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My Purpose Is to Elevate

This week the Chabad movement will mark a significant date: the 10th of Shvat. On this day 65 years ago, the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Joseph I. Schneerson, passed away, and he was succeeded by his son-in-law, the present Lubavitcher Rebbe.

The Rebbe assumed leadership during a complicated time for world Jewry. The Chabad movement, founded in Russia, had faced vicious persecution under the communist regime, and hundreds of prominent Chabad activists had been arrested and sent to Siberia, never to be seen again. The Holocaust had decimated the Jewish people and the survivors were broken in body and spirit. The loss of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, an indomitable leader who had refused to be intimidated by the Communists or the Nazis, was a devastating blow.

The personality of the new Rebbe was a mystery to most of the chassidim. The Rebbe conducted himself modestly and simply, and few knew of his great command of Torah as well as secular wisdom. No wonder that many people in 1950 were worried for the future of the illustrious Chabad movement.

But it did not take long for their fears to be laid to rest. From his first days the Rebbe exhibited a dynamic and decisive leadership style which was to transform the movement and Judaism as a whole.


The Rebbe’s leadership can be summed up in an expression that he himself coined. A chassid wanted to submit an urgent request to the Rebbe at a late hour. Therefore he slipped the letter under the door, hoping that the Rebbe’s secretary would notice it and bring it to the Rebbe. Later he realized that the Rebbe himself had bent down to pick up his letter, and he wrote another letter to the Rebbe to beg forgiveness. The Rebbe’s answer was: “This is my whole purpose--to uplift and elevate, especially things that others have overlooked.”

This is the job of the Rebbe: to lift up the people and breathe into them new life. To infuse a fresh spirit into Judaism, which in those times was quite downtrodden, and to elevate them into undreamed-of heights.

For this reason the Rebbe established an international network of Shluchim, emissaries. At a time when his chassidim were tiny in number, he began to disperse them to different points in the world to serve as towers of Judaism for the surrounding areas. With warmth and love, they would draw all the Jews together and bring them back home. Over the years, the netword of Shluchim widened and now it is rare to find an area of the world that does not have a Chabad representative.

The remarkable success of the Rebbe has transformed a small chassidic group into an international movement, not to mention the revolution he engendered in Jewish life, in Jewish education and Jewish observance. In the Rebbe’s merit, millions of Jews have learned to take pride in their Judaism. They gladly follow the call to do a mitzvah, even in a public area surrounded by non-Jews, a phenomenon that was impossible to imagine fifty years ago.


Our sages have compared the Jewish people to a body. The generation immediately before the Redemption is referred to as the heel—ikveta d’meshicha. It is the lowest, least sensitive part of the body. Yet G-d chose to send us the Rebbe, to uplift and elevate us and sensitize us to the true reality.

Just as the foot carries the entire body, our generation will lead all the generations before us directly to the Redemption, with the full revelation of Moshiach.



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