21.05.2018 Author: Psychologist Pavel Khoroshutin

Chabad is one of the Jewish religious movements in Hasidic Judaism. It was created in 1772 by Shneur Zalman of Liadi. 

In a literal sense, it means “wisdom, understanding, knowledge.” Compared to other Hasidic movements, it has a special approach to peace and methods to improve human qualities.

There are about two hundred thousand followers of Chabad. Despite the numerous relocations of the leaders of the teaching, it has strengthened its position and is developing all over the world. Chabad has many followers in Russia.

The essence of the chabad teaching

Jewish Chabad (or Lyubavichi Hasidism) is at the same time a religious organization, a social movement and a form of philosophical teaching. Its aim is to serve God and fulfil the laws of the Torah—the first part of the Jewish Bible called The Five Books of Moses. The observance of the covenants of Chabad must be accompanied by positive emotions and joy that arise from a mental rather than a sensual understanding of the secrets of Scripture.

For this reason, the term “Chabad” is an acronym for the words symbolizing the top three sefirot on the Tree of Life (Kabbalah): “Chokhmah,” “Binah” and “Da’at.”

Chabad’s Hasidism shows the path of a follower who fully observes the commandments of the Torah.

  1. Connecting the final material world with the infinite spiritual world and the Creator.
  2. Fulfilling two missions: the realization of the meaning of one’s personal being on Earth and the essence of the world.
  3. Reaching the culmination is the era of the coming of the Messiah, which will occur after the destruction of the boundaries between the material and non-material worlds.

Chabad seeks to prove the interconnectedness of the ideas of Judaism and the philosophical connection with the idea of the unity of God. Therefore, the doctrine considers Judaism as a true monotheism.

The Taniya, created by Rebbe Shneur Zalman, was the first philosophical work that organized the morality of Hasidim based on Kabbalah and metaphysics.

The seven ideological chapters of chabad

The history of the philosophy is connected with the periods of the seven leaders’ reign:

  • Shneur Zalman of Liadi — Alter Rebbe
  • Dovber — Mitteler Rebbe
  • Menachem Mendel (Tzemach Tzedek) Schneersohn
  • Shmuel Schneersohn
  • Sholom Dovber Schneersohn
  • Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn
  • Menachem Mendel Schneerson

The first rebbe was an authoritative, outstanding individual with traits of genius. He preached the kabbalah, having borrowed its ideas when creating the hasidic movement of chabad.


He encouraged the Vitebsk Jews to move to Russia, and he also:

  • founded and developed Yeshiva in Liozna, known as “classes”;
  • tried to bridge the differences between the ideological opponents Hasidim and Misnagdim;
  • won the Minsk debate in 1783, which gave widespread dissemination of his scripture about an open and hidden part of the Torah;
  • wrote the books that became the basis of Hasidism: The Shulchan Aruch (1770), The Laws of the Teaching of the Torah (1794), The Tanya (1797).

Rebbe Shneur Zalman was arrested in 1798 and released the same year. In 1800-1801, he was incarcerated in The Peter and Paul Fortress of St. Petersburg, and then returned to Lyady. In 1813, he arrived in the Kursk Governorate, where he died a short time later. He holds the title of “Hereditary Honorary Citizen.”

His pupil, Dov Ber of Mezeritch (24.11.1773 – 28.11.1827), continued the spread of the Jewish Chabad. On his return to Belarus, he gathered disciples who formed the core group of the future Lyubavichi Hasidic teaching of Mezeritch. The second leader transferred the center of the movement from Lyady to Lyubavichi. He insisted on an in-depth study of the Torah and Tanya,  and denied excessive emotionality while reading prayers, considering this to be an unfaithful attempt to achieve unity with the Almighty.

Subsequent leaders sought to improve the interpretation of the Torah and the Talmud, and to establish friendly relations with the leaders of other Jewish religious teachings. The influence of Chabad outside Belarus and Lithuania was also reinforced: in America, Central Asia, India and Thailand, as well as in the Caucasus.

In the early 20th century, many Chabad adherents appeared in the USSR thanks to Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn and his father-in-law, Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, who is considered to be the last historical rebbe. He was declared the leader of his generation and Mashiach (Messiah).

Chabad in the modern world

Сontemporary envoys of Chabad continue to spread its message around the world. This movement is called ministry or “Schluhut.” The messengers (“Schluhim”) travelled all over the world to fully assist Jews in keeping the commandments.

As a rule, a young family with children, which comes to a new place and establishes a Jewish life there, takes on the role of messenger. They open synagogues—Beit Chabads (literal translation “House of Chabad”) in those cities where many Jews live or Jewish tourists visit. They organize Lessons of the Torah and festive meals and read prayers.

If the Chabad community can finance the opening of a synagogue, a building for the purpose may be acquired or rented. But more often synagogues are located in the living room of a messenger’s house.

Beit Chabad is an educational and religious center. It is mostly visited by Jews, who not so long ago began to live according to the commandments or have recently embarked on the path of studying the religion. The workers of Beit Chabad try to create a friendly and comfortable environment for parishioners.

Chabad in the modern world

The last rebbe singled out ten special commandments for the messengers to focus their attention  when learning. They are commonly referred to as “mivtzoim” (“mivza” translated from Hebrew means “campaigns” or “endeavors”).

True believers should:

  • light candles in front of the Sabbath and holidays (for Jewish women and girls)
  • fulfil the commandments of Tefillin, an element of the prayer dress worn on the forehead and hand (a pair of boxes “batim” made of kosher animal skin, on which black paint is applied); they contain extracts from the Torah written on parchment (“parashiyot”)
  • attach Mezuzah to the doorframe. It is a piece of parchment on which a part of the text of the prayer “Shema” is written
  • study the Torah regularly
  • engage in charity (Tzedakah)
  • acquire Jewish books
  • observe Kashrut, a system of ritual rules that determine the compliance with the requirements of the Jewish Law, Halakha
  • love their neighbors
  • receive a Jewish education
  • comply with the laws of family purity

There are currently about 1,350 Chabad organizations in the world, including schools and institutions. Chabad is especially common in Israel, Russia, France, Canada, Ukraine, and Australia.

Lyubavichi Hasidim celebrate common Jewish holidays and memorable dates from the history of the movement (usually the birthday of the rebbe).

Chabad encourages every Jewish person to keep the commandments and to bring in other representatives of the people. Rabbis believe that the number of followers depends on the period of the Messiah’s arrival, so the teaching extends even among non-religious citizens.

Chabad is the most mystical and mysterious teaching of Hasidism, it strongly advocates the idea of the divine messenger coming to free the Jewish people from their suffering.