13 Iyar: Remembering Rabbi Yisrael Aryeh Leib Schneerson

The Rebbe: “The name Yisrael highlights the connection between the Torah and the 600,00 general souls which make up the Jewish people”

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Rabbi Yisrael Aryeh Leib, brother of the Rebbe, was the youngest of the three sons of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak and Chana Schneerson. At a young age he quickly became renowned as a scholar of exceptional genius.

In the year 1933 he eventually immigrated to Israel, and in his later years he moved to England, where R. Yisrael Arye Leib was to complete his doctoral thesis in the Department of Theoretical Physics of the University of Liverpool. Tragically, he passed away on 13 Iyar, 5712 (1952).

Upon hearing about the tragedy, the Rebbe did all he could to shield his mother from learning the news, which could negatively impact her health, as reflected in some of the Rebbe’s letters.

At the Rebbe’s directive, R. Yisrael Aryeh Leib was buried in the historic Chabad portion of the ancient cemetery in Safed, Israel.

Since R. Yisrael Aryeh Leib did not leave a son, the Rebbe himself would say Kaddish for him annually on 13 Iyar. Occasionally the Rebbe also delivered an Chassidic discourse on this date.

From the Rebbe’s talk on the 13th of Iyar, 5751:

– The name Yisrael conveys two seemingly opposite concepts: On one hand, the name Yisrael is an acronym for the Hebrew phrase meaning “There are 600,000 letters in the Torah.” This highlights the connection between the Torah and the 600,00 general souls which make up the Jewish people; every Jewish soul has a letter of the Torah and that letter is the source for his life-force.

Also, the Torah associates the name Yisrael with the service of “striving with man and angels and prevailing.” This implies involvement with the world at large and even war with the opposing forces. Thus, this appears to convey an opposite thrust than the previous interpretation which emphasized a Jew’s connection with the Torah, a level above worldly involvement.

This difficulty can be resolved as follows: First and foremost, a Jew must realize that his life-force is derived from his letter in the Torah and therefore, all aspects of his conduct must be governed by the Torah’s directives. Simultaneously, he must also be aware that the ultimate goal of his service is not to separate himself from the world at large, but … to carry out his service in creating a dwelling for G‑d in this lowly world…

… This implies that he does not negate the worldly environment in which he lives, but rather, that he employs it for the service of G‑d.

From the Rebbe’s talk on Shabbat Parshat Acharei-Kedoshim, 13th Day of Iyar, 5751 (1991).

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