Anyone who is interested in the teachings and writings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe would be astounded by the scope of his vast knowledge and vision. Generally, there are scholars who specialize in Jewish law, but do not have any great knowledge of the more hidden aspects of the Torah. Then, there are experts in Talmud, who have less understanding in issues of faith and science. Then there are those who are very well-versed in the laws between man and G-d, but are not able to give advice on issues between man and his fellow, or more personal matters. The Rebbe, on the hand, had a broad view and knowledge of every single field of expertise.
The Rebbe used to correspond with the great scholar, the Rogatchover Gaon on complicated Talmudic questions, but at the same time he gave advice to a little girl on how to deal with the taunts of her non-Jewish neighbors. He would discuss the different approaches of Rashi and Rambam to tefillin with the learned Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, and the question of Jewish identity with Ben Gurion. During meetings with other Chassidic Rebbes, the Lubavitcher Rebbe would encourage them to publish their ancestors’ writings, and at the same time he sent messages to the famous chess champion, Bobby Fischer, to encourage him to return to his Jewish roots.
When the first men walked on the moon, this caused a certain amount of confusion among religious Jews. Wasn’t this an invasion of the realms of the divine? The Rebbe explained that, if anything, the opposite was the case. This breakthrough only encouraged people to “lift your eyes upward,” and attain the end of this verse, “and see who created it.”
The Rebbe used this event to strengthen faith in G-d. “This action,” he said, “was until only recently thought to be impossible. From here, we learn two things: Firstly, that it is completely impossible to rely upon human intellect, for what is considered to be impossible today can definitely become possible tomorrow. Secondly, a person should always want to progress all the time.”
The Rebbe wrote to a senior educationalist working with children with severe learning disabilities, “The starting point for a teacher or therapist for a child with special needs has to be that the present level of his disability is only temporary, and with time it will diminish and disappear … The actual belief that such progress is within the realms of possibility will produce the therapist’s maximum effort. This is also the case regarding those who are being treated. They most know and feel that they are not “cases,” and are neither unfortunate nor unlucky. Rather, their problems are temporary, and they can facilitate an improvement in their situation,” the Rebbe wrote, in a display of intense love and humanity.
The Rebbe dismissed the Communist doctrine, explaining that “it is human nature to feel a true sense of happiness when he can help another person, and this is only possible when there is a situation of absolute inequality among people.” The Rebbe added that according to Chassidic philosophy, “when a person follows the correct path, he does not only merit to be a “receiver,” but also an “influencer.” In other words, if he is poor in one field, he deserves riches in another. In this way, there is no one who is completely rich or completely poor, creating a certain reciprocity between people.”
The Role of the Rebbe
To understand this more clearly, it is worthwhile reading a statement that the Rebbe once made to a group of scientists, who asked what the role of the Rebbe was. “Electricity gives light and warmth, and is a powerful source of benefit,” explained the Rebbe. “But for it to work, we need to flick the right switch. Within every Jew, there are spiritual powers, but we have to find the correct switch to activate them and arouse these faculties.”