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'Habad Definition

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'Habad - (Hebrew: חב"ד) (or Chabad) (an acronym for Hochmei Bina veda'at - the wise men of insight and knowledge or 'hochma Bina V'Da'at - Wisdom, Insight and knowledge) -  - Non-Zionist followers of the late Rabbi Shneerson (the Lubavitch Rabbi) in Brooklyn New York. Though non-Zionist, this sect is associated with extreme right wing elements in Israel and opposes withdrawal from any territories. Chabad has many aspects. On the one hand, they have Messianic beliefs, and a part of the sect believes that the deceased Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneursohn is the Messiah and is not dead. In his life time, Schneursohn had a reputation as a miracle worker and prophet. Some members of Chabad deny that they hold this belief, but the fact is that no successor was named for Schneursohn since his death in 1994. Schneersohn himself never said he was the Messiah apparently, but he was quite involved with the issue of "bringing the Messiah" and insisted that the coming of the Messiah is close.   On the other hand, Chabad engages extensively in bringing Jews closer to Judaism, and many of its activists are pragmatic and open.

Chabad were founded by Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi who lived in Russia (1745- 1812) and wrote the Tanya, a mystical work and the Shulchan Aruch Harav which expounded his views of Jewish law and of Hassidism. His main concern was to reform the Hassidic movement, which had emphasized only faith of the heart, and to emphasize the importance of intellect, in the form of study of the Talmud. Succession to leadership of the Chabad movement past from father to son in dynastic fashion, as is customary among Hassidic movements. Chabad consisted at one time of several groupings of Hassidic Jewish organizations and was called the Chabad movement. Today, the only remaining Chabad organization is the one headquartered on Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. In 1949, the previous incumbent rabbi, Yosef Yitzhok Schneerson, ordered the creation of Kfar Chabad in Israel. Kfar Chabad is located between Beit Dagan and Lod, north of the highway that connects Beit Dagan and Lod, and approximately opposite Tzrifin (Sarafend). A replica of the Rabbi's house on Eastern Parkway was built there.

Despite the hawkish stance of Menachem Mendel Schneerson, Chabad is not a Zionist movement. Shneersohn did not recognize the state of Israel. He received the President of Israel, Zalman Shazar, and told him that he did so only because Shazar was his a relative (Shazar is an acronym, His birth name was Shneur Zalman Rubashov).

Chabad has been engaged in Jewish outreach and charitable work for many years. This does not consist of seeking converts, but of trying to rescue Jews and return apostate Jews to Judaism. Chabad was extensively involved in rehabilitating Jewish survivors following World War II, especially children, many of whom were placed in strictly orthodox surroundings and forced to study religious subjects, whatever their preferences. Chabad also played a leading role in raising Jewish consciousness in the former Soviet Union, and continues to do so in Russia. Chabad centers all over the world provide "shelters" where Jewish tourists and travelers can find Kosher food and Jewish companionship. This work is done in the United States as well. Chabad rabbis are happy to assist in conversion of non-Jews for mixed marriages and to save "lost" youth by returning them to Judaism. Often however, the returnees to Judaism become separated from their families, whom they come to consider as "heretics."

One such center was opened in Mumbai India. The center catered to the many Jews, especially Israeli youth, who come to India looking for mystical experiences, and sometimes find themselves out of funds, addicted to drugs and perhaps on the wrong side of the law. In November of 2007, terrorists affiliated with Al-Qaeda attacked Mumbai, killing hundreds, and especially targeting American and British citizens, and also attacking the Mumbai Chabad center, where 8 people were killed, including the young Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg and and his wife Rivka. This tragedy raised Chabad to prominence and brought home the charitable, idealistic and positive aspects of their work.

Ami Isseroff

November 28, 2008


Synonyms and alternate spellings: Chabad, Lubavitcher 'Hassidim.

Further Information:


Hebrew/Arabic pronunciation and transliteration conventions:

'H - ('het) a guttural sound made deep in the throat. To Western ears it may sound like the "ch" in loch. In Arabic there are several letters that have similar sounds. Examples: 'hanukah, 'hamas, 'haredi. Formerly, this sound was often represented by ch, especially in German transliterations of Hebrew. Thus, 'hanukah is often rendered as Chanuka for example.

ch - (chaf) a sound like "ch" in loch or the Russian Kh as in Khruschev or German Ach, made by putting the tongue against the roof of the mouth. In Hebrew, a chaf can never occur at the beginning of a word. At the beginning of a word, it has a dot in it and is pronounced "Kaf."

u - usually between oo as in spoon and u as in put.

a- sounded like a in arm

ah- used to represent an a sound made by the letter hey at the end of a word. It is the same sound as a. Haganah and Hagana are alternative acceptable transliterations.

'a-notation used for Hebrew and Arabic ayin, a guttural ah sound.

o - close to the French o as in homme.

th - (taf without a dot) - Th was formerly used to transliterate the Hebrew taf sound for taf without a dot. However in modern Hebrew there is no detectable difference in standard pronunciation of taf with or without a dot, and therefore Histadruth and Histadrut, Rehovoth and Rehovot are all acceptable.

q- (quf) - In transliteration of Hebrew and Arabic, it is best to consistently use the letter q for the quf, to avoid confusion with similar sounding words that might be spelled with a kaf, which should be transliterated as K. Thus, Hatiqva is preferable to Hatikva for example.


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