Day 14 of the Omer

הַקְדָּמַת הַלִּקּוּטֵי תּוֹרָה עַל ג' פָּרָשִׁיּוֹת, "לְהָבִין עִנְיַן נֶפֶשׁ הָאֱלֹקִית, הִנֵּה כְתִיב לֹא תֹאכְלוּ", הוּא מַאֲמָר שֶׁאֲמָרוֹ רַבֵּנוּ הַזָּקֵן לִפְנֵי הַצֶּמַח צֶדֶק, וַחֲזָרוֹ הַצֶּמַח צֶדֶק לְפָנָיו, וַיֹּאמֶר רַבֵּנוּ הַזָּקֵן: נוּ, הַטְעָמָה? וַיִּכְתּוֹב הַצֶּמַח צֶדֶק הֲנָחָה עִם הַגָּהוֹת בְּמוּקָּף. רַבֵּנוּ הִגִּיהַּ הַהֲנָחָה, וַיְצַו לְהַכְנִיס הַהַגָּהוֹת בִּפְנִים הַמַּאֲמָר. עַל פִּי הַצָּעַת אַאַמוּ"ר בָּחֲרוּ בַּמַּאֲמָר זֶה בְּתוֹר הַקְדָּמָה לְהַלִּקוּטֵי תּוֹרָה.

The introduction to Likkutei Torah al Gimmel Parshiyos1 consists of the maamar entitled Lehavin Inyan HaNefesh HaElokis: Hinei Ksiv Lo Sochlu. This discourse was first delivered by the Alter Rebbe to the Tzemach Tzedek, who later reviewed it orally [for the Alter Rebbe]. The response was: Nu, and what about the flavoring?”2

The Tzemach Tzedek thereupon recorded the discourse in writing, including his own notes in parentheses. The [Alter] Rebbe edited the record and directed that the notes be included in the body of the text. [Many years later,] on the suggestion of my revered father, the Rebbe [Rashab], this maamar was chosen to serve as the introduction to Likkutei Torah [al Gimmel Parshiyos].3

To Fill In the Background

From time to time, the Rebbeim of Lubavitch would deliver a maamar to be heard by one solitary listener. This was usually his future successor,4 but not necessarily so. There were times, for example, when the Alter Rebbe’s eldest son and successor, later known as the Mitteler Rebbe, envied his distinguished sister Freida, because their father delivered certain discourses for her alone. (Indeed, so eager was he to hear Chassidus from his father firsthand, that he sometimes hid in the room so that he could hear how their father answered the philosophical questions that she put to him on her brother’s request!)

An eye-witness description of a very different setting in which maamarim were delivered a hundred years ago has been preserved in the artless jottings of an elder chassid by the name of R. Raphael (“Folye”) Kahan,5 who was a student at the original Tomchei Temimim Yeshivah in the township of Lubavitch:

“Every Friday evening after candle-lighting, the Rebbe [Rashab] would come from his home to the big study hall of the Yeshivah and would deliver a maamar. Before he arrived, the tables were arranged in a square. The Rebbe sat at a table within the square, to the south, and his son [later the Rebbe Rayatz] stood near the table, facing him. Everyone else stood outside the square — the nearest ones stood on the floor, others stood behind them on benches, and behind them others stood on tables.

“The students sang various [meditative] melodies while they waited for the Rebbe, and fell silent when he arrived. After taking his seat, he and his son would look at each other for a few seconds. From then on, throughout the hour or more that the delivery of the maamar lasted, their eyes never lost contact. From time to time, the son would lean forward slightly towards his father. The maamar would begin quietly, and only later would become louder.”