Sichah 1

Gut Yom-Tov, Gut Purim!


It’s Purim today, and we ought to be cheering ourselves up with the joy of Purim.

However, I am weighted down by what I have undergone – rather, by what I am undergoing, because even after arriving in this land which (with G‑d’s help) is currently known as the land of repose, the experiences of a few weeks ago are still weighing me down, now as then, when I lived among our crushed and despairing brethren.

My aching heart bleeds over the destruction of Yiddishkeit, the destruction of religious life, the harsh and bitter life of the G‑d-fearing Jews in certain countries, and the life-threatening danger to the millions of Jews who live there.

People in this country no doubt comprehend the bitter gloom of the perilous predicament of our brothers and sisters. Hungry, and without clothes against the cold, they hid in cellars and hideouts and attics from the rampant wild beast that used to be called Germans.

As far as I am familiar with the typical naïve nature of American Jews in general, and in particular the environment in which Jewish communal activists live, I am certain that they are unable to picture the murderous conduct of that German beast. Moreover, they are no doubt unwilling to believe the massacre that is taking place, and certainly not the gruesome scheme (May it be foiled!) that this Haman has explicitly stated – to kill, destroy and annihilate all the Jews.1

As we sit here, thank G‑d, rejoicing in the joy of Purim, and I observe the present gathering, heart-rending pictures of Jewish suffering float before my eyes (May we know of no such distress!) – the suffering that those Jews endured at the hands of the Poles, and later, in wartime, at the hands of the Germans.

* * *

“In wartime.” It sounds so simple – “in wartime.”

I assume that some of those present here lived through the war years of World War I, and from the extent of the suffering and distress of those times, they envisage the dire situation in the present world-threatening war. However, my dear brothers and friends, this situation is beyond comparison.

I well remember the painful mood and the deep sighs in the towns during the First World War, whenever dismal news arrived about the desperate state of affairs on the battlefront.

At that time there was a battlefront, and there were towns. Women, children and old folk were not on the front. Things were different in Poland in the present wartime – children, women, the old and the ailing, were all on the front lines, because the front lines were in town. And the towns that were populated by women and children, the aged and the ailing, were assailed by artillery fire and explosive bombs. Within seconds, thousands of people were bombarded in their dwellings by those bombs.

The poverty of the Jews in Poland was extreme. It was felt in all aspects of their lives, above all in their dwellings, and Warsaw’s Jewish neighborhoods were exceedingly crowded. In the critical days of the war, it often happened that within a few seconds a building of several stories was destroyed, and all of its inhabitants, including children, women, the old and the ailing, were burnt alive or buried under debris. After a bombardment you could find battered human bodies lying in the street, among the carcasses of horses and dogs. The streets were scattered with human limbs.

The above is only part of the horrors that people lived through in Poland. After that war period came the days and nights which for Jews were dark and appalling.

There are no doubt descriptions and written reports of all the cruelty that was inflicted on our brothers and sisters, but merely hearing something is far from actually seeing it.

* * *

Having lived in Warsaw and having lived through the dreadful 27 wartime days, from 17 Elul to 14 Tishrei, and the following 81 days, from 14 Tishrei to 4 Teves,2 I can find no peace of mind. The dire predicament of our brothers and sisters, and the awesome fear that envelops me when I picture the villainous activities of Haman’s design, give me no rest. So I cry out: American Jews of all circles and of all social classes! Rescue our brothers and sisters – at once!

The teachings of Chassidus instruct us to that a person should rule himself, and it is part of the spiritual lifestyle of chassidim3 that to a certain extent one should be able to hide the innermost emotions that his heart experiences. As the Alter Rebbe writes in Tanya,4 “the mind rules the heart.”

True, the mind rules the heart, and Chassidus teaches one how to see to it that the mind, which is situated in the brain, should not only govern the middos, the emotive attributes in the heart, so that they will accord with the dictates of the mind, but should also hide the innermost emotions in his heart. Moreover, the chassidic lifestyle teaches how the principle that “the mind rules the heart” can best be used in one’s life of serving G‑d.

However, the mind rules only the heart, not the soul itself.5 The innermost soul does not allow itself to be covered over: it cries out aloud from under any cover. It expresses itself in all of its soul-power, regardless of time and place. It fills them both.

Hence, as I sit here now with you at this Purim seudah, and experience the artless, well-loved warmth of chassidim, I experience it together with our fellow Jews and fellow chassidim and especially the talmidim of Tomchei Temimim who are still there – and my innermost soul cries out to you and to everyone: Rescue them, rescue them!

* * *

I well know how strong are the simple faith and trust and hope that are present in Jews and Anash in general, and in Torah scholars and talmidim of Tomchei Temimim in particular. I am therefore certain that they, too, “those who dwell in the land of the shadow of death,”6 huddling in cellars and demolished ruins, want to celebrate the joy of Purim – but in their hideouts that is impossible. May G‑d show them mercy them and bring a deliverance that will gladden the hearts of Jews everywhere.

As I sit here now with you, while reliving the company of our heartbroken brothers, I entreat you to comfort my bruised heart by organizing appeals that will enable me to bring the talmidim of Tomchei Temimim to a peaceful place, so that they will be able to resume their endeavors in Torah and avodah.

* * *

One erev Yom Kippur over fifty years ago, in the year 5648 or 5649 (1887 or 1888), something happened in the township of Lubavitch that more or less resembled my present situation.

Whoever remembers the Old Country, even if only from their childhood, no doubt recalls what the streets and homes in the Jewish towns and townships looked like during Elul and Tishrei. Fifty years ago, before the accursed and raucous demon of destruction was born,7 everyone felt a need for spiritual food. Typically, that food consisted of sitting in on a study session of a chapter of Mishnayos after the morning’s davenen, then a session of Ein Yaakov between Minchah and Maariv, and later, a class on Shulchan Aruch after Maariv.

That spiritual nutrition satisfied the hunger and thirst of Jews everywhere,8 and placed them all firmly on fine moral soil. It left its imprint on Jewish streets and lit up Jewish homes. Even quite an ordinary, unscholarly Jew was familiar with everyday Torah laws, and various narratives and teachings of the Sages were often heard in his home.

As he prepared himself for Shabbos he cast aside his workaday life, and at candle-lighting time, wearing his Shabbos garb, he welcomed the holy day. At the festive meals, father and mother rejoiced together with their children, who meanwhile absorbed the sanctity of the day and the warmth of being Jewish.

This is neither the time nor the place to describe in detail how the festivals were experienced in that era by Jews at large and by chassidim in particular. One point, though, should be mentioned – that among chassidim, all the above was practiced in their characteristic style.

* * *

The above all relates to the whole year, but when Elul arrived, the first blast of the shofar evoked an earnest frame of mind in Jews of every level.

The prophet asks: “If a shofar is sounded in a town, will the people not shudder?!”9 – for a shofar blast always signified an ominous event. Shabbos Mevarchim Elul nudged a Jew out of his year-long workaday routine, and the sound of the shofar on Rosh Chodesh Elul aroused him to take stock of his spiritual status10 in the course of the previous eleven months. That stocktaking was different for every individual, varying according to his situation in Torah study and in avodah, and his material commitments as either a fulltime scholar11 or a businessman. Nevertheless, it aroused a certain teshuvah-mindset in everyone.

That mindset impacted him not only in shul, in his warmer davenen and Tehillim-reading, and not only in the beis midrash, in his more scrupulous attention to the times set aside for group study. Beyond that, his teshuvah-mindset also impacted his domestic life and his business conduct.

I don’t know what the Days of Awe looked like in other towns; I do know what they looked like in Lubavitch. Throughout the month of Elul, the evenings were devoted to the study of Chassidus in the packed beis midrash. On Thursday nights, when people stayed awake through the night studying, they used to farbreng together during a few of those hours, on themes that rouse the soul.

The words that were spoken, the contrite mood, and the exuberant and meditative niggunim that were sung, all left their deep impression on all the participants, including those who did not follow the finer points of the chassidic Torah teachings that were exchanged. They, too, were infused with an ardent desire to do teshuvah. Youths, and even children, were likewise affected, and this found expression in their conduct between man and man and between man and G‑d. This I remember from personal experience: I recall how attending those Elul farbrengens, when I was only eight years old, influenced my childhood conduct.

When the days of Selichos arrived, the earnestness in the air was heightened by the approaching footsteps of the Days of Awe. Then came the eve of Zechor Bris,12 the night of wakeful vigil preceding the Days of Awe.13 From my sixth year onwards, I don’t recall that people ever went to sleep as usual on the night before erev Rosh HaShanah. Every individual, according to his standing, prepared himself for the erev Rosh HaShanah that heralded the days of judgment.

The two days of Rosh HaShanah, the Ten Days of Penitence,14 and Yom Kippur, all constituted the Days of Awe and the days of teshuvah.

Some things can be described, except that they call for a talented and gifted writer and appropriate words. However, there are things that even a talented and gifted writer cannot describe, because befitting words are not to be found.

* * *

Lubavitch was surrounded by several little villages in which a few Jewish farmers lived and worked. The heads of these families were mostly fine Torah scholars and chassidim of repute. One of them – Reb Zalman, a scholar and chassid of stature15 – lived in Cherbin, twenty-five or thirty kilometers from Lubavitch. That village had its own regular minyan three times a day, but Reb Zalman’s custom was to spend the days of Selichos, Rosh HaShanah, the Ten Days of Penitence and Yom Kippur, in Lubavitch.

My father used to stay awake throughout the night preceding the eve of Yom Kippur. He would daven very early, by 12:00 noon he had already partaken of that day’s festive meal,16 he would read Tehillim until 1:00, and then daven Minchah.

On erev Yom Kippur in the year 5648 or 5649 (1887 or 1888), this Reb Zalman entered my father’s study immediately after Minchah and wished him a cheerful and hearty Gut Yom-Tov!

My father, who was very serious at that time and engrossed in the sefer before him, replied: “True, it is Yom-Tov, and concerning Yom-Tov it is written, moadim lesimchah – ‘festivals for joy.’ But today it’s erev Yom Kippur, when a person should be aroused to teshuvah from the depths of his heart – and teshuvah means remorse over the past and a positive resolve for the future!”

Reb Zalman responded: “Rebbe, we17 are soldiers. Concerning erev Yom Kippur until midday, G‑d said that it’s a Yom-Tov and commanded us to be happy. After midday it’s time to daven Minchah, to say Al Chet,18 and to do teshuvah.”

He concluded: “Rebbe, give me honey cake!”19

My father was very pleased with Reb Zalman’s answer. He handed him a slice and said: “I’m giving you a piece of honey cake, and may G‑d give you a sweet year!”

* * *

That narrative matches my current situation. The anguish in my heart, from the suffering of our people, in no way resembles joy. However, we are soldiers, and when G‑d commands us to rejoice in the joy of Purim we must rejoice. At the same time, we must keep in mind the predicament of our brothers in general and of the yeshivah students in particular. And may the merit of the self-sacrifice of our brothers and their families for the observance of Yiddishkeit shield the entire House of Israel.

* * *

The Baal Shem Tov teaches20 that whatever a Jew hears or sees is a directive for his service of G‑d.

This means not only that whatever happens with a person is specifically arranged by Divine Providence.21 Beyond that, it means that from every incident and even from every thing or word that a Jew hears or sees, he should derive a lesson in the realm of Torah or in his avodah. In every single event, whether good or (G‑d forbid) bad, there must certainly be at least something that can be useful in furthering his service of his Creator.

As is widely known,22 there is no good without evil and no evil without good. In everything there is an admixture of evil and in every evil there is an admixture of good.

The twelfth of Tishrei during the war is noted in my memory as one of the most difficult days that I have ever experienced.23 On that day at noon, we all left our home to seek shelter in a deep cellar. At four o’clock, after Minchah, the cellar was shaken up by an air raid attack on the adjoining streets. Fires broke out immediately, and as multi-story buildings collapsed, they buried their inhabitants in the debris.

In the face of the immediate danger of being (G‑d forbid) unable to save ourselves, we ran out of the cellar to seek shelter in the gateway of one of the big buildings.

The picture we saw – a street of buildings all ablaze, the shrieks of the unfortunate people who were being burned, the screams of alarmed townsfolk, especially of children, women and old folk – is indescribable.

As the bombardment grew more intense from one minute to the next, more and more streets of houses went up in flames. Clusters of smoking black clouds burst out of the windows and obstructed the light of what happened to be a fine sunny day. For a few hours we and several other people ran, afraid and exhausted, from one shelter to another.

In one of those havens, a few hundred people of various hues had assembled. Jews with long coats and beards and peyos, and women wearing wigs; clean-shaven Jews, and women who spoke only Polish – all stood there, cowed and vexed.

Our group – myself and my family, and a few dozen students24 of Tomchei Temimim – said Tehillim. Suddenly there was a fearsome blast: a bomb exploded near our group. A river of fire immediately gushed forth. Every one of us saw death before his eyes.

And at that very moment, everyone cried out in one voice: Shema Yisrael, HaShem Elokeinu, HaShem echad! Everyone was certain that this was the last minute of his life.

Such a Shema Yisrael, cried out from the depths of the hearts of such varied people with such a wide range of philosophies, I have never heard, and I ask G‑d that this recollection should be preserved in my memory forever.

During those wartime days, not only did everyone see the workings of Divine Providence, and Elokus at every step, but in addition one could see how the sound heart of a Jew is saturated with genuine simple faith. Witnessing so manifestly how powerfully and how profoundly a belief in G‑d is rooted in the heart of a Jew – that is the good that I learned from the midst of the evil. The artless faith that surfaced in that universal outcry of Shema Yisrael opened up for me new wellsprings of love and reverence for the Jewish sons and daughters, whoever they may be. My deep conviction, based on factual proofs, is that the Torah-and-mitzvos heart of our fellow Jews is alive. It is only that in some places they have grown faint – and the task of rousing them is in the hands of inspiring speakers, educators and mentors.

Sichah 2

May G‑d send a salvation for the entire Jewish people. May He gladden our grieving hearts by bringing a complete Redemption through the Righteous Redeemer, in keeping with the blessing that all Jews in all countries wish for themselves, as with yearning eyes they await the arrival of our Righteous Mashiach.

According to the Torah, a blessing expressed by a Jew is something significant. How much more so, a blessing expressed by the entire Jewish people must certainly be significant, and cherished by G‑d. However, a blessing alone does not suffice. A blessing must be accompanied by real and actual avodah.

* * *

In the course of a summer stroll with my father in Marienbad25 in the month of Menachem Av, 5668 (1908), I reported to him on the mission in Petersburg26 with which I had been entrusted for the public welfare. It concerned the decree planned by Stolypin27 to expel the Jewish families living in 212 villages and townships. Having completed my report, I added: “Now I would like to ask for a blessing that G‑d should grant this project success, so that everything works out well for the benefit of about twelve thousand individuals28 who are in danger of losing their homes and their livelihood.”

My father replied: “After such hard work, which has (thank G‑d) been undertaken for their good through the agency of individuals who are influential in ruling circles, a blessing is needed, and a blessing can certainly help. And a blessing abides when it is accompanied by real and actual avodah.

“Look at what happened in the year 5639 (1879), when the incitement for pogroms (May we not know of such things!) began in Russia.29 After my father (the Rebbe Maharash) had repeatedly traveled to Petersburg, he was assured in various government circles that the incitement would be quashed. After the pogrom in Kiev and Niezhin broke out in 5640 (1880) and my father returned from a brief visit abroad, he again visited Petersburg. There, thanks to the good offices of Professor Iosif Bertenson,30 he was granted access to the Minister for the Interior.

“Sore at heart over the pogroms that were then raging, he reproached the minister by reminding him of his promise that the government would put an end to the current incitement. He went on to warn the minister explicitly that treating the Jews in this manner would arouse a furor abroad. The minister answered that he was well aware of the power of the Jewish capitalists abroad, but he also know of their cool relations with the Jews of Russia, and of their unloving – or even hateful – attitude to the rabbis.

“To this my father responded sharply that he understood from the minister’s words that he was unfamiliar with the mentality of Jews and their brotherly love. My father added: ‘I receive inquiries from influential capitalists abroad who want to know how they should relate to the dire news about the predicament of their fellow Jews in Russia. They want to know what they should do to ensure that Jewish life and property in Russia is safe and secure.’

“The minister was highly irritated and the following exchange ensued:

– What did you tell them?

I am delaying my answer until I hear an answer from the government regarding my efforts in that regard.

Lubavitcher Rebbe! Are you threatening the Russian government with overseas Jewish capitalists?!

– You should not regard this as a threat, but as a very serious fact that will also be fortified by the non-Jewish capitalists, because humanity at large will surely react sharply to such barbaric activities.

– So is the Lubavitcher Rebbe, with the help of the overseas capitalists, going to organize a revolution in Russia…?!

– No, that will be brought about by the negligence and bureaucracy of Russia’s governing circles.

“From that evening, my father was under house arrest for two days in his room in the Serapinsky Hotel that was situated on Zabalkansky Prospect. On the third day, when he was freed, he visited the minister to hear the results of his lobbying, and was told that he would be given an answer in two weeks.

“On Yud-Beis Tammuz, a few days after his return home from Petersburg, you31 were born. At the seudah in honor of the bris he was in high spirits, delivered a maamar of Chassidus, and sang a great deal. Towards the end of that festive meal, deep in thought, he sang the Alter Rebbe’s Niggun of Four Themes32 with an earnest yearning that sent a shudder through us all. He then remained deep in thought and his holy face was very serious. After some time he related the following:33

When I first began to engage in the activities of my father, the Tzemach Tzedek, for the public welfare, I asked him for his blessing that my avodah be granted success. He replied: “A blessing is like the rain. If a field has first been plowed and sown, the yield will be richer. If one first does everything that he is required to do for the public good, a blessing can make those endeavors succeed. The Jewish community in our country is undergoing a time of distress, and what we need is that G‑d should have pity on us and send us a salvation.” With G‑d’s help I did whatever could be done for the benefit of the public. I plowed, I sowed, and now we need the rain. That is the appropriate blessing – that G‑d grant success to one’s endeavors so that they will cause deliverance to sprout forth.

“And indeed, the exertions of my father (the Rebbe Maharash) were crowned with success, and for a period of time the situation became completely quiet.”34

* * *

That is what I wanted to tell you. One has to know how valuable a blessing is – but one should also realize that a blessing must be accompanied by real and actual avodah. Some people think that they can discharge their obligations by receiving a blessing. They argue that because of their material or spiritual situation, they ought not be counted among those who can actually do something. That, of course, is a big mistake. Every individual can take action and should take action.

True, faith and trust35 are fundamental elements of Yiddishkeit, and indeed, armed with faith and trust, Jews will survive this bitter exile and we will greet Mashiach, the Righteous Redeemer. Faith and trust are among the most prominent mitzvos, but that relates only to oneself. However, with regard to another, that person needs to be helped by practical action.

Thus, if he is missing something in one of the three areas of children, health or livelihood, he needs to have faith in G‑d that he deserves to receive it, and he needs to have trust in G‑d that He will help him. Moreover, the greater that person’s faith and trust, the greater is his mitzvah.

All of that applies to that individual himself. When, however, someone comes along and shares his distressing predicament with regard to one of the areas of children, health or livelihood, the listener is obligated to give him whatever tangible help he can, and also to comfort him and fortify his faith and trust. If, instead, one does not do him a tangible favor, but merely tells him that he should place his trust in G‑d, withholding one’s actual help is a serious transgression.

Everyone, whether of great or moderate wealth, and even one who is not at all a man of means, should exert himself to help his fellow by giving him not only a blessing, but also something tangible in which the blessing can abide.

* * *

Ten years ago,from 12 Elul 5689 (1929) until 20 Tammuz 5690 (1930), I was here with you in this country. In the course of that time I visited a few major cities with large Jewish populations and also several smaller towns with substantial numbers of Jews. In all of those communities, large and small alike, I inquired about their spiritual needs – shuls and yeshivos and other educational institutions, the observance of family purity36 and kashrus and Shabbos, and their communal life as expressed in various men’s and women’s associations.

I was interested in meeting the elderly, the middle-aged and the youth, as well as Jews of diverse philosophies of life. Thankfully, by virtue of the G‑d-given gift of acceptability, I was warmly received by people of all varieties of parties and hues, and was thus enabled to become familiar with the respective lifestyles of all those kinds of Jews. Since I am not affiliated to any party – in other words: since I love every fellow Jew – and since I wanted to make myself useful and help them all in fortifying the study and observance of Torah and mitzvos, it was easy for me to perceive the truth, namely, their innermost [and possibly dormant] Jewish nucleus, the luminous pintele Yid.

Every detail in the life of American Jews interested me, because in a Jew’s mindset and in his character traits, as in the realm of mitzvos, there is nothing that can be called a mere detail; everything in a Jew’s character and conduct is of the greatest significance.

On the verse, “Do not weigh the path of life,”37 the Sages record that R. Abba bar Kahana taught:38 “Do not sit and weigh the mitzvos of the Torah to see which one is richly rewarded…; rather, the lightest of the lightest and the weightiest of the weightiest are all equal.”

That verse teaches that one should not weigh the paths of life – the mitzvos – because they are so intimately bound with each other that one cannot know their differences.

Now, if the Sages tell us that they are “all equal,” how can they speak of “the lightest of the lightest and the weightiest of the weightiest”? The answer is that these phrases relate not to the mitzvos themselves, which are in fact all equal, but to their observance: some are easier to observe, while others are more difficult to observe.

Putting on tefillin, for example, is one of the mitzvos that are very easy to fulfill, even for young people who are very busy. If they would only know what a serious obligation this is, and that it is one of the signs of G‑d’s love for His people, and what a serious transgression it is not to observe it, every young man would find at least ten or fifteen minutes to put on tefillin every weekday.

* * *

I would like to tell you of an extraordinary incident that I recorded in writing, after having heard it from two eye-witnesses.

In Petersburg there once lived a wealthy chassid called R. Monish Monesson, a well-known figure in the jewelry circles of Russia, France, Holland and Belgium, where he had business contacts. In Warsaw there lived a wealthy individual called R. Menachem Mendel Rotshtein, who was also well known in the same circles. And in Paris there lived one of the leading jewelry merchants, whose name will not be mentioned here, out of respect for the departed. He was born in Russia, in Shklov; had been an accomplished yeshivah student; and had then gone abroad where he had become completely unobservant.

Having been a yeshivah student, even after fifty years in Paris he remembered what he had once studied, and would often discuss the subject of practical mitzvos. His favorite focus was the mitzvah of tefillin, which he regarded as being dispensable.

His thriving business took him to many countries, including Africa, where his wealthy eldest son lived.

When the father passed away, he was buried in one of the most prestigious spots in the Paris cemetery. Hundreds of people assembled there to pay their last respects and to farewell him on his way to his eternal repose. His son visited that place a few months later, and was gratified to see how his father had been honored by having been allocated that particular spot. Nevertheless, being a magnate, he bought a plot of land that was to become a family mausoleum, and a date was set for the reinterment.

Now, the law of the land stipulated that a reinterred body must be placed in a certain kind of coffin that had been constructed to serve this purpose. Among those invited to the second, quieter funeral, were R. Monish Monesson and R. Menachem Mendel Rotshtein.

As the grave was opened, the gravediggers and all the people – including those two men – who stood around the coffin were terror-stricken by what their eyes beheld. The body had deteriorated only slightly, but the spot above the forehead, where tefillin are usually placed, was infested by worms. Likewise, the upper left arm.

This extraordinary sight sparked an exchange of agitated reactions among all those present, but especially, as those two men related, among some of the young Jews who had not even known that there is a daily obligation to put on tefillin. They had thought that it was a one-time ceremony to be performed on the occasion of one’s bar-mitzvah, at age thirteen. Having now been told otherwise, and having witnessed what they had just witnessed, many of them later went out and bought themselves tefillin for daily use.

* * *

Indeed, some young people do not put on tefillin simply out of ignorance as to how serious a matter it is not to do so. If they would only know what a significant mitzvah it is, many of them would no doubt begin to observe it. Another major mitzvah is kashrus, whose observance requires only the goodwill of the housewife.

On the other hand, the observance of some of the critically important mitzvos entails various difficulties. Young people often consider the observance of Shabbos and of the family purity laws as difficult mitzvos. In very many cases, their hearts identify wholly with our Torah, they hold Torah scholars in esteem, contribute to charitable causes with a generous and open hand, have truly fine Jewish hearts and are proud of the name “Jew” – yet when it comes to the observance of Shabbos and of the family purity laws, they falter. Some of them are even unaware of the seriousness of this non-observance, and are likewise unaware of the physical retribution that it (G‑d forbid) entails.

Every Torah scholar, and every devout chassidisher householder, is obligated to help the learned communal rabbis in their sacred work of buttressing the observance of Yiddishkeit.

The rav of a community is the head of his town and of his shul, but a head must have a body – in this case, the townsmen who ought to follow his directives and do whatever they can to enable the positive influence of his words to be absorbed and implemented in the best way possible.

Some young people hold that Shabbos is one of the most difficult mitzvos to observe. In order to buttress the observance of Yiddishkeit, the most vital task is to fortify the holy endeavors of the various societies that promote Shabbos observance,39 by supporting them financially and by participating in their activities. Publications should be produced and disseminated, in the languages best understood by young people, that cite teachings of the Sages, as well as narratives and facts, relating to the retribution (G‑d forbid) that accompanies the desecration of the holy Shabbos day, and the rich reward – in This World, too – for its observance.

* * *

Young people often consider the family purity laws as a difficult mitzvah to observe. Even some of those who observe the restrictions that apply during the days of impurity do not relate seriously to the restrictions that apply identically during the subsequent days of purification, until immersion in a mikveh that is ritually kosher. The prevalent extreme ignorance of the laws governing family life, with the above cycle of niddah and immersion, brings about (G‑d forbid) grave ailments upon mothers and infants. Hence, in addition to the fact that the mitzvah of loving a fellow Jew obligates one to make his fellow Jews aware of the halachic obligation to observe the laws of family purity, it also obligates one to make them aware of the medical risks to the infant that are incurred by their non-observance.

It goes without saying that if such an incurable misfortune befalls a Jewish family, one must relate to the sufferer with the utmost sympathy and seek to console the grieving family – but one must also recall the underlying reason for their misfortune. However difficult it may appear to observe the above stages of purification and immersion in a kosher mikveh, that is still easier than the painful difficulty of sitting next to the bed of an ailing child and watching the suffering that this innocent boy or girl is enduring. And why? – Because that child’s own parents did not want to take responsibility for their actions.

It is easy to imagine the heartache that this sight brings upon the parents, and usually upon the mother in particular. Obviously, out of the love of a fellow Jew, one must ask G‑d to have pity on them and heal their child. Nevertheless, keeping in mind the causes of this situation, one must seek pleasant and approachable ways to arouse young people to maintain family purity according to its halachic definition. As a matter of urgency, women’s organizations should be formed to focus on this subject, by organizing conferences and meetings that will explain the essential necessity for this mitzvah, including the aspect of health, to the broad masses of Jewry.

* * *

This, then, is the meaning of the teaching of the Sages who speak of “light” mitzvos and “weighty” mitzvos. These phrases relate not to the mitzvos themselves, but to their observance: some are easier to observe, while others are more difficult to observe. As far as the mitzvos themselves are concerned, there are no differences; they are all equal. And just as this is true of mitzvos, so too is it true of Jewish life. Nothing is a mere detail. Every feature of whatever takes place in a Jew’s life is significant.

* * *

To return now to what was said earlier – that in the course of my visit of over ten months in your country I became familiar with all strata of Jewish life here.

At the rabbinic welcoming reception on the day of our arrival here, the ninth of Adar Sheni, I spoke of the impressions I had gathered from my visits and from discussions with various delegations and individuals, as briefly noted in my diary. The impression of American Jews in general and of the youth in particular, that stood out as the most appealing and pleasurable, was their temimus, their disarming artlessness.

In the course of the past ten years,40 since (thank G‑d) I had connections with almost the majority of the larger towns in these countries, I kept myself informed as to the spirit of Torah study that has grown stronger among young people. Of particular interest was the life and lifestyle of young people in America and Canada, especially among Torah scholars and yeshivah students. The above-mentioned impression of the prevalent tone of temimus, in particular among the local youth, endows me with hope that G‑d’s help will grant success to my Divinely-engineered mission – to make America a home for Torah that is studied with the awe of Heaven, just as in the Old Country, with its Torah study and avodas HaShem.