Chabad Lubavitch is a movement and organization within the Orthodox Jewish Hasidic branch of Judaism. The word Chabad is a Hebrew acronym for the three intellectual faculties that the movement values: Chochmah— "wisdom," Binah— "comprehension," and Da'at— "knowledge." And Lubavitch is the name of the town in Russia (present-day Belarus) where the movement began. Lubavitch actually means "City of Brotherly Love" and represents another core value of the movement: a sense of responsibility and love toward every Jew.
Shneur Zalman of Liadi started the movement in 1775 in Russia to elevate the intellectual aspects of Judaism, giving rational foundations to the Jewish mysticism of the time. While mysticism tended to focus on the heart and engaging people's emotions, Zalman believed the mind was the gateway to the heart and that "understanding is the mother of fear and love for God." So his teaching focused on Torah study and prayer. He believed that through wisdom, comprehension, and knowledge of the Creator each person could then guide their actions and feelings accordingly. He expounded on Jewish mysticism to include both the spiritual and the physical aspects of Jewish life, appealing to every Jew, whether an intellectual scholar or down-to-earth farmer and everything in between.
In the 1940s Chabad Lubavitch went from being just a philosophy or movement to become an official organization. In the wake of anti-Semitic oppression and the horrors of World War II, the movement had moved first from Russia to Poland and then to the United States. As an official organization, Chabad Lubavitch provides programs, services, and institutions dedicated to the welfare of Jewish people worldwide. They offer humanitarian aid, summer camps for children, Jewish day schools, adult education, a publishing company for Jewish literature, and religious and cultural activities. They also train and ordain rabbis, educators, ritual slaughterers, and ritual circumcisers.
While most ultra-Orthodox groups are self-segregating, Chabad Lubavitch are known for their outreach to non-observant Jews by living in contact with the wider world. In fact, they send missionaries, known as emissaries (or shluchim), all over the world to encourage secularized Jews to adopt Orthodox observance. They do this by offering assistance with physical needs, spiritual guidance, and teaching about Jewish heritage to enable currently non-observant Jews to start practicing Judaism. They run "mitzvah campaigns" where they focus on promoting a simple mitzvah (or commandment) with which non-observant Jews can start their practice of Judaism. Some examples of promoted mitzvoth are affixing a mezuzah to the doorpost of the home, lighting candles on Shabbat, and giving to charity (known as tzedakah). Because of their beliefs about the imminent coming of the messiah, Chabad Lubavitch not only promotes Jews doing these good deeds, but also believes Gentiles should abide by the seven Laws of Noah. These Noahide Laws include: 1. Not worshipping idols, 2. Not cursing God, 3. Establishing courts of justice, 4. Not murdering, 5. Not committing adultery or sexual immorality, 6. Not stealing, and 7. Not eating flesh torn from a living animal. In order to promote these ethical values, the leader of Chabad Lubavitch in 1980 supported the establishment of the United States Department of Education hoping to provide a strong education for every child, Jew and non-Jew alike.
Because of their outreach efforts and focus on love, Chabad Lubavitch are generally viewed with affection by those with whom they come in contact. Many Christians who seek to love Jewish people well are drawn to support organizations that focus on meeting the needs of the Jewish people. Chabad Lubavitch certainly supports other Jews, but they do not understand that Messiah has already come. We would recommend that Christians seek to support organizations that provide physical aid as well as bring the truth of the gospel (Matthew 28:19–20). May we have a heart like Paul's who said, "Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them [Jews] is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes" (Romans 10:1–4).
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