As leaders of the chassidic and Lithuanian communities respectively, the third Lubavitcher Rebbe, known as the Tzemach Tzedek, and R. Yitzchak of Volozhin worked together on many projects for the welfare of the Jewish community in nineteenth-century Russia. A by-product of the spirit of cooperation they shared was an increased mood of communication and respect between chassidim and misnagdim , bridging the gaps that had previously separated these two camps.

People were wont to say: “Through this relationship, the misnagdim learned that the tzaddikim revered by the chassidim were giants of Torah, and the chassidim were able to appreciate that the Torah luminaries held in awe by the misnagdim were also tzaddikim. ”

The intellectual underpinnings for such an understanding lie at the heart of the chassidic approach to Torah study. For Chassidus does not view Torah study and avodas HaShem, divine service, as two separate disciplines, but as two elements of a unified thrust to personal refinement and the fulfillment of G‑d’s will. More particularly, nigleh, the revealed teachings of Torah law, and pnimiyus haTorah , the mystical secrets of Torah, should not be seen as two separate courses of study, but as the body and the soul of the same Torah.

Hence, as the Rebbe Rashab states in Kuntreis Etz Chayim (when giving directives for the students of Yeshivas Tomchei Temimim, the Central Lubavitcher Yeshivah): “It should be evident that a student who studies pnimiyus haTorah has studied nigleh. And it should be evident that a student who studies nigleh has studied pnimiyus haTorah.”

If these concepts hold true regarding the Torah study of chassidim, they surely apply with regard to the Rebbeim, the exemplars to whom we look for guidance and direction.

It is not the place of a chassid to rank the Rebbeim, or even to describe them with superlatives. For to apply any description — even a superlative — to a person, implies that one is on a level at which one can comprehend and appreciate the qualities that the other possesses.

This said, it goes without saying that the Rebbeim of Chabad, beginning with the Alter Rebbe and including the Rebbe of our generation, were all giants of soul and giants of scholarship, that their stature was reflected in their mastery of both nigleh and pnimiyus haTorah , and that because of their mastery of pnimiyus haTorah , their approach to nigleh was distinctive and unique.

Significantly, this area has not been given adequate focus in the English language. None of the works in nigleh of the previous Chabad Rebbeim have ever been translated into English. And although many of the subjects in Likkutei Sichos and the Rebbe’s other published works include explanations in the realm of nigleh , relatively few of them have been presented in a language other than the original Yiddish or Lashon HaKodesh.

Perhaps the reason for this lack is the uniqueness mentioned above. The Rebbe’s explanation of an issue in nigleh involves a breadth and depth that can best be perceived and appreciated by a person who has the skills to study the subject matter in its original.

For this reason, we had to grapple with certain misgivings while preparing the text. Unquestionably, in the process of translation and adaptation, some of the nuances of the Rebbe’s style had to be sacrificed. Nevertheless, we considered the alternative — leaving the subject matter reserved only for those who can comprehend the original — far less desirable, for that would leave a multitude of people for whom this dimension of the Rebbe’s thoughts would remain inaccessible.

And so, to give our readers the opportunity to taste the Rebbe’s singular approach to this body of knowledge, we decided to produce a “sampler”: a book which reflects the Rebbe’s treatment of a variety of different subjects in nigleh.

Because of the factors mentioned above, the essays themselves — with the exception of the essay entitled “Of Eternal Life” — are also “samplers”: that is, they are adaptations, not translations. In the original texts, there is a detailed intellectual give and take which, though lending richness to one’s comprehension of the ideas, is difficult to render into English, and which might blur the focus of a reader unfamiliar with this style of thought. Hence, in many instances, we chose to telescope an intricate discussion into a conceptual outline that preserves the insight of the original ideas while trying to avoid arduous complexity.

The essays are arranged in four sections:

a) Distinctive Stances in the Talmud: Three essays which show how a sage or a school of sages follow a distinctive pattern of reasoning (azlinan leshitaso) which sheds light on their characteristic approaches to a variety of seemingly unrelated matters.

b) Holidays in Torah Law: A treatment of the halachic dimension of the holidays and communal fasts.1

c) Unlocking the Aggadah: The Aggadah teaches the homiletical and ethical dimensions of Torah thought. These four essays demonstrate how the insights of Chassidus can imbue this realm of knowledge with a new and penetrating light.

d) Issues in the Halachah: In-depth analyses of particular halachic issues or Talmudic passages.

As the term “sampler” implies, the subjects were chosen because they were felt to be indicative of the Rebbe’s style of teaching, or because they reflected subjects which the Rebbe would frequently emphasize.

When listing “the distinctions by which the Torah is acquired,” Pirkei Avos mentions2 “close association with colleagues and sharp discussions with students.” For to step beyond one’s own subjectivity and objectively appreciate the truth of the Torah, the interplay of many different approaches is necessary. Every individual’s understanding is sharpened by exposure to other people’s way of thought.

Accordingly, this text fuses the efforts of many diverse contributors. In particular: Rabbi Eliyahu Touger, who was responsible for the translation; Rabbi Aharon Leib Raskin, who annotated the sources and checked the authenticity of the translation; Yosef Yitzchok Turner, who attended to the layout and typography; and Rabbi Yonah Avtzon, Director of Sichos In English, who supervised every phase of the project’s development.

Once a yeshivah student approached the Rebbe with a dilemma. Although his personal preference and talents lay in the study of nigleh , he nevertheless felt compelled to devote himself to the study of Chassidus because, as the Rebbe would frequently quote,3 it is spreading the wellsprings of the Baal Shem Tov’s teachings that will hasten the coming of Mashiach.

While not discouraging his study of Chassidus , the Rebbe answered the youth that the study of nigleh, particularly as it is illuminated by the teachings of the Rebbeim, is also considered “spreading the wellsprings outward.”

It is thus appropriate that many of the essays conclude with an emphasis on the coming of the Redemption. Indeed, in a larger sense, all of our spiritual endeavors should be directed to this goal.

May the study of the Rebbe’s teachings encourage us all to assume our part in shouldering the mission of spiritual purpose which the Rebbe taught. And may this in turn lead to manifest good and blessing, including the ultimate blessing — the coming of the Redemption, when we will merit the teachings of Mashiach, “the new [dimensions of the] Torah” which will “emerge from Me.”4

Sichos In English

Pesach Sheni, 5757