We are all familiar with the Alter Rebbe’s parable con­cerning the crown jewel crushed to make an elixir to heal the king’s son.1 Often, emphasis is placed on the uniqueness of the sacrifice made by the king, who willingly sacrifices his precious jewel for his son’s sake.

In the analogue, this means that because of the spiritual descent of the Jewish people, G‑d is willing to sacrifice P’nimiyus HaTorah, His crown jewel as it were, so that the Jewish people would be able to continue their Divine service.

There is, however, another dimension to the story. While the jewel is in the king’s diadem, it is accessible to him alone. When it is crushed and poured into the son’s mouth and some — continues the parable — even spills to the floor, it becomes accessible to others and they can assimilate it.

In the analogue, this means that the importance of disseminating Chassidus is not merely its therapeutic virtues, that it will enable the Jews to maintain their Divine service despite the challenges of the material nature of the times. Instead, there is a more intrinsic message. Since it is the crown jewel, Toraso shel Mashiach, “the teachings of Mashiach,2 through its dissemination, the spiritual mindset that will characterize the Redemption now becomes accessible to all, enabling everyone to anticipate the Redemption in their hearts, minds, and lives.

Beginning with the Baal Shem Tov, in every generation the crown jewel was ground more thoroughly and spread further. Chassidus was transformed from the lofty spiritual heights into a message which could be understood intellectually by wider audiences and internalized within their conduct.

It is not for a chassid to rank the Rebbeim. This said; it is quite obvious that in no previous generation was Chassidus ever spread to as wide and as varied a public as it is today. Jews from all backgrounds and ways of life are attracted to the Rebbe and invigorated spiritually by his teachings.

What is most unique about those teachings is the way the Rebbe ground the crown jewel, i.e., how his teachings take the deepest spiritual insights and communicate them in a form which can be appreciated by people at large. On one extreme, even people from the most secular of back­grounds and young children are inspired by his teachings. They were not merely charged emotionally by the Rebbe’s charisma. He prompted them to think, exposed them to radical insights into fundamental Jewish ideas, and gave them the conceptual tools required to grasp them.

Simultaneously, intellectual giants and learned scholars would pore over these same texts, amazed at the profundity of the Rebbe’s ideas and the simple, unassuming manner in which they are presented. Concepts hinted at in a word or through an inflection in the chassidic texts of previous generations are spelled out in a straight-forward, logical exposition.

This unique combination of opposites will characterize the revelations of the Era of the Redemption. For Mashiach will reveal the most profound spiritual truths and make them evident to all mankind, even to simple people and children. Since we are at — indeed in the process of cross­ing — the threshold of Redemption, the Rebbe’s teachings present us with a foretaste of these ideas so that we can assimilate them within our thought processes, spread them to others, and in this manner, bring that future era ever so much closer.

A Different Means of Exposition

The medium through which the Rebbe’s ideas are presented is also different. In previous generations, the Rebbeim had communicated deep spiritual concepts pri­marily through maamarim, chassidic discourses that require intense concentration and study to comprehend. The Rebbe also delivered maamarim, over 1500 of them. Nevertheless, the primary medium through which the Rebbe taught was sichos, “talks.” These constituted the bulk of the time he spent at farbrengens, and the almost forty volumes of Likkutei Sichos, “Collected Talks,” are the largest single repository of the Rebbe’s wisdom which he personally edited and prepared for publication.

Studying a maamar forces you to stretch your intellectual powers. The ideas, the manner in which they are presented, and the conceptual flow are different from our ordinary train of thought. You are compelled to adopt a different conceptual approach.

A sichah is less challenging. The Rebbe talks to you. Cer­tainly, the ideas may be difficult, but the thrust is directed to the reader. Instead of asking the reader to change his manner of thinking, the Rebbe reaches out to him and pre­sents the concepts in a format that makes their comprehension less formidable. Our efforts can be focused on the ideas themselves instead of struggling to grasp the format in which they are presented.

The Sichos Chosen

We wanted to make these resources available to the English-reading public so that those who did not have access to these ideas in the original would be able to appreciate how the Rebbe expanded the conceptual fron­tiers of Chassidus. A problem arouse, however, for the Rebbe’s works are manifold, and we had to make a selec­tion. What would determine which sichos we chose?

Every chassid treasures certain sichos as “crown jewels,” talks in which he feels the Rebbe shared his deepest spiri­tual resources with us. In this series, we chose those sichos which we believe most aptly fit that description. Although many other sichos could also have been included in this collection, the ones which we did chose, however, all present chiddushim, new insights, which clarify fundamental spiritual concepts.

The Manner of Presentation

In contemplating this project, we debated whether to present the sichos as adaptations — essays in which the writer digests the Rebbe’s ideas and presents them in his own words — or translations in which the thought pattern and the conceptual development used by the Rebbe is preserved and shared.

Each approach has an advantage. An adaptation is user-friendly. It explains more, expanding certain ideas, telescoping others, so that the reader will be able to proceed through the text with less difficulty. A translation, by contrast, will not be as easy to comprehend, but it preserves the intellectual nuances which the Rebbe labored to com­municate.

Before going further, let me share a brief story. Approximately a century ago, the chassidic classic, Likkutei Torah, was out of print. One of the chassidim, Reb Anshel Aronovitch took it upon himself to prepare the text for reprinting, editing it so carefully that he corrected more than three thousand textual errors.

With what he felt was well-earned pride, he showed his work to another vintage chassid, Reb Dovid Tzvi Chein. When his colleague failed to respond with enthusiasm, Reb Anshel asked him why his work had not found favor in his eyes.

“Your text will revolutionize the way people study Lik­kutei Torah,” his colleague explained. “Up until now, when a chassid would read a passage which did not make sense, he would stop, weigh the matter back and forth in his mind, consider the concept from all vantage points, and if, after this process of give and take, the concept still was con­founding, he would conclude that there was a printing error. Now, with your text, the ideas will go down like water, and the reader won’t pause to think them over.”

The sichos which we chose for this series require thought; they are not easy reading. Were they to “go down like water,” the profundity of their message might pass some readers by. Therefore, we presented them in full and complete translation, including all the references and foot­notes that exist in the Rebbe’s original text. Nevertheless, to make the text more accessible to our readers, we included:

a) bracketed additions — explanations set off by square brackets [ ]; parentheses ( ) and squiggle-brackets { } are part of the Rebbe’s text;

b) translator’s notes in the footnotes.

Spreading the Wellsprings

When Mashiach told the Baal Shem Tov3 that he would come when “the wellsprings of your teachings spread out­ward,” he was describing a natural process of causation. As the Rambam writes,4 the fundamental dimension of the Era of the Redemption will not be the Jews’ dominion over the gentile powers or the prosperity that will permeate exis­tence, but the revelation of inner, spiritual truth and the dissemination of that truth throughout all existence. “The world will be filled with the knowledge of G‑d as the waters cover the ocean bed.”5

This will not come about as the result of an arbitrary Divine fiat. G‑d’s desire is that our material world become a dwelling for Him,6 and for that dwelling be fashioned by man. Hence, it is the dissemination of inner, spiritual truth that will anticipate the Redemption, giving us a foretaste of the insights to be revealed. And in doing so, it will precipi­tate the coming of that era, for this creates a climate of spiritual awareness throughout the world.

May the study of the Rebbe’s teachings hasten the time when “those who repose in the dust will arise and sing,”7 and we will hear new teachings from the Rebbe. May this take place in the immediate future.

Sichos In English

14th Day of Kislev, 5759

70th Wedding Anniversary of
the Rebbe and the Rebbetzin