At the farbrengen of Shabbos Parshas Vaeira, 5712 (1952), before delivering the maamar presented here in translation, the Rebbegave the following introduction:

In one of the journals1 of my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz], he relates the following about his father, the Rebbe [Rashab]: “He recalled that he heard from the chassid Reb Moshe Leib of Berditchev, a grandson of Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, that ‘when the Alter Rebbe was writing the Tanya, the spiritual concept and spiritual state about which he was writing was reflected inhis own disposition and spiritual state. [The Alter Rebbe’s disposition, in turn, was mirrored by the chassidim:] If it was a time of bitterness2 [for him], bitterness would rest upon all the chassidim…. Conversely, if he was involved in a happy matter, the atmosphere was one of exalted and all-pervasive happiness.’ ”

The Rebbe (Rashab) added: “In that vein, what must have transpired when the [Alter] Rebbe delivered the maamar — known as der frumer Vaeira, which discusses the concept that ‘None who are estranged will remain banished from Him’3 — must have been awesome. There must have been an overpowering, [almost palpable] sense of dread.

“The maamar was committed to writing by our uncle Maharil4 and there were several lines of corrections from the Alter Rebbe himself. It is a wrathful maamar.”5

The informal Yiddish name by which the maamar is known — der frumer Vaeira — literally means “the devout Vaeira,” i.e., the maamar on Parshas Vaeira that makes people devout. It was described above as “wrathful” because its tone is unusually stern. For example, it speaks of a person’s realization that he is utterly distant from G‑d, like a son who is rejected and disowned by his father. Such words no doubt shocked the Alter Rebbe’s listeners (as they have continued to shock readers to this day). No doubt they responded like the son described in the continuation of the maamar: unable to bear this distance, he seeks to reestablish the bond with his father.

This maamar was delivered to successive generations of chassidim. Thus, for example, the Rebbe Rayatz is quoted in HaYom Yom as saying:6

My revered father, the Rebbe [Rashab], once related: “The maamar beginning Vaeira… U’Shmi A-donai, which explains that ultimately no [Jew] will remain estranged from G‑d, came to be known as der frumer Vaeira.The Alter Rebbe would deliver it publicly every three years, repeating it each time almost verbatim. [Nevertheless,] the Tzemach Tzedek said: ‘Every time, there was a new light.’ ”

In our times, before delivering his version of that maamar, the Rebbe provided the following background: “The maamar — that is, Maharil’s manuscript with the few lines added by the Alter Rebbe — has been preserved until the present time. However, since the maamar is not [widely] accessible (it was printed once in Lemberg, but with many errors) and this Shabbos7 is still connected with the yahrzeit of the Alter Rebbe (on 24 Teves), and it is also Shabbos Parshas Vaeira, the maamar will be delivered now. It will not follow the [Alter Rebbe’s] wording precisely,8 but will include the glosses of the Tzemach Tzedek and other additions.”9

The maamar has thus always enjoyed a revered place in Chabad literature. It is presented here as delivered by the Rebbe together with excerpts from several of his talks on the concept of teshuvah, as well as an Overview that integrates ideas from many of these sources.

It is our hope that the study of this maamar will lead to the fulfillment of the promise,10 “Immediately to teshuvah; immediately to Redemption,” in the immediate future.

Sichos In English

Hei Teves, 5771 (2010)