The Tzemach Tzedek

Tzemachtzedek2Menachem Mendel Schneersohn

For the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe, see Menachem Mendel Schneerson. For the Tzemach Tzedek of Nikolsburg, see Menahem Mendel Krochmal.
Menachem Mendel Schneersohn (September 9, 1789 – March 17, 1866 OS) also known as the Tzemach Tzedek was an Orthodox rabbi, leading 19th century posek, and the third Rebbe (spiritual leader) of the Chabad Lubavitch chasidic movement.


The Tzemach Tzedek was born in Liozna, on 29 Elul 5549. His mother Devorah Leah died just three years later, and her father Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi raised him as his own son. He married his first cousin Chaya Mushka Schneersohn, daughter of Rabbi Dovber Schneuri. After his father-in-law/uncle’s death, and a three-year interregnum during which he tried to persuade the hasidim to accept his brother-in-law Menachem-Nachum Schneuri or his uncle Chaim-Avraham as their leader, he assumed the leadership of Lubavitch on the eve of Shavuot 5591 (May 5, 1831 OS).

He was known as the Tzemach Tzedek (“Righteous Sprout” or “Righteous Scion”), after the title of a voluminous compendium of halakha (Jewish law) that he authored. He also authored Derech Mitzvotecha (“Way of Your Commandments”), a mystical exposition of the Mitzvos. He compiled major works of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi for publication, including the Siddur L’Kol Ha’Shanah (commonly known as Siddur Im Dach), Likutei Torah and Torah Ohr. He also authored a philosophical text entitled “Sefer Chakira: Derech Emuna” (Book of Philosophy: The way of Faith).

The Tzemach Tzedek enjoyed close ties with other Jewish leaders. In the course of his battle against the Haskalah in Russia, he forged a close alliance with Rabbi Yitzchak of Valozhyn, a major leader of the misnagdim, which led to warmer relations between them and the hasidim.

According to Baruch Epstein, his father Rabbi Yechiel Michel Epstein spent six months under the Tzemach Tzedek’s tutelage, and learned most of his mystical knowledge during that time. This story is disputed by hassidic historian Yehoshua Mondshein.

His close friendship with professor J Berstenson, the Czar’s court physician often helped the delicate negotiations relating to the welfare of the community.

He set up an organisation called Hevras Techiyas Hameisim to assist Jewish boy-soldiers who were being recruited and converted to Christianity by the Russian army. These soldiers known as Cantonists were taken away from the Jewish community to other villages. Schneersohn arranged for his students to pay them regular visits to keep up their spirits and discourage them from converting.

In 1844-45 he took steps to increase the enrollment and viability of the Lubavitch Yeshivas in Dubroŭna, Pasana, Lyozno and Kalisz, expanding their enrollment to around 600 students in total. Repeated attempts by the authorities to entrap him using informers such as Hershel Hodesh, Benjamin the Apostate and Lipman Feldman failed.

Death and legacy

He died in Lubavitch on 13 Nissan 5626 at the age of 77, leaving behind him seven sons and two daughters. He was succeeded by one of his youngest son Shmuel as the Rebbe of Lubavitch, while three of his other sons formed breakaways of the Chabad movement which continued to some extent until the Second World War. These movements saw themselves as part of Chabad.

Several of his sons established Chasidic dynasties,


Famous quotes

A famous saying of the Tzemach Tzedek is Think good and it will be good (original Yiddish: Trakht gut vet zein gut). This expresses the Chabad view that simply by virtue of a person’s trust in God, that person’s prayer may be answered.

The following quotes are attributed to the Tzemach Tzedek in Hayom Yom.

    • The Tzemach Tzedek instructed all the tutors of his young grandchildren, that in addition to regular studies they should teach the simple meaning of the prayers. Once a month the children came to their grandfather to be tested in this subject. (Hayom Yom, 8 Teves)
    • TheTzemach Tzedek’s once answered at yechidus: “Let the wicked leave his path and the man of sin his thoughts” Aven (sin) is the same ason, meaning power and strength. Just as it is imperative that the “wicked leave his path,” for without teshuva it is impossible to approach the Sacred, so must the “man of strength,” one with unshakeable confidence in his reasoning, “leave his thoughts.” He is not to insist, “I say so. This is what I think;” every “I”, ego, is a source of evil, a cause of divisiveness.(Hayom Yom, 10 Teves)
    • The Tzemach Tzedek told Reb Hendel at yechidus: “Study of Zohar exalts the soul; study of Midrash arouses the heart; Tehillim with tears scours the vessel.”(Hayom Yom, 16 Teves)
    • When the Tzemach Tzedek was a boy and learned the passage, “Yaakov lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years,” his teacher translated according to the Baal Haturim commentary: “Our father Yaakov lived his seventeen best years in Egypt.” When he returned home from Cheder he asked his grandfather, the Alter Rebbe: How can it be that our father Yaakov, the elect of the Patriarchs, should have as the best years of his life the seventeen that he lived in Egypt, the land of corruption? The Alter Rebbe answered: It is written, “And Yehuda he sent before him to Yosef to give instructions for Goshen.” The Midrash states, and Rashi quotes this, R. Nechemya said – to establish a house of study so Torah would be there and the tribes would study Torah. “To give instructions  for Goshen” means (in a deeper sense), when one learns Torah he comes closer to The Al-mighty, may He be blessed, so even in Egypt it was true to say vay’chi – he lived.(Hayom Yom, 18 Teves)
    • On this day the Alter Rebbe passed away in the village Piena on Saturday night of parshat Sh’mot 5573 (1812). He is interred in the city of Haditz. My grandfather (R. Shmuel) asked the Tzemach Tzedek: What did Grandfather (the Alter Rebbe) intend with the “ways of Chassidus” and what did he intend with Chassidus? The Tzemach Tzedek answered: The “ways of Chassidus” are that all Chassidim are to be like one family, with affection, as Torah teaches. Chassidus is vitality. Chassidus is to bring life and illumination into everything, to shed light even on the undesirable – to become aware of one’s own evil exactly as it is, in order to correct it. (Hayom Yom, 24 Teves)
    • When my grandfather (R. Shmuel) was seven, his father (the Tzemach Tzedek) once answered him: The kindness and special quality in G-d’s making man upright, to walk erectly, is that though he walks on the earth he sees the Heavens; not so with beasts that go on all fours; they see only the earth.(Hayom Yom, 13 Shevat)When the second part of Torah Or was about to be printed, Chassidim knew that the Tzemach Tzedek had written glosses and commentaries on the maamarim. They pleaded with him to publish these with the maamarim, but he refused. He then dreamt that his grandfather, the Alter Rebbe, visited him and asked him to publish them, but he revealed this to no one. Only after three of his sons had the same dream and reported this to him did he agree to have his glosses and commentary printed with the second part of Torah Or, which they now entitled “Likutei Torah.”(Hayom Yom, 15 Shevat)
    • On Shabbat B’shalach 5621 (1861) the Tzemach Tzedek said the maamar R’u ki Hashem printed in Likutei Torah. Shortly afterward he said to his son, my grandfather: On Shabbat B’shalach 5565 (1805) my grandfather said this maamar. Afterwards he sent for me and told me that in 5529 (1769) when he was in Mezritch the Maggid had summoned him to his room and had said: On Shabbat B’shalach 5516 (1756) the Baal Shem Tov said a Maamar on Vayashav hayam…l’eitano,  “The Red Sea returned to its strength,” quoting the Rabbinic play on the last word, l’eitano – litnao, meaning to its condition or agreement. In 5521 (1761), a year after the Baal Shem Tov’s passing, my Rebbe (the Baal Shem Tov) came to me, said the maamar, and added an explanation of the subject “doing His will” in contrast to “doing His word.” And today my Rebbe again came to me to repeat the maamar. Then the Maggid repeated the maamar to the Alter Rebbe, adding an interpretation of “River Ginai, part for me,” which is similar to k’riat yam suf, the splitting of the Red Sea. The Tzemach Tzedek concluded: Today the Baal Shem Tov, the Maggid and the Alter Rebbe came to me, each repeating the maamar in his own style. Several hours later the Tzemach Tzedek called my grandfather again and told him an interpretation of the maamar.(Hayom Yom, 17 Shevat)
    • The Tzemach Tzedek told his son, my grandfather, that the maamar Umareihem uma’asseihem in Torah Or, Yitro, is the first discourse the Maggid delivered when he assumed leadership of the chassidim, on Shavuot 5521 (1761). The Alter Rebbe heard the maamar from R. Mendel Horodoker, author of Pri Haaretz, who had been present that Shavuot in 5521. However, the Alter Rebbe expounded the maamar in his own style.(Hayom Yom, 18 Shevat)
    • If you only knew – The Tzemach Tzedek said – the power of verses of Tehillim and their effect in the highest Heavens, you would recite them constantly. Know that the chapters of Tehillim shatter all barriers, they ascend higher and still higher with no interference; they prostrate themselves in supplication before the Master of all worlds, and they effect and accomplish with kindness and compassion.(Hayom Yom, 24 Shevat)



The Tzemach Tzedek had seven sons:

1. Rabbi Baruch Shalom (1805–1869) did not become a rebbe in his own right; he chose to remain in Lubavitch and become a chasid of his youngest brother. RabbiMenachem Mendel Schneerson, the seventh Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch, was his great-great-grandson.

2. Rabbi Yehuda Leib Schneersohn (Maharil) (1808–1866) settled in Kopys a few months after the death of his father, where he founded the Kopust branch of Chabad. He died two months later. He had three sons:

      • Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Schneersohn (1830–1900), oldest son of Rabbi Yehuda Leib, assumed his father’s position in Kopust. He is the author of a work on Hasidism titled “Magen Avot” (“Shield of the Fathers”).
      • Rabbi Shalom Dovber Schneersohn of Rechitsa (d. 1908), known as the Rashab of Rechitsa. Succeeding his brother, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman, Rabbi Shalom Dovber served as the Kopuster movement’s rebbe in the town of Rechitsa. Rabbi Shalom Dovber seems to have died without a successor.
      • Rabbi Shmaryahu Noah Schneersohn (1842–1924), known as Shmaryahu Noah of Babruysk. Succeeding his brother, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman, Rabbi Shmaryahu Noah served as the Kopuster movement’s rebbe in the town of Babruysk. He was rav of the chasidim in Babruysk from 1872, and founded a yeshiva there in 1901. He authored a two volume work on Hasidism, titled “Shemen LaMaor” (“Light for the Luminary”).

3. Rabbi Chaim Schneur Zalman (1814–1880) was Rebbe in Lyady after his father, the Tzemach Tzedek died. He founded the Liadi brach of Chabad. He was succeeded by his son, Rabbi Yitzchak Dovber (1835–1910) of Liadi, author of Siddur Maharid, and his son-in-law, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak (–1905) of Siratin, a scion of the Rebbe of Radzimin.

4. Rabbi Yisroel Noach (1815–1883) of Nizhyn founded the Niezhin branch of Chabad. Although officially a Rebbe, had only a small following. He had no successor. His son was Rabbi Avraham Schneerson of Kischinev, whose daughter, Nechama Dina Schneersohn, married Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, the sixth Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch.

5. Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak (1822–1876) was a Rebbe in Ovruch. He founded the Avrutch branch of Chabad. He was compelled to assume this position by his father-in-law, Rabbi Yaakov Yisroel of Cherkas (son of Rabbi Mordechai of Chernobyl and son-in-law of the Mitteler Rebbe) against his father’s wishes. He was the maternal grandfather and namesake of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, the sixth Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch.

6. Rabbi Yaakov, although leaving descendants, died at quite a young age. He lived in Orsha. Little is known about him.

7. Rabbi Shmuel Schneersohn (Maharash) (1834–1882) of Lubavitch, his youngest son succeeded him as the Rebbe of Lubavitch.


Ohr HaTorah

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson said of the Tzemach Tzedek’s work “Ohr HaTorah” that it contains all the previous and future teachings of the Chabad Rebbes.

Noted students

      • Rabbi Hillel Paritcher
      • Rabbi Shneur Zalman Fradkin of Lublin


    • Ohr HaTorah – Chassidic discourses
    • Sefer HaLikkutim – A Chassidic encyclopedia
    • Derech Mitzvosecha – An explanation of the mystical reasons for the Mitzvos
    • Responsa Tzemach Tzedek – 8 vols.
    • Sefer Chakira: Derech Emunah – exposition of Jewish philosophy