Here's a great tip:
Enter your email address and we'll send you our weekly magazine by email with fresh, exciting and thoughtful content that will enrich your inbox and your life, week after week. And it's free.
Oh, and don't forget to like our facebook page too!
Printed from
All Departments
Jewish Holidays
Jewish.TV - Video
Jewish Audio
Kabbalah Online
Kids Zone
Tanya Navigator

Compiler's Foreword

Compiler's Foreword


Compiler’s Foreword

As we have seen from the title page, the Alter Rebbe perceives himself as a mere compiler rather than as an author.

והיא אגרת השלוחה לכללות אנשי שלומינו יצ״ו יברכם צורנו וישמרם

Being a letter sent to all Anash — members of our fellowship, i.e., the chassidim), may [G‑d] our Stronghold bless and guard them.1

אליכם אישים אקרא

To you [worthy] men, do I call.

שמעו אלי רודפי צדק מבקשי ה׳ וישמע אליכם אלקים, למגדול ועד קטן

Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness, who seek G‑d, and may the Almighty listen to you, both great in spiritual stature and small,

כל אנ״ש דמדינתינו וסמוכות שלה

all Anash in our land and in nearby countries:

איש על מקומו יבוא לשלום וחיים עד העולם נצח סלה ועד

may each in his own place achieve peace and eternal life.

אמן, כן יהי רצון

Amen. May this be His Will.

* * *

הנה מודעת זאת כי מרגלא בפומי דאינשי בכל אנ״ש לאמר

It is well known that all Anash are wont to say

כי אינה דומה שמיעת דברי מוסר לראייה וקריאה בספרים

that hearing words of moral guidance from a teacher addressing his student individually and directly is not the same as seeing and reading such guidance in books, which are impersonal and addressed to the reading audience at large.

The spoken word will have far greater effect than the written word, for two reasons. The first:

שהקורא קורא לפי דרכו ודעתו

For the reader, who gains such instruction in books, will read it after his own manner and mind,

ולפי השגת ותפיסת שכלו באשר הוא שם

and will absorb the written message according to his mental grasp and comprehension at that particular time.

ואם שכלו ודעתו מבולבלים, ובחשיכה יתהלכו בעבודת ה׳

Hence, if his intellect and mind are confused and wander about in darkness in ideas pertaining to the service of G‑d

בקושי יכול לראות את האור כי טוב הגנוז בספרים

he will find it difficult to see the beneficial light hidden in books,

אף כי מתוק האור לעינים ומרפא לנפש

although this light be pleasant to the eyes and therapeutic for the soul.

In the case of personal guidance, on the other hand, the mentor can ensure that his message is understood fully and correctly.

The Alter Rebbe now points out a second disadvantage in written advice. By its very nature its ability to inspire even the understanding reader is restricted to a specific audience. A book does not allow for the subjective differences between one reader’s character and another’s. It will, of necessity, leave some of its readership untouched.

The Alter Rebbe next distinguishes between two categories of inspirational books. In those books belonging to the first category this problem is more obvious and acute; in those of the second category, less so.

The first category embraces those books that argue for pious conduct on grounds of human intellect. These will surely not affect all readers equally; owing to the diversity of mind and temperament among readers, what profoundly inspires one reader, will leave another indifferent.

The second category comprises those works founded on the teachings of our Sages. It would seem at first glance that in such books the problem of subjective differences between readers would be irrelevant. Since they are based on Torah, which is pertinent to every Jew without exception, surely every Jew could be guided and inspired by them.

The Alter Rebbe points out, however, that not every Jew is privileged to find his place in Torah and to derive the instruction applicable to him as an individual. Thus the problem still obtains, though to a lesser degree.

ובר מן דין

Aside from this aforementioned possibility that the reader’s intellectual shortcomings may prevent him from perceiving the light concealed in the holy books, there is yet another difficulty:

הנה ספרי היראה הבנויים על פי שכל אנושי, בודאי אינם שוין לכל נפש

Those books on piety founded on human intelligence surely do not affect all people equally,

כי אין כל השכלים והדעות שוות

for not all intellects and minds are alike,

ואין שכל אדם זה מתפעל ומתעורר ממה שמתפעל ומתעורר שכל חבירו

and the intellect of one man is not affected and aroused by that which affects and arouses the intellect of another.

וכמו שאמרו רז״ל גבי ברכת חכם הרזים על ששים ריבוא מישראל

As our Sages have said, in reference to the blessing of “He who is wise in secrets” ordained by the Sages to be recited on [witnessing a gathering of] 600,000 Jews,2 whereby we praise G‑d’s omniscience in knowing the secrets of them all:

שאין דעותיהם דומות זו לזו וכו׳

“For their minds (i.e., thoughts, opinions and feelings) are all different from one another.”3

וכמו שכתב הרמב״ן ז״ל במלחמות שם בפירוש הספרי גבי יהושע, שנאמר בו: איש אשר רוח בו

So too does Ramban (of blessed memory) [explain the reason for the blessing] in his Milchamot,4 elaborating on the comment of Sifrei on the verse5 describing Joshua as “a man in whom there is spirit”;

שיכול להלוך נגד רוחו של כל אחד ואחד

Sifrei explains “that he was able to meet the spirit of every man.”6

אלא אפילו בספרי היראה אשר יסודותם בהררי קדש

But even those works of mussar whose foundation is in the peaks of holiness, meaning that they are founded

מדרשי חז״ל אשר רוח ה׳ דבר בם ומלתו על לשונם

on the Midrashim of our Sages “in whom the spirit of G‑d speaks, and His word is on their tongues,”7 even in the case of such works the aforementioned problem obtains.

ואורייתא וקודשא בריך הוא כולא חד

For although “Torah and the Holy One, blessed be He, are one,”8

וכל ששים רבוא נשמות כללות ישראל, ופרטיהם ופרטי פרטיהם

and all 600,000 general souls of Israel, and the individual souls that are their offshoots,9

עד ניצוץ קל שבקלים ופחותי הערך שבעמינו בני ישראל

down to even the [soul-]spark residing within the most worthless and least estimable members of our people, the Children of Israel,

כולהו מתקשראן באורייתא ואורייתא היא המקשרת אותן להקדוש ברוך הוא

are all bound up with the Torah and the Torah is what binds them to G‑d,

כנודע בזהר הקדוש

as is known from the holy Zohar,10 and since the Torah does contain what is pertinent to every Jew, those works founded on the Torah ought to appeal to every Jewish reader, —

הרי זה דרך כללות לכללות ישראל

yet this is [said] in a general way for the Jewish people as a whole.

This statement of the Zohar speaks of the bond between Jewry in general with the Torah in its entirety. It does not refer to a particular Jew seeking individual instruction in a specific area in the Torah.

ואף שניתנה התורה לידרש בכלל ופרט ופרטי פרטות

It is true that the Torah lends itself to interpretation by the rule of “general principles and specific applications,” and these applications may be further broken down to even more specific details,

לכל נפש פרטית מישראל המושרשת בה

to apply to each individual soul in Israel rooted in the Torah.

Thus the Torah contains not only general instruction for the nation as a whole, but also specific instruction for each individual. Therefore, despite subjective differences between people, every Jew could theoretically find in such works instruction pertinent to his circumstances.

הרי אין כל אדם זוכה להיות מכיר מקומו הפרטי שבתורה

Yet, not every man is privileged to recognize his specific place in the Torah, so that he may know how to derive specific guidance from it.

והנה אף בהלכות איסור והיתר הנגלות לנו ולבנינו

Even in the [Torah-]laws governing things forbidden and permissible which have been11 “revealed to us and to our children [equally]“ (for despite the differences between generations, the law applies equally to all, complete objectivity prevailing), —

מצאנו ראינו מחלוקת תנאים ואמוראים מן הקצה אל הקצה ממש

even in these laws we witness arguments from one extreme to the other between tannaim and amoraim, with one tanna, for instance, declaring perfectly permissible that which another tanna rules absolutely forbidden.

ואלו ואלו דברי אלקים חיים

Yet12 “these as well as those are the words of the living G‑d.“

לשון רבים

In this phrase the words “living G‑d” appear in the plural form13

על שם מקור החיים לנשמות ישראל

because [the diversity of opinions in the Halachah stems from plurality in] the source of life of the souls of Israel — within the “living G‑d” (i.e., within G‑d as He is the source of life).

הנחלקות דרך כלל לשלשה קוין: ימין, ושמאל, ואמצע, שהם חסד וגבורה וכו׳

The souls, and hence also their source, so to speak, are divided into three general categories: right, left and center, representing kindness (Chesed), severity (Gevurah)... [and beauty (Tiferet)-.

ונשמות ששרשן ממדת חסד הנהגתן גם כן להטות כלפי חסד להקל כו׳ כנודע

Those souls which are rooted in the attribute of kindness tend to be lenient in their halachic decisions, being inclined toward kindness, which dictates that the object be declared permissible and thus capable of being sanctified if used for a sacred purpose, and so on, with the attribute of severity dictating stringency in halachic decisions, and the attribute of beauty mediating, as is known.

In his Iggeret HaKodesh, the Alter Rebbe applies this principle to the legal arguments between the Schools of Shammai and Hillel. The School of Shammai was usually stringent, because their spiritual source was the attribute of severity; the school of Hillel usually lenient because of their source in the attribute of kindness. In certain decisions, however, their positions were reversed. For the realm of holiness is governed by the principle of mutual incorporation (התכללות), with kindness containing elements of severity and vice versa.

Now if one’s individual spiritual tendencies affect the way he views the Torah even in the area of the Halachah, which is intrinsically objective,

וכל שכן וקל וחומר בהנסתרות לה׳ אלקינו

surely, how much more so, will subjective differences play a role in “matters hidden to G‑d Almighty,”

דאינון דחילו ורחימו

namely, to one’s awe and love of G‑d, which are subjective by their very nature, for they express themselves

דבמוחא ולבא דכל חד וחד לפום שיעורא דיליה

in the mind and heart of each person according to his own measure (his שעור ),

לפום מה דמשער בלביה

according to his heart’s estimation (השערה), and according to the “gate” (שער) that he makes in his heart, to permit his intellectual understanding (of G‑dliness) to pervade his heart and generate within him a love and awe of G‑d,

כמו שכתוב בזהר הקדוש על פסוק: נודע בשערים בעלה וגו׳

as the Zohar14 comments on the verse, “Her husband is known by the gates...”15

The Zohar interprets the “husband” of this verse as a reference to G‑d, Who is the “husband” of the community of Israel. We “know” and attach ourselves to Him “by the she‘arim,” which the Zohar interprets in the sense of shaar (“gate”), shiur (“measure”), and hash’arah (“estimation”), as explained above. At any rate, we see that being inspired in the love and fear of G‑d is intrinsically subjective. To return to the thread of our earlier argument: If even in the objective halachah we find differences of opinion arising from the variety in human nature, we will surely find a variety of response to inspirational literature. The chassidic saying quoted above, that “seeing” (in books — even Torah books) “is not the same as hearing” (inspiration from a teacher), seems quite justified. How then could the Alter Rebbe now propose to offer the Tanya to his followers as a substitute for the personal guidance that he had been giving them until this time

In answer the Alter Rebbe states that the Tanya is addressed to his chassidim, with whom he has a long-standing relationship, and whose specific needs for guidance are known to him from their personal audiences with him. They will therefore find the advice provided in the Tanya relevant to their individual needs.

Chassidim would add that this includes all those who study the Tanya: the Alter Rebbe knew them all and addressed himself to each one’s needs in the service of G‑d, as though they had spoken to him in private audience. As the Rebbe Rashab phrased it,16 “To study the Tanya is to converse with the Alter Rebbe.”

* * *

אך ביודעיי ומכיריי קאמינא, הם כל אחד ואחד מאנשי שלומנו שבמדינתינו וסמוכות שלה

I speak, however, of those who know me well, each and every one of Anash of our country and those countries nearby,

אשר היה הדיבור של חיבה מצוי בינינו

with whom affectionate words were often exchanged in private audience,

וגילו לפני כל תעלומות לבם ומוחם בעבודת ה׳ התלויה בלב

and who revealed to me all the hidden recesses of their heart and mind in matters related to the service of G‑d which is dependent on the heart.

אליהם תטוף מלתי, ולשוני עט סופר, בקונטרסים אלו הנקראים בשם לקוטי אמרים

To them shall my words seep through, and17 my tongue shall take the form of a scribe’s pen, in these pamphlets entitled Likutei Amarim (“A Compilation of Teachings”),

מלוקטים מפי ספרים ומפי סופרים קדושי עליון נשמתם עדן, המפורסמים אצלינו

being compiled from books and teachers, heavenly saints, who are well known to us.

The “books and teachers” alluded to have been explained above, in the comments on the title page.

וקצת מהן נרמזין לחכימין באגרות הקדש מרבותינו שבארצנו הקדושה, תובב״א

Some of these teachings, the wise (for whom “a hint is sufficient”) will find alluded to in the sacred letters of our teachers in the Holy Land.

As mentioned above, the Alter Rebbe considered certain senior disciples of the Maggid of Mezritch as his mentors, especially Rabbi Mendel of Vitebsk, who then resided in Eretz Yisrael.

וקצתם שמעתי מפיהם הקדוש בהיותם פה עמנו

Some of them I heard from their saintly mouth when they were here with us before they moved to Eretz Yisrael.

וכולם הן תשובות על שאלות רבות אשר שואלין בעצה כל אנשי שלומינו דמדינתינו תמיד

All of them are answers to many questions posed continually by Anash of our country seeking advice,

כל אחד לפי ערכו

each according to his stature in the service of G‑d,

לשית עצות בנפשם בעבודת ה׳

so as to receive guidance for themselves in the service of G‑d,

להיות כי אין הזמן גרמא עוד להשיב לכל אחד ואחד על שאלתו בפרטות

because time no longer permits [me] to reply to everyone individually on his particular query,

וגם השכחה מצויה

and also because forgetfulness is common.

על כן רשמתי כל התשובות על כל השאלות

I have therefore recorded all the replies to all the questions,

למשמרת לאות, להיות לכל אחד ואחד לזכרון בין עיניו

to be preserved as a sign, and to serve as a reminder in everyone’s mind.18

ולא ידחוק עוד ליכנם לדבר עמי ביחידות

No longer will one need to press for a private audience,

כי בהן ימצא מרגוע לנפשו ועצה נכונה לכל דבר הקשה עליו בעבודת ה׳,

for in these Likutei Amarim one will find tranquillity for his soul, and true counsel on everything that he finds difficult in the service of G‑d.

ונכון יהיה לבו בטוח בה׳ גומר בעדינו

Thus his heart will be firmly secure in G‑d who completes and perfects everything for us.

ומי שדעתו קצרה להבין דבר עצה מתוך קונטריסים אלו

He whose mind is too limited to understand how to derive advice from these pamphlets,

יפרש שיחתו לפני הגדולים שבעירו, והם יבוננהו

let him discuss his problem with the foremost scholars of his town and they will enlighten him.

ואליהם בקשתי שלא לשום יד לפה

Of [these scholars] I request that they not lay their hand upon their mouth, i.e., not to keep silent when asked for advice, for fear of appearing to be proud in their knowledge,

להתנהג בענוה ושפלות של שקר, חס ושלום

to conduct themselves with false modesty and humility — for misplaced modesty is falsehood.

וכנודע עונש המר על מונע בר

It is well known how bitter is the punishment of him who19 “withholds food,“ i.e., who withholds Torah knowledge from him who seeks it,

וגודל השכר, ממאמר רז״ל על פסוק: מאיר עיני שניהם ה׳

and also how great is the reward granted to one who provides such knowledge. This is well known from the comment of our Sages20 on the verse,21 “G‑d enlightens the eyes of them both.“

The verse reads, “The pauper and the wealthy man meet; G‑d enlightens the eyes of them both.” The Gemara applies this to a pauper in Torah knowledge and to one who is wealthy in Torah. When they meet, and the wealthy one teaches the pauper, G‑d enlightens the eyes of both of them — with a light that transcends them both.

כי יאיר ה׳ פניו אליהם, אור פני מלך חיים

Thus G‑d will cause His face to shine upon them, with the light of the countenance of the King [which provides] life.

ומחיה חיים יזכנו ויחיינו לימים אשר לא ילמדו עוד איש את רעהו וגו׳ כי כולם ידעו אותי

May He who provides life to the living grant us the privilege of living to see the days when22 “no longer will one man teach another... [to know Me], for they will all know Me, [... from the smallest to the greatest-,“

כי מלאה הארץ דעה את ה׳ וגו׳

23“for the knowledge of G‑d will fill the earth as the waters fill the sea.”

אמן כן יהי רצון

Amen. May this be His Will.

* * *

והנה אחר שנתפשטו הקונטריסים הנ״ל בקרב כל אנ״ש הנ״ל בהעתקות רבות מידי סופרים שונים ומשונים

As the aforementioned pamphlets have been distributed among all the Anash mentioned above, by means of numerous transcriptions at the hands of sundry and diverse copyists,

הנה על ידי ריבוי ההעתקות שונות רבו כמו רבו הטעויות סופרים במאוד מאוד

the multitude of transcriptions has given rise to an exceedingly great number of textual errors.

As mentioned above, the words “sundry and diverse (copyists)” may well allude to two kinds of errors — the intentional as well as the innocent.

ולזאת נדבה רוחם של אנשים אפרתים הנקובים הנ״ל מעבר לדף לטרוח בגופם ומאודם

Therefore the spirit of the noble men mentioned on the previous page24 has generously moved them to make a personal and financial effort

להביא את קונטריסים הנ״ל לבית הדפוס, מנוקים מכל סיג וטעות סופר ומוגהים היטב

to have these pamphlets published, cleared of all dross and copyists‘ errors (— another possible allusion to the two types of errors mentioned above, with “dross” representing the forgeries), and thoroughly checked.

ואמינא לפעלא טבא יישר חילא

I congratulate them on this worthy deed.

ולהיות כי מקרא מלא דבר הכתוב: ארור מסיג גבול רעהו

Inasmuch as the verse states explicitly,25 “Cursed be he who encroaches on his fellow’s border,”

וארור בו קללה בו נידוי, חס ושלום וכו׳

and where the expression “cursed” is used, it implies both damnation and excommunication,26 G‑d preserve us, it is actually superfluous to add any further prohibition on violating the copyright of the publishers.

על כן כיהודא ועוד לקרא קאתינא

I come therefore only to reinforce the words of Scripture as [the Talmud cites] a mere practice in Judah in order to reinforce an explicit Scriptural statement,27

למשדי גודא רבא על כל המדפיסים, שלא להדפיס קונטריסים הנ״ל לא על ידי עצמן ולא על ידי גירא דלהון

invoking a strict prohibition on all publishers against printing these pamphlets, either themselves or through their agents,

בלתי רשות הנקובים הנ״ל

without the permission of the above-named,

משך חמש שנים מיום כלות הדפוס

for a period of five years from the day that this printing is completed.28

ולשומעים יונעם ותבוא עליהם ברכת טוב

May it be pleasant for those who comply, and may they be blessed with good.

כה דברי המלקט לקוטי אמרים הנ״ל

These are the words of the compiler of the aforementioned Likutei Amarim.

——— ● ———

1. The abbreviation may also represent: “May our Stronghold and Redeemer preserve them,” or some similar expression. Compare the phrase (in the morning prayer): “Stronghold of Israel, arise to the aid of Israel...” It is possible that the Alter Rebbe wrote the words in abbreviation to allow for a variety of interpretations of the blessing. (— Comment of the Rebbe)
2. The reading in the text is ששים ריבוא — “sixty ten-thousands,” corresponding to the number of adult male Israelites in the Exodus from Egypt (Shmot 12:37; Bamidbar 11:21).
3. Berachot 58a.
4. Commenting on Alfasi’s omission of this passage in the Gemara.
5. Bamidbar 27:18.
6. Rashi, too (ibid.), cites the interpretation that “he could meet the spirit of every man,” yet the Alter Rebbe quotes it from Ramban. This may be because Ramban suggests the possibility that a great sage may be the equivalent of, and incorporate within himself, the minds of 600,000. (Ramban accordingly explains why, as the Gemara relates, Rabbi Chananya the son of Rabbi Icka recited the blessing of “he who is wise in secrets” when he met Rav Papa and Rav Huna the son of Rabbi Yehoshua.) However, recognizing such a sage requires a discerning mind on the part of the observer, and for this reason Ramban rules in practice that one should recite the blessing only when he actually sees 600,000 people. We see from Ramban, at any rate, that the alternative possibility theoretically exists. The chassidim, who “know” and “recognize” the Alter Rebbe (as he says of them later), know him to be such a sage “who can meet the spirit of every man”; for inasmuch as his was a “comprehensive soul” (נשמה כללית), he contained within himself the spirit of every one of them.
7. Paraphrase of II Shmuel 23:2.
8. Cf. Zohar I, 24a; II 60a.
9. See Tanya, ch. 37.
10. III, p. 73b.
11. Based on the verse (Devarim 29:28): “The hidden things are for G‑d Almighty, and the revealed things are for us and our children....”
12. Eruvin 13b.
13. אלקים חיים, rather than אלקה חי.
14. P. 103a, b.
15. Mishlei 31:23.
16. Torat Shalom p. 56.
17. Tehillim 45:2.
18. As in the expression concerning the tefillin (Shmot 13:9): “They shall be for you as a reminder between your eyes.”
19. See Sanhedrin 91b on Mishlei 11:26.
20. See Temurah 16a on Mishlei 29:13.
21. Mishlei 29:13.
22. Yirmeyahu 31:33.
23. Yeshayahu 11:9.
24. Referring to the partners R. Shalom Shachna and R. Mordechai; see approbation of Rabbi Zusya of Anipoli and footnote 11 there.
25. Devarim 27:17.
26. Shevuot 36a (in inverted order); and Rambam, Yad, Hilchot Sanhedrin 26:3.
27. Kiddushin 6a.
28. As above, in the approbations: Tuesday, Parshat Ki Tavo, 5556.
Translated from Yiddish by Rabbi Levy Wineberg and Rabbi Sholom B. Wineberg. Edited by Uri Kaploun.
Published and copyright by Kehot Publication Society, all rights reserved.
1000 characters remaining
Email me when new comments are posted.