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A Rebbe (Yiddish: רבי, romanized: rebe) or Admor (Hebrew: אדמו״ר) is the spiritual leader in the Hasidic movement, and the personalities[clarification needed] of its dynasties. The titles of Rebbe and Admor, which used to be a general honor title even before the beginning of the movement, became, over time, almost exclusively identified with its Tzaddikim.
Today, rebbe is used in the following ways:
An ordinary communal rabbi, or rebbe in Yiddish, is sometimes distinct from a rav (//, also pronounced rov // by Jews of Eastern European or Russian origin), who is a more authoritative halakhic decider. A significant function of a rav is to answer questions of halakha (the corpus of Jewish law), but he is not as authoritative as a posek. The short form reb is an honorific for Orthodox Jewish men, who are most likely to have profound knowledge of the Talmud and Torah, as opposed to Reconstructionist, Reform or Conservative Judaism. Originally, this title was added to the names of Jews at the time of the schism with the Karaite sect, as a sign of loyalty to the original rabbinic tradition, known today as Orthodox Judaism.
As a rule, among hasidim, rebbe (//) is referred to in Hebrew as admor (pl. admorim), an abbreviation for Hebrew adoneinu moreinu v'rabeinu (Hebrew: אדמו"ר acronym for אדוננו מורנו ורבנו), meaning 'our master, our teacher, and our rabbi', which is now the modern Hebrew word in Israel for rebbe.
Hasidim use the term rebbe also in a more elevated manner, to denote someone that they perceive not only as the religious leader or nasi of their congregation, but as their spiritual adviser and mentor. The Rebbe or my Rebbe in this sense is a rav or rabbi whose views and advice are accepted not only on issues of religious law and practice, but in all arenas of life, including political and social issues. Sometimes a Hasid has a rebbe as his spiritual guide and an additional rav for rulings on issues of halakha.
Hasidim use the concept of a (non-Hasidic) rebbe in the simple sense of rabbi, as the Yiddish-German equivalent to the Hebrew word רַבִּי rabi [ˈʁäbi]. For example: "I will ask my rebbe (//), Rabbi (//) Ploni (so-and-so), for advice about this personal matter."
A Hasidic rebbe (//) is generally taken to mean a great leader of a Hasidic dynasty, also referred to as "Grand Rabbi" in English or an ADMOR, a Hebrew acronym for Adoneinu-Moreinu-veRabbeinu ("our lord/master, teacher, and rabbi"). Outside of Hasidic circles, the term "Grand Rabbi" has been used to refer to a rabbi with a higher spiritual status. The practice became widespread in America in the early 1900s when Hasidic rebbes began to emigrate to the United States and was derived from the German Grossrabbiner.
Rabbi Yisroel Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidism, is regarded by Hasidim as the first Hasidic rebbe. During his lifetime he was referred to mainly as "The holy" rather than as "Rebbe", and his disciples were "magidim" or "preachers", such as the Magid of Chernobyl or the Magid of Mezritch.
The first "rebbe" to be known as such was the Baal Shem Tov's grandson, Rabbi Boruch of Mezhibozh, who was referred to as "The Rebbe" during his lifetime. After him, those who rose to positions of leadership and their successors began to be called rebbe. The title gradually came to suggest a higher spiritual status.
Each Hasidic group refers to its leader as "the rebbe".
Hannah Rachel Verbermacher, also known as the Maiden of Ludmir or the "Ludmirer Moyd", was the only female rebbe in the history of the Hasidic movement; she lived in the 19th century in Ukraine and Israel.
According to Maimonides, a tzadik is "one whose merit surpasses [his/her] iniquity", and every person can reach the level of a Tzadik. According to the Tanya, a tzadik has no evil inclination, and only a select few predestined to attain this level can attain it. According to Kabbalah (and particularly the Hasidic understanding of Kabbalah), the world is sustained on the "shoulders" of Tzadikim Nistarim, divinely predestined exceptionally righteous people in a generation. Nobody knows who was such a tzaddik, even one of these exceptionally righteous people would not know that they are such a tzadik. These people are understood to have perfected their service of God to such an extent that they become literally and physically aware of God. These righteous people's perception (of both spiritual and physical, not to mention temporal matters) transcends the apparent boundaries of existence.
However, a Hasidic rebbe is generally said to be a righteous person, called a "tzaddik". Furthermore, a rebbe is said to be able to affect divine providence, and a rebbe is said to be able to "see the future", or at least have strong insight into the life and trials of another.
As a result, Hasidim in some Hasidic circles seek their rebbe's advice for a variety of concerns: spiritual, physical, and even business concerns. Furthermore, many people seek the blessing (bracha) of a rebbe (and a Hasid will specifically seek the blessing of his rebbe) for anything, from minor (and all the more so major) physical troubles, to grand spiritual concerns.
In some movements the Hasidim believe that their rebbe is the "tzadik hador" (tzaddik of the generation) and would regard any thought that detracts from his perfection and holiness as heresy. Other sects lessen this idealization to some degree or another. Since many rebbes are sons-in-law or students of other rebbes, it makes sense that they would view themselves as subordinate to those other rebbes. Nonetheless, their Hasidim remain loyal to them because of their special loyalty, a family connection, or a belief that a specific tzaddik or Nasi HaDor (although others might have greater spiritual stature) connects best with one's soul. For example, the Kosover Rebbe makes yearly pilgrimages to the Tosher Rebbe. Nonetheless, his followers remain very loyal to him.
Unlike rabbis or non-Hasidic rebbes in other Jewish movements, Hasidic Judaism considers a "Hasidic rebbe" to be a conduit between Jews and God. based on traditional Kabbalistic concepts and terminology, Hasidic philosophy bridged deveikut, a Jewish concept referring to closeness to God, to the Hasidic rebbe, embodying and channeling the Divine flow of blessing to the world, because Creation is dependent on the continuous flow of Divine lifeforce, without which it would revert to nothingness.
Given a rebbe's physical awareness of God and the rebbe's transcendent perception of Godliness, many Hasidim take special care to observe their rebbe's specific and sometimes minute practices. Even things that seem mundane may nonetheless be seen by Hasidim as incredibly significant. For example, Lubavitcher Hasidim frequently shape their fedoras to match the way that the Lubavitcher Rebbe shaped his hat-which was more flat than many others. Many Skverer Hasidim (of the Skverer Rebbe in New Square) wear their peyos identical to those of the Skverer Rebbe.
While Hasidim do not always follow the specific practices of their rebbe, the rebbe can create practices that may be specific and unique to his Hasidim. For example, Rabbi Aaron Roth (Reb Areleh, as he was called) the first rebbe of Shomer Emunim, told his Hasidim to pause frequently while eating their meals to keep them from overindulging. A Hasid will usually display love and admiration for their rebbe as they would a close family member, if not more so. However, the degree and nature of this belief vary depending on the movement.
There are some functions that are exclusively the domain of Hasidic rebbes:
A rebbe conducts a tish (Yiddish: פֿירט טיש: feert tish, literally, "to run [a] table") or a farbrengen—a communal festive meal with highly mystical overtones—on Shabbat and other occasions. At a tish, the rebbe distributes shirayim (lit. remnants) to the Hasidim seated at or gathered around the table. When a gathering similar to a tish is led by a rabbi who is not a rebbe (i.e. a Mashpia), it can be referred to as a botte (esp. amongst groups from Romania) or sheves Achim.
A rebbe has times when Hasidim (and other petitioners) may come for a private audience. A kvitel (Yiddish for "note", plural kvitlach) is a note with the name of the petitioner and a short request for which the rebbe is asked to pray. The formula in which a person's name is written is one's own Hebrew name, the son/daughter of one's mother's Hebrew name, such as Shimon ben Rivkah (Simeon the son of Rebecca). Hasidim believes that rebbes read supernaturally "between the lines" of a kvitel, and in every Hasidic movement there are numerous anecdotes relating how the rebbe saw things that were not written in the kvitel.
In most Hasidic groups, the kvitel is written by the rebbe's gabbai (secretary), however, sometimes the petitioner writes it on his own. Usually, but with some exceptions, a pidyon (redemption) of cash is customarily handed to the rebbe under the kvitel, but this is not obligatory. This is considered to be the conduit through which the blessing is given, and a redemption for the soul of the petitioner. ("A gift makes its receiver glad" is given as an explanation: a blessing only comes from a joyous heart.) It is also customary to tip the gabbai, although this too is not obligatory.
Other tasks are not exclusive to Hasidic rebbes but are important roles they play in their community similar to other rabbis. These include the leading of prayer on Shabbat and Holy Days, performing mitzvot with their Hasidim, and participating in or officiating at weddings, brit milahs, and other events. Hasidic rebbes also play a central role in the intellectual and social life of their communities, delivering sermons and dialogues and building educational and religious institutions.
Zalman Schachter-Shalomi theorized that the historical Hasidic Rebbes may be viewed as occupying one or several of the following roles or functions about their support of their followers:: 59–71
Chabad Tysons Jewish Center will present Paradigm Shift: Transformational Life Teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, a new six-session course by the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute. The course will be offered as part of a series of local activities in Northern Virginia marking 20 years since the passing of "the Rebbe", Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson of righteous memory. The Rebbe was a visionary religious leader who inspired countless individuals during his lifetime and established a global network of educational, social, and religious institutions to revive the post-holocaust Jewish landscape.