Tens of thousands of students old and young will be able to learn about some of the finer points of Purim thanks to just-released material culled from lengthy scholarly talks given by the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory. The new offerings comprise material in DVD, audio and print, and have been made available online.

Rabbi Chaim Shaul Brook, who works with a team of scholars publishing previously inaccessible teachings of the Rebbe, explains that the new booklets and DVDs are the product of countless hours of research.

"After the Rebbe's passing," says Brook, "we started investing all our energy into starting anew to publish the talks from the year 1950 and on."

Headed by Brook, Lahak Publishing has occupied an office on the fourth floor of the Lubavitch World Headquarters, in Brooklyn, N.Y., since 1981. When the Rebbe – who passed away in 1994 – was still giving his regular public talks, the group would devote only one day a week to publishing older material, in between trying to keep up with publishing the Rebbe's most recent talks.

Today, some 35 volumes under the Torat Menachem title present the Rebbe's talks from 1950 until 1962. The team frequently releases talks corresponding with the weekly Torah reading or an upcoming holiday.

Prior to Purim this year (March 20-21), Lahak distributed all of the talks the Rebbe delivered on Purim, 1964. Together, the six installments of those talks fill 49 pages of text.

Amidst piles of yellowing paper and old audiotapes, Brook stresses that the latest effort was not easy.

"Three people worked on this one address for three weeks," he says. Some 271 footnotes fill the margins of the published booklets.

As they were working on publishing the 1964 address, five or six scholars would sometimes congregate for hours to debate some of the talks' finer points.

Among the topics discussed by the Rebbe on Purim 1964 was why a fish differs from other creatures and can only live in the water. In a lengthy dissertation on the subject, the Rebbe expounded that a fish must always be connected to its Source in G‑d Above, while, on the other hand, other creatures appear to be disconnected from G‑dliness. Other creatures, therefore, must strive to create that bond on their own.

The implication and challenge, said the Rebbe, is that human beings must always strive to feel connected. When one goes to the mikvah, the act of totally submersing the body replicates the connection that the fish always experience.

The Rebbe picks up the discussion by connecting the holiday of Purim to its name, which translates literally as "lots," after the lots that Haman cast to determine the day on which the Jewish people would be destroyed.

Wealth of Material

Yossi Margolin, video editor at Jewish Educational Media, works on a talk delivered by the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory.
Yossi Margolin, video editor at Jewish Educational Media, works on a talk delivered by the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory.
Down the hall from Lahak's office sits the office of Vaad Talmidei Hatmimim Ha'olami, the Chabad-Lubavitch students' organization. There lay piles of empty boxes that had contained stacks of DVDs and transcripts, which eventually ended up at Chabad-Lubavitch schools across the United States.

The just-released DVD from Jewish Educational Media contains video recordings of the Rebbe's talks from Purim, 1987, along with subtitles in English, Hebrew, Russian and French. Available for the general public to purchase from the JEM Web site, the new title also features selections from the Rebbe's Purim prayers and four Chasidic melodies sung in between the Rebbe's talks.

For its part, the Jewish Web site Chabad.org added to its wealth of material available for Purim study, a pastoral letter from the Rebbe written in 1952. In it the Rebbe writes that just as Mordechai, who held high religious and governmental positions, involved himself in children's Jewish education, Jews everywhere must also occupy themselves with furthering Jewish education.

"Mordechai was one of the heads of the Sanhedrin," writes the Rebbe, "the greatest Jew of his time in scholarship, piety and all possible attributes of greatness. Nevertheless, he set everything aside in order to strengthen the foundations of education."

In addition, Chabad.org worked with JEM to post a full-length audio recording of the Rebbe's Purim address from 1968. The audio files were taken from a newly-discovered audiotape reel recorded by Rabbi Sholom Yisroel Hodakov that is of much higher recording quality than the scratchy one archivists had worked with for years.

"A comparison between the previously-available version and the new version," says Rabbi Mendel Gourarie, archivist at JEM's The Living Archive project, "shows what can be achieved through meticulous work and the application of modern technology."