1 [Riga]

[On2 the same evening, the Rebbe Rayatz assembled the gabbaim of all the local Chabad shuls and addressed them in these words:]

I am familiar with the state of the local chassidishe shuls. The Alter Rebbe had mesirus nefesh for the sake of Chassidus and chassidishe shuls – and not mainly because of the nussach,3 but in order that each such shul should shine light into many generations. Thus, when a Yid comes home from shul after having studied a page or two of Gemara, the soul within him lights up. When he comes home and says, “Today, while we were learning Gemara, I heard such-and-such,” whether in Halachah or in Aggadah, he lights up his home.

It is the responsibility of gabbaim to see to it that their minyan4 should be such that when this Yid arrives there, he should have something there to take home with him, something that will bring light into his home and his children.

It is written, “This is the Torah – a man.”5 Though a person’s vitality is mainly concentrated in his head and in his heart, it must extend throughout all his limbs. If it remains only in his head and heart but is lacking in his limbs, that makes for a difficult life and a weak life.6

The life of a Yid should be such that he goes off to shul three times a day to daven, and also attends its regular sessions of group study. True, if he goes there only once a week he’s still a precious Yid. In fact (May we not know of such things!), if he attends only on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, he is still a precious Yid – except that his life, his vitality, is not as it should be. And that is the task of the gabbaim.

This is your task, as gabbaim of the chassidishe minyanim, to ensure that your minyanim are so luminous that they will shine life and vitality into all the limbs of all those Yidn.

It is written,7 “And the wise will be as radiant as the brightness of the sky, and those who lead the many to righteousness will be like the stars forever and ever.” The phrase, “those who lead the many to righteousness,” speaks of those who are gabbaim for material charity.8 And just as there are gabbaim for material charity, even more certainly are there gabbaim for spiritual charity.

Precisely this was the aim of the Alter Rebbe’s mesirus nefesh – that a minyan should be so luminous that it will diffuse light over everyone, because in truth there is no difference between [those who daven according to] Nussach Ari, Nussach Sephard, or Nussach Ashkenaz.9 The light of a minyan should diffuse light over everyone.

The Alter Rebbe wanted all Jews to perceive themselves as soldiers. That means that the general, too, should realize that he is a soldier. If there’s a country whose soldiers regard themselves as generals, that won’t work. Fortunate is the country whose generals regard themselves as soldiers.

This principle the Alter Rebbe established – that all Yidn are equal with regard to accepting the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven.10 The chassidishe gabbaim must see to it that in their minyanim, people will be sensitive to this light.

However, I must add that it appears to me that there is a stain in the house. I don’t want to say that “it appears to me that there is a plague in the house,”11 but stains have appeared. The chassidishe minyanim have started hiring chazzanim. True, a shul should have a chazzan, but if a person desecrates Shabbos,12 it is forbidden to appoint him to lead the prayers.13 Likewise, it is forbidden to appoint such a person as the gabbai of a minyan.14

Once that is attended to, whenever gabbaim of [spiritual] tzedakah seek ways of doing some Yid a spiritual favor by diffusing light upon him and upon his descendants for generations ahead, they thereby realize the ideal implied by the two words, leolam vaed.42

[The plain meaning of leolam vaed is “forever and ever.” Beyond that, however,] olam means “world,” and by a classic substitution of letters, vaed (וָעֶד) equals echad (אֶחָד).15 Now, echad means “one,” [as in Shema Yisrael… – “G‑d is our L‑rd, G‑d is One.” The subtext of the phrase leolam vaed thus conveys the following ideal:] that people in the olam, mortals living on the worldly plane, will be sensitized to the pervasive Oneness of the Creator.

* * *

Please convey my blessing to all your congregants. I wish them16 long life – for them and their children and their families and their offspring forever.

I’m not parting from you.17 I am setting out only because the One Above commands me to accomplish things over there. It’s not that I’m afraid for myself, for my body. Suffering has crushed me so much that I am utterly unafraid of bodily harm to myself.

Let me add: I’m not traveling because I want to, but because I am compelled to. That’s how it has been throughout all my time as a restless wanderer: I never traveled because I wanted to, but because I was under compulsion.

The move from Rostov18 to Petersburg19 was made under compulsion. I likewise moved from Petersburg to Riga20 not because I wanted to move, but because I was compelled to do so. It was the same with the move from Riga to Warsaw,21 and then from Warsaw to Otvotzk.22 I left Otvotzk23 and came here24 because again I was under compulsion. The same is true of my present voyage to America: I am going there because I have to. However, I am not parting from you: I am together with you, and may we be granted the merit of meeting the Righteous Redeemer.