The Eve of Simchas Torah: The above record of the farbrengen is based on notes later made by one of those present. [Riga]


Many people mistakenly think that avodah shebalev, “the service of the heart,”1 is a kind of optional embellishment to a mitzvah,2 a mark of unusual piety.3 Accordingly, they defer it to some undefined stage in the future, as in the phrase, “When I have free time4 I will study.” This amounts to saying that one will devote time to “the service of the heart” after he has been provided with all his necessities; i.e., after he has been provided with whatever — in his own estimation — he deserves to be provided with.

There is considerable human error in such an estimation, because self-love and self-admiration blind a man’s eyes from seeing the truth. So when he has finished contemplating how much he needs and how much he deserves to be provided with, he then starts thinking about avodah. On Monday or Thursday, or on Shabbos morning after coffee, he goes to shul and converses his fill with everyone around him. Then, when the congregation has completed the prayers, he starts thinking about avodah, about davenen at length. By this time the prayers do not well forth spontaneously, The prayers do not well forth spontaneously: In the Yid. original, davent-zich nit. so he mouths the words and that’s that. And that’s that: In the Heb./Yid. original, un yotzei — (lit.:) “and with that he has formally discharged his obligation.” The reason is simply that he is lacking the entire preparation required for prayer. To begin with, he is lacking the basic prelude stipulated by the Sages: “One should not stand up to pray5 except in an earnest frame of mind.” This Rashi defines as humble submissiveness.


If one is to attain truly humble submissiveness, then this in turn demands due preparation (as is well known with relation to the Reading of Shema before retiring at night and Tikkun Chatzos). However, even the merely basic preparation of becoming humbly submissive requires at least that one meditate a little upon the few words involved — to consider who is praying, and to Whom he is praying. Even such a meditation would suffice to engender a little vitality in one’s davenen.

If, instead, one’s prayers are preceded by conversation, so that one misses the cue for any of the congregational responses — an Amen, or an Amen, yehei shmei rabba..., or the Barchu recited by a fellow worshiper over the Reading of the Law — this is the absolute antithesis of davenen. Obviously, therefore, when one finally begins to daven, his prayers are not warmly spontaneous.6 He still deludes himself, nonetheless, that his prolonged endeavors constitute avodah and that this is what makes a chassid....


As I was taught, avodah shebalev (“the service of the heart”) signifies serving G‑d in one’s heart and with one’s heart. The relevant verse in the Written Law7 says, “and to serve Him8 with all your heart.” The Gemara [i.e., the Oral Law]9 thereupon asks, “What is this service of the heart?” And it answers its own question: “We may understand this as referring to prayer.”

The Written Law embodies the Sefirah of Chochmah; the Oral Law embodies the Sefirah of Binah.

In the Grace After Meals we express gratitude “for Your Torah which You have taught us.”10 Chassidus, citing the kavanos of the AriZal, explains that “Your Torah” refers to the Torah as it exists in the World of Atzilus; “which You have taught us” means “which You have taught us in the World of Beriah.”

Chochmah is described as a point, the quintessence of a concept; Binah, in contrast, has the length and breadth of expansive comprehension. The Sefirah of Chochmah is therefore called a wellspring, which yields its life-giving waters drop by drop; the Sefirah of Binah is called a river.

The Written Law, which is the Sefirah of Chochmah, says that one should “serve [G‑d] with all your heart.” The Oral Law, which is the Sefirah of Binah that explains the seminal point of Chochmah, asks: “What is this service of the heart?” I.e., What kind of avodah is this which takes place in one’s heart and with one’s heart? And it answers its own question: “We may understand that this refers to prayer.”

Since the avodah of davenen takes place in a man’s heart and with his heart, it follows that if the davenen was done as it ought to be done, then it leaves its imprint on every aspect of his conduct throughout the entire day. If he davens with all his heart, then his whole day thereafter is utterly transformed: he sees the positive side of everything and everyone he encounters; moreover, he makes earnest endeavors to upgrade all of his character traits and behavior patterns.


It is taught in the Mishnah: “Therefore every man is obliged to say, ‘For me was the world created.’”11 The word “therefore” connects with the preceding statement: Since G‑d created every individual with a distinctive face, which means that the nature of each individual is unique, “therefore every man is obliged to say, ‘For me was the world created.’” Now, in the Holy Tongue the word for “world” (עוֹלָם; olam) shares a root with the word meaning “obscurity”12 (הֶעְלֶם; he’elem). [Hence: “For my sake was the obscurity created.”] The obscuring of the Divine light [i.e., the obscuring of the Divine creative and life-giving energy] stems from the First Tzimtzum,13 the purpose of which was that ultimately the Divine light should be revealed. This may be learned a fortiori by comparison with the tzimtzumim that comprise Seder Hishtalshelus [which is the chainlike scheme whereby the Divine light progressively screens itself on its way “down”]. If even the latter tzimtzumim, which merely limit the Divine light, exist for the sake of eventual revelation, then it is obvious that the First Tzimtzum, which entails the utter removal of the light, took place for the sake of the eventual revelation of light.

The tzimtzumim that comprise Seder Hishtalshelus intensify by gradual stages, for if Divine light is to be elicited or bestowed from a higher source to a lower recipient, it must first be adjusted to the recipient’s absorptive capacity by a process of self-concealment. Hence, it is because of His loving desire that the recipient be granted a revelation of light that the mashpia, the Bestower of light, screens His own Intellect in this way.

The First Tzimtzum, in which G‑d (so to speak) removed His great light, was thus intended to benefit the recipient by enabling him to accommodate a greater irradiation of light than otherwise, namely, an irradiation of the Ein Sof-light that preceded the Tzimtzum. Moreover, it was G‑d’s desire that this revelation be called forth by the avodah of its mortal recipients.

In this area there is an innovative teaching An innovative teaching: In the original Yid., uftu. of my father on the concept of “illuminating afresh.”14 (For ten years now15 my father’s body is not here. We should cherish the sanctity of his physical remains, for the physical remains of a tzaddik are different16 from the remains of other people.) The term “innovative teaching” is actually not appropriate to a Rebbe, for the function of a Rebbe is to reveal down here below what he has heard in Gan Eden. What is appropriate to a Rebbe is the verse that speaks of Moshe Rabbeinu [at Mount Sinai]: “I stood between G‑d and yourselves17 at that time, to tell you the word of G‑d.” Now, the root of לְהַגִּיד, here translated “to tell,” also means [in Aramaic] “to elicit” or “to draw out.”18 The verse thus implies that Moshe Rabbeinu drew forth the word of G‑d to the people. And this is the function of a Rebbe — to draw forth a revelation of light in the Torah in a way that reflects the manner in which the Torah is studied in Gan Eden.

The kind of innovative achievement that does characterize a Rebbe is the role described in the verse, “He turned many away19 from iniquity.” A Rebbe directs a glance at someone who has stumbled in sin (G‑d forbid). That individual knows what he has done and the Rebbe perceives it too — and by his glance the Rebbe elevates him. Healing him, the Rebbe invests him with the requisite strength to enable the good within him to overpower whatever is not good within him.

For even when a man has sinned, the Jew within him remains. This is the inner meaning of the teaching of the Sages, אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁחָטָא, יִשְׂרָאֵל הוּא — “Even though he has sinned,20 he is a Jew”: the essential he within him is Jewish. Overtly he may be not good; he may be a sinner, a sick man. His head and hands are ailing — he does not put on tefillin — and similarly with other organs. Nevertheless, the essential he within him is a Jew.

The word “he”, in the indirect third person, implies something that is hidden from view. Since the essential hidden “he” in every Jew remains healthy, a glance from a tzaddik invests an ailing man with strength, enabling his healthy side to overpower his unhealthy side.


There are two basic approaches to healing:21 (a) treating the ailment by medication, and (b) strengthening the healthy organs so that they will be able to win the battle against the affected ones. This is also true in the spiritual sphere. If someone is ill with relation to tefillin or Shabbos or Family Purity or the dietary code or whatever, there are two basic approaches — (a) treating these ailments, and (b) invigorating the individual’s healthy side. True healing combines both.

This is implied in the verse, פְּעֻלַּת צַדִּיק לְחַיִּים — “The deed of a tzaddik22 brings life.” A glance from a tzaddik lends strength to the essential he within him, which remains Jewish: “even though he has sinned, [his] he is a Jew.” That glance arouses the sinner’s innermost self, transforming him to a penitent.

Actually, to gaze upon someone who has evil within him is an act of considerable self-sacrifice; how much more so if one is to look upon him benevolently. There is another kind of look which can turn someone into a heap of bones. A heap of bones: Cf. Tractate Shabbos 34a. This kind of approach is in place only where it is necessary to nullify the forces of evil by means of rejection. Even regarding those whose lives are utterly off track, the Divine intention is that “the evil man should return23 from his path and live.” As G‑d declares, “I do not desire24 the death of the one deserving death.” Because He desires repentance, the glance of a tzaddik must be benevolent.

Occasionally there may be an intense look accompanied by a few stern words which penetrate the listener through and through. Though they prickle and cauterize like the words of the Passages of Rebuke25 in the Torah, the ultimate intent of such words is benevolent. (This is discussed in Likkutei Torah,26 in the maamar beginning, BeShivri Lachem Mateh Lechem.) Generally, though, the way a tzaddik looks upon a sinner springs from self-sacrifice.

The sin of the Tree of Knowledge lay in the fact that Adam gazed upon the place of the kelippos, the forces of evil. Before the sin, the kelippos and the unholy Other Side of the universe were situated below all the worlds. Evil is a created entity (as in the phrase וּבוֹרֵא רָע — “Who creates evil”);27 it was below all the worlds and unconnected with the world. However, when Chavah (Eve) transgressed G‑d’s command, evil became dominant and all created things came to contain a mixture of good and evil. Intending to rectify her misdeed, Adam gazed upon the place of the kelippos. (This was his sin, because he was not a Rebbe.) [...]

Nevertheless, the [infinite] Ein Sof-light that preceded the Tzimtzum illuminated afresh. Concerning this the Etz Chayim poses a powerful query. The whole function of the First Tzimtzum was to block the radiation of that light and thereby make it possible for a material world to come into being. Now if, after the material world came into being, that light illuminated afresh, what purpose was served by the Tzimtzum?

In fact, the Tzimtzum served a monumental purpose: it gave rise to the role of avodah. By means of avodah one can elicit and draw down the essence of the [infinite] Ein Sof- light that preceded the Tzimtzum.


While walking down the street one’s mind should be engaged in words of Torah—a verse of Chumash, a little Tehillim — either articulated in speech, if the cleanliness of the location permits that, or else in thought. If one does not think about words of Torah, the cobblestone on which he steps cries out to him: “Clod! Who are you to tread on me?28 Who are you? By virtue of what are you more elevated than me? Why should I not be treading on you?”

When a person walks down the street and does not think about words of Torah, he is thereby holding back the approach of the Redemption; if he does think about words of Torah, he is making the Redemption come sooner.

Chassidishe businessmen should have a Chumash, a Tanya or a Tehillim in their stores, and study in their spare moments. To be sure, one has to sign a promissory note without making any mistakes, and one has to draw up an account for a client, too, but before and after every such thing one should learn a verse of Chumash or read a chapter of Tehillim. The affairs of people who do this will prosper.

This, then, is the great purpose served by the Tzimtzum. Thanks to the Tzimtzum there exists a world with a material street and physical people, with stores and with promissory notes—in order that a person should walk down the street and think or speak words of Torah, or sit in his physical store and study Torah.

* * *

All of this was said just by the way, for regular householders. Real avodah should focus on refining one’s character traits.29 [For example:] It is a mistake to think that to “love your fellowman as yourself”30 means that you should love him as much as you love yourself; it means that you should love yourself as much as you love him.


LeChaim! May our sweet Father grant that the good year which He has granted us should come down to us in the kind of actual good which is visible and manifest.31 May the promises of the Torah be fulfilled in the year תרצ"א.32 It is true that the verse spells the verb with a hei, but we want it to be spelled with an alef.33

This year may all our brethren in Russia who have been imprisoned and exiled be freed! When Moshe Rabbeinu fled from Pharaoh, miracles were wrought34 for him: his neck miraculously hardened and defied the sword, and so on. Is that a great feat?!35 Those who sacrificed themselves for the dissemination of Yiddishkeit were exiled to Siberia! It is hard to endure any more. Enough! We want the Torah’s promises to be fulfilled in the year תרצ"א. May all the obstacles and obstructions be removed! May they not even see the chadarim!36 And if they want to harm Torah scholars, may they be left without hands.

When a grown son pleads, “Father, haven’t you punished enough?!”37 — the father is obliged to heed him. The Torah forbids a father to hit his grown son, for [by causing the son to react disrespectfully] he would thereby “place a stumbling block38 before the blind.”

So we want to see salvation this very year. All Jews hope that Mashiach will come, but I think we should hope for this year. One has to prepare oneself, and the way to do this is by studying Torah, which “shields and saves.”39


The Rebbe Rayatz then asked the leaders of the local branch of Tzeirei Agudas Yisrael to step forward, and he addressed them as follows:

The day after tomorrow will be three years since I arrived here. Why I had to leave that other place40 I do not know. With all those angels around that protect all Jews from harm and distress, weren’t there enough of them available over there to watch over me, too, as part of the entire House of Israel, so that I should not be shot?! There are plenty of angels for all kinds of tasks; was there a shortage of angels only for this?! Could I not have stood three handsbreadths above the ground?! So, why I had to leave that place I do not know. The purpose for which I came here, however, is understandable: the people before me41 have changed a great deal from what they were.

I don’t at all agree with your Torah outlook and conduct, nor with your course of study. That, however, isn’t your concern. You have to establish your chadarim, according to the ideology of “Torah with derech eretz,” Torah with derech eretz: The original context of this phrase (Tractate Avos 2:2) teaches that it is a good thing to combine “the study of Torah with a worldly occupation.” Here the reference is to the educational philosophy that borrowed this phrase to justify the combining of Torah and secular studies. and your [educational] gardens and orchards. True, they may not be the orchards that Avraham Avinu planted.42 They will follow your understanding, the path along which you were guided — so that will certainly be good.

Of course you yourselves must always seek to improve. One ought to have an untrimmed beard and peyos. Your tzitzis are no doubt kosher, and with G‑d’s help you certainly have the ability to become everything you ought to become. That is as far as you yourselves are concerned. What you have to do with other Jews, however, must be done energetically. Let the schools be [called] gardens and orchards, so long as the children attending them will remain Jews.

If I were to know of a child who wanted to study in an old-style cheder, I would exert every effort to ensure that he did not find his way into your school; I would save him from your influence and see to it that he should be taught by an Old World melamed. However, when it comes to children who could (G‑d forbid) fall into the hands of those other chadarim which are Jewish only in superficial appearance, then one must exert every effort to ensure that they should find their way to you. You should be given every kind of help and support so that you will be able to cater for more children.

You have so much work to do. Why are you silent? I don’t begin to understand you. You yourselves should be active, and you should also influence others. You should be taking up positions on the sidewalks and persuading fellow Jews to step into shul and study a page of Gemara and the like. Money should never be an obstacle; arouse the men of means, and so on. In earlier days there was no need to even speak to young people such as yourselves; today, you are the ones who must undertake the task of arousing fellow Jews and buttressing the study and observance of the Torah.


People complain that I am too kind, and look at everyone with a kindly eye. The fact is that the ability to regard everyone with a kindly eye was given to me.

When I was for years old I once asked my father why G‑d created people with two eyes, whereas He created them with only one mouth and one nose.

In reply, my father asked me, “Do you know the alef- beis?”

“Yes,” I answered.

So he asked further: “Do you know that there’s a shin and a sin, and what the difference is between them?”

“A shin has the dot at the right,” I explained, “and a sin has the dot at the left.”

My father then said: “There are things that one should look at with one’s right eye, and there are things that one should look at with one’s left eye. One should look at a Siddur and at a fellow Jew with one’s right eye, and one should look at a candy and a toy with one’s left eye.”

And from that time on, this struck roots within me: upon a fellow Jew, whoever he may be and in whatever state he may be, one should look with a kindly eye.


The Rebbe Rayatz now addressed R. M[ordechai] D[ubin] and R. A[vigdor] V[olshanak]:

You ought to deepen your endeavors to support Torah study in this country,43 so that the requisite means will not be lacking. I am an agent to pass this obligation on to you.

All you fellow Jews present here are witnesses that I have passed on my shlichus.

Why don’t you take notice of your good neighbors, Poland and Lithuania? Nu, about Poland you might answer that it is a big country — but Lithuania, with the same number of Jews as Latvia (May they all increase!), has a number of large yeshivos. Every township has a junior yeshivah, as well as Talmud Torah schools and chadarim in which devout melamdim teach Torah authentically, as in bygone years. Every Lithuanian Jew and Jewess cherishes Torah study; a yeshivah bachur is precious in their eyes, and highly esteemed. And what is there in Latvia? A barren wasteland! Where are your yeshivos? Where are your Talmud Torah schools? Where are your chadarim?

The people of Riga and of Latvia at large certainly contribute generously for tzedakah to support yeshivos and many other causes. May G‑d indeed bless them. But they alone have nothing. True, Riga used to be an isolated city and that is why it did not become a Torah center. But over the last ten years, since Latvia became an independent state, you should have thought of how to turn it into a Torah center. It is the obligation of all of you, well-established and wealthy householders, to raise funds for the dissemination of Torah study.

Set up chadarim and yeshivos, but make sure that the funds are directed to support the genuine study of Torah. Little children, for example, should be taught to read by the old method: kometz-alef — o; kometz-beis — bo; pasach-alef, and so on. The letters and the vowel signs of the Torah are sacred The letters and the vowel signs… are sacred: Cf. Tikkunei Zohar, Introduction (p. 7b) and Tikkun 69 (p. 104b); Zohar Chadash, Tikkunim (p. 99b), and elsewhere; Responsa of Ridbaz, Vol. III, sec. 643, and elsewhere. — kometz signifies Keser, pasach signifies the Sefirah of Chochmah — and the sanctity of these consonants and vowels shines into the souls of toddlers and ensures that they remain pious Jews.

Fathers and mothers should be told that their children should learn to read by this method; it has an actual effect on their lives. There has arisen a generation that seeks to tear away from Jews this sanctity44 of the letters and the vowels. They make an impression of being great lovers of their brother Jews and caring for the welfare of little children, whereas in fact they use this approach to uproot the sanctity of the letters and the vowels.

I am telling you, these people are your worst enemies; they turn children into disbelievers. May G‑d grant all Jews long and healthy years. But mortals don’t live forever — and no children taught by these people are ever going to be Kaddish-sayers.45 Keep in mind that your whole life, your concern that your child should grow up a Jew, depends on how you choose a cheder and a style of education.


It was the custom in bygone years that if G‑d granted someone a generous income, he would maintain a learned friend who could help him along with his Torah studies, and he would attend the daily group study session in Gemara. Even unlettered folk used to go to the beis midrash to listen in to some Ein Yaakov, to hear a teaching of the Talmudic Sages, or perhaps a story about praiseworthy conduct involving the love of Torah and the mitzvos or about the fear of heaven, or about refining one’s character traits. Every teaching that such a Jew heard poured light into his life and into the way he related to his family.

As the Gemara recounts, King Yannai told his wife to fear neither the Torah scholars46 (even though they were far from being his friends), nor the unobservant; rather, she should fear hypocrites, because through their words (and sometimes through their conduct as well) they outwardly resemble Torah scholars, whereas inwardly they are evil.

When someone heard a teaching such as this, he knew that there exist people who to all external appearances seem to be quite pious and scholarly; they say nice things and they word them cleverly. They claim that their only concern is the good of the children. To make learning better and easier for them, they propose that they be taught exactly as children of other nations (lehavdil) are taught. Why, they ask, should children learn by saying kometz alef, like old-fashioned Jews used to learn? With their smooth talk they want to (G‑d forbid) uproot the customs of those old- fashioned Jews.

They call themselves m[askilim].47 There is a certain country48 [i.e., America] in which I saw — and saw through, but really and truly saw through — comparable people. They bear the same name, but over there they are truly G‑d-fearing folk, who indeed would like people to observe the Torah and the mitzvos as in the old days. Over there, this name is only tacked on. Despite their name, they would like to see chadarim and yeshivos in all their towns, just as in the Old Country.

The general impression one gains from the various towns and people over there is reinforced by particular instances. It is gratifying to see how people, without exception, feel warmly towards the Old Country. Engraved in their hearts and in their memories are the townlets, with their aged grandfathers making their way to the local beis midrash at daybreak and again for Minchah and Maariv. They have fond memories of their childhood cheder with its old-fashioned melamed. Everyone boasts about his hometown, with its renowned rabbanim and melamdim, its chadarim and its yeshivos. They preserve precious memories of its artless and deeply-entrenched fear of heaven, and describe it with ardent and reverent awe. This is the case even with people who have been dimmed by the dust of life. And as I now recall them, my heart is gladdened.

In contrast [to America], here [in Europe] one has to be wary and fearful of people who carry the name [of maskilim]. It would be far better for the Jews if they did not have their current appearance. From the way the Sages extol those who bring merit49 upon the community, one may deduce what they had to say about the opposite case. However, there is a verse that says, יִתַּמּוּ חַטָּאִים מִן הָאָרֶץ. [Actually this means, “May sinners cease50 from the earth.”] In its non-literal interpretation this means, “May sins cease from the earth”; as for the sinners, let them return to G‑d in teshuvah.

Jews must understand that they should flee the distance of a bowshot from the chadarim that [the maskilim] establish. Furthermore, money intended for the support of Torah study should be given only to appropriate places; otherwise it finds its unfortunate way to the payment of tolls and taxes, as in the episode involving R. Yochanan51 in the Gemara.

Jews of Latvia! Why don’t you look at your neighbor, Lithuania? Almost every township boasts a Tiferes Bachurim, an adult education center at which married and not-yet- married businessmen and craftsmen meet and study together, and reinforce their commitment to Yiddishkeit. Why is there nothing in Latvia? Why is there no Tiferes Bachurim? There is a meager handful of young men; is that the Jewish youth of Latvia?! Why are they not being given any help to enable them to study further?

The Jews of Latvia should be thinking about themselves, about how to transform this country into a center of Torah study — and may G‑d grant them His help.