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What is a Rebbe?

by Rabbi Mendy Hecht


Library » Chassidism » Chassidic Concepts | Subscribe | What is RSS?


A Rebbe (pronounced REH-beh) is the spiritual axle that makes the wheel of Chassidism go ‘round. The first Rebbe was the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Chassidism himself. The second was the Mezritcher Maggid. And the rest is history. Every Chassidic group has its own Rebbe, who (generally speaking) becomes rebbe by being a member of the “royal dynasty” that the previous Rebbe belonged to. For example, the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Joseph I. Schneersohn, was the son of the fifth. His successor, the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe, was his son-in-law and a distant blood relative.

A Rebbe is a spiritual mentor. He counsels his followers in the ways of Chassidism in general, and in the ways of the group he helms in particular. A Rebbe is seen as the most perfect example of living the Jewish lifestyle according to Chassidic ideas and ideals. He is a role model. As such, he is also considered a Tzadik, an innocent, highly spiritual visionary with the ability to effect miracles and perceive the extrasensory.


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(Pl.: Chassidim; Adj.: Chassidic) A follower of the teachings of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), the founder of "Chassidut." Chassidut emphasizes serving G-d with sincerity and joy, and the importance of connecting to a Rebbe (saintly mentor).
A Chassidic master. A saintly person who inspires followers to increase their spiritual awareness.
One who follows the teachings of the Chassidic group which was formerly based in the Belarus village of Lubavitch. Today, the movement is based in Brooklyn, New York with branches worldwide. The Lubavitch movement is also widely known as "Chabad."
Baal Shem Tov
Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), Polish mystic and founder of the Chassidic movement.
Lubavitcher Rebbe
Rabbi Menachem M. Schneersohn, spiritual leader of the worldwide Chabad movement.
Firstborn son of Rachel and Jacob. Because he was Jacob's favorite son, his brothers conspired against him and sold him into slavery He ended up in Egypt where he became viceroy of the land, and eventually brought his entire family to Egypt. Died in 1451 BCE.
(fem. Tzidkanit; pl. Tzadikim). A saint, or righteous person.