על כן, אהובי אחיי ורעיי, אל נא תרעו הרעה הגדולה הזאת

Therefore, my beloved ones, my brethren and friends: do not commit this great evil — of turning a gathering of worshipers before or after prayers into a “company of scoffers,”

ותנו כבוד לה׳ אלקיכם בטרם יחשך, דהיינו בין מנחה למעריב כל ימות החול

and1 “give glory unto the L‑rd your G‑d before it grows dark,” i.e., between Minchah and Maariv every weekday,2

ללמוד בעשרה פנימיות התורה, שהיא אגדה שבספר עין יעקב

by studying in groups of [at least] ten the innermost (i.e., the mystical) dimension of the Torah, i.e., the Aggadah contained in Ein Yaakov.

שרוב סודות התורה גנוזין בה

For most of the secrets of the Torah are concealed in it (i.e., in the Aggadah);

ומכפרת עונותיו של אדם

moreover, it atones man’s sins,

כמבואר בכתבי האריז״ל

as explained in the writings of R. Isaac Luria, of blessed memory.3

והנגלות שבה

As to the revealed (non-mystical) passages in [the Aggadah],

הן דרכי ה׳ שילך בהם האדם

these are the ways of G‑d in which a man ought to walk,

וישית עצות בנפשו במילי דשמיא ובמילי דעלמא, וכידוע לכל חכמי לב

and [they enable him] to take counsel in his soul in heavenly matters (such as Torah and mitzvot) and in worldly matters, as is known to all the wise of heart.

וגם ללמוד מעט בשלחן ערוך, אורח חיים, הלכות הצריכות לכל אדם

In addition, between Minchah and Maariv, [people] should study a little — out of the Shulchan Aruch, in [the section called] Orach Chayim — the laws that are essential for every person to know.

ועל זה אמרו רז״ל: כל השונה הלכות בכל יום כו׳

Of this our Sages, of blessed memory, said:4 “Whoever studies Torah laws (halachot) every day [is assured of life in the World to Come].”

שהן הלכות ברורות ופסוקות, הלכה למעשה

This refers to clear and definitive rulings that are of practical relevance,

כמבואר בפירוש רש״י ז״ל שם

as explained in the commentary of Rashi, ad loc.5that the term halachot refers to final rulings, without the surrounding debates and argumentation.

This is actually explained by Rashi a little earlier in Tractate Megillah, not on the teaching about “Whoever studies halachot...,” but in connection with a eulogy for someone who used to “study halachot.”

In Tractate Niddah, commenting on this teaching, Rashi states that the term halachot refers to Mishnayot, Beraitot and Halachah leMoshe miSinai, none of which include the discussions of the Gemara. This is also the case with regard to the Shulchan Aruch.

ובשבת קדש, בעלות המנחה, יעסקו בהלכות שבת, כי הלכתא רבתי לשבתא

On the holy Sabbath, moreover, towards the time of Minchah, [people] should occupy themselves with the laws of the Sabbath. For6 “the law of Sabbath is a weighty law,” with many details to be mastered.

ובקל יכול האדם ליכשל בה, חס ושלום, אפילו באיסור כרת וסקילה, מחסרון ידיעה

A person can easily stumble in it, heaven forfend, even in a prohibition punishable by extirpation or stoning, because of ignorance [of these laws],

ושגגת תלמוד עולה זדון, חס ושלום

and7 “an unwitting error in [observance due to insufficient] study is accounted as an intentional transgression,” heaven forfend.

ואין צריך לומר באיסורי דברי סופרים, שרבו כמו רבו למעלה, ובפרט באיסורי מוקצה, דשכיחי טובא

It goes without saying [that the same applies to] the Rabbinic injunctions which are ever so numerous, and especially so with respect to the prohibitions of muktzeh that occur frequently;

וחמורים דברי סופרים יותר מדברי תורה

and8 “[infringements of] the words of the Sofrim (i.e., the Rabbinic injunctions) are more serious than [infringements of] the words of the Torah (i.e., explicit Scriptural commandments).”

כמו שאמרו רז״ל: שכל העובר על דברי חכמים, אפילו באיסור קל של דבריהם, כמו האוכל קודם ערבית וכהאי גונא, חייב מיתה, כעובר על חמורות שבתורה

As our Sages, of blessed memory, said:9 “Whoever transgresses the words of the Sages,” even a minor prohibition of theirs — as, for instance, he who eats before the evening prayer, and the like — “is liable to the death penalty,” just like one who transgresses grave prohibitions [explicit] in the Torah.10

At any rate, since we see from the above that it is vital that one study and know the laws of the Sabbath, they should be studied in public as the time for Minchah draws near.

וכל יחיד אל יפרוש עצמו מן הציבור, אפילו ללמוד ענין אחר

And let no individual separate himself from the congregation, when they are studying Ein Yaakov, Shulchan Aruch and the like, even in order to study something else;

כי אם בדבר שהציבור עסוקים בו

rather, [every individual should participate only] in whatever the congregation is busy with.

ואין צריך לומר שלא יצא החוצה, אם לא יהיו עשרה מבלעדו

It goes without saying that one should not leave if there are not ten without him;

ועליו אני קורא הפסוק: ועוזבי ה׳ יכלו כו׳

to him [who does leave] I apply the verse,11 “And those who forsake G‑d (i.e., who forsake the study of His Torah) shall be consumed...,”

כמו שאמרו רז״ל על כל דבר שבקדושה

as our Sages, of blessed memory, have said12 with respect to every sacred matter.

כי אין קדושה כקדושת התורה

For there is no holiness like the holiness of the Torah,

דאורייתא וקודשא בריך הוא, כולא חד

since13 “the Torah and the Holy One, blessed be He, are entirely one.”

Strictly speaking, our Sages applied the above verse (“And those who forsake G‑d shall be consumed”) only to a person whose leaving bars the congregational recital of a davar shebikedushah, a text involving the sanctification of G‑d’s Name, which cannot be done without a quorum of ten. By contrast, though the quality of Torah study is enhanced by a quorum of ten, this is not a prerequisite condition.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that there is “no holiness like the holiness of the Torah”: when ten Jews study together they draw down a most exalted degree of holiness and an intense indwelling of the Shechinah, as explained above. In this sense, then, an individual whose leaving disrupts a study group of ten may be likened to one whose leaving prevents a minyan from reciting Kedushah or the like.

וכל הפורש מן הציבור כו׳

Moreover,14 “Whoever separates himself from the community [will not merit to witness (and participate in) the community’s consolation].”

ושומע לי ישכון בטח, ובימיו ובימינו תושע יהודה, וירושלים תשכון לבטח

The Alter Rebbe concludes:15 “But he who listens to me shall dwell securely,” and16 in his days and in ours, Judah shall be saved and Jerusalem shall dwell securely.17

אמן, כן יהי רצון

Amen, may this be His will.