Be fruitful and multiply” the first mitzvah in the Written Torah! The first blessing given to new parents is that they may raise their child “…to the chupah”; and before the chupah the blessing given to bride and groom is that they may be fruitful and multiply. Procreation, and the mitzvos and ceremonies attending and following the birth bris, giving a name, pidyon haben are among the most joyous occasions in the life cycle of the Jew.

As with all aspects of Jewish life, pregnancy and childbirth are governed by laws and Halachos codified in the Shulchan Aruch and Poskim. These laws have traditionally been supplemented by customs that arose over the millennia of Jewish history. Some customs have become universal, some belong exclusively to certain continents or countries, and some are local to specific towns, villages, or communities.

Chabad too has its unique customs and practices governing such diverse areas as the text of the prayers, the style of dress, and the shape of the letters in a Torah scroll or mezuzah. And of course, there are unique customs for the events that are the subject of this anthology.

Chabad customs are derived from the written works of our Rebbeim, from the Alter Rebbe to our own Rebbe their chassidic discourses, Sichos, letters, diaries, and notes. Beyond this, there is a rich “Oral Torah” of instructions issued (or even casual remarks made) verbally by the Rebbeim, or observations of their deeds and practices, witnessed and recorded by chassidim throughout the generations.

Some of these customs were intended to be followed by the general public of Anash. Others were meant to be observed only by certain individuals, while still others are private instructions, to be followed only by those to whom they were communicated. Some customs belong exclusively to the family of the Rebbeim. But all are of significance to the world community of Chabad Chassidim. Even those customs we are not meant to follow in practice are very important for us to know.

Rabbi Avraham Y. Holtzberg has researched the complete range of Chabad literature in compiling this anthology of customs. The customs themselves are presented briefly in the main text, for those who wish to know “the way in which they should go and the deed they should do.” For those including practicing rabbis who are interested in further details, citations and sources in the literature, and advanced discussions by authorities of Halachah, Kabbalah, and Chassidus, extensive material is presented in the footnotes.

May the mitzvah of procreation lead to the fulfillment of G‑d’s purpose in the Creation, resulting in the imminent arrival of Mashiach. May our study and practice of these customs speed the process, so that “together with our youth and our elders, our sons and our daughters” we may proclaim, “Behold, he has come,” immediately, now.

Sichos In English

Rosh Chodesh Kislev 5760
Fiftieth year of the Rebbe’s Nesius
Brooklyn, New York