Despite being heavily involved in the day-to-day running of the three organizations he directed, Rabbi Menachem Mendel remained deeply invested in scholarly endeavors. Chief among them was his work for Kehot Publication Society, where he was not only executive director but also editor-in-chief.1

Throughout the 1940s he corresponded with rabbinic figures and leading chassidim in North America, Europe and the Holy Land.2 These letters showcase the degree to which he synthesized community activism with scholarly engagement. While efficiently addressing whatever administrative issues needed to be taken care of, R. Menachem Mendel never failed to offer a word of timely Torah inspiration, or scholarly comment and insight. Many letters are devoted specifically to Torah topics, replying to specific queries or offering critical comment on books newly received. Beginning in 1944 he dedicated a special column in the Kehot periodical Kovetz Lubavitch to answering all manner of queries, many of which concerned theThese letters showcase the degree to which he synthesized community activism with scholarly engagement. intersection of chassidic thought and lore with Talmudic sources and Jewish law.3

One of his most frequent correspondents during this period was R. Menachem Zev Greenglass, an active leader in Montreal’s Chabad community. A letter addressed to him in 1946 reveals just how overburdened R. Menachem Mendel was. After dealing with eight administrative queries point by point, R. Menachem Mendel continues to explain why it has been several months since he was last in touch: “I have not written due to the overwhelming burdens, especially regarding publication.”

In order to give some idea of how busy he was at the time he proceeds to list the publishing projects he is currently editing: “a booklet about Purim and Passover in French (similar to the one about Tishrei), one about Purim in English, [and] the first volume of Our People [a history of the Jews since Biblical times] in English.” Additionally, he notes, a chassidic discourse titled Mayim Rabim is in the final stages of proofreading, and he is in the middle of proofreading a volume of legal responsa by his namesake, Rabbi Menachem Mendel, the Tzemach Tzedek of Lubavitch, as well as a short history of the latter’s struggle against the “enlightening” mission of Max Lilienthal in the 1840s. Also in the middle of being proofread was a collection of talks by Rabbi Shalom DovBer, the fifth rebbe of Chabad.

Several other publications are described as “at the beginning of being proofread” including a volume of questions and answers between a teacher and a child regarding Jewish religion and practice, and a code of Jewish law for youth, both in English. “All of the above” R. Menachem Mendel continues, is “in addition to the [administrative] work on behalf of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch, Machne Israel and Kehot.” Notwithstanding the demands on his time, he concludes " many instances the author provides explanations and reasons of his own, some of them legal, some kabbalistic...”the letter with a discussion of the biblical Yosef’s mystical significance and the role the present day Yosef (i.e. his father-in-law) and his followers must play in the Messianic revelation.4

Not mentioned in this letter is an original scholarly work composed by R. Menachem Mendel in precisely this period, Haggadah for Passover with Collected Customs and Reasons. In his review of this work, Rabbi Shlomo Yosef Zevin, editor-in-chief of the Encyclopedia Talmudit, lauded it as “a wondrous Haggadah, with few comparable to it.” It’s most striking feature was its encyclopedic scope, “for each section of the Haggadah the sources in the early authorities and legal decisors are succinctly placed before us with a synopsis of the relevant laws and customs, and together with fitting explanations collected from the best commentators… There is not scholarship without innovation, [and] in many instances the author provides explanations and reasons of his own, some of them legal, some kabbalistic...”5

As Rebbe, R. Menachem Mendel constantly encouraged people in possession of manuscripts to publish them, and scholars to publish their own works. He would often repeat a saying his father-in-law relayed in the name of the Tzemach Tzedek: “The spoken word is public, the written word is for all the world, and the printed word endures for generations.”6 Wisdom can only be beneficial to mankind if it is accessible, and publication is the best way to ensure that wisdom will always be accessible to those who seek it. He constantly reminded publishers to take care that their books should be attractive both inside and out, with clear typeset, strong paper and quality binding.7

The Rebbe also encouraged scholars to crown their works with comprehensive citations and indexes, maximising accessibility, and enabling readers to further pursue topics and assess information critically.8 The scholarly works he himself published show he worked tirelessly to compare different manuscripts and compile indexes.9

Understandably, the Rebbe specifically encouraged people to publish Torah works, which would bring people to greater knowledge of G‑d and enhance their practice of Judaism. But Knowledge that brings light to the world deserves to be published.he was also interested in works of critical scholarship,10 and extended this encouragement to other areas too, constantly reminding his correspondents to send him their publications whatever the topic.11 The Hebrew term for publication, the Rebbe emphasized, literally translates as “bring to light.” Knowledge that brings light to the world deserves to be published.12