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I Will Write It In Their Hearts - Volume 4
A Treasury of Letters from the Lubavitcher Rebbe,
Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson
Selections from Igros Kodesh


Engagement blessings; the need to break the cycle of complacency and begin outreach activities in earnest; the importance of connecting Jews with the Previous Rebbe

Translated by: Rabbi Eli Touger

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No. 445

This letter was sent to R. Shlomo Chayim Kesselman, at that time, the Previous Rebbe’s emissary for the collection of maamad.[175]
B"H, 15 Shvat, 5709, The New Year of the Trees,

“Man is a Tree of the Field”[176]

Greetings and blessings,

In response to your letter of 18 Teves (and the accompanying list [of contributors]) that was received after a delay:

  1. Thank you for informing me of the good news of the engagement of your daughter. May it be G-d’s will that everything, including all the particulars, be in a good and auspicious hour. May your sending good news ([which fulfills] the mitzvah of ahavas Yisrael) lead to the good news that you will announce regarding her wedding, may it be [blessed] with good fortune. [May this lead to] an eternal edifice with all the interpretations [of the latter term, “adei ad” in Lashon HaKodesh]. For they all relate to the level of Kesser,[177] “the crown with which his mother crowned him on the day of his wedding.”[178]

[Among them are:] adei, ornaments and jewelry (which allude to abundant material prosperity); [ad] eternality (which alludes to children, as is evident); and [ad] an interruption, as in the phrase: “Only until here may you come.”[179] The latter interpretation includes in it two levels: ad velo ad bechlal, i.e., up to but not included in the category referred to, and ad v’ad bechlal, up to and included within that category.

The first of these levels refers to the lowest level within the Emanator, “up to but not included”; and the second, “up to and including,” which refers to the source for the emanations.[180] (It is possible to explain that this is related to the category of life.[181] For the Jewish people alone are referred to as “alive,” as it is written:[182] “You who cling to G-d our L-rd are alive,” as our Sages comment in Avos deRabbi Nassan, ch. 34. “[G-d] is alive and not among the living.” [This rung can be described with the phrase] “up to and not including.” This [level] serves as the vitality for life, the source of the emanations, as reflected in the expression of Rambam[183] which is cited and explained in Chassidus: “‘And G-d your L-rd is true,’[184] the Truth of [all] being.” [This refers to] His essence, [a level described as] “the living G-d.”)

And [all of these] three qualities — children, life, and prosperity — are dependent on one’s mazal.[185] See the explanation of the maamar entitled Eleh Pekudei, sec. 4, and the second maamar entitled Mizmor Shir Chanukas HaBayis, sec. 2, in Likkutei Torah; the maamar entitled Shuvah Yisrael, 5666, and the Rebbe Rashab’s Chanoch LeNaar, p. 38.

  1. Enclosed is a kuntreis that was recently published. It is [being sent to you to] share with people at large.

  2. I brought the list [of donors] to my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe Shlita, and afterwards to the Committee for Nifneh.[186] I also conveyed your request for individual receipts. These have no doubt already been sent to you. [Please] acknowledge receipt of them.

  3. [The funds that] you sent (with your letter of 25 Iyar), the five [dollars] donated toward letters for the Torah scroll[187] and a similar amount for the Siddurim, were duly received. Perhaps the letter acknowledging this was lost. Please notify us if the letter notifying you of the letters designated for you was also not received....[188]

  4. You write about the impossibility of working [to collect] nifneh among the inhabitants of the city (with the exception of the members of the chassidic brotherhood and the temimim[189]) and you give several rationales and explanations for this. Just two and a half lines previously, you write: “The chassidic brotherhood are bonded [to the Rebbe] with all their heart and with all their soul to the point of actual mesirus nefesh. If they were commanded to crawl into a pit, they would obey that command.” I refer to our Sages’ statement:[190] “How secure and how intrepid is one whom His master helps!” For it appears that you don’t have even a shadow of a suspicion that perhaps there is a contradiction between your introduction and your conclusion.

We have seen from experience that wherever we have involved ourselves with nifneh in these last years (in the U.S., Canada, South America, South Africa, etc.), there was an effect — albeit not to the same degree in each place. The people involved in these efforts did not have to take their [readiness for] actual mesirus nefesh from their [spiritual] backpacks. They did not even have to crawl into a pit. Not only that, [through their efforts,] their own circumstances — both material and spiritual — improved, and the respect they received from those with whom they worked and were involved continued to grow. Ultimately, [the donors] appreciated that they were the recipients and not the givers, even when material and financial matters were involved.

According to the explanations in your letter, in your country, by contrast, [the chassidim] are prepared for actual mesirus nefesh. Obviously, this includes giving over one’s will, one’s intellect, and one’s thinking processes....

This fact should be made known: When writing this, my intent is not [to focus] on one particular individual, Heaven forbid. For who am I to decide that it is incumbent on so-and-so to fulfill this-and-this mission? [Instead,] my words are directed to your group as a collective; for certainly, it contains all [the individuals] necessary to complete your fundamental mission in the country in which you are located: to spread the wellsprings of the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe in the outer reaches of France. We have only one fountain through which the wellsprings of the Baal Shem Tov’s and the Alter Rebbe’s teaching flow: my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe Shlita. Through connection to this fountain — connection on a physical level ([through giving resources] “with which one could purchase the vital [needs] of his natural soul,”[191]) and the connection of the soul — the water becomes “the water of life.” For, according to Torah law, this is the situation that rules over and directs nature in a straightforward manner in all places.

In your letter (seemingly because of a lack of activities which also appears to be the decision of the members of our brotherhood in your camp), you cold-bloodedly declare — [the term gozer, “declare,” in Lashon HaKodesh also has the implication] “cut off” — that all our other Jewish brethren in your community (with the exception of those living in your immediate neighborhood) do not have any connection to all the above.

Call all the members of the chassidic brotherhood to a meeting and make an honest reckoning of how much effort was expended to involve people in these matters. Then it will be obvious that all the debate is superfluous, for the reasons why there are no results will immediately become clear.

There was a young man who was forced to flee from his location. Now this person is not one who has a connection with the Divine service of [meditative] prayer. He is not devoted to the abstract contemplation of Chassidus (a maskil), nor to the applications of these teachings in his efforts for self-refinement (an oved). He does not [even] have a beard. He never studied in Tomchei Temimim or in any other yeshivah. This person journeyed to a very distant place, one far removed in both a physical sense and in its connection to Jewish life. After a short time passed, men and women from that place began to develop a relationship with my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe Shlita.

For example, a businesswoman who was offered an opportunity to rent a store and a dwelling either in one part of the city or another asked the Rebbe Shlita to decide what she should do. She has never seen him. And she knows that my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe Shlita, has never been in her city, nor even in her country. She is not part of the chassidic brotherhood, nor are her roots there. But she heard the young man [mentioned above] speak sincerely, with words coming from the heart, that there is a Rebbe among the Jewish people, that he is not bound by the limitations of nature, and that a person who wants to follow a secure path — be it in business or in directing his household — should not raise his hand without asking the Rebbe. She saw that the young man’s words reflected his inner feelings, because words of truth can be recognized, and she asked that her question be written [to the Rebbe].

As a matter of course, such a woman is connected to nifneh. She is drawing closer to Judaism. No doubt, in the near future, her home will be conducted in keeping with [the mitzvos of] kashrus, taharas hamishpachah, and the like. These are the fruits of the activities of a simple young man who did not act out of mesirus nefesh or kabbalas ol. For none of these activities runs contrary to his understanding, not even to the understanding of his mortal intellect.

Think [about this] for a moment: Based on his actual perception, it is very clear to him that the Rebbe’s words are the Rebbe’s words, and his blessings are blessings. Even his animal soul accepts this [premise], because it did not come to him as the result of a process of intellectual give-and-take or the analysis of texts, but from experience — his own and that of people he knew. This provided evidence that obeying [the Rebbe’s instructions] leads to a positive outcome. And when one does not do so, the results are unfavorable. As a result, just as he is not at all embarrassed to tell his acquaintances who are in need the address of an expert doctor, so, too, when he sees a person who is confused or confronted by a fundamental life question, he tells him: “The Jewish people are not without assistance, Heaven forbid. There is someone we can ask.” Moreover, he does not wait until his acquaintances come to him to ask if there is a Rebbe, for by and large they don’t know what a Rebbe is. Instead, he goes to them and explains to them that they should not depend on their own understanding — not on the shadchan, the doctor, or the broker — for all of these involve doubts. Instead, he has a secure path with which to resolve his doubts. As our Sages commented:[192] “Words that come from the heart enter the heart.”

To focus now on the subject of your letter: Your community contains the finest members of the chassidic brotherhood: people who saw the Rebbe Rashab, and — to make a distinction between the living and those eternally alive — my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe Shlita. They’ve been tested by the trials of poverty and all types of ordeals. They are involved in the abstract contemplation of Chassidus and the applications of these teachings in their efforts for self-refinement. [After leaving Russia,] they were located in a [DP] camp[193] among thousands of our Jewish brethren who were thirsty to hear a warm and live word [of Jewish content], something that would stir them and bring them close [to their Jewish heritage]. The young people among them were fundamentally seeking direction, [asking]: Where is the Moshe, the man who will lead us out of our boundaries and limitations and show us the path of life?

I ask you: How many [of those] people were added to [those involved in] the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe through your efforts and the labor of your souls during the time you stayed in the camp?

At that time, I wrote to the largest group of the chassidic brotherhood instructing them to work with all those found in the camp, and in particular with the youth — i.e., those who are spiritually underdeveloped (because I thought that at the first stage of conquering [the place for Chassidus], it was not necessary to put an emphasis on their material status).[194] I was answered that the idea was good, but that first it was necessary to make sure that there was a budget to cover expenses and that it would be more appropriate to begin these [efforts] when all the members of the chassidic brotherhood reached a state of tranquility. Then all those who were needed would travel back to the camp to work with mesirus nefesh! When, through an emissary who journeyed there, I urged a second time [that the matter be dealt with], they elected — I think — a committee, and that was the end of the matter. The outcome is well known.

The members of the chassidic brotherhood have become weary with their struggles. And it appears that those [working] with them also wearied themselves, seeing that it’s a pity that Jews should continually weary themselves in upheaval. They were brought to a settled community.[195] One might think that [there], perhaps, maybe, [they would begin outreach activities]. But instead, the entire pattern (or more precisely, the lack of a pattern) repeated itself. It is over a year that you are in your present surroundings. What is the sum total of the activities being carried out in Paris and its surroundings?

When I was in Paris a year and a half ago, I spoke [about the matter] several times until ultimately it was decided (apparently, out of respect) that the Committee for Nifneh would become involved with the people of the city. It is evident that those involved would be the appropriate ones to deal with those who are — at present — distant [from Jewish practice]. From time to time, I inquired and investigated what was being done in this regard and I discovered... that nothing is being done, nothing with regard to maamad in the spiritual sense and nothing with regard to maamad in the material sense. [These] two halves must — except in certain unique instances — be combined. [Indeed, each one] can only progress and be maintained when in tandem.

I would also be happy if someone would finally notify me that there are certain elements of activity of which I am unaware, that tens of people have not only been motivated by [members of our brotherhood] and have donated toward [the local] institutions, but have also received teachings of Chassidus from them or at least have in some way become bonded [with the Rebbe]. From your letter, however, I see that any aspect of such work is out of the question for you.

Obviously, maintaining the image of one’s own community requires much work and constant labor. But even the guarding of the Beis HaMikdash was only one of the tasks [performed there] and all the priests were not occupied with it.

Obviously, if you meet a person and tell him: “Sir, give [me] money and I will give it to so-and-so who is several thousand miles away whom you do not know and with whom you do not share a connection, but [he] is a person of exceptional and lofty qualities,” you will be looked at as a charlatan.

On the other hand, it is [equally] obvious that when a person who believes with simple faith — i.e., [faith] that directs all his powers — that [the Rebbe’s][196] knowledge and blessing have power over all matters and [this person] knows that his colleague must make a decision concerning a fundamental matter involving his children, health, or prosperity, or he is in danger, Heaven forbid, [he would try to connect that other with the Rebbe]. If there was any hope or even the shadow of a possibility that [the other person] would listen to his words, human decency, ahavas Yisrael, and [the risk of] danger to life would motivate him to run after his colleague and tell him: “Have mercy on yourself and on the members of your household and on all those close to you. Do not rely on your own understanding.[197] Study Chassidus. Develop a connection with [the Rebbe]. Follow his words and then you will be successful.”

As is well known, there is a promise from the Alter Rebbe: “When chassidim will make an effort, they will be successful.”[198]

[Generally,] the fact that one has not seen something is no proof that it did not occur,[199] but this principle does not apply with regard to a frequent occurrence (see the rulings of Sifsei Cohen and the Alter Rebbe in Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah, the beginning of sec. 1). I have seen several letters that were received by my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe Shlita, from your community and I have not seen one which relates that its author was drawn close to Chabad through the influence of one of the members of the chassidic brotherhood there.

In Paris and its surroundings you come in contact with hundreds and maybe thousands of our Jewish brethren each day. As indicated by Rambam’s statements with regard to speech,[200] you speak with them at times at length and at times briefly. How many of these thousands of people turned [to the Rebbe] with a question concerning an operation, a shidduch, a blessing for Rosh HaShanah or the like? If, however, you would have told them who the Rebbe of Lubavitch is, [sharing] a story, even without explanation, [and] on the second occasion [sharing] a portion of his talks and then his directives, many people — they, their descendants, and their descendants’ descendants for posterity — would connect themselves to the Tree of Life. They would increase the light in their homes and become “Moshe’s men.” (See the conclusion of the maamar entitled VeYavo Amalek in the enclosed kuntreis.[201] In my humble opinion, although in the maamarim entitled VeAsisa Tzitz in Torah Or and Toras Chayim the intent of the expression “Moshe’s men” is “[people characterized by] bittul,” in this kuntreis, the intent is those who are connected to the Rebbe, the extension of Moshe in every generation.[202] Therefore the concept is not elaborated upon.) They would take part in maamad and support all of [the Rebbe’s] institutions eagerly, with a pleasant disposition, not merely out of respect.

Instead of [involving themselves in] such [outreach activities], this one focuses on his institution; this one, on his business. Each person pacifies himself with the thought that he gives nifneh generously, in an openhanded manner. They justify themselves that they possess ready resources of actual mesirus nefesh [should an occasion arise], as you declared. And avodah, laboriously fulfilling the mission, has not even begun.

This has been the pattern for more than a year in a community of chassidim who number several score, may their numbers increase, of those whom the Rebbe Rashab crowned with the title:[203] “Lamps to shine.” And as my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe Shlita, commented: “When a light is positioned in a dark place, people — on their own initiative — gather around.”

Do you really think that the obstacle is the people of Paris and its surroundings?

Using free association, one might say: The entire concept of exile came about as a result of the breaking of the Tablets [of the Ten Commandments], for otherwise there would have been freedom. [As our Sages comment[204] on the phrase[205] “Engraved on the Tablets”:] “Do not read chorus, “engraved,” but rather cheirus, “freedom.” The reason for the breaking of the Tablets was the sin of the Golden Calf, at which time the impurity that stemmed from the sin of the Tree of Knowledge returned. According to Chassidus (see the maamar entitled Al Kein Yei’omru, 5691), that [the Sin of the Tree of Knowledge] came about as a result of the diminution of the moon, which came about as a result of the breaking of the vessels of Tohu, which came about as a result of the tzimtzum.

Now what is the tzimtzum? [When] the light does not spread outward. It remains within its letters and does not diffuse further. (See sec. 5 of the maamar entitled LeHavin MaShekasuv BeOtzaros Chayim at the conclusion of Parshas Vayikra in Likkutei Torah.)

I will again repeat my statement that I am not focusing on any particular individual, but on the community as a collective. You will no doubt show my letter to everyone who will benefit from it. It is unnecessary to add that the give-and-take is between me and them on my own initiative. There is no [need to fear that]: “Yosef will bring their gossip....”[206]

There will no doubt be those who say: “Who appointed you...?”[207] and “Remove the beam from between your eyes.”[208] Their complaint against me will be correct. This will not, however, change the situation or the picture as a whole. It is a shame that time which will never be regained marches forward and is lost.

I hope that you will not become negatively affected, even merely intellectually, by this letter. [May we see the fulfillment of the promise]: “And vehav at its conclusion.”[209]

Concluding with good wishes for all the members of our brotherhood.

I did not show this letter to the Committee for Nifneh here. However, I did send a copy of sec. (f) only to R. Ben Tzion Shemtov, but I did not tell him to whom the letter was addressed. You may do as you wish in this regard. I sent this to R. Ben Tzion because:

  1. perhaps it will be an asset in his own work;

  2. while I was in Paris, he continually offered defenses for the failure of the efforts to spread [the above activities] and was certain that they would spread in the future.[210]

   

Notes:

  1. (Back to text) [Money given by chassidim to the Rebbe to use at his discretion.]

  2. (Back to text) [Devarim 20:19.]

  3. (Back to text) [Likkutei Torah, Pikudei, p. 7b.]

  4. (Back to text) [Shir HaShirim 3:11. Kesser means “crown.”]

  5. (Back to text) [Iyov 38:11.]

  6. (Back to text) [For this refers to a level within G-d that is above the reach of mortals.]

  7. (Back to text) [I.e., the Rebbe is indicating that the word ad contains allusions to the three general categories of blessing: children, long life, and material prosperity.]

  8. (Back to text) [Devarim 4:4.]

  9. (Back to text) [Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah 1:1-4.]

  10. (Back to text) [Yirmeyahu 10:10.]

  11. (Back to text) [As stated in Moed Kattan 28a, these three blessings are dependent on one’s mazal. The term mazal refers to the source of the soul in the spiritual realms. This explains the wishes of mazal tov, loosely translated in the first paragraph of sec. a above as “good fortune.”]

  12. (Back to text) [The chassidic code for maamad.]

  13. (Back to text) [I.e., the Torah scroll to greet Mashiach, a project in which the Previous Rebbe involved the entire chassidic community. See the introduction of the Previous Rebbe’s Igros Kodesh, Vol. VI, pp. 6-8; the Rebbe’s Igros Kodesh, Letters No. 269, 286, et al.; and Sichos, Yud Shvat, 5711.]

  14. (Back to text) [A portion of the letter, including sec. e, was not released for public knowledge.]

  15. (Back to text) [Referring to the students of the Lubavitcher yeshivah that was named Tomchei Temimim by the Rebbe Rashab.]

  16. (Back to text) [Yoma 22b, as understood by Rashi.]

  17. (Back to text) [Tanya, ch. 37.]

  18. (Back to text) [See Letter No. 448 which states that in his Shiras Yisrael, R. Moshe Ibn Ezra mentions this quote in the name of our Sages.]

  19. (Back to text) [A camp for refugees from Eastern Europe established outside Paris after WWII.]

  20. (Back to text) [I.e., at a time when the material status of the refugees was beset by confusion, regardless, the Rebbe thought that efforts could be made in the spiritual sphere.]

  21. (Back to text) [I.e., they left the camps and were able to settle in Paris.]

  22. (Back to text) [Instead of using the term “Rebbe,” the Rebbe employs the expression “so-and-so.”]

  23. (Back to text) [Mishlei 3:5.]

  24. (Back to text) [See the Previous Rebbe’s Igros Kodesh, Vol. IX, Letter No. 3071 and the sources cited in the notes.]

  25. (Back to text) [See Ediyos 2:2.]

  26. (Back to text) [See his Commentary on the Mishnah, Avos 1:16.]

  27. (Back to text) [The maamar is found in Sefer HaMaamarim 5709, p. 41.]

  28. (Back to text) [Tikkunei Zohar, Tikkun 69.]

  29. (Back to text) [See Likkutei Sichos, Vol. II, p. 484.]

  30. (Back to text) [Avos 6:2.]

  31. (Back to text) [Shmos 32:16.]

  32. (Back to text) [Bereishis 37:2. The Rebbe is intimating that he will not inform the Previous Rebbe of the correspondence.]

  33. (Back to text) [Shmos 2:14. The verse questions: “Who appointed you as... an officer and a judge over us?”]

  34. (Back to text) [Bava Basra 15b, et al. I.e., the Rebbe is implying that there will be those who will question whether he has the right to make such statements and if his perception is correct.]

  35. (Back to text) [Bamidbar 21:14. Our Sages (Kiddushin 30b) note the connection between the name vehav [the name of a place] and the word ahavah, the latter meaning “love.” They explain that although initially, when a teacher and his students argue concerning their studies there may be hard feelings, ultimately they will be joined in love.]

  36. (Back to text) [See the conclusion of the following letter where the Rebbe chides Reb Ben Tzion for having offered such defenses.]


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