Chabad Hasidism developed at the end of the 18th century around the persona of rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liady (b. 1745–d. 1813). Shneur Zalman, who was a student of two important leaders of the nascent Hasidic movement, Dov Ber of Mezeritch and Menachem Mendel of Witebsk, gradually rose to become a Hasidic leader in his own right following the latter’s emigration to Palestine. His literary output, which encompasses both legal and mystical teachings, forms the core of Chabad doctrine. Following his death and a succession feud, his followers split into two groups. One followed his son Dov Ber Shneuri (b. 1773–d. 1827), while another followed his outstanding disciple, Aharon ha-Levi (b. 1766–d. 1826). Dov Ber relocated to the neighboring town of Lyubavitchi, from which the movement got the second part of its name: Chabad-Lubavitch. Aharon did not manage to perpetuate his leadership; when he died the majority of his followers rejoined Chabad-Lubavitch, confirming the father-to-son succession model in Chabad. Lyubavitchi remained the spiritual center of the Lubavitch faction of Chabad until 1915, when the fifth rebbe, Shalom Dovber Schneersohn (b. 1860–d. 1920), relocated to Rostov in an attempt to flee the advancing German army. After the October Revolution, the new communist regime and the antireligious persecutions that followed eventually forced Chabad out of Russia and into Latvia and Poland. The Polish episode in Chabad history did not last long and was abruptly ended by the outbreak of the Second World War. Thanks to persistent diplomatic efforts, Yosef Yitshak was allowed to leave occupied Poland and in 1940 arrived in America. Yosef Yitshak saw in the atrocities of the war and the Holocaust the birth-pangs of the messiah; the Chabad institutions that he founded in Brooklyn were intended as a tool of bringing American Jews back to the fold of religion and thus preparing the ground for the messianic advent. His son-in-law and successor, Menachem Mendel Schneerson (b. 1902–d. 1994), took up his message and developed around it Chabad as a transnational organization, emissaries of which are active providing orthodox religious services all around the globe. The success of Chabad outreach, the centrality of messianic message, and the charisma of the rebbe led part of his followers to believe that the rebbe himself was the long-expected messiah; this belief persisted to some extent even despite his death in 1994, and caused a major controversy within the orthodox community with regard to the boundaries of Jewish messianism. The controversy notwithstanding, Chabad has continued to thrive, and with over a thousand centers scattered around the world, it has become perhaps the most visible Hasidic movement and a dominant force in the Jewish orthodox community of the 20th and 21st centuries.
Despite having been published for internal use of Chabad readership, Chabad reference literature is a very useful tool that helps the nonpartisan reader to orientate within the history and doctrine of Chabad. Ganzburg 1980–1981, Ganzburg 1981a, Ganzburg 1981b, Ganzburg 1982a, Ganzburg 1982b, Seligson 2011, and Sefer ha-Maftehot le-sifre u-maʼamare Admor ha-“Tsemah Tsedeḳ are indices to the written lore of subsequent leaders of Chabad. Ganzburg 1992 provides information on students of Chabad yeshivas that can be useful for students and researchers of the history of Chabad institutions, and Kahn 1970– is an unfinished encyclopedia of Chabad religious concepts. Additionally, Chabadpedia is a Wikipedia-like online encyclopedia run by the Hasidim, which contains much information concerning the history, doctrine, and personalities of Chabad, written from the perspective of the Chabad followers.
Chabad online encyclopedia published and maintained by Chabad Hasidim. With almost 7,000 entries, Chabadpedia provides at-hand information on even the most obscure figures and works from Chabad circles, including the present-day Chabad community in Israel. However, it is overtly uncritical and therefore should be used with caution.
Ganzburg, Yitshak. Sefer ha-maftehot le-sifre d.e.h. k.k. Admor ha-Zaken. 2 vols. Brooklyn, NY: Kehot, 1980–1981.
Indices to the discourses of Shneur Zalman of Liady.
Ganzburg, Yitshak. Sefer ha-maftehot le-sifre kevod kedushat Admor Yosef Yitshak . . . Schneersohn mi-Lyubavitsh. Brooklyn, NY: Kehot, 1981a.
Indices to the books of the sixth rebbe, Yosef Yitshak Schneersohn.
Ganzburg, Yitshak. Sefer ha-maftehot le-sifre kevod kedushat Admor Maharash. Brooklyn, NY: Kehot, 1981b.
Indices to the books of the fourth rebbe, Shmuel Schneersohn.
Ganzburg, Yitshak. Sefer ha-maftehot le-sifre kevod kedushat Admor ha-Emtsa’i. Brooklyn, NY: Kehot, 1982a.
Indices to the discourses of Dov Ber Shneuri.
Ganzburg, Yitshak. Sefer ha-maftehot le-sifre k.k. Admor Shalom Dovber mi-Lyubavitsh. Brooklyn, NY: Kehot, 1982b.
Indices to the books of the fifth rebbe, Shalom Dovber Schneersohn.
Ganzburg, Yitshak. Sefer ha-temimim. 2 vols. Brooklyn, NY: Kehot, 1992.
Lists of names of students of various branches of Chabad yeshiva Tomkhe temimim. Two volumes—from 1897 to 1949 and from 1949. Published by the main Chabad press, it is a valuable source for the history of Chabad education in the 20th century.
Kahn, Yoel. Sefer ha-‘arakhim: Habad. 8 vols. Brooklyn, NY: Kehot, 1970–.
Unfinished encyclopedia of Chabad Hasidism, written by one of the most prominent Hasidim of the last rebbe of Lubavitch, who also served as his hozer—a person responsible for memorizing the rebbe’s talks on days when recording is prohibited by the Jewish law. So far, eight volumes have been published.
Sefer ha-Maftehot le-sifre u-maʼamare Admor ha-“Tsemah Tsedeḳ.” 3 vols. Brooklyn, NY: Kehot, 1973–1982.
Indices to the books of the third rebbe, Menachem Mendel the Tsemah Tsedek. The three volumes include a supplementary volume published in 1982.
Seligson, Miha’el Aharon. Sefer ha-maftehot le-sihot kodesh 5695–5752. Brooklyn, NY: Kehot, 2011.
Indices to the talks of the last rebbe of Lubavitch, Menachem Mendel Schneerson.
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