24 Tevet: Remembering Rabbi Schneor Zalman of Liadi

Rabbeinu the Chida: “The name Shneor if very ancient, and it contains a reference to two luminaries”

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What is the origin of the name Schneor’? In his talk devoted to the day of passing (Hillula) of the Alter Rebbe, the Rebbe reveals a connection between this date and the current Torah portion “Shemot” – “The Names”. And also, explains the source and the meaning of the Alter Rebbe’s name. 

From the Rebbe’s explanations:

– At the beginning of “Shaar HaYichud VehaEmunah” (in the book of “Tanya”) the Alter Rebbe explains one of the fundamental teachings of the Baal Shem Tov, concerning the importance of naming. He points out the following:

And the name by which it is called in the Holy Tongue is a vessel for the life-force condensed into the letters of that name…that have the power and vitality to create a being ex nihilo and give it life…. (Shaar HaYichud, chapter 1)

This aspect of the Alter Rebbe’s teachings seems especially appropriate on the Shabbos when we read the portion of “Shemot”: “And these are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt…”.

What shall we see if we contemplate on the qualities and character of the Alter Rebbe as expressed in his name? This is a facet of the Alter Rebbe which is open for all to see and may be comprehended by everyone, great and small…

 

In the printed version of the Rebbe’s talk one can find a reference to the sources which reveal the origin of the name “Schneor”. One of the explanations is brought by the Maharshal (Rabbi Solomon Luria) in his “Yam shel Shlomo” (Gittin, ch. 4, par. 26). He tells a story of a controversy between a husband and wife as to the naming of their newborn son. Each parent wished to name the son after his/her father, whose names were Meir and Uri, respectively. The controversy was settled by naming the boy “Schneor”, meaning “Two Lights” – for both Meir and Uri.

 

Rabbeinu the Chida (Maarechet Hagedolim, end of letter shin) adds:

– And in any case, the name « Schneor » seems to be very ancient. It is known that Rabbeinu Yona [Girundi] studied with the authors of Tosafot in France, and his teachers were brothers: Rabbi Moshe bar Schneor and Rabbi Shmuel bar Schneor. Other prominent teachers also bore the name Schneor. And so, the child was named Schneor, because this name had already been known and it contains a reference to two luminaries…

 

Since the times of the Alter Rebbe this connection of the name Schneor to two types of light has become even more prominent.

From the Rebbe’s explanation:

– The Alter Rebbe’s full name is Schneor Zalman. Schneor means “two lights,” in line with the Baal Shem Tov’s prediction that he would illuminate the world with two kinds of light, the light of the revealed Torah and the light of the esoteric Torah. That’s why the Alter Rebbe is often presented as “the author of « The Tanya » (the foundation of the chassidic teaching) and the author « Shulchan Aruch Harav » (practical law). These two lights fuse into one just as the name Schneor represents both aspects.

His second name, Zalman, is composed of the same letters as the word “li-zman” – “to time”. This indicates that the revelation of the “two lights” should penetrate and illuminate the world at the fundamental level of time (and space) so that the unity and essence of Hashem will be revealed in the corporeal world.

How do we combine the exoteric and esoteric sides of Torah? By the revelation of the inner, essential level of Torah, the level of Yechidah (the unique one). Being so lofty, it has the potential to unite opposites.

By invoking this lofty state and infinite power — the Yechidah of Torah — it also reaches down into corporeal time (“Zalman”). Since it emerges from so high a state it follows that it will reach to the farthest and lowest and the innermost…

Based on the Rebbe’s talk on Shabbat Parshat Shemot, 23rd Day of Teves, 5747. Free translation. (More translations are available here).

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