- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 15, 2003

This is an excerpt from a sermon preached Saturday morning at Chabad of Alexandria by Rabbi Mordechai Newman.

This June 28 marks the 62nd anniversary of the arrival of the rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, and his wife, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, to the United States.

The Torah commands us to “Love your fellow as yourself.” The Torah also tells us to “Love the Lord your God.” This prompted the disciples of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1812) to ask their master: “Which is the greater virtue, love of God or love of one’s fellow?”

Rabbi Zalman replied: “The two are one and the same. God loves every one of His children. So ultimately, love of one’s fellow is a greater show of love for God than simply loving God. Because true love means that you love what your loved one loves.”

What if someone said to you, “I love you, but I don’t like your children”? You’d probably say, “You may think that you love me, but you really don’t. You don’t care for what I care most deeply about. Obviously, you don’t know anything about me, and you don’t know what love is, either!”

Rabbi Schneur Zalman was the founder of the Chabad branch of Hassidism and his teachings on the love of God and man form an integral part of its philosophy. Following his passing in 1812, his son and successor, Rabbi DovBer, settled in the town of Lubavitch which served as the movement’s headquarters for the next 102 years. Was it by coincidence or design that its name means “Town of Love”? Lubavitchers (as Chabad Hassidim are also known) will simply answer there’s no such thing as coincidence, for even the seemingly minor events of our lives are guided by divine providence and are replete with significance.

On Jan. 17, 1951, a group of Lubavitchers gathered at 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn. The occasion was the first anniversary of the passing of the sixth rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson, and the official acceptance of the leadership of Chabad-Lubavitch by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson.

The destruction of European Jewry was a fresh memory to those present that winter evening. They were physically safe in America, but their spiritual future seemed bleak. The “melting pot” of the New World did not encourage the cultivation of a Jewish identity and the observance of a Jewish way of life.

These Torah-observant Jews were an object of contempt by many of their own Jewish brethren. The most they could reasonably hope for was to persist in their own beliefs and to try to pass them on to their children.

Their feelings probably went something like this: “God, I love You and I love Your children — those who act towards You as children towards their father. I’m not that excited about those who disavow their bond with You.” They might have even felt that their love of God was purer because it excluded those “rebellious” children.

So the rebbe issued a statement. “The three loves, love of God, love of Torah and love of one’s fellow are one,” he said. “One cannot differentiate between them, for they are of a single essence. And since they are of a single essence, each one embodies all three.”

The rebbe went on to explain that the fact that “each one embodies all three” has a twofold implication. It means that unless all three loves are present, none of them is complete. But it also means that where any one of the three exists, it will eventually bring about all three.

“By having the three loves together, we hasten the Redemption, the biblical promised era of universal peace and harmony. For just as this current [exile] was caused by baseless hatred, so shall the final and immediate Redemption be hastened by unconditional love for one’s fellow.”

The rebbe’s words became the mission statement of thousands of Chabad houses and outreach centers throughout the world. They heralded a sea change in the way that Jews regarded their heritage, their God, and each other. It is no exaggeration to say that the statement issued that evening by a 48-year-old Holocaust survivor changed the face of world Jewry.

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