1 1. There is a rejoicing of the Torah, and there is a rejoicing of Torah scholars.2 The Torah’s joyful festivity takes place on the day that is called Simchas Torah;3 the joyful festivity of the Torah scholars takes place on Shavuos. The Torah and Torah scholars are inseparable. The Torah and souls – in their Source and likewise in their manifest state – are inseparable. At their Source, both the Torah and souls are rooted in Atzmus, in the very Essence of Elokus, and likewise in their manifest state, the Torah cannot be separated from souls.

Similarly, within the realm of souls alone, one cannot draw a line between a Torah scholar’s soul and other souls. In their pristine state Above, there is no difference between a Torah scholar’s soul and the soul of an ordinary, unlettered Jew. In their manifest state likewise, there is no difference between one soul and another. The Alter Rebbe revealed4 that souls are equal, even in their manifest state.

2. The Alter Rebbe states that all souls are equal, even in their manifest state.Now, in what sense are they equal? One person can wake up at 3:00 a.m. and the first thought that comes to mind is a statement of Tosafos, or Rambam, or the Rosh.(In fact a certain reputed scholar5 once told me that one morning, from the moment he began to dress until he washed his hands,6 the solutions to two problematic arguments of Tosafos popped into his head.) Another person, not a scholar but a wagon-driver, wakes up, washes negl-vasser, and tells his wife to give the horses water and hay, while he runs off to shul to do his davenen.7 (True, opdavenen is a harsh term, but the wagon-driver says it without stopping to think.) Before he leaves, he tells his wife that if anyone asks where he is, she should say that he is in shul.

Now, although he davens there as part of a minyan, [which is of course highly commendable,] how can one say that his soul is equal to the soul of the above Torah scholar?

The solution is that every soul has its shlichus, its unique mission, and as far as the empowering input of the One Who dispatches them is concerned, all souls are equal, each soul having been sent down to fulfill its own distinctive mission.

3. Chassidim are smart. There is a verse that says, “Instruct a wise man, and he will grow wiser.”8That verse applies particularly to ovdim, chassidishe ovdim. A maskil is someone who studies extensively and is familiar with a broad range of texts, and hence is able to verbalize concepts clearly. An oved has a more limited scope and is less articulate. His main concern is hergesh – feeling, spiritual sensitivity. In common usage, this implies an [over-]awareness of oneself, and a person in that state is called a murgash. In chassidic usage, hergesh describes a spiritual perception that is [grasped not only intellectually but is also] felt and experienced. In common usage, hergesh thus implies pride, which means that such a person’s ruchniyus, his spiritual life, is coarse. That is the kind of hergesh that characterizes the study of Chassidus and the avodah of Chassidus today. (The above was a parenthetical remark, but it had to be pointed out.)

If someone is described as a maskil and an oved, this means that he can verbalize his spiritual sensitivity.

4. When a soul descends from Above in order to be enclothed in a body, it has its shlichus, its mission – but [once it is] here below, that person must see to it that he should not be one of the souls that go astray.9

To illustrate this, a story has been handed down in the name of the Alter Rebbe, a story about a rich man and his wagon-driver. In former times, wealthy merchants used to travel far afield only once a year to buy their stock of merchandise, and the rest of the time they devoted to their Torah studies. One Friday afternoon, after this merchant arrived with his wagon-driver at a certain town, he went off to immerse in the local mikveh in honor of the approaching holy day and, dressed now in his immaculate Shabbos clothes, he proceeded to the local shul. On the way, however, he encountered a huge wagon that was stuck in the mud. Recalling the mitzvah that commands us to “surely help” [one’s fellow whose donkey is stranded],10 he strode forward to help. However, that kind of toil was so foreign to him that he clambered out of it bespattered, besmirched, and slightly injured – and that’s how he walked into shul...

Meanwhile, after his wagon-driver had been to the mikveh he arrived at shul early, so he read Tehillim. Looking around, he saw a number of poverty-stricken wanderers who had arrived in town, so he invited one after another to his home, ten in all, for the seudah of Friday evening. After the prayers of Kabbalas Shabbos, when the gabbai and the shammes were about to allocate those wanderers to various local householders, all ten of them answered that they were already looked after.

After davenen, the merchant made his sorry way to his lodgings, while his wagon-driver showed his ten guests the way to his lodgings. The merchant had fulfilled the mitzvah of helping out one’s fellow, and the wagon-driver had fulfilled the mitzvah of hosting wayfarers.

“After 120 years,”11 when their time came, and their respective files were opened in the Heavenly Court, it was ruled that the wagon-driver was to be resent Below in order to fulfill the mitzvah of helping one’s fellow, and the merchant was to be resent Below in order to fulfill the mitzvah of hosting wayfarers. 12

Every individual, then, has his individual mission in life – but one must keep in mind what his particular shlichus is, and not to confuse it with someone else’s shlichus. It was in this spirit that the Alter Rebbe13 understood the subtext encoded in the question that one sage asks another in the Gemara: “In the observance of which mitzvah was your father most punctilious?”14 Now, the word for “punctilious” is זָהִיר, whose three root-letters also mean “radiate.” The message of the question is thus, “In the observance of which mitzvah did the Divine light radiate most intensely in your father’s soul?”

However, as far as the empowering input of the One Who dispatched all those individuals is concerned, their souls are all the same.

5. The Torah’s joyful festivity takes place on the day that is called Simchas Torah, which comes after Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, Hoshana Rabbah and Shemini Atzeres. The joyful festivity of the Torah scholars, which takes place on Shavuos, comes after the Counting of the Omer15 – and everyone knows the difference between the mode of avodah that characterizes Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur,16 and the mode of avodah that characterizes the Counting of the Omer.17

6. The following thought ought to be spoken about at length, but what needs to be said will now only be outlined very briefly.

The joy of Torah scholars comprises various kinds. They include (a) the joy experienced when a person comprehends his Torah studies, and (b) the joy that is experienced when the Torah is rescued.18 The difference between them corresponds to the difference between the drawing down of Divine light in the immanent mode of influence called memaleh [kol almin], and the drawing down of Divine light in the transcendent mode of influence called sovev [kol almin].19 The above difference also corresponds to the difference between positivity and negativity.20

7. Some miracles are enclothed in the natural order, whereas other miracles are [visibly] supernatural. Additional variables are the times and places at which miracles occur. We are coming closer to the time at which it will be possible to reveal all the details of those days.21

Today’s festivity [of Yud-Beis Tammuz22] celebrates the rescue of the Torah, and the lesson to be learned from this date is that [likewise] here in America, Torah should be studied without any compromises. America must become a center of Torah study, just like Lithuania and Poland. There must be self-sacrificing dedication23 for Torah, and for avodah, and for a custom that safeguards the respect due to the Torah, and for the beautiful and conscientious performance of a mitzvah.24 We have often mentioned25 that even a custom initiated by pious women is also part of the Torah. The respect due to the Torah, and the value of a hiddur mitzvah, are concepts that should be known by everyone.

8. Duringmy first 24 hours in America26 the question arose within me: “Master of the Universe!27 Why did You bring me to this country?” However, in the merit of my holy forebears, things have been accomplished. What is needed at this time in America is mesirus nefesh in the cause of Torah – the Torah without compromise, Torah that is studied in a spirit of yir’as Shamayim, the awe of Heaven.

In the year 5688 (1927), when I arrived in Riga, [Latvia,] I found there a yeshivah based on the principle of “Torah im derech eretz,” which was there understood to imply the study of Torah together with secular studies.28 I told the people in charge that this is not the desired ideal: what is called for is Torah studied in a spirit of yir’as Shamayim. A child should be taught [to read by the time-honored method]:29 kometz-alef – o; pasach-beis – ba, and not by the method followed in [the textbook entitled] Reishis Daas [Sfas Eiver],30 which in fact displays [not its translation as “the Beginning of Understanding (of the Language of the Hebrews)” but] an absence of understanding, and is promoted by people of limited understanding.

We find that the Prophet Yonah identified himself with the words, “Ivri anochi – I am a Hebrew, and I stand in awe of G‑d, L‑rd of the Heavens!”31 Merely calling oneself a Hebrew is meaningless. Only when a person stands in awe of G‑d, L‑rd of the Heavens, can he rightfully be called a Hebrew. True, Torah needs to be accompanied by derech eretz,28 but the central pillar should be Torah, with derech eretz as a subsidiary prop, and not the reverse, as is the case in their Talmud Torah schools.

9. The mesirus nefesh of Avraham was different from the mesirus nefesh of R. Akiva. R. Akiva yearned for mesirus nefesh. In his words, “When will this [mitzvah] present itself so that I can fulfill it?”32 That is why later, when he was caught, the Torah questions that he was asked were disguised by hints. True, this was done in order to safeguard his disciples. Nevertheless, the fact that this was done out of consideration, even for others, smacks of self-awareness, of being a murgash.33

Avraham Avinu, in contrast, did not seek opportunities for mesirus nefesh. He sought only to make the world aware of Elokus, and if this life-task of his called for mesirus nefesh, then that, too, was a ready option. That is why, even when he was incarcerated, he continued to make people aware of the presence of Elokus in the world.

10. The Sages teach: “Anyone whose fear of sin precedes his wisdom, his wisdom will endure, but anyone whose wisdom precedes his fear of sin, his wisdom will not endure.”34 A person’s fear of sin must precede his wisdom. Thus, even if he does stand in fear of sin, but that fear of sin does not precede his wisdom, his wisdom will not endure.

11. Some of the kings of Judea and Israel35 are termed “kings of Tohu, the [primordial] World ofChaos,” while others are termed “kings of Tikkun, the [primordial] World of Order.” Those who are called “kings of Tohuare the ones who had no interest in the orderliness of Tikkun. True, every tikkun – that is, every correction or reformation – must come about as the result of a breach, an act of tohu, but that is so only if the breach was motivated by an intention to ultimately bring about a state of tikkun.

A tangible application of this sequence, [whereby a breach serves the positive goal of tikkun,] is the law that “it is forbidden to demolish a synagogue [until a new one is built].”36 However, since construction cannot begin until the old building is cleared from the same site, the above quotation means that all the detailed preparations must be completed beforehand. In contrast, when a breach is motivated by Tohu alone, considerations of Tikkun are not taken into account.

That was the case with the [godless] kings of the [Northern] Kingdom of Israel. The coarsest and grossest of them was Ach’av (Ahab), whose character was depraved. Menasheh, [another of those kings,] was depraved conceptually. Indeed, the Sages teach that when he stood in judgment over the Prophet Yeshayahu (Isaiah), he said: “Moshe, your teacher…,” [and proceeded to spell out a whole list of seemingly pious but malicious accusations].37 Worst of them all was Achaz (Ahaz), who was not only depraved morally and conceptually. Beyond that, as the Sages teach: “Why was he called Achaz (אָחָז)? – Because he seized (אָחַז) synagogues and houses of Torah study, so that children would not be able to study Torah there. His intention was that they should learn to read by the modern method, that is, not by saying kometz-alef – o and pasach-beis – ba, but by reading the whole syllable directly, without learning the names of the vowel signs.38

Teaching a child to read with the names of the vowel signs infuses him with kedushah. The musical signs,39 the vowel signs,40 the miniscule crowns41 atop certain letters, and the letters of the alphabet42 – these were all given to Moshe at Sinai when G‑d said, Anochi Havayah Elokecha – “I am the L‑rd your G‑d.” When a child is taught in this way, he is invested with the power required for mesirus nefesh. If he is taught otherwise, he is being taught without kedushah – and that was the aim of Achaz.

Observing this, the Prophet Yeshayahu asked [the following rhetorical question that voices the pain of a prophet, such as himself, who was dispatched to reprove a generation that rejects his message]:43 “Whom will he teach understanding, and to whom will he expound a teaching?”44 Yeshayahu was pained by the serious damage that mistaken teaching can cause, proceeding from one level to another. Just as in the realm of kedushah there is “a ladder set on the ground, its top reaching up to the heavens,”45 so too the ladder of Achaz proceeds from one level to another [even lower level]. The basic problem is that this approach leads to outright disbelief.

At one point, Yeshayahu says, “Here I am, with the children whom G‑d has given me.”46 Eventually, however, once he had merely two students47 – which means that after he had the first children who were taught in the proper manner, with the holy letters and the nekudos and the te’amim – he no longer had cause to fear Achaz, because from this beginning, a pure education would eventually sprout forth.

12. As has been repeatedly stated,48 those Talmud Torah schools, whose male and female teachers are transgressors who desecrate Shabbos and whose observance of the mitzvah of tefillin is doubtful, are literally houses of apostasy, because their products will be disbelievers. Not only will their parents be left without anyone to say Kaddish [after their passing] or [to recall their souls at] Yizkor, and will lie neglected in disgrace without leaving “a Kaddish.”49 Beyond that, those children will grow up to be outright disbelievers. They are worse than a church, because no Jew steps in there – except for those “rabbis” who enter a church in order to officiate at a joint funeral, or who invite its clergymen to their congregations. As a rule, though, Jews vigilantly refrain from entering a church, but do not keep their distance from the above-described Talmud Torah schools. People must realize that the above-described male and female teachers are worse than missionaries, because whereas they keep their distance from missionaries, they do not keep their distance from schools such as the Sholem Aleichem Schools and the Workers’ Circle Schools. Whenever a Jew passes by such a school, he should pause and say, “That’s a house of apostasy. In there, little Jewish children are being baptized.”

13. Everything comprises both an inner dimension (pnimiyus) and an outer dimension (chitzoniyus). In broad terms, these correspond to body and soul: the soul represents internality and the body, externality. Seen more closely, this internality itself comprises both an inner dimension and an outer dimension. Pnimiyus thus includes both an outer dimension (chitzoniyus shebipnimiyus) and an inner dimension (pnimiyus shebipnimiyus). So, too, externality itself comprises both an inner dimension (pnimiyus shebechitzoniyus) and an outer dimension (chitzoniyus shebechitzoniyus).50

The Alter Rebbe once dispatched one of his disciples, R. Aharon of Strashelye, to liaise between the misnagdim and the chassidim in a certain town. Those misnagdim were of the placid and G‑d-fearing kind, whose intentions were directed for the sake of Heaven.51

They asked R. Aharon: “What is a chassid?”(After all, a chassid is worse than a chayah, an undomesticated animal such as a deer. One is obligated to cover the blood of a slaughtered chayah, whereas it is permitted to shed the blood of a chassid without covering it, while ignoring the prohibition52 to stand by while the blood of your fellowman is being spilled…53)

R. Aharon answered: “A chassid is someone whose interior is a fiery flame, because he thirsts for Elokus, which is likened to fire, as in the phrase, ‘for the L‑rd your G‑d is an all-consuming fire.’54 Externally, at the same time, he is deliberate. That is the artless spiritual personality of a chassid.”55

[With that in mind,] let me now address the temimim, the students of the Tomchei Temimim Yeshivah:

You must go out with the fiery zeal of chassidim, and speak to each individual fellow Jew about chinuch, the education of his children.

In America, chinuch means that first of all one must be an American, conscientiously observing all of the local customs and festivals down to the finest detail. When a boy is big enough, he is sent off to study “Hebrew,” and during the year before his bar-mitzvah he is taught the blessings and the haftarah for that occasion. In a word, it’s easy to guess what his Yiddishkeit will consist of.

It needs to be explained that Yiddishkeit can flourish here in America without any compromise – but that very message must be conveyed with the greatest deliberateness. Then, without a doubt, it will (with G‑d’s help) bring about the desired results.

14. I ask of the One Above that my words will be listened to, and that they will be internalized.

I will now recount something – as much of it as can now be revealed– that occurred during the earlier World War. Just before that war broke out, the czarist regime issued a decree that had been promoted by the activists of the Society for the Dissemination of the Haskalah.56 All the G‑d-fearing chadarim were to be closed down, and were to be replaced by what were termed chadarim mesukanim. (But perhaps חֲדָרִים מְתוּקָנִים should rightfully be spelled חֲדָרִים מְסוּכָּנִים…?)57 As to the teachers employed by the former chadarim, who would now lose their livelihood, the activists of the Society for the Dissemination of the Haskalah offered to provide, out of the generosity of their impure hearts, half a million rubles. The new law was publicized in all the Jewish towns and townships and was due to be effective on July 10, according to the local calendar.

In the meantime, an unpublicized meeting was held, comprising my father, the gaon R. Chayim Brisker, the gaon R. Chayim Ozer [Grodzinsky], and two other [prominent personalities]. I, too, was present. I was deputed to travel abroad together with another person in connection with this matter. At that meeting, after the predicament had been considered and it was clear that nothing could be done and that there was nothing to hope for, my father said: “May the One Above grant that what always happens in such situations should materialize!”

Before I set out, my father repeatedly instructed and warned me that whatever happened I should make haste, that on no account should I remain abroad too long, and that I should return home as soon as possible. Shortly after, World War I broke out, and the scheme of the Society for the Dissemination of the Haskalah collapsed.

An old adage says that the past is a teacher for the present and a guide for the future. It should be realized that if agovernment is antagonistic to the Torah, that deals a destructive blow to the entire country. Let it be clear that one should not rely on the victories [of the Allied Forces]. [As far as we are concerned,] what is called for in this country is mesirus nefesh in the cause of Torah study that is inspired by the awe of Heaven, as distinct from “Torah with derech eretz.”58 America must become a home for Torah, whether willingly, or even under duress.59 Yeshivos Achei Temimim60 should be founded in every city in America.

15. A soldier on the battlefront ensures that his artillery is aimed at the enemy; he should not (G‑d forbid) [be so flustered as to] aim in the opposite direction.[This did happen during the reign of King Chizkiyahu, when the mighty invading forces of Sancheriv of Assyria drew near to Yerushalayim,61 and] “an angel of G‑d went out and smote the camp of Assyria,” [and its forces were miraculously annihilated].62 Their weaponry was directed towards themselves. That miracle occurred by virtue of the self-sacrificing devotion [of the inhabitants of Yerushalayim] to the Torah.63

[In our predicament likewise,] what is called for now is – studying Torah, toiling in avodah, and contributing tzedakah to support the [widespread] study of Torah.

[At this point the Rebbe Rayatz directed that those present should sing the Alter Rebbe’s Niggun of Four Themes, and that the final theme should be sung three times.]

16. May the One Above grant everyone a healthy summer, and may all the businessmen be prosperous – so that they will be able to contribute tzedakah to maintain the study of Torah, intact and unalloyed.64