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

עַל כֵּן, אֲהוּבַיי אַחַיי וְרֵעַיי, אַל נָא תָּרֵעוּ הָרָעָה הַגְּדוֹלָה הַזֹּאת,

and “give glory unto the L-rd your G-d before it grows dark,”57 i.e., between Minchah and Maariv every weekday,58

וּתְנוּ כָבוֹד לַה' אֱלֹהֵיכֶם בְּטֶרֶם יֶחְשַׁךְ, דְּהַיְינוּ, בֵּין מִנְחָה לְמַעֲרִיב כָּל יְמוֹת הַחוֹל,

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,

לִלְמוֹד בַּעֲשָׂרָה פְּנִימִיּוּת הַתּוֹרָה, שֶׁהִיא אַגָּדָה שֶׁבְּסֵפֶר "עֵין יַעֲקֹב",

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

שֶׁרוֹב סוֹדוֹת הַתּוֹרָה גְּנוּזִין בָּהּ,

moreover, it atones for man’s sins,

וּמְכַפֶּרֶת עֲוֹנוֹתָיו שֶׁל אָדָם,

as explained in the writings of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, of blessed memory.59

כִּמְבוֹאָר בְּכִתְבֵי הָאֲרִיזַ"ל,

As to the revealed (nonmystical) passages in [the Aggadah],

וְהַנִּגְלוֹת שֶׁבָּהּ –

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

הֵן דַּרְכֵי ה' שֶׁיֵּלֵךְ בָּהֶם הָאָדָם

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.

וְיָשִׁית עֵצוֹת בְּנַפְשׁוֹ בְּמִילֵּי דִשְׁמַיָּא וּבְמִילֵּי דְעִלְמָא, וְכַיָּדוּעַ לְכָל חַכְמֵי לֵב.

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

וְגַם, לִלְמוֹד מְעַט בְּ"שׁוּלְחָן עָרוּךְ" "אוֹרַח־חַיִּים" הֲלָכוֹת הַצְּרִיכוֹת לְכָל אָדָם,

Of this, our Sages, of blessed memory, said: “Whoever studies Torah laws (halachot) every day [is assured of life in the World to Come].”60

וְעַל זֶה אָמְרוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה: "כָּל הַשּׁוֹנֶה הֲלָכוֹת בְּכָל יוֹם כוּ'",

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

שֶׁהֵן הֲלָכוֹת בְּרוּרוֹת וּפְסוּקוֹת הֲלָכָה לְמַעֲשֶׂה,

as explained in the commentary of Rashi ad loc.61that the term halachot refers to final rulings, without the surrounding debates and argumentation.

כִּמְבוֹאָר בְּפֵירוּשׁ רַשִׁ"י זִכְרוֹנוֹ לִבְרָכָה שָׁם.

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, Baraitot, and Halachah leMoshe miSinai, none of which include the discussions of the Gemara. This is also the case with regard to the Shulchan Aruch.

On the holy Shabbat, moreover, toward the time of Minchah, [people] should occupy themselves with the laws of the Shabbat, for “the law of Shabbat is a weighty law,”62 with many details to be mastered.

וּבְשַׁבָּת קֹדֶשׁ בַּעֲלוֹת הַמִּנְחָה יַעַסְקוּ בְּהִלְכוֹת שַׁבָּת, כִּי "הִלְכְתָא רַבְּתָא לְשַׁבְּתָא",

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

וּבְקַל – יָכוֹל הָאָדָם לִיכָּשֵׁל בָּהּ חַס וְשָׁלוֹם, אֲפִילוּ בְּאִיסּוּר כָּרֵת וּסְקִילָה מֵחֶסְרוֹן יְדִיעָה,

and “an unwitting error in [observance due to insufficient] study is accounted as an intentional transgression,”63 heaven forfend.

וְ"שִׁגְגַת תַּלְמוּד – עוֹלָה זָדוֹן" חַס וְשָׁלוֹם,

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;

וְאֵין צָרִיךְ לוֹמַר בְּאִיסּוּרֵי דִּבְרֵי־סוֹפְרִים, שֶׁרַבּוּ כְּמוֹ רַבּוּ לְמַעְלָה, וּבִפְרָט בְּאִיסּוּרֵי מוּקְצֶה דִּשְׁכִיחֵי טוּבָא,

and “[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).”64

וַ"חֲמוּרִים דִּבְרֵי־סוֹפְרִים יוֹתֵר מִדִּבְרֵי תוֹרָה",

As our Sages, of blessed memory, said: “Whoever transgresses the words of the Sages,”65 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.66

כְּמוֹ שֶׁאָמְרוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה, שֶׁ"כָּל הָעוֹבֵר עַל דִּבְרֵי חֲכָמִים" אֲפִילוּ בְּאִיסּוּר קַל שֶׁל דִּבְרֵיהֶם, כְּמוֹ הָאוֹכֵל קוֹדֶם תְּפִלַּת עַרְבִית וּכְהַאי גַּוְנָא – "חַיָּיב מִיתָה" כְּעוֹבֵר עַל חֲמוּרוֹת שֶׁבַּתּוֹרָה.

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

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;

וְכָל יָחִיד אַל יִפְרוֹשׁ עַצְמוֹ מִן הַצִּיבּוּר אֲפִילוּ לִלְמוֹד עִנְיָן אַחֵר,

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

כִּי אִם בַּדָּבָר שֶׁהַצִּיבּוּר עֲסוּקִין בּוֹ,

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

וְאֵין צָרִיךְ לוֹמַר שֶׁלֹּא יֵצֵא הַחוּצָה אִם לֹא יִהְיוּ עֲשָׂרָה מִבִּלְעָדוֹ,

to him [who does leave], I apply the verse, “And those who forsake G-d (i.e., who forsake the study of His Torah) shall be consumed…,”67

וְעָלָיו אֲנִי קוֹרֵא הַפָּסוּק: "וְעוֹזְבֵי ה' יִכְלוּ כוּ'",

as our Sages, of blessed memory, have said68 with respect to every sacred matter.

כְּמוֹ שֶׁאָמְרוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה עַל כָּל דָּבָר שֶׁבִּקְדוּשָּׁה.

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

כִּי אֵין קְדוּשָּׁה כִּקְדוּשַּׁת הַתּוֹרָה,

since “the Torah and the Holy One, blessed be He, are entirely one.”69

דְּ"אוֹרַיְיתָא וְקוּדְשָׁא־בְּרִיךְ־הוּא כּוּלָּא חַד".

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.

Moreover, “Whoever separates himself from the community [will not merit to witness (and participate in) the community’s consolation].”70

וְ"כָל הַפּוֹרֵשׁ מִן הַצִּיבּוּר כוּ'".

The Alter Rebbe concludes: “But he who listens to me shall dwell securely,”71 and72 in his days and in ours, Judah shall be saved and Jerusalem shall dwell securely.73

וְשׁוֹמֵעַ לִי יִשְׁכּוֹן בֶּטַח, וּבְיָמָיו וּבְיָמֵינוּ תִּוָּשַׁע יְהוּדָה, וִירוּשָׁלַיִם תִּשְׁכּוֹן לָבֶטַח,

Amen, may this be His will.

אָמֵן כֵּן יְהִי רָצוֹן: