to pray there to the Almighty. His birthday (Tammuz 12th) and Yahrzeit are certain to be days when his Ohel (holy shrine) will be visited by many from all parts of the world.

And so, while the late Lubavitcher Rabbi is no longer with us physically, he is still with us in spirit. His influence and work is perpetuated in the many institutions and organizations he founded, and his saintly memory lives on in the hearts of the many thousands whom he helped and who loved and revered him for all times.

May he inspire us always, and may his merits be a shield over us.