“He feels what everyone here feels. He helps all attain the unattainable. In his presence, one feels more Jewish, more authentically Jewish. Seen by him, one comes in closer contact with one’s own inner Jewish center.”

—Elie Wiesel

The Rebbe was a global leader whose towering personality, innovative methods, organizational skills and vision impacted the entire world. At the same time, to hundreds of thousands who came in direct contact with him, he was their personal Rebbe.

The pain of everyThe pain of every individual was his pain individual was his pain, and the joys of every individual were his joy. No one was dispensable. Everyone belonged and everyone counted.

On numerous occasions the Rebbe cited the Midrashic narratives about Moses, who with loving tenderness fed the right type of grass to each type of sheep and chased a single lost sheep in order to return it to the flock.

This, the Midrash says, is why Moses was chosen to be the shepherd of the Jewish people.

Extracting Hidden Powers

In similar fashion, the Rebbe recognized the value and particular qualities of each individual. He would tap directly into the very core of a person’s being and activate hidden reservoirs of energy. He encouraged all to go beyond themselves, beyond their current mindset and personal limitations – to grow and expand in their service of G‑d in every direction.

Furthermore, the Rebbe urged everyone – even a young child – to have a positive effect also on his or her sphere of influence, to serve as a catalyst to elevate the spiritual and material condition of anyone else with whom he or she came in contact.

The Rebbe encouraged and motivated each person to fully utilize their unique talents and personality. This was especially manifest in the trust he vested in his Shluchim. The Rebbe gave them the freedom to design programs in their respective communities that were consistent with their individual natures and matched with the community’s needs.

The Rebbe empowered ordinary individuals to accomplish extraordinary things. He mined dormant talents, energies and powers to uplift countless communities – to change the world, to share and transmit the message of hope and goodness everywhere.

Rather than merely attracting followers, the Rebbe created leaders.

He crafted a unique brand of Shluchim, emissaries, transformingthem from ordinary citizens concerned with their private lives, into “big people” – visionaries and leaders, concerned primarily with the welfare of others. The Rebbe inspired generations of Shluchim to leave everything in order to make a lifelong commitment to their new communities.4

The Rebbe imparted to others something of his own sense of freedom – the freedom to transcend one’s own needs and limited perspective of Judaism.

By Example

The Rebbe himself was the consummate yerei shamayim (G‑d-fearing person), the ultimate man of Halachah (Jewish law), who fulfilled mitzvos in the most meticulous and scrupulous fashion. Yet, he accepted and went out of his way to meet people whose conduct, deportment and persuasion contrasted sharply with his own. He treated them with respect, love and affection. He would find a good word for them, shower them with blessings, and help them in any way that he could.

While for the Rebbe, Mitzvah observances and the Torah way of life were an absolute, he related to each person in accordance with the individual’s own situation and observance level. Mindful of the person’s needs, he would encourage Jewish growth in a way that emphasized the benefits of coming closer to Torah’s way.

The Rebbe imparted this spirit to his Shluchim, to his Chasidim and to many beyond Chabad circles.

As a leader who dared to march into terra incognita, the Rebbe dispatched his Shluchim to far-flung places that lacked a community and an environment conducive to a life of Torah – not to mention a Chasidic way of life – for themselves and their children.

Even three decades into his leadership, the Rebbe still stood practically alone in this far-flung outreach work while others remained on the sidelines for fear of spiritually endangering the impressionable young people necessary to carry out this effort.

Only a leader like the Rebbe had the spiritual resources to enable his Shluchim to withstand all challenges, to stand tall and strong in their personal lives, and to exert healthy influence on, rather than be influenced by, the communities in which they lived. They prepared the grounds for everyone to follow suit.

Everyone’s Rebbe

The Rebbe was not only the Rebbe of Lubavitcher Chasidim; he was everyone’s Rebbe.

He encouraged rabbis and lay people, institutions and programs that were far outside the Lubavitch framework to play their special role in impacting their communities and beyond.

Rather than seeking a monopoly on innovation, from the very outset the Rebbe called upon all rabbis, leaders and educators to raise the spirit of their flock and reach out beyond their insular circle.

A Light to the Nations

While the Rebbe’s entire being is representative of Judaism, and though the Rebbe was known, first and foremost, as a loyal shepherd for the Jewish people, the Rebbe paid attention to and cared for the improvement of all humanity as a whole: its quality of life in general and its moral life in particular.

While the Jewish people have a distinct way of lifeThe Rebbe cared for the improvement of all humanity and are a unique nation to whom the Torah was given with a specific mandate, the Torah also contains instruction for all of humanity – known as the Seven Noahide Laws.

From the Rebbe’s broad Torah perspective and world view – as detailed in the Prophets, Scriptures, Talmud, and Jewish philosophy – the entire world is here for and will ultimately come to serve the one G‑d – and we are responsible to help see to it that this comes to fruition.

It is part of the mission of the Jewish people to be “ohr la’goyim” – a light unto the nations. And it is a Jewish obligation to help influence non-Jews to follow G‑d’s commandments in the Seven Noahide Laws for a moral, just and civil world.4

On numerous occasions, the Rebbe dedicated lengthy talks to the cause of improving public school education, particularly regarding moral values, and to heighten the consciousness of mankind towards charity, ethical values and principles – based on the recognition of, and submission to, a Supreme Authority.

Similarly, in private audiences, the Rebbe urged Jewish and a non-Jewish leaders to utilize the influence of their offices for the betterment of the economic and social life of mankind. He also called upon Jewish people, who, through commerce and otherwise, come into contact with non-Jewish people, to make their acquaintances aware of their moral and ethical charge.

In the Rebbe’s world, everyone, in his or her own way, can and must join in to transform the Universe into a welcome “home for G‑d.”

Take the High Road

The Rebbe would often relate a statement by the Fourth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Shmuel (the Rebbe “Maharash”), “Lechatchilah Ariber!” – One’s approach in the service of G‑d should be to “take the high road.” This attitude became one of the Rebbe’s hallmarks. When embarking on a campaign or responding to a need – rather than focusing on the odds, the Rebbe zeroed in on the need and the solution, confident that conditions would ultimately fall into place.

Rather than taking the route of surveys, meetings, and studies, the Rebbe, with minimal resources, launched innovative campaigns, created institutions and programs, and inspired others to follow suit. Armed with love, a positive attitude and the determination to help every Jew, his Shluchim set out for communities across the world. Eventually they won the admiration and support of all, even their adversaries.

Similarly, the Rebbe encouraged Chasidim to approach Jews everywhere, even in business or on the street, offering to put on Tefillin and perform other mitzvos, without regard for standard etiquette or fears of being rejected.

And in the same spirit, the Rebbe instructed Chasidim to share the “best” in Judaism, even with those who do not yet observe even the minimum – hence, for example, the Shmurah Matzah campaign which ultimately also helped promote basic Pesach observance.

The Cry of a Child

The Rebbe related the following story: The second Rebbe of the Chabad dynasty, Rabbi Dov Ber – following his marriage – lived in the house of his father, Rabbi Schneur Zalman. Once, Rabbi Dov Ber’s infant child fell out of a crib in the other room and was crying. Rabbi Dov Ber, who was known for his ability to focus intensely for hours on Torah subjects, was so engrossed in his thoughts that he did not hear the baby crying. Rabbi Schneur Zalman came downstairs and picked up his grandson. He later rebuked his son: “No matter how deeply one is engrossed in Chasidus, one must never be oblivious to the cry of a child.”

The Rebbe insisted that we must never be so involved with our own affairs, lofty as they may be, that we are unable to pay heed to the inner cry of others to return to their spiritual roots.

Not only did the Rebbe pay attention to the general outcry of the Jewish community, he was attuned to their particular inner cries as well. The Rebbe took seriously every segment of the community, tending to their needs with sincerity and truth, on their level and in the way that they expressed their outcry:


In 1942, long before women’s rights made its way into world consciousness and the Jewish agenda, the Rebbe established N’shei Chabad, the Chabad Women’s Organization, as an independent group, rather than merely an auxiliary. In his pre-holiday letters to world Jewry, the Rebbe would always address himself to “the Sons and Daughters of Israel.” At every major farbrengen the Rebbe would devote one of his talks specifically to women. Several times a year, he would meet and talk exclusively to women.

In his talks, the Rebbe emphasized the special quality, merit and responsibility accorded to women. Among other things, the Rebbe was the first rabbinic leader to publicly tackle the problem and needs of battered women. The Rebbe also encouraged serious academic learning of Torah and Chasidus among women.


Education generally, and the education of children in particular, is a theme that is a constant in the Rebbe’s talks and writings. Information imparted to children, the Rebbe emphasized, must contain the entire truth and the same depth provided to adults.

A child’s question, the Rebbe said, should not be given an untrue or watered-down response. Not only because the answer will affect him for the rest of his life, but because children must be taken seriously as human beings who deserve the proper “nourishment,” albeit in a matter that they can digest.

“At the time when the Rebbe sent my husband and me as emissaries, my husband could not speak English and I was too bashful to even call directory assistance for a phone number. If I were in charge, I would never have allowed me to represent me. And yet the Rebbe entrusted us with this enormous responsibility and empowered us to represent him.”

—From a shlucha sent by the Rebbe in the 1960’s.

Raya Mehemna – “The Shepherd of Faith”

The Midrash describes Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses) as a Raya Mehemna, “a Faithful Shepherd” – or, in accordance with Chasidic interpretation, “a Shepherd of Faith.” Similarly, other leaders of the Jewish people throughout the ages were described in this manner.

In private meetings, in correspondence, and inThe Rebbe nurtured his audience with pure faith, earnestness, and undaunted devotion public talks, the Rebbe nurtured his audience with pure faith, earnestness, and undaunted devotion. In the face of great universal challenges – the Holocaust, world cynicism, scientific discoveries – or the harsh reality of individual hardships, the Rebbe imparted earnestness and purity of faith in a way that permeated the individual’s life.

This is evident in the spirit of dedication that the Rebbe imparted to his Chasidim, his Shluchim and their children born and raised in remote communities. Looking at them, one marvels at their faith and steadfast Chasidic way of life. So, too, even under the harshest oppression under brutal Communist regimes, Chasidim survived and flourished. Their faith permeated their entire beings, as they internalized the Rebbe’s teachings.

Throughout the ages, great Jewish leaders have inspired their people to summon their potential for self-sacrifice in the face of persecution, poverty, and discrimination. The Rebbe, however, aroused a sense of self-sacrifice even among Jews who enjoyed unprecedented freedom. He empowered them to withstand, not the test of poverty, but the test of affluence and comfort. As the Rebbe pointed out in his last edited discourse, this test is, in a way, a greater challenge, requiring an even deeper sense of commitment stemming from the very essence of the soul.

Furthermore, like none other, the Rebbe impressed upon all those with whom he came in contact, that Torah and mitzvos are effective not only on a spiritual level, but that they are vehicles for G‑d’s blessings in the reality of this world, showing that the observance of Torah and mitzvos is synonymous with success in one’s physical and material life.

A Call From the Rebbe’s Office

When I left the rabbinate for the private sector, I decided to publish a short Torah message on a card, measuring 3x6 inches, and insert it with my periodic company mailings. Included on the card was my name, address and telephone number. I added the Lubavitcher Rebbe to my mailing list.

There came a time when I stopped publishing the card. Something amazing happened. The Rebbe’s secretary telephoned me, in the Rebbe’s name, asking why the cards with the spiritual message were no longer included! Even now when I think of it, I find it difficult to understand. With all the thousands of letters which the Rebbe received, with all the responsibilities entailed in guiding his worldwide movement, the Rebbe had noticed that the card was missing and he took the time to remind me to resume mailing it!

— From the introduction to the book “My Soul Thirsts,” by Rabbi Zalman Aryeh Hilsenrad

Concern For All Mankind

The Rebbe’s counsel was sought by national and international government officials of all levels.

After one such meeting with US Senator Patrick Moynihan, the Rebbe asked if he could request a favor from the Senator.

“Here it comes,” the Senator thought to himself, “Now the Rebbe is looking for the payoff.”

The Rebbe continued: “There is a growing community in Chinatown. These people are quiet, reserved, hard-working, and law-abiding – the type of citizens most countries would treasure. But because Americans are so outgoing and the Chinese are, by nature, so reserved, they are often overlooked. Thus they miss out benefitting from government programs. I suggest that as US senator from New York, you concern yourself with their needs.”

“I was overwhelmed,” the Senator said afterwards. “The Rebbe has a community of thousands in New York City and institutions all over the State that could benefit from government programs. I am in a position to help secure funding for them. The Rebbe didn’t ask about that. Instead, he was concerned with the Chinese in Chinatown. I don’t think he has ever been there, and I’m certain that most people there don’t know who he is, but he cares about them…”