Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the first Rebbe and founder of Chabad
This very succesful Jewish movement is known as Chabad and stands for ~Chochmah, Binah, Daat ~ which are the first three Sephriot of the Kabbalistic tree of Live, this means~ Wisdom, Understanding, Knowlegde~ but Lets start at the beginning with the first Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, also known as the Alter Rebbe, founder of Chabad Lubavitch, who was born in 1745 in Liozna in Belorussia, and as excellent scholar, at the age of twenty standing on a spiritual crossroad, with one path led him to Vilna, home of the great Rabbi Eliyahu and the center of Jewish Scholarship, the other path led to Mezeritch, home of Rabbi DovBer, 'the Maggid' and student of Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer, known as The Baal Shem Tov, founder of Chassidism.
Going a bit deeper into the Chassidus, the teaching of The Baal Shem Tov and Tanya, I think I know what the secret is of Chabad Lubavitch
The Baal ShemTov, who was deeply moved by the unique value, of the simple Jew's serving the Aibishter, he understood that every Jew could pursue a life with purpose, a life so rich in serving HaShem with only himself to give. With this the Baal Shem Tov gain compassion for the simple Jew, which was noticeable in his teachings for love of his fellow.
The popularity of the Baal Shem Tov spread across Europe, uplifting Jews in giving them a sense of spiritual dignity and purpose. He shattered the intellectual monoply of Jewish Scholarschip and made it accessible to all Jews.
In 1760 The Baal Shem Tov past away in Mezibuz, which is somewhere in the western parts of the Ukraine.
Rabbi DovBer, the Maggid, carried out the legacy of The Baal Shem Tov, who he met earlier in 1753. The Maggid taught his students the secrets of Kabbalah, and these students became the new generation of leaders that would push Chassidism to a movement which did reach the majority of European Jews.
The Maggid send his followers across Eastern Europe.
Rabbi Schneur Zalman was send to Lithuania, the Misnagdim there was opposed Chassidic teachings, and the scolar of Vilna who felt this was more a revolutionary approach to Judaism than the classical Jewish norm.
Rabbi Schneur Zalman was a great scholar, philosopher, a thinker but also a theologian, he composed the direction of the Maggid with a updated version of the code of Jewish law, which became legal.
But his greatest work was Tanya, which expressed his philosophy, which combined the mystical with the practical. Rabbi Schneur Zalman was also very active in communinal affairs in Russia, he was helping to expand settlements and provided economic oppertunaties for the Jews. In 1788 he founded Colel Chabad, this was to support the growing Chassidic community in Israel.
The Misnagdim who were opposed of Chassidic teachings had failed to stop the ever growing Chassidism, and in a desperate attempt they tried to destroy the movement, with a serie of false accusations against Rabbi Schneur Zalman. In 1798 he was accused of treasonous activities against Russia, this was based on supporting Jews in Israel, which was still part of Ottoman Empire, and at that time in conflict with Russia.
Imprisoned in Petersburg, the Rabbi was visit by the Czar, zeven weeks later vindicated and freed on th 19th of Kislev, which is still celebrated as a Chassidic holiday to this day.
His son Rabbi DovBer, continued the line of Chassidic Rebbe's, he moved the growing movement to the town of Lubavitch and the Rebbe became known as the Lubavitcher Rebbe.