A Letter of the Rebbe Rayatz

By the Grace of G‑d
Iyar 2, 5681 [1921]
Rostov [on] Don.

My Esteemed Friend,

Greetings and Blessings!

I received your letter of Rosh Chodesh Iyar, and I thank G‑d that you are well. May the Almighty grant that at all times we may exchange tidings of pleasantness and peace in spiritual and material matters.

For this is the one thing that has remained intact for us in our world:1 the love and comradeship between our brethren. It should be so very precious and beloved and pleasurable a thing to hear good news of another, to share in a friend’s joy and well-being, to participate equally with him in all things that may happen by Divine Providence, to inspire and to remind him to perceive everything with a discerning eye, and at times also to fortify his heart and mind to ensure that he remains physically unaffected by matters that appear to be the opposite of good, G‑d forbid. This necessitates searching and pondering, to reach that level of wisdom where a person each according to his capacity is able to discern in the apparent evil the future good that will result, even if at present it is temporarily hidden. (In this spirit, it is recounted in the stories of Rabbeinu Nissim that R. Yehoshua ben Levi once journeyed with the ProphetEliyahu and observed several wondrous incidents [which seemed to him to be evil and unjust, but which in the end were revealed to be good and just.])2

It is known that every fruit is hidden within a shell, and to extract the fruit the shell (as of nuts, for example3) must be broken. This is what our Divine service is actually all about: To shatter that which is coarse [in the world] until the Almighty will have mercy, and the goodly fruit within will be revealed. And he whom G‑d has endowed with a clear mind to realize that a goodly fruit is concealed within the husk will, with the mighty power of his yearning and desire and thirst to enjoy the pleasurable fruit, break the husk obscuring it.

In uncovering the fruit, the way the husk is broken is also important, for since occasionally the fruit can be ruined by the use of excessive force, skill and care must be exercised to ensure that it remains whole. This skill and care corresponds to the ways of Chassidus bequeathed to us by our saintly Rebbes. The ways of Chassidus are supplementary and introductory to the actual body and essence of knowledge and service of the heart (which are important for the growth of the inner fruit itself), and are the first step of a ladder which ascends ever higher. Among the ways of Chassidus are the love and comradeship between our brethren elements which comprise the way of life of the chassidic brotherhood. That is, each and every individual is close to his fellow and his fellow’s concerns touch his very soul. For we are all sons of one father and one teacher, all striving to rise ever higher within the Holy of Holies, to know G‑d and to serve Him wholeheartedly, each according to the capacity that He has granted him to better himself, his household and his fellow. This constitutes our portion in life.

In return, G‑d will make His countenance shine upon us with kindness and with favor, that we may perceptively understand all that we learn of G‑d’s Torah for such is our covenant, granted to us eternally through the merit of the Alter Rebbe of saintly memory. This is well known from the Alter Rebbe’s account of his imprisonment, when he was visited by his saintly Rebbes, Baal Shem Tov and the Maggid.4 On that occasion, through his pure self-sacrifice and toil, he ensured the future realization of the promise given to the Baal Shem Tov (או״ר ישרא״ל) that5 “your wellsprings [i.e., the teachings of Chassidus] shall be disseminated abroad” (יפוצו מעינותיך חוצה). That is to say, they would illuminate doubly (בשנ״י או״ר) “with a double portion of your spirit”6 and be revealed to all. And it is with this that we shall greet the hope of all Israel the true Redeemer; may he come speedily in our days.

We have known clearly that there are seven branches7 to the Menorah , and the seventh is precious.8 (So too at the beginning of creation, when the Divine Name Elokim is mentioned [in Bereishis] 32 times until Shabbos , the seventh day, when the Name Havayah was revealed. (Similarly, the Divine Name Havayah was made known through Moshe Rabbeinu, and not the preceding generations (cf. Shmos 6:2-3), because [beginning from Avraham] Moshe was the seventh generation of the righteous [and “the seventh is precious”].) Indeed, the seventh branch is the foundation of the entire body of the Menorah , enabling all the other six branches to shed light and revelation.

A discerning person sees that all the acts of the True Designer are of interlocking purpose, and9 “there is nothing new under the sun.” It is therefore incumbent upon the disciples of the “seventh lamp,”10 and upon their disciples, to fortify themselves in all ways to become receptacles for the Luminary. Upon each of them devolves the obligation and mitzvah to lend strength to his fellow, to aid and support him, and to walk the well-trodden ways and paths revealed to us by our forefathers, the saintly Rebbes. And let each man cleanse his heart of even the slightest trace of a negative character trait, and look upon his fellow with a kindly and compassionate eye, judging him favorably at all times.

If, after all this, something which appears to be bad should perchance be discovered, one should not step back silent; instead, let matters be clarified and cleansed. But this should be done as a father admonishes his son and a man his brother only his son and his brother may he admonish, for since this is his son, whatever happens to him, good or evil, matters to him. Then the words of rebuke will be words that spring from the heart and that find acceptance in the heart of the listener and that also have an effect on the heart of the speaker himself, arousing him in all that his heart meditates and his lips utter.

The basic principle of speech amongst ourselves is not to speak [words of rebuke] to others but to ourselves; then automatically the other fellow also hears and takes from them what is relevant to him. The resultant good is then doubled and redoubled, and the [other’s] merit is acquired through one who is already meritorious.

For it should be clear to each of us that every person knows within himself what he is and that he does not err about himself at all. And if at first it appears that a person does consider himself important [and thus is deluding himself], two explanations are possible. First, it may be that it is the viewer who is at fault that he views the other person as being self-important only because his own self-importance leads him to impute that character trait to another. The truth may be otherwise. For if one looks into a mirror one sees himself; one relates whatever one perceives about the image in the mirror to the person, and not to the mirror. In the words of the Baal Shem Tov, “Whatever a Jew sees and hears, is what is important to him in his service of G‑d.”

The second explanation is that the other fellow may well be hiding his true self. His seeming self-importance is no proof that he is not cognizant of his essential self; he may be well aware of everything that pertains to himself, and at times may also grieve about his spiritual state but he hides it from others. If he would know that another is concerned about his welfare and is a faithful friend, he would certainly reveal to him the innermost recesses of his heart, in order to enlist his aid in bettering his character (as discussed in the maamar entitled Heichaltzu 5659). Close friendship, therefore, by speech and by letter, with goodly comradeship in love and amity, these open the lock of the heart that separates men, so that they unite and join in the strong bonds of pleasantness that proceed from the fountain of the Holy of Holies.

This was the path chosen by our fathers, the saintly Rebbes, as the starting point to the road that leads upwards to holiness. It is therefore incumbent upon us their disciples, and the disciples of their disciples, who cherish their ways and are drawn after them with all our heart and soul to walk in this straight path, with the unmistaken foreknowledge that it is but the introduction to the introduction to Divine service. Yet we should also know that when we are sweet friends, faithfully beloved of each other and united at heart, then we may hope that the L-rd our G‑d will be with us, by virtue of our saintly fathers, our Rebbes concerning whom all of us, as one man, implore and beseech G‑d from the depths of our heart that we may be attached soul and body to them and to their will, their Torah teachings, and their ways. And may their merit stand in good stead for each and every one of us, their disciples and disciples of their disciples, in all things spiritual and material, so that we be blessed with ease of heart and peace of mind.

May we merit to have the goodly light openly revealed, to the extent that the small and simple in knowledge shall be as a thousand and tens of thousands, his deeds flourishing along the path of pleasantness, with G‑d and humanity deriving satisfaction from him that is to say, from each of us, irrespective of one’s standing in Divine service, for in this matter we are all equal. This blessing will come about, thanks to the Almighty’s kindness, through the love between friends and the cleaving together of comrades. May it come to all of us together, small and great, with one heart, regardless of the distances between us. “For G‑d has scattered us like the four winds of the heavens,”11 for a particular purpose known to the Cause of all Causes and from the four corners of the heavens will the Merciful Father gather us, with kindness and with mercy, so that we may behold the countenance of the Master, the L-rd of Hosts, with joy and with gladness of heart.

(Here ends the part of the manuscript
that was presented for publication.)