1. He Was Named DovBer After the Maggid of Mezeritch

Rabbi DovBer Shneuri of Lubavitch was born on 9 Kislev 5534 (1773), in the city of Liozna, now Belarus.

He was born 10 days before the first yahrtzeit of his namesake, Rabbi DovBer, the Maggid of Mezeritch, the second leader of the chassidic movement and the teacher of the Alter Rebbe.

His parents, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (the Alter Rebbe) and Rebbetzin Sterna, had been blessed with several girls, but no boys. Rabbi Schneur Zalman asked his teacher, the Maggid, for a blessing for a son. The Maggid instructed the couple to increase their hachnasat orchim (welcoming guests), in the merit of which they would be blessed with a son.

On the Shabbat before his passing, the Maggid shared with the Alter Rebbe the deep and holy preparations that were to be done before the boy’s shalom zachar and brit milah, and instructed him to name the boy after him.

And so it was. Nearly a year later, a boy was born, and he was named DovBer.

Read: A Biography of the Maggid of Mezeritch

Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi
Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi

2. He Is Referred To as the “Mitteler Rebbe”

In 5573 (1812), upon the passing of his father, Rabbi DovBer assumed the mantle of leadership of Chabad. He maintained this position for nearly 15 years, until his passing on 9 Kislev, 5588 (1827), at the age of 54. He was in turn succeeded by his illustrious son-in-law (and nephew), Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, known as the Tzemach Tzedek. Due to Rabbi DovBer’s untimely passing, he served as rebbe for the shortest period of time of all the Lubavitcher rebbes.

At that point he became known as the Mitteler Rebbe, “Middle Rebbe,” since he had served between the Alter Rebbe (“Old Rebbe”) and the (then) current Rebbe.

Read: Biography of Rabbi DovBer of Lubavitch

3. He Began Guiding Followers at Age 16

Well before he officially accepted the position of rebbe, when he was 16 years old, he was tasked by his father, the Alter Rebbe, with overseeing the education and the Torah study of the young chassidim—many of whom were a few years his senior. This duty included correspondence with the out-of-town chassidim as well. Rabbi DovBer invested many hours and much effort into this undertaking, and many stories are told about his success in this regard.

4. Was Married to Rebbetzin Shaina, and Had 10 Children

At the age of 16, Rabbi DovBer married Rebbetzin Shaina, daughter of an impoverished teacher named Reb Yaakov.

The Alter Rebbe encouraged the match, explaining that once Reb Yaakov’s eldest would marry into their family, the other children would have no issue finding appropriate spouses.

The couple had eight daughters and two sons. Most notable among them were Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, whose husband became the third Rebbe of Chabad, and Rebbitzin Menucha Rochel, who would be later known as “the Mother of Hebron” (see fact 7).

Rebbetzin Shaina ran the practical aspects of their household, assisted by Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, since her husband, Rabbi DovBer, mostly stood aloof from worldly matters.

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn of Lubavitch, the Tzemach Tzedek.
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn of Lubavitch, the Tzemach Tzedek.

5. He Was a Prolific Writer

From a young age, Rabbi DovBer would write prolifically and keep journals, documenting all the stories and Torah thoughts he heard from his father, their travel accounts, the story of Yud-Tes Kislev and much more.

He wrote with such speed, allowing his mind to flow through his pen onto the paper, that at times he would continue writing off the margins of the page onto his desk. He wrote so fast that at the 40th line, the first line would still not have dried.

Today his works are collected in over 30 volumes (including many books that were published posthumously), and are available at Jewish bookstores and online. Several of them took the form of small booklets, in order to be less costly.

Some of his works were written for specific people, such as Poke’ach Ivrim, which was written for a baal teshuvah named Shmuel Leib. It details the correct path in service of G‑d, for him and others in his situation. Although quite uncommon at the time, the book was written in Yiddish, for Shmuel Leib to understand.

Manuscript of the Mitteler Rebbe, Rabbi DovBer of Lubavitch (Credit: Library of Agudas Chasidei Chabad)
Manuscript of the Mitteler Rebbe, Rabbi DovBer of Lubavitch (Credit: Library of Agudas Chasidei Chabad)

6. He Shared Chassidic Teachings in Abundance

Rabbi DovBer is known for his abundant chassidic teachings and writings. Quite often, he would lecture for hours.

He was described by his grandson Rabbi Shmuel (the fourth Rebbe) as expressing the Kabbalistic attribute of binah, which implies a broad and flowing comprehension.

At one point he was heard during a discourse whispering “sha sha” (“hush hush”), to slow down the lightning speed of his thoughts.

A record might have been set when on one day of Shavuot he delivered 11 chassidic discourses!

Learn Some Teachings of Rabbi DovBer

7. He Founded the Chabad Community in Hebron

Rabbi DovBer sent a group of his chassidim to strengthen Jewish life in the Holy Land, founding the Chabad community in Hebron. He bought a room in the complex of the Avraham Avinu Synagoguein Hebron and designated it as a Chabad synagogue; it is the longest-standing Chabad property in Israel.

His daughter Rebbetzin Menucha Rochel later moved there, and was a central figure in the rebirth of Jewish Hebron, known to this day as “the Mother of Hebron.”

Read: Walking Between the Raindrops: The Life of Rebbetzin Menucha Rochel Slonim

A 19th-century depiction of the Four Holy Cities of Israel. (Photo: Wikimedia)
A 19th-century depiction of the Four Holy Cities of Israel. (Photo: Wikimedia)

8. He Put “Lubavitch” into Chabad-Lubavitch

After his father’s passing and the uprooting of the Chabad court following the French invasion of 1812, Rabbi DovBer searched for and found a new place to set up the Chabad court: the town of Lubavitch.

After his move there, chassidim bought homes in the area and built the city into the seat of the Chabad movement for more than a century.

Compared to the tumultuous times during which his father led Chabad, his tenure was characterized by peace and steady growth. The number of Chabad chassidim thus doubled and tripled.

The city of Lubavitch, home to the Rebbes of Chabad from 1813 to 1915. The Rebbe’s courtyard is depicted on the left.
The city of Lubavitch, home to the Rebbes of Chabad from 1813 to 1915. The Rebbe’s courtyard is depicted on the left.

9. Was Greatly Respected by the Russian Government

As his father’s son and successor, he was greatly respected by the Russian government. The Alter Rebbe was well-regarded for his support of the Russians during Napoleon’s invasion in 1812.

When Rabbi DovBer traveled from Kremenchug to Lubavitch, to accept the mantle of the Chabad leadership, the government officials in each city along the route were instructed to greet him and replace the horses of his carriage with newer, stronger ones.

Read: The Rabbi Who Defied Napoleon and Made Mysticism Accessible

Czar Alexander I of Russia
Czar Alexander I of Russia

10. He Created a Jewish War Relief Fund following the French Invasion of 1812

The financial wellbeing of Jews in Russia in the early 1800s was never ideal, but after the war and the mayhem that followed, the situation was dire.

Rabbi DovBer created a fund to rebuild Jewish towns that were destroyed, directing the communities to set up official schools where everyone could learn a trade and support themselves in a dignified manner.

11. He Formed a Musical Band Called “the Kapelieh”

Rabbi DovBer had a great appreciation for chassidic music. At his request, a band, called the Kapelieh, was formed by chassidim. They composed, played and sang the Chabad niggunim of their time.

At times he would have the Kapelieh play music and watch as specially trained chassidim would race on horses. His son Menachem Nochum was among the trained riders as well.

A few of the more famous Chabad niggunim are credited to the Kapelieh; one, known by the name of the band, “the Kapelieh,” is the niggun most associated with Rabbi DovBer.

Listen: The Mitteler Rebbe’s Kapelieh

Archived document signed by residents of Schedrin testifying that they were settled on the Rebbe's land, rent free, and that he provided for their agricultural needs.
Archived document signed by residents of Schedrin testifying that they were settled on the Rebbe's land, rent free, and that he provided for their agricultural needs.

12. He Founded Tens of Jewish Farming Colonies

Rabbi DovBer lobbied the Russian government to provide land for Jews to set up farming colonies. Once they were founded, Rabbi DovBer would visit the settlements, encouraging and uplifting their inhabitants, and raising funds for their expansion.

As a result of his efforts, he and his descendants were designated by the Czarist authorities as “honorable citizens.”

Thirty-nine settlements were established in the Kherson region; they sustained their communities for the next 120 years, until they were destroyed by the Nazis.

Read: The Chabad Shtetl Schedrin

13. He Was Imprisoned on False Charges

Rabbi DovBer was imprisoned on false charges of embezzling money raised as relief funds after the war of 1812 and the fire that took place in his father’s court in Liadi. On the day following Sukkot 5587 (1826) he was brought in for questioning in Vitebsk. After a little over a month, on the 10th of Kislev, he was freed (court proceedings went on for a while longer, and the charges were fully dropped a year later, on the 21st of Kislev, several days after Rabbi DovBer’s passing).

10 Kislev, the day that Rabbi DovBer was released, is considered a day of celebration in Chabad until today.

Read: The Arrest and Liberation of Rabbi DovBer

14. He Passed Away Immediately Following a Chassidic Discourse

After a month or so of battling for his health, on his 54th birthday, the ninth of Kislev (the day before the anniversary of his release from prison), Rabbi DovBer delivered a chassidic discourse with great excitement and energy. He concluded near dawn with the words Ki imcha mekor chaim meichayei hachayim, loosely translated as “for with You is the source of life, from the life of life.” He then passed away.

He was buried in the town of Niyezhin, where he had stopped on the way back from visiting the resting place of his father in Haditch.

He was born and passed away on the same day, similar to Moses, fulfilling the Talmudic statement that the righteous, like Moses, pass away on the day of their birth.

Read: Is It Special to Pass Away on Your Birthday?

15. The Mitteler Rebbe Popularized the Tzedakah Box

While overseeing the raising of funds for Jewish life in the Holy Land, Rabbi DovBer suggested that everyone designate a container in their house for charity, which would allow the donors to give tzedakah more often than if they would do so only when attending synagogue or when a collector would arrive.

This contributed toward the tzedakah box (pushka) becoming a household item for all, and a most common way of doing this great mitzvah.

Read: 15 Facts About Tzedakah

Tzedakah motif on a Jewish gravestone. Jewish cemetery in Otwock (Karczew-Anielin).
Tzedakah motif on a Jewish gravestone. Jewish cemetery in Otwock (Karczew-Anielin).