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Publisher's Foreword

"Fathers Of Chassidus"
The First Three Generations

Reb Yitzchak Aizik Of Vitebsk

The Debate In Minsk

Letter By The Previous Rebbe

The Rebbe's Response To The Previous Rebbe's Letter

On The Subject Of Miracles

The Alter Rebbe's Later Years

The Previous Rebbe's Ancestral Tree

Founders Of Chassidism & Leaders Of Chabad-Lubavitch


Geographic Terms

Branches Of The Chassidic Menorah - Volume One
Biographical Stories Based On The Essay
Fathers Of Chassidus
By The Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn
First published in the classical columns of HaTamim


Translated by Shimon Neubort

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  Founders Of Chassidism & Leaders Of Chabad-LubavitchGeographic Terms  

All non-English entries are Hebrew unless otherwise indicated. Ar., Aramaic; Gr., Greek; Rus., Russian; Yid., Yiddish

For further definition of the terminology of Chassidus, see Rabbi Nissan Mindel, Glossary, in the Bi-Lingual Edition of Likkutei Amarim-Tanya, Kehot Publication Society, London, 1973, p. 774ff., and Rabbi Jacob I. Schochet, Mystical Concepts in Chassidism, op. cit., p. 802ff.

An asterisk indicates a cross-reference within the Glossary.

Acharon Shel Pesachthe last day of *Pesach
AdarHeb. month corresponding to February - March; in leap years, there are two months of Adar, called Adar I and Adar II
Aggadah(lit., "the telling": Ar.): allegorical tales and other non-legal matter found in the *Talmud
agunah(lit., "forsaken woman"; pl. agunos): a woman whose husband has disappeared, and it is not known with certainty whether he is dead or alive; she is thus forbidden to remarry unless a) the husband is located and grants her a legal divorce, or b) careful investigation by rabbinical authorities uncovers admissible evidence of his death (the laws governing what constitutes admissible evidence of death are extremely complicated)
ahavas HaShemlove of G-d
ahavas Yisraellove of one's fellow Jews
Al Cheita pro forma confession of sins in alphabetic order, normally recited only on *Yom Kippur
Aleichem Shalom!"Upon you, peace!" The traditional response to the greeting of *Shalom Aleichem!
aliyahthe honor of being called up to the public *Torah reading to recite the blessings (*Siddur, p. 70, 186)
Anash(acronym for anshei shlomeinu, lit., "men of our peace"): the *chassidic fraternity; usually refers to the fellowship of the *chassidim who follow a specific *Rebbe
Atzilus(lit., "the [World of] Emanation"): the highest of the four worlds described in *Kabbalah; the abode of the high angelic beings and of the souls of the greatest *tzaddikim; often viewed in Kabbalah and *Chassidus as distinct from the lower three worlds, and united with G-dliness
AvHeb. month corresponding to July-August; also called Menachem Av
avodah(lit., "service"): formerly, the sacrificial service in the Temple, and later, the service of prayer instituted in its stead; in chassidic terminology, refers to one's entire program of serving and worshiping G-d
Baal HaTanyaauthor of the *Tanya, i.e., the Alter Rebbe
baal hora'a(lit., "master of rulings"): one who has mastered the ability to issue definitive rulings of law based on the *Shulchan Aruch and *Poskim
baal korei(colloq. form of baal keriah, lit., "master of reading"): one who reads from the *Torah scroll at the public prayer service
bar mitzvah(lit., "obligated to fulfill the commandments"):
  1. the attainment of religious majority at the age of 13, at which point a boy becomes personally responsible for his religious practice;

  2. a lad who has reached the age of bar mitzvah;

  3. a feast held in honor of the occasion, at which the lad customarily recites a *pilpul or other *Torah teaching
batei hamedrashsee beis hamedrash
Bavlithe Babylonian *Talmud, developed in Babylonia, and edited at end of the fifth century
beis hamedrash (pl., batei hamedrash)house of (*Torah) study, usually serving as a synagogue as well; in chassidic circles, the terms beis hamedrash and *shul are often used interchangeably
Beis HaMikdashthe (First or Second) Holy Temple in Jerusalem
ben"son of ..."; used as part of a man's formal name, followed by the name of either his father or mother
Berel, Bereniu(lit., "little bear": Yid.): familiar forms of the name Ber, which is the Yid. form of the Heb. name Dov
B"H(abbrev. of Baruch HaShem): "Blessed be G-d"
Binah(lit., "understanding"): the second of the ten divine emanations; the second stage of the intellectual process (cf. *Chabad), developing the initial conception of *Chochmah
birur(lit., "refinement"): the process of discovering the Divine sparks within the material world and within the forces of evil, and separating and elevating these sparks through one's *avodah
bochur (pl., bochurim)a young man past the age of *bar mitzvah, but not yet married, usually studying at a *yeshivah
Chabad(acronym for *Chochmah, *Binah, *Daas):
  1. the first three of the ten divine emanations, and the corresponding stages that comprise the intellectual process;

  2. the branch of the chassidic movement (see *Chassidus) whose roots are in an intellectual approach to the service of G-d, and which was founded by R. Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the Alter Rebbe; a synonym for Chabad in this sense is *Lubavitch, the name of the township where the movement flourished 1813-1915;

  3. the philosophy of this school of Chassidism;

  4. adherents of this movement
chadorimsee cheder
chalat(Yid.): a dressing gown, esp. one in the style worn by *chassidim
Chanukah(lit., "rededication"): eight-day festival beginning on 25 *Kislev, celebrating the recapture of the second Temple from the Syrian Greeks, and its rededication
charomimsee cheirem
chassid (pl., chassidim)
  1. adherent of the Chassidic Movement (see Chassidus);

  2. follower of a particular chassidic *Rebbe (when capitalized)
  1. Chassidism, i.e., the movement within Orthodox Judaism founded in the Ukraine by R. Yisrael, the Baal Shem Tov, and stressing: emotional involvement in prayer; service of G-d through the material universe; wholehearted earnestness in divine service; the mystical in addition to the legalistic dimension of Judaism; the power of joy, and of music; the love to be shown to every Jew, unconditionally; and the mutual physical and moral responsibility of the members of the informal chassidic brotherhood, each chassid having cultivated a spiritual attachment to their saintly mentor, the *Rebbe;

  2. the philosophy and literature of this movement; see also *Chabad
cheder(lit., "room"; pl., chadorim): a Jewish elementary school; in *chassidic circles, this term may refer to a class for a select group of advanced adult students
cheirem (pl., charomim)a ban of excommunication issued by the rabbinical authorities against an individual or group
Chevra Kadisha(lit., "the holy society": Ar.): the society that attends to the *taharah and burial of the deceased and oversees the management of the community cemetery
chilul HaShem(lit., "profaning the Name [of G-d]"): an act that brings discredit or reflects badly on the Torah, Torah scholars, the Jewish religion, or the Jewish people
Chochmah(lit., "wisdom"): the first of the ten divine emanations; the first stage of the intellectual process (cf. *Chabad); reason in potentia
Chol HaMoed(lit., "weekday during the festival"): the intermediate days of *Pesach and *Sukkos, observed as minor festivals
Chumashthe Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible
Daas(lit., "knowledge"): the third of the ten divine emanations; the third stage of the intellectual process (cf. *Chabad), at which concepts, having proceeded from seminal intuition (*Chochmah) through meditative gestation (*Binah), now mature into their corresponding dispositions or *middos
daven; davenen; davening(Yid.):
  1. the prayers; in *Chabad usage also signifies

  2. the *avodah of praying at length, the reading of passages in the *Siddur being interspersed with pauses for disciplined meditation from memory on related texts in *Chassidus;

  3. used as a verb, e.g., "I am ready to daven *Minchah" or "he is busy davening"
deveikus(lit., "clinging"): spiritual attachment to, or unification with the Divine
Eliyahu; Eliyahu HaNavithe prophet Elijah
ElulHeb. month corresponding to August - September
Eretz Yisraelthe Land of Israel
  1. a chassidic assembly addressed by the *Rebbe;

  2. an informal gathering of *chassidim for mutual and brotherly edification
  1. an executive officer of the synagogue or other communal institution;

  2. an official of the *Rebbe's court, who admits people for *yechidus
Gan Edenthe Garden of Eden (Paradise)
gaon(lit., "esteemed one"; pl., geonim): a *Torah genius; when capitalized, "the Gaon" usually refers specifically to Rav Eliyahu of Vilna (1720-1797)]
gartel(Yid.): a braided sash or belt worn (esp. by *chassidim) during prayer and other formal occasions
Gemara(Ar.): the *Talmud (usually refers to *Bavli); the elucidation of the *Mishnah, and the discussion of related topics, by the Sages
geonimsee gaon; when capitalized, "the Geonim" refers to the heads of the *Torah Academies in post-*Talmudic Babylonia
Halachah(lit., "the way to go"):
  1. the body of Jewish law;

  2. texts dealing with this subject;

  3. a particular law
HaTamim(lit., "the perfect one"): periodical publication by the Students' Organization of the Lubavitcher Yeshivah in Warsaw; only eight issues were actually printed, during the period 1935-1937
Havayah(lit: "being"): a reference to G-d's Divine Name of the four Heb. letters yud-hei-vav-hei, expressing His transcendence of time and space
hilula(lit., "joyous celebration"): traditional celebration held by *chassidim on the *yahrtzeit of a *tzaddik
illuy(lit., "elevated one"; pl., illuyim): a young (*Torah) genius; a child prodigy
IyarHeb. month corresponding to April - May
Kabbalah(lit., "received tradition"): the body of classical Jewish mystical teachings
kabbalistone who studies or specializes in *Kabbalah
kadosh(lit., "saintly one"):
  1. title given (posthumously) to a person who has suffered martyrdom;

  2. one who leads a saintly lifestyle
Katansee Yom Kippur Katan
Kerias Shemarecitation of the *Shema
Kiddush(lit., "sanctification"):
  1. blessings recited over a goblet of wine, during the evening, and again during the afternoon of *Shabbos or a festival, expressing the sanctity of the occasion (eg., Siddur, p. 201);

  2. a gathering, including light refreshment and words of *Torah, held in conjunction with the recitation of this prayer
KislevHeb. month corresponding to November - December
Kohen (pl., Kohannim)"priest"; i.e., a descendant of Aharon
Kohen Gadolthe "high priest," or chief of the *Kohanim; occasionally used as a title of honor, for any great person who is a *Kohen
Lag BaOmerthe thirty-third day of the period between *Pesach and *Shavuos; observed as a minor festival, esp. by *chassidim
Livyasana giant sea creature whose flesh will be served to the *tzaddikim in the Messianic age
Lubavitch(lit., "town of love": Rus.): village in White Russia (now in Russia) which, from 1813 to 1915, was the center of *Chabad *Chassidus, and whose name has remained a synonym for it
Maarivevening prayer service (Siddur, p. 106ff.)
maggida preacher; when capitalized, "the Maggid" usually refers specifically to R. Dov Ber, the Maggid of Mezritch
Malchus(lit., "sovereignty"): the last of the ten Divine emanations, intermediary between *Chabad and the *middos of the higher spiritual worlds, and our lower physical world
MarCheshvanHeb. month corresponding to October - November
masmidone who studies *Torah constantly, with great diligence
mazel tov!(lit., "a good star"): "Good Luck!"; also, commonly used in the sense of "Congratulations!" or a combination of these two sentiments
melamed (pl., melamdim)an elementary *Torah teacher
Menachem Avsee Av
mesirus nefesh(lit., "sacrifice of the soul"): the willingness to sacrifice oneself, either through martyrdom, or through a selfless life, for the sake of the *Torah and its commandments
middos(lit. "attributes"):
  1. the six Divine emanations inferior to the intellectual attributes of *Chabad;

  2. their corresponding human character traits or emotional attributes
Midrashone of the classical collections of the Sages' homiletical teachings on the *Torah, on the non-literal level
mikveh (pl., mikvos)a ritual bath in which a person immerses as part of the transition from impurity to purity, or from a lower state of holiness to a higher state
Minchah(lit., "the offering"): afternoon prayer service (Siddur, p. 96 ff.)
minyan(lit., "the number"; pl., minyonim):
  1. ten adult male Jews;

  2. a quorum for public prayer, consisting of ten such Jews;

  3. a room where the minyan prays
Mishnahthe germinal statements of law elucidated by the *Gemara, together with which they collectively constitute the *Talmud; any one such statement is likewise called a Mishnah
Mishnayosindividual passages from the *Mishnah; see *Talmud
misnaged (pl., misnagdim)opponent of *Chassidus, either as an individual, or as a member of an organized opposition group
mitzvah(lit., "commandment"; pl., mitzvos):
  1. one of the 613 commandments;

  2. in a larger sense, any religious obligation or meritorious act
Motzoei Shabbos(a) the night following the *Shabbos day
muktza(lit., "set aside": Ar.): an object belonging to one of several classes of objects that may not be moved from their place on *Shabbos or *Yom Tov
  1. words of censure or admonishment;

  2. Jewish philosophic works dealing with personal conduct and character, and methods for self-improvement in these areas
nasi(lit., "prince"; pl., nesi'im): in *Chabad chassidic usage, refers to the Baal Shem Tov, the Maggid, or one of the *Rebbeim
niddaha woman who has her menstrual period or similar flow of blood; she may not resume relations with her husband until she counts seven "clean" days, and immerses in a *mikveh
NissanHeb. month corresponding to March-April
parshahportion of the *Torah read publicly each week
Parshas...the *parshah of...
perushimsee porush
Pesachthe Passover Festival, occurring on 15 *Nissan, celebrating the Exodus from Egypt
pilpul (pl., pilpulim)a complex scholarly dissertation
porush(lit., "one who keeps himself apart"; pl., perushim):
  1. an ascetic and chaste individual;

  2. one who practices celibacy
posek(lit., "decider"):
  1. rabbi authorized to issue definitive rulings of law;

  2. one of the *Poskim (when capitalized)
Poskim(lit., "deciders"):
  1. works of applied Jewish law;

  2. the authors of these works
Rabbeinu"Our Rebbe," or "Our Master"; title prefacing the names of the most prominent rabbis of each generation
rabbonimsee rav
Rambam(acronym for Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon; 1135-1204): Maimonedes, one of the foremost Jewish thinkers of the Middle Ages; his Mishneh Torah is one of the pillars of *Halachah, and his Guide for the Perplexed, one of the classics of Jewish philosophy
Rashi(acronym for Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki; 1040-1105): author of the foremost commentaries on the Bible and *Talmud; his commentary on the Talmud is traditionally printed together with the text
rav (pl., rabbonim)the rabbi of a community or congregation
Rav"Rabbi" used as a title prefacing a name
  1. a short form of "*Rebbe," used as a title prefacing a name;

  2. colloq., used with the name of any adult male, approx. equivalent to the English "Mister"
Rebbe(common Yid. pronunciation of, "my teacher [or master]"; pl., Rebbeim): *tzaddik who serves as spiritual guide to a following of *chassidim; see *Chassidus
  1. wife of a rabbi or *Rebbe;

  2. a woman of great spiritual achievements in her own right
  1. the "Earlier Sages," who flourished from the mid-eleventh to the mid-sixteenth centuries;

  2. works written by these sages
Rosh Chodesh(lit., "head of the month"): New Moon, i.e., one or two semi-festive days at the beginning of the month
Rosh HaShanah(lit., "head of the year"): the Jewish New Year festival, falling on 1 and 2 *Tishrei
rosh yeshivah (pl., roshei yeshivah)
  1. senior lecturer at a yeshivah;

  2. when capitalized, the dean of a yeshivah
Sanhedrinthe central rabbinical Supreme Court of ancient Israel, and the lower regional or municipal courts operating under its jurisdiction
sefer (pl., seforim)a [sacred] text
Selichos(lit., "pardons"):
  1. special prayers recited before Shacharis during the week preceding *Rosh Hashanah;

  2. the days during these prayers are recited;

  3. special prayers recited on fast days and *Yom Kippur Katan
Seraphima class of high angelic beings
Seven-Seventy (or "770")familiar name for the building at 770 Eastern Parkway, in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, New York, containing
  1. the central headquarters of the worldwide Lubavitcher Chassidic Movement;

  2. the Previous Rebbe's residence from 1940 until his passing in 1950;

  3. the Rebbe's private office and secretariat, and (later) also his residence; and

  4. the present home of the central Lubavitcher *Yeshivah
Shabbos(lit., "[day of] rest"; pl., Shabbasos): the Sabbath
Shabbos Chazonthe *Shabbos prior to the fast of *Tishah beAv
Shabbos Mevorchim(lit., "the Shabbos when we bless"): the Shabbos preceding *Rosh Chodesh, when a special blessing for the new month is recited during the morning services, and the day when Rosh Chodesh will fall is announced (Siddur, p. 191)
Shabbos Nachamuthe *Shabbos following the fast of *Tishah beAv
Shabbos Parshas...the *Shabbos on which a [named] *parshah is read
Shacharisthe morning prayer service (Siddur, p. 12ff.)
shadar(acronym for sh'luche d'Rabbana: Ar., "emissary of our *Rebbe"): an itinerant emissary sent by the Rebbe to visit various *chassidic communities, where he collects donations for the Rebbe's charity funds, transmits the Rebbe's latest written or oral instructions, repeats the Rebbe's latest chassidic discourses, and makes a report of the spiritual status of the local chassidim and their leaders, to be transmitted to the Rebbe
Shalom Aleichem!"Peace upon you!" a traditional greeting
Shavuos(lit., "weeks"): festival occurring in very late spring, celebrating the giving of the *Torah on Mt. Sinai, and the sacrificial service of the new wheat crop in Temple times
  1. a gentile;

  2. a Jew who is not observant, or who commits some infraction of the rules;

  3. often used as a derogatory epithet
Shemaa text consisting of three passages of the *Torah, to be recited during the morning and evening prayer services, and before retiring at night, beginning with the words *Shema Yisrael (Siddur, p. 46 int. al.); also recited as part of a deathbed confession
Shema Yisrael"Hear O Israel": the opening words of the *Shema
Shemini Atzeresthe eighth day of the *Sukkos festival, a holiday in its own right, celebrated with great joy
shevarimsee tekiah
Shimallefamiliar form of the name Shimon
Shlita(acronym for Sheyichye LeOrech Yomim Tovim Amein): abbreviation placed after a person's name, expressing the wish: "may he be preserved in life for many good days, Amen"
shochet (pl., shochtim)ritual slaughterer, who slaughters and inspects cattle and fowl in the ritually-prescribed manner, for kosher consumption
shofarram's horn, sounded after the *Shacharis service during the month of *Elul, on *Rosh HaShanah, at the conclusion of *Yom Kippur, and certain other special occasions
shul(Yid.): a synagogue; in *chassidic circles, the terms shul and *beis hamedrash are often used interchangeably
Shulchan Aruch(lit., "the set table"):
  1. the standard Code of Jewish Law compiled by R. Yosef Karo (1488-1575);

  2. a later version, compiled by the Alter Rebbe
ShvatHeb. month corresponding to January-February
Siddur(lit., "order [of prayers]"): prayer book; page references in the present work are to the edition (with English translation) entitled Siddur Tehillat HaShem (Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch, N.Y., 1979)
Simchas Torah(lit., "the Rejoicing of the *Torah"): festival following *Sukkos, on which the public reading of the Torah is annually concluded and recommenced; observed with great joy, singing and dancing, and a procession with the *Torah scrolls (Siddur, p. 335ff.)
sittersenior student studying at the *beis hamedrash of the *Rebbe or of one of the prominent *chassidic elders, not at a formal *yeshivah
SivanHeb. month corresponding to May-June
Sukkos(lit., "Booths"): seven-day festival beginning on 15 *Tishrei, taking its name from the temporary dwelling in which one lives during this period
taharah(lit., "purification"): ritual washing and dressing of the deceased in preparation for burial
talliswoolen cloak with *tzitzis, worn during prayer
Talmudthe basic compendium of Jewish law, thought, and Biblical commentary; its tractates mainly comprise the discussions collectively known as the *Gemara, which elucidate the germinal statements of law collectively known as the *Mishnah; when unspecified, refers to the Talmud *Bavli
TammuzHeb. month corresponding to June-July
Tanachacronym for Torah (i.e., the Chumash), Nevi'im (the Prophets), and Kesuvim (the Writings): the Bible
Tanyathe Alter Rebbe's basic exposition of *Chabad *Chassidus; "Tanya" is the initial word of the book, which is also called Likkutei Amarim ("Collected Discourses") and Sefer shel Beinonim ("The Book of the Intermediates")
Tehillim;(lit., "praises"): the Book of Psalms
tekiah shevarim teruah tekiahthe traditional order of the sounds of the *shofar: a long steady blast, a series of short wailing blasts, a series of very short sounds in rapid succession, and another long steady blast
teruahsee tekiah
teshuvah(lit., "return [to G-d]"): repentance
TevesHeb. month corresponding to December-January
Three Weeksthe period of semi-mourning prior to *Tishah beAv, commemorating the destruction of the *Beis HaMikdash
Tikkun Chatzos(lit., "midnight liturgy"): an optional devotional exercise lamenting the destruction of the *Beis HaMikdash, and the subsequent exile of the Divine Presence
Tishah beAv(lit., "Ninth day of *Av"): a day of fasting and mourning, marking the date when both the first and second Temples were destroyed
TishreiHeb. month corresponding to September-October
Torah(lit. "law"):
  1. G-d's revealed truth, communicated as the Written Law (the Bible), and the Oral Law (the oral tradition communicated by our Sages throughout history, much of it set down in the *Talmud);

  2. a handwritten parchment scroll containing the five books of the *Chumash, used for public reading during the prayer services on *Shabbos, Monday, Thursday, festivals, and fast days
Torah Or(lit., the *Torah is Light"): a classic collection of *chassidic discourses by the Alter Rebbe
Toras HaChassidusthe philosophy and literature of *Chassidus
Tosafos(lit., "supplements"): classical commentaries on the *Talmud, composed by the descendants and disciples of *Rashi, which began to appear in the mid-twelfth century and are traditionally printed together with the text of the Talmud
tzaddik (pl., tzaddikim)
  1. completely righteous individual;

  2. *Rebbe
  1. fringes on the four corners of the *tallis worn by males (cf. Bamidbar 15:37-40);

  2. a four-cornered garment with such fringes, usually worn underneath one's outer clothing
VaYechal*Torah passage read in public during fast days (Siddur, p. 366)
yartzeit(lit., "time of year": Yid.): the anniversary of a person's (usually a parent's) death
yarmulke(Yid.): a skullcap worn by Jewish boys and men to signify reverence for G-d; many wear the yarmulke on informal occasions, and substitute a hat during prayer and other formal occasions; *chassidim wear both a yarmulke and hat for formal use
yechidusprivate audience (more of an encounter of souls) at which a *chassid seeks guidance and enlightenment from his *Rebbe
Yerushalmithe Jerusalem *Talmud, compiled in *Eretz Yisrael and edited at the end of the fourth century
yeshivah (pl., yeshivos)*Torah academy for advanced students
Yom Kippurthe Day of Atonement, solemn fast day falling on 10 *Tishrei and climaxing the annual penitential period
Yom Kippur Katan(lit., the "little" Yom Kippur): the eve of *Rosh Chodesh (or the preceding Thursday, if Rosh Chodesh falls on Shabbos or Sunday), observed in many communities as a minor fast day during which special prayers are recited and VaYechal is read
Yom Tov(lit "Good Day"): a festival
Zelkefamiliar form of the name Zelig (or Selig)
Zelmelefamiliar form of the name Zalman

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