The years during which the discourses in Sefer HaMaamarim-Yiddish first appeared, 1941 to 1945, were times of turbulence and turmoil. A new and unprecedented chapter in Jewish martyrdom was being written with the blood of our Jewish brethren, (may G‑d avenge them).

The Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, of blessed memory, had just arrived in America, having miraculously escaped the clutches of the Nazi beasts (may their memory be obliterated). Broken in body but not in spirit, he immediately set out to strengthen Judaism in America, as well as to offer comfort, solace and aid to Jews the world over.

One of the ways he did this was by publishing the monthly journal HaKeriah VehaKedushah, Readings and Holiness, which had as its motto: "LiAlter LiTeshuvah, LiAlter LiGeulah," - Let us immediately repent and we will immediately be redeemed.

A highlight of the journal was the section Yilamdeinu Rabbeinu, "May our Master Teach Us," which featured Yiddish discourses by the Previous Rebbe. Fifty-three discourses appeared, which were later compiled in book form. "Sefer HaMaamarim Yiddish," the translation of which now appears at the behest of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, includes these discourses.

In keeping with the spiritual needs of the times, most of the Maamarim revolve around the concepts of self-sacrifice for G‑d and Judaism; repentance; strengthening Torah and mitzvos observance; the meaning and lesson of the earthshaking events that were then occurring, and their connection to the coming of Moshiach.

The discourses are as timely now as they were then.

Many of the Maamarim appearing here are in the form of hemsheichim, i.e., the discourses are interrelated, and subject matter treated briefly in one is expounded on in the discourses that follow. Since the Maamarim were written for a vast and wide-ranging audience, the subject matter as a whole is not too esoteric, and may be tackled without trepidation even by those first entering the portals of Chassidic philosophy. At the same time, because of the intrinsically refined nature of the work, explanatory footnotes and clarifications (appearing in brackets within the text) were added.

The book's length 53 individual discourses means that it must be published in two volumes, the present volume containing the first 26 discourses, and the remaining 27 to be published, G‑d willing, in the near future. A glossary of terms and a comprehensive index will appear at the end of the second volume.

Quotes appearing in the original text are prefaced in the footnotes with the words "Note in original." Footnotes by the Rebbe to the original edition are indicated by the words "Footnotes in original." All other sources and references have been annotated by Rabbis H. Notik and E. Matusof. Explanatory footnotes, when not otherwise indicated, are by the translator.

The Maamarim in this book originally appeared in individual installments, published by Sichos In English. Special appreciation is hereby expressed to Rabbi Yonah Avtzon, director of Sichos In English, who was responsible for the editing of the installments, as well as the publication of this volume.

Although great effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this translation, inadvertent errors may have been made, for which the translator bears full responsibility.

Sholom B. Wineberg

Shevat 10, 5746 (1986), the 36th yahrtzeit of the author, the Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn (of blessed memory), and the anniversary of the ascension to leadership of the present Rebbe, may he lead us to Moshiach now.