Two centuries after the passing of the first Chabad-Lubavitch Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, worldwide gatherings, conferences and celebrations devoted to his life and legacy are a testament to the spiritual potency of his teachings.
Hundreds of scholars and students of Jewish history, law and mysticism will be attending “Chabad: History, Philosophy, Image”—a three day international conference to be held at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem beginning Monday.
Immanuel Etkes, Professor Emeritus of the History of the Jewish People at Hebrew University, and author of a highly acclaimed biography of Rabbi Schneur Zalman is organizing the event, which will lead off with a musical presentation of Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s niggunim, Chassidic melodies, led by professor Andre Hajdu and the Ha’oman Hai Ensemble.
The three-day conference will feature lectures and symposia in Hebrew and English led by dozens of world-renowned scholars such as professor Moshe Idel—recipient of the Israel Prize for Jewish Thought, and the Gershom Scholem Prize for research in Kabbalah; Chabad-Lubavitch scholar and author Dr. Tali (Naftali) Loewenthal; and professor Ada Rapoport-Albert–outgoing chair of Jewish Studies at University College London, and author and editor of many acclaimed works including Hasidism Reappraised.
A daylong event will be held in New York this Sunday featuring a noteworthy list of Chabad scholars led by pre-eminent Chassidic thinker Rabbi Yoel Kahn—chief transcriber and editor of the teachings of The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of blessed memory, and editor of the Encyclopedia of Chabad Thought (Sefer Ha’erchim Chabad); Rabbi Yaakov Leib Altein—editor-in-chief of the Heichel Menachem Publishing House and the Heichel Ha’Besht Journal; Rabbi Shalom DovBer Levin, scholar and author of numerous works about Rabbi Schneur Zalman; and Rabbi Yukusiel Farkash– a noted authority on Jewish law from Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, in Monsey, N.Y., Heichal Menachem, which regularly attracts participants to its Yiddish and English language classes and events from the wide-range of Chassidic and other Orthodox Jewish groups living in the area, hosted a gathering Saturday night. “It was the biggest event ever in our community,” said Rabbi Gedaliah Oberlander, saying that upward of 400 to 500 people attended.
Set to be held in a large wedding hall in Monsey, and featuring two speakers from Israel, Oberlander said he hoped that people went home with a deeper feeling for the Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s teachings and a renewed interest in regularly studying his works.
Rabbi Avrohom Jaffe, director of Chabad-Lubavitch in Manchester, England, explains that days like 24 Tevet, the anniversary of Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s passing, are special times for recollection and personal reflection, especially when related to an auspicious number like 200, for emphasizing who Rabbi Schneur Zalman was and how he can continue to bring inspiration to people’s lives.
Jaffe said in addition to resolving to carry his message in all aspects of their lives and emulating him where possible, he’s encouraging people to give charity in multiples of 200. His Chabad center will have speakers discussing the works and impact of Rabbi Schneur Zalman. And as at most events participants will join together in singing many of the spiritually elevating Chassidic melodies composed by him.
Chabad of the Laurentians and the Centre Chabad in Montreal, Canada will host events highlighting the Alter Rebbe’s history, thought and the impact of his teachings. Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Shalom Chriqui said he’s expecting some 100 to 120 people in each venue as they mark the 200 year anniversary. He’ll be encouraging people to study the Tanya, Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s seminal work of Chabad Chassidic thought throughout the coming year, and said he expects people will be more sensitive then ever to its symbolism and message.
“It’s only human that this year there should be more effort and more impact than ever before,” he said.