Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson of Lubavitch

Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson of Lubavitch

In 5689 (1929), Rav Yosef Yitzchak traveled to Eretz Israel. On route he passed by Alexandria, Egypt, and as his ship docked at port, the door to his cabin suddenly opened. Quickly entering was a man carrying a large basket of magnificent looking fruit. The man was weeping from emotion, and when he finally calmed down he recounted the following story to the Rav:

“When I was a little boy my grandfather went to see your father’s father, the Rebbe of Lubavitch, and he brought me with him so that the Rebbe could bless me. My grandfather had brought some beautiful fruit to the Rebbe as bikurim. You were then a small boy too, and at that time you were playing in your grandfather’s room. It was then that the Rebbe said to my grandfather, ‘May it be G-d’s will that your grandson,’ and he motioned to me, ‘brings bikurim to my grandson here.’

“Many years passed,” the man added. “Because of my business, I ended up living in Egypt. When I heard that you were passing through Alexandria, I suddenly remembered the blessing of the Rebbe, your grandfather. I then told myself, ‘The time has come!’ I immediately took a basket of fruit and brought it to you, and I thank G-d to have merited that the blessing of the Rebbe, your grandfather, was fulfilled.”

From his youth, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak was in fact a holy product worthy of praise, raised with the aim of leading multitudes of Jews.

He was born to Rabbi Shalom Dov Ber on Tammuz 12, 5640 in the small town of Lubavitch. While only a small boy, his father told him, “Man has two eyes. There are some things that he should look at with his right eye, and some with his left eye. One must always look at a Jew with the right eye, and toys and candy with the left eye.” “From that time on,” said Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak, “the principle by which we must always look at a Jew with a good eye, regardless of who he may be, was entrenched in my heart.”

At the age of 17 he married a relative of his, the granddaughter of the Tzemach Tzedek. During the week of the Sheva Brachot, his father announced the establishment of a network of yeshivot named Tomchei Temimim, and the young Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak was appointed as its director. It must be underlined that the yeshiva published a religious journal for children, the first of its kind in the world, entitled HaAch (“The Brother”).

Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak’s father passed away in 5680, and he was thus called upon to replace him as the sixth leader of the Chabad movement.

The Rebbe of Lubavitch assumed this responsibility at a very difficult time for Judaism, during the first days of the communist regime in Russia. He immersed himself in this work with great devotion, without heeding the terrible persecutions that prevailed at that time in Russia. He made certain that the Torah institutions his father had founded remained opened. When Jews were forbidden to learn Torah, the Rebbe assembled children in cellars and attics and secretly taught them Torah. This he did until the police discovered him and put him in prison. Yet there too the Rebbe demonstrated extreme courage, asking that he be brought his Tallit and Tefillin. When his request was refused, he declared that he would no longer eat until being allowed to don his Tefillin. Even when he was called before an inquiry, he replied that he would answer no questions until he was given the opportunity to pray with his Tallit and Tefillin. In the end he was victorious, and his Tefillin were brought to him.

Thanks to the efforts of chassidim throughout the world, the Rebbe was freed from prison. The date of his liberation, Tammuz 13, was decreed as the “holiday of deliverance” by Chabad chassidim, and on this day chassidim throughout the world gather and joyously celebrate.

After his liberation, the Rebbe traveled to Latvia, then to Poland, where he broadened his network of yeshivot. After the Nazis entered Poland, he fled to the United States and made his home on Eastern Parkway Boulevard in Brooklyn, New York.

By the time the Rebbe arrived in the United States, he was already broken in body and soul. However he gave himself no rest until having founded a great Chassidic movement there. American Children and youngsters flocked by the thousands to his yeshivot, and through his influence they enthusiastically adopted Chabad Chassidut. The Rebbe also published dozens of textbooks for Chabad yeshiva students.

Failure was an unknown word to Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak. He never relented before having succeeded in everything he began. Under his instruction, hundreds of Chassidim moved from Russia and other countries to Eretz Israel, and there they founded settlements and a network of educational institutions.

On Shevat 10, 5710, on the morning of Shabbat, his holy soul arose to Heaven. He left behind a legion of warriors that assured the continuity of the Chabad movement.

After the passing of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak, his son-in-law Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson became the seventh Rebbe of Chabad.




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