At left is a picture of the Tzemach Tzedek in a calendar published by Mesora, Lodz (Poland). On the right is an 1886 lithograph printed in Vilna and accompanied by authorization of the Russian censor, dated Oct. 30, 1886. This picture was likely printed in conjunction with the 20th anniversary of the passing of the Tzemach Tzedek.

The Life and Legacy of the Tzemach Tzedek, 150 Years Later


Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch, known as the Tzemach Tzedek, was the third leader of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement. A flurry of activity exploring the multifaceted life of this great Jewish leader marks the 150th year of his passing on the 13th of Nissan (which this year corresponds to Thursday, April 21), just prior to Passover of 1866.

Born in 1789 to Rabbi Shalom Shachna and Rebbetzin Devorah Leah, he was the grandson of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of Chabad. He assumed the position of “Rebbe” shortly after the passing of his father-in-law, Rabbi DovBer, in 1827, and was the first to live in the town of Lubavitch for the entire duration of his leadership.

Known for his brilliant Torah scholarship, fearless defense of the Jewish people and deep Chassidic fervor, it was under his tenure that Chabad Chassidim swelled to encompass hundreds of thousands of adherents. His responsa are renowned as acute and authoritative rulings across the gamut of Jewish law, and they are widely studied. His prolific literary output in bothChassidism and halachah (Jewish law) was legendary, both in volume and depth.

Concurrently, Chabad scholar Rabbi EliRubin has published an article exploring some salient characteristics of the Tzemach Tzedek’s Chassidic writings. Among other things, Rubin demonstrates some of the different ways in which the Tzemach Tzedek synthesized, developed and expanded the teachings of his grandfather.

The Chabad publishing house Kehot recently released a newly revised edition of the Tzemach Tzedek’s seminal work Derech Mitzvotecha in honor of this milestone. This new edition includes annotations and elucidations to the original text, aiding the reader in the study of this complex Chasidic work.

In addition, a new timeline of the rabbi’s life and accomplishments—which, although devoted to intense scholarship, also included weeks and months of walking the halls of power to defend the Jewish right to self-determination, in addition to tireless efforts on behalf of oppressed people—has been prepared by Rabbi Mordechai Rubin.

Much of the new research, as well as existing content, has been incorporated into a mini-site dedicated to the Tzemach Tzedek. There, visitors can read biographies, teachings and stories, and even listen to the music that he either composed himself or had composed to be sung in his court.

“Looking back to 150 years ago,” says Rubin, “we can see how so much has changed. Yet many of the Tzemach Tzedek’s teachings, his leadership example, and his devotion to G‑d and His people remain as relevant and fresh as ever.”

One Comment

  • SD

    Even lacking the vast media resources that we enjoy today, the popularity of the Tzemach Tzedek in Russia both during his life and for decades afterward among Russian Jewry, both among the religious community and among secular Jews was enormous.
    A soon to be publicized picture of the Tzemach Tzedek on Russian new year cards from circa 1905
    depicts as how vast his name and fame was. New year cards in those years in Russia was not something that was sent by religious Jews, but more typically sent by the general non-religious Jews.