In 1945, after a decade of fearless battle against adversity in Soviet Russia, and a decade of confrontation with other kinds of adversity after leaving Russia, the Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, was in the midst of his third decade as Rebbe. Now in the free world, with the sound and fury of the war years behind him, challenges of a different kind loomed before him. Seemingly they were less formidable, but in fact they were no less threatening to the very survival of the Jewish people as a Jewish people. Many Jews in the New World were now newly savoring freedom and prosperity in the Land of Gold, and assimilation in the spicy melting pot of American culture offered a tantalizing option. In the past, it was adversity that had taken the lives of thousands. Now, prosperity was threatening the lives of even more, yet some rabbinic and lay leaders were merely wringing their hands in despair.

During the same period, when Eretz Yisrael was still agonizing under the British Mandate, the secular leaders of the Yishuv were courageously saving great numbers of refugees (“illegal immigrants”) from the camps of postwar Europe and settling them in the Holy Land. However, in the eyes of many, including the Rebbe Rayatz, the manner in which thousands of unaccompanied refugee children were being educated was a cause for alarm.

The above cataclysmic crises of that era – in America, the lure of assimilation, and in Eretz Yisrael, the secular indoctrination of those children from observant European homes – are only two of the urgent issues that explain the passion that fires the present broad range of talks. As in all the farbrengens of the Rebbe Rayatz, these talks are a veritable symphony of diverse but harmonious themes – inspirational teachings, chassidic expositions, candid (but loving) pointers to personal growth, historical jottings, portraits of vintage chassidim, heartwarming narratives, family traditions, and pungent comments on the Jewish world of his time.

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The present volume was translated and annotated* by Uri Kaploun, designed and typeset by Yosef Yitzchok Turner, and prepared for publication by Rabbi Yonah Avtzon, Director of Sichos In English. Thanks are due to Rabbi Aharon Leib Raskin of Otzar HaChassidim for his assistance in locating sources, and to our many fellow chassidim who volunteered valuable background information.

In publishing The Sichos of 5705 (1944-1945), we at Sichos In English are happy to invite our readers to enjoy its resonant soul-music.

Sichos In English

Yud-Alef Nissan, 5774 (2014)