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I'm looking for a chain of mesorah for the Lubavitcher Rebbe. That is, he learned from someone, who learned from someone, who learned from someone, etc. until Moshe who received the Torah at Har Sinai.

It's fairly easy to trace him back to the Baal Shem Tov, but he didn't have a real rebbe (that is, someone who taught him most of his Torah). Is there another way of tracing back Lubavitch the chain of mesorah?

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Out of curiousity, why ask about Lubavitch? Your question is really about the Baal Shem Tov's mesorah, right? – HodofHod Jun 3 '14 at 5:01
@HodofHod Maybe the Rebbe can be traced back to Har Sinai through a path other than the Baal Shem Tov. – Daniel Jun 3 '14 at 11:21
Ah, that is true, thanks! Well, if the chain is made up of people who they just "learned from," that ought to be very easy, but if the chain is more of "rebbe to rebbe" (i.e., mentor to mentor) than we're back to the Baal Shem Tov, I think. – HodofHod Jun 3 '14 at 17:30

The Baal Shem Tov's teacher was Rabbi Adam Baal Shem. For more details about the origins of the Baal Shem Tov's Mesorah, look at The Lubavitcher Rebbe's Memoirs (by the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe) which discusses this history, albeit in a manner which is somewhat hard to follow if your purpose is to construct a timeline.

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Ahijah the Shilonite was the Baal Shem Tov's main teacher (according to his student Rabbi Jacob Joseph of Polonne in ספר תולדות יעקב יוסף Parshat Balak). He taught him for 10 years, from 5484-5494 (1723-1733) -from ספר השיחות תש"ה page 122. Ahijah received from Moses.

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What evidence do we have that Achiyah ever met Moshe? – Double AA Jun 3 '14 at 16:33
Whether he met him or not, he had a chain of mesorah from Moses, whether directly or not. – gaagu Jun 6 '14 at 3:51
Did Achiya teach him from beyond the grave (nevua? dreams?), or was he still alive (and just hiding all this time)? – Double AA Jun 13 '14 at 3:44
The Midrash says he was killed by King Abijam. It was possibly by dreams or visions. I seem to recall a recorded instance somewhere where it was by dream. – gaagu Jun 13 '14 at 18:22
Mesorah only comes through the living, not the dead, as per the principle of "Lo b'shamayim hi". – LN6595 Jun 7 '15 at 20:38

Another possible angle to answer this question is that the Lubavitcher Rebbe learned from his father - Rabbi Steinsaltz in his biography of the Lubavitcher Rebbe says that his main teacher was his father. His father received Smicha from Rabbi Chaim Soleveitchik of Brisk.

This was the old fashioned Smicha, where the student sits with the Rov and paskens questions in front of him until the Rov is satisfied with his competence.

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I don't think the Rebbe considered himself a Brisker. Maybe the style of Nigla, but not in Hashkafa or Halacha. – Shmuel Brin Jun 25 '15 at 20:19
@ShmuelBrin, His father was also a Kabbalist, which Briskers are not. – Yishai Jun 25 '15 at 20:33

When the Rebbe was living in berlin he received his smicha from Rabbi Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg (known as the Seridei Eish after the name of his sefer).

Kowalski says that the Seridei Eish told him that the next day, he tested the young scholar and “was shocked by the great knowledge of all that it said in his booklet, and even more than was written there. He immediately gave Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson rabbinical ordination.”


In a recent conversation with Kowalski in Zurich, he clarifies how it came about that he discussed this with the Seridei Eish. “I was a student of the Seridei Eish in Montreux, Switzerland,” he says, and one day he was speaking to the Seridei Eish and asked: “Why don’t you have contact with the Lubavitcher Rebbe?”

The Seridei Eish said: “I will tell you the truth: he was my student, and now he is Rebbe. If I would write to him, I would need to write to him [the honorific titles] harav hagaon, hatzadik. I cannot write like this to a student, and to write to him without saying this is not respectful because he is a Rebbe. So, I do not write.”


Another student of the Seridei Eish, Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Dunner, who headed the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations in London, told his son and grandson shortly before he passed away that “he remembered [the Rebbe] well,” records his grandson Rabbi Pini Dunner. “The Rebbe stood at the back of Rabbi Weinberg’s shiur [class], and would talk in learning after almost every shiur.”

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Two points: 1. Proof 2. I don't think that he considered himself to be a student (Chossid) of his, and I don't think that he followed that Mesora. – Shmuel Brin Jun 13 '14 at 6:47
@ShmuelBrin, I agree, R' Weinberg, despite his Litvisch ancestry was the r"y at Hildesheim, who's mesorah is completely separate from that of Chabad. – Noach MiFrankfurt Jun 13 '14 at 8:03
I added the source, but I still think it is a stretch to call that Mesorah. – Yishai Jun 13 '14 at 13:27

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