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Dovber Schneuri
Lubavitcher Rebbe
Term 1812-12-15 – 1827-11-16 OS
Full name Dovber Schneuri
Main work 'Sha'ar HaYichud, Sha'arei Orah'
Born 1773-11-13 OS
Died 1827-11-16 OS
Buried Nizhyn
Dynasty Chabad Lubavitch
Predecessor Shneur Zalman of Liadi
Successor Menachem Mendel Schneersohn
Father Shneur Zalman of Liadi
Mother Sterna Segal
Wife Sheine
Issue Menachem-Nachum

Chaya Mushka (wife of Menachem Mendel Schneersohn)
Devorah Leah (wife of Yaakov Yisroel Twersky of Cherkasy)
Menucha Rachel Slonim

Dovber Schneuri (1773-11-13 - 1827-11-16 OS) was the second Rebbe (spiritual leader) of the Chabad Lubavitch Chasidic movement. Rabbi Dovber was the first Chabad rebbe to live in the town of Lyubavichi (now in present-day Russia), the town for which this Hasidic dynasty is named. He is also known as the Mitteler Rebbe ("Middle Rebbe" in Yiddish), being the second of the first three generations of Chabad leaders.

Chabad Chasidism, founded by Schneur Zalman of Liadi, developed separately from mainstream Chasisism, that had begun with the Baal Shem Tov. It sought to articulate Chasidic philosophy in intellectual analysis and understanding, so that it could awaken personal, inner transformation. Each Chabad Rebbe successively broadened and explained Chasidus into greater comprehension. The works of Dovber Schneuri expanded on this internalisation of Chasidic thought. Illustrative of this is his "tract on ecstacy", a singular document in Judaism, that instructs the devotee in the intellectual and emotional stages in Chabad meditation. It differentiates between general Chasidism's outer emotional enthusism in deveikus (mystical fervour), with the Chabad ideal of inward, intellectually formed ecstacy.



Rabbi Dovber was born in Liozna, Belarus, on 9 Kislev 5534. His father, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, was Rebbe of the community there, and of many Chassidim in White Russia and Lithuania, and other parts of Russia. His father named him after his own teacher, Rabbi Dovber of Mezeritch, the disciple and successor of the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of the Chassidic movement. Dovber was a prodigious student, and had begun to study Talmud at the age of seven. His father taught him Zohar, and transmitted to him the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov. Rabbi Dovber adopted the family name of "Schneuri," after his father, but succeeding generations changed it to "Schneersohn," or "Schneerson."

In 1788 he married Sheine, the daughter of a local Rabbi. In 1790 Rabbi Dovber was appointed the Mashpia (spiritual guide) of the Hasidim who would come to visit his father. At the age of 39, while studying in the city of Kremenchug, his father died.[1] He then moved to the small border-town of Lubavichi, from which the movement would take its name.[1] His accession was disputed by one of his father's prime students, Rabbi Aharon HaLevi of Strashelye, however the majority of Shneur Zalman's followers stayed with Dovber, and moved to Lubavichi.[1] Thus Chabad had now split into two branches, each taking the name of their location to differentiate themselves from each other.[1] He established a Yeshivah in Lubavitch, which attracted gifted young scholars. His son-in-law, who later became his successor, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch, headed the Yeshivah.

Like his father, Rabbi Dovber considered it his sacred task to help the Jews of Russia, whether Chassidim or not, not only spiritually but also economically. The position of the Jews under the Czars was never easy, but it became much worse when Czar Alexander I was succeeded by Czar Nicholas I in 1825. The restrictions against the Jews increased in number and severity. The Jews were confined to a small area, called the Pale of Settlement. They had no right to live, work or do business outside this crowded Pale, where conditions had become very difficult in the wake of the Franco-Russian war.

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Rebbes of Lubavitch
1. Shneur Zalman of Liadi
2. Dovber Schneuri
3. Menachem Mendel Schneersohn
4. Shmuel Schneersohn
5. Sholom Dovber Schneersohn
6. Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn
7. Menachem Mendel Schneerson
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Strashelye · Kapust · Controversies · Messianism

Rabbi Dovber thus launched a campaign (in 1822, or 1823) to urge Jews to learn trades and skilled factory work. He urged communities to organize trade schools.[1] He also encouraged the study of agriculture, dairy farming, and the like, reminding them that once upon a time, when the Jewish people lived in their own land, they were a people of farmers, fruit growers and herdsmen. He urged that boys who did not show promise of becoming Torah scholars, should, after the age of thirteen, devote part of their time to the learning of a trade, or work in the fields, to help support the family.

In 1815, with government permission and sponsorship, he set up Jewish agricultural colonies in the Kherson region. He took to the road to raise funds for this purpose, and he personally visited the Jewish farmers and encouraged them in their pioneer work, also seeing that their spiritual needs and the education of the farmers' children should not be neglected.

He was active in the collection and distribution of financial aid from Russia to the Jewish population in the Holy Land.[1]

He intended to settle in Hebron himself, believing that this was the "gate of heaven," and prayers to be particularly effective there. He instructed Chabad followers living in the Holy Land to move to the city for this reason.[1]

Like his father, he was informed upon by his enemies, accused of being a danger to the Russian government. He was arrested on charges of having sent 200-300 rubles to the Sultan, and was ordered to appear for a trial in Vitebsk; however, due to the efforts of several non-Jewish friends he was later released before the trial. The day of his release, 10 Kislev 5587, is celebrated joyously to this day by Chabad Chassidim.[2] He died in Nizhyn a year later, on 9 Kislev - his birthday - 5588, the very day he was born 54 years earlier.[1]

He had two sons, Menachem Nahum and Baruch, and seven daughters. The oldest of his daughters, Chaya Mushka, was married to her cousin Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, another grandchild of Shneur Zalman of Liadi. Menachem Mendel succeeded his father-in-law cum uncle as Rebbe.[1]

In addition to his many talents, Rabbi Dovber inherited from his father a great love for sacred music and Chassidic melody. His father had composed ten soul-stirring melodies (niggunim), and Rabbi Dov Ber knew their powerful effect to rouse the singers and listeners to great heights of ecstasy and attachment to G-d. He encouraged the singing of these and other melodies of his own composition at certain occasions of solemn and joyous gatherings, known as farbrengens. He even had an organized choir from among his Chassidim who led in the singing, known as the kapelye.


Rabbi Dovber wrote many works on Chabad philosophy and Kabbalah. He was a brilliant thinker and a fast writer. His Chassidic works tend to be very long and very intricate. It is said that when he finished writing the bottom line on a sheet of paper, the ink of the top line has not yet dried. About twenty of his works have been published, a good many of them during his lifetime.

He wrote a commentary on the Zohar, "Bi'urei HaZohar". Chasidic philosophy is based on Kabbalah, but interprets it in light of Chasidic thought. It seeks to uncover the inner "soul" of Kabbalah, by relating it to the inner consciousness of man. This can them allow Jewish mysticism to be grasped inwardly. The mystical revival and popularisation of Chasidism allowed the Jewish mystical tradition to be expressed outside of the language of Kabbalah, by uniting and spiritualising other dimensions of Judaism. Nonetheless, the more involved Chasidic texts interpret Kabbalistic ideas extensively, and relate them to personal spirituality.

The different schools in Chasidic thought gave alternative articulations of Chasidic mysticism. Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of Chabad, differed with general Chasidism, by seeing the mind as the route to the heart. Many of the historic works of Chasidic thought across the movement, comprise collected teachings and explanations of Torah, often delivered orally, and compiled by the disciples. As Chabad sought to express Chasidus in systematic philosophy, its writings are usually more structured than other schools'.

Rabbi Dovber greatly expanded on the illucidation of Chabad philosophy, so that his followers could understand and internalise its spirituality. The path of Chabad asked for inwardness over external emotional fervour. In the devotion of Chabad, the service of prayer became the central time for self transformation, through the unique Chabad approach of profound intellectual meditation (Hisbonenus) on Chasidic philosophy during prayer. While businessmen could fulfil their weekday prayer obligations in the regular way, in the early generations of Chabad, it was expected that the Sabbath could offer individuals time to extend their prayers in mystical rapture. In Chabad lore, stories are related of legendary Chasidim who would spend hours devoted to personal prayer, through meditation accompanied by Chasidic melody (Niggun). In his "Kuntres HaHispaalus" (Tract on Ecstacy) Rabbi Dovber gives a remarkable document in Jewish thought. While personal accounts of the mystical life are rare in Judaism, in this work Dovber guides the devotee through the many intellectual and emotional levels of Chabad meditation. It differentiates between the external emotional fervour of general Chasidism, with the Chabad ideal of inner ecstacy in prayer. It is related that Rabbi Schneur Zalman's prayers were so ecstatic that he could not contain their outer emotional expression, and without self awareness, would roll on the floor or end up in a different location. His son Dovber, meanwhile, would pray for hours in static ecstacy, until all his clothes would be soaked in perspiration.

One of his most famous works, entitled "Sha'ar HaYichud" (The Gate of Unity), now translated to English [1], describes the creation and entire make-up of the world according to Kabbalah. The work begins with the "Essence of G-d," and traces the creation of the universe down to the physical world itself, using complicated parables to illustrate difficult points. The book also describes, in its first ten chapters, the proper way to meditate on these Kabbalistic ideas.

List of works

Toras Chaim by Rabbi DovBer. 1866 printing


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Encyclopedia of Hasidism, entry: Schneuri, Dovber. Naftali Lowenthal. Aronson, London 1996. ISBN 1568211236
  2. ^ Explanation of 10 Kislev


  • Hasidic Prayer by Louis Jacobs. Littman Library of Jewish Civilization. New edition 1993 (Paperback). Full overview and explanation of forms of prayer across the whole Hasidic movement. Gives detailed explanation of the unique Chabad approach, and its differences from other ways.
  • Tract on Ecstacy by Dobh Baer of Lubavitch. Translated into English and introduced by Louis Jacobs. Vallentine Mitchell. (Paperback)
  • The Schocken Book of Jewish Mystical Testimonies. Compiled and with commentary by Louis Jacobs. Random House. New edition 1998 (Paperback). Puts the "Tract on Ecstacy" into historical context in Judaism.

External links

Preceded by
Shneur Zalman of Liadi
Rebbe of Lubavitch
Succeeded by
Menachem Mendel Schneersohn


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