What if someone said to you, "I love you, but I don't like your children?" You'd probably say: "You may think that you love me, but you don't really. You don't care for what I care most deeply about. Obviously, you don't know anything about me, and you don't know what love is, either!"

The Torah commands us to "Love your fellow as yourself." The Torah also tells us to "Love the L-rd your G‑d." This prompted the disciples of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1812) to ask their master: "Which is the greater virtue, love of G‑d or love of one's fellow?"

True love means that you love what your loved one loves Rabbi Schneur Zalman replied: The two are one and the same. He then explained: G‑d loves every one of His children. So ultimately, love of one's fellow is a greater show of love for G‑d than simply loving G‑d. Because true love means that you love what your loved one loves.

Rabbi Schneur Zalman was the founder of the Chabad branch of Chassidism, and his teachings on the love of G‑d and man form an integral part of the philosophy and ethos of Chabad. Following Rabbi Schneur Zalman's passing in 1812, his son and successor, Rabbi DovBer, settled in the town of Lubavitch which served as the movement's headquarters for the next 102 years. Was it by coincidence or design that Rabbi DovBer chose a place whose name means "Town of Love"? Lubavitchers (as Chabad Chassidim are also known) will simply answer that there's no such thing as "coincidence", for even the seemingly minor events of our lives are guided by divine providence and are replete with significance.

On the 10th of Shevat, 5711 (January 17, 1951), a group of Chabad-Lubavitch Chassidim gathered at 770 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, New York. The occasion was the first anniversary of the passing of the sixth Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, and the official acceptance of the leadership of Chabad-Lubavitch by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who from that evening on would be known as the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe or simply, "the Rebbe".

That evening, the Rebbe also spoke about love — about the interrelation between love of G‑d and love of one's fellow. But the issue had become more complex since the first Chabad Rebbe had spoken of it seven generations earlier.

Much had transpired in the interim: the "enlightenment" movement, which alienated many young Jews from their heritage; World War I, which displaced much of European Jewry (in 1915, the town of Lubavitch was destroyed and the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe fled to the interior of Russia); Communism's war on Judaism (in 1927, the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe was arrested for his efforts to preserve Jewish faith and practice throughout the Soviet empire, and sentenced to death; international pressure achieved his release and emigration from Russia); and the Holocaust, which terminated 1000 years of flourishing Jewish life in Europe.

The destruction of European Jewry was a fresh memory to those present that winter evening in 1951 when the Rebbe assumed the mantle of leadership. Now they were in America, physically safe, but the spiritual future seemed bleak. The "melting pot" ethos of the New World did not encourage the cultivation of a Jewish identity and the observance of a Jewish way of life.

In Rabbi Schneur Zalman's day, it was universally accepted that a Torah way of life was the actualization of the bond between a Jew and his/her Father in Heaven. In 1951, the small minority of Torah-observant Jews in America were an object of contempt and derision by many of their own brethren. The most they could reasonably hope for was to persist in their own beliefs and try to pass them on to their children.

So it was not as simple as, "I love you, but I don't like your children." The feelings of the typical Torah-committed Jew in 1951 probably went something like this: "G‑d, I love You and I love Your children — those who act towards You as children towards their father. I'm not that excited about those who disavow their bond with You." They might have even felt that their love of G‑d was purer because it excluded those "rebellious" children.

That evening, after delivering the maamar (discourse of Chassidic teaching) which in the Chabad tradition marks a Rebbe's formal acceptance of his role, the Rebbe smiled and said: The Talmud says that "When you come to a city, do as its custom." Here in America it is customary to "make a statement"; I guess this means we should follow the local custom.

So the Rebbe issued a "statement":

The three loves — love of G‑d, love of Torah and love of one's fellow — are one. One cannot differentiate between them, for they are of a single essence... And since they are of a single essence, each one embodies all three.

The Rebbe went on to explain that the fact that "each one embodies all three" has a twofold implication. It means that unless all three loves are present, neither of them is complete. But it also means that where any one of the three exist, it will eventually bring about all three.

A person who loves G‑d, and is open to this love, will eventually come to love what G‑d loves — all His children. And his love will drive him to wish to bring G‑d's children close to Torah — because that's what G‑d loves. One who loves the Torah, will eventually internalize the recognition that the Torah's purpose and raison d'etre is to lovingly bring together G‑d and all His children. And one who truly loves a fellow Jew will inevitably come to love G‑d, since love of one's fellow is, in essence, the love of G‑d; and he will be driven to bring his fellow Jews close to Torah, which is the expression and actualization of their bond with G‑d.

When there is love of G‑d but not love of Torah and love of Israel, this means that the love of G‑d is also lacking. On the other hand, when there is love of a fellow Jew, this will eventually bring also a love of Torah and a love of G‑d...

So if you see a person who has a love of G‑d but lacks a love of Torah and a love of his fellow, you must tell him that his love of G‑d is incomplete. And if you see a person who has only a love for his fellow, you must strive to bring him to a love of Torah and a love of G‑d — that his love toward his fellows should not only be expressed in providing bread for the hungry and water for the thirsty, but also to bring them close to Torah and to G‑d.

When we will have the three loves together, we will achieve the Redemption. For just as this last Galut (exile) was caused by a lack of brotherly love, so shall the final and immediate Redemption be achieved by love for one's fellow.

In the six ensuing decades, the Rebbe's words became the mission statement of thousands of Chabad Houses and outreach centers throughout the world. More significantly, they heralded a sea change in the way that Jews regarded their heritage, their G‑d, and each other. It is no exaggeration to say that the "statement" issued that evening by a 48-year-old Holocaust survivor changed the face of world Jewry.