The Nazi volcano had erupted, and its seething lava was devastating the precious Jewish communities of Europe. In fact, even the distant shores of complacent America were rocked by the tsunami that it let loose, as this volume’s spiritual seismograph testifies. The time was the year 5701, from late 1940 to late 1941, and the impassioned talks which the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn (the Rebbe Rayatz* ), delivered in that agonizing year are translated for the first time in this volume. They resound throughout with his urgent call to American Jews: firstly, to sensitize them to the realization that the European Jews who were under mortal threat were their own unnamed brothers and sisters; and secondly, to rouse them to read Heaven’s blatant signals correctly.

The Rebbe Rayatz repeatedly affirmed that the current upheaval – the birth pangs of Mashiach – was an urgent wake-up call from Above. It was time for assimilating Jews to recall that each of us was sent down to This World not in order to blandly materialize the Great American Dream; we were sent here in order to make This World a dwelling place for G‑d, by living a life that is sweet and selfless and purposeful and spiritual – a Jewish life. At the same time he warned against escapist denial, against reliance on any noisy political talk that offered quick solutions as an alternative to that eternal ideal.

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As with the other volumes in this series, the dominant tone of this volume is set by energizing and empowering themes. They include: stimulating teachings drawn from the revealed and mystical realms of the Torah on a host of subjects; original interpretations of Biblical and Talmudic and Midrashic statements; refreshing oral traditions from all the Rebbeim that refine and fine-tune our conception of key terms such as tzaddik, Rebbe, chassid, avodah, meditation, and farbrengen; large-as-life vignettes of chassidim of every era and every description; chronicles of the early struggles of the chassidic movement; and recollections of how the Rebbe Rashab groomed his son from early childhood for his destined role.

Predictably, the farbrengens in this volume are also spiced with candid and outspoken comments about a wide range of sensitive subjects. They include: chassidim who go through all the prescribed motions but spiritually are (in his words) “fast asleep”; self-righteous and judgmental preachers; glorifying one’s own petty endeavors by describing them as “self-sacrifice”; advice on how to sleep like a Jew, and how to see another’s brighter side; bridging the communication gap between a scholarly mashpia and his unintellectual listeners; and congregational rabbis whose sermons are allowed to include jokes, but no mention of Shabbos or family purity.

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This volume was translated and annotated** by Uri Kaploun, designed and typeset by Yosef Yitzchok Turner, and scrutinized and prepared for publication by Rabbi Yonah Avtzon. Thanks are due to Rabbi Sholom Dober Levin, editor of Toildois Chabad b’Artzois Ha’bris, 5660-5710 (Kehot, N.Y., 1988; Heb.), for historical information; Rabbi Sholom B. Wineberg for constructive input; Rabbi Aharon Leib Raskin of Otzar HaChassidim for his willing assistance in locating and interpreting sources; and to our many fellow chassidim who volunteered valuable background information.

In publishing this volume, we at Sichos In English are happy to invite our readers to feel at home and join us again in an unforgettable farbrengen that is entitled – Sefer HaSichos 5701.

Sichos In English

Yud Shvat, 5776 (2016),
yahrzeit-hillula of the Rebbe Rayatz,
and anniversary of the Rebbe’s assumption
of the nesius of Chabad-Lubavitch