Understanding the Crowd

By the Grace of G‑d
18th Teveth, 5716 [January 2, 1956]
Brooklyn

Mrs. Rachel Altein

Blessing and Greeting:

I received your letter of Rosh Chodesh Teveth. I have been waiting for this kind of letter for a long time, and I am glad to note that you are now using your ability and qualifications with which you have been endowed, to exercise a good influence in your environment, especially among the women. I trust that are also making an effort to spread the teaching of Chassidus [chassidism] in particular. And since you started in this direction, I trust you will continue in accordance with a saying of our sages, that "Sacred things should be on the ascent," and as also Chanukah teaches us to increase the lights every day.

With regard to the doubt that you express whether the women are prepared at this time to be organized into a Chabad women's group, if there is a possibility that such a step at this time is premature and might hinder the development of your work, it should be postponed. The main thing is to imbue them with these teachings, and to prepare them for greater things, and this is certainly something that can be done immediately in a suitable way. It is especially important to clear up to them many prevalent misunderstandings about the teachings and Way of Life of Chabad, which are unfortunately often misunderstood and misrepresented through ignorance.

May G‑d help you to carry on your good work in contentment and peace of mind, which will help clear up many other personal problems, especially as this kind of work is bound to bring you G‑d's Blessings in a generous measure.

With the Blessing to hear good news from you concerning all above,

M. Schneerson

P.S. I am gratified to read in your letter that you can at last understand the problems besetting you, though not always able to solve them. But it is well-known that the understanding of a problem is in itself already half a solution, especially where the problems are such that their solution lies in your own hands.

Influencing the Crowd

By the Grace of G‑d
3rd of Adar, 5716 [1956]
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Mrs. Rachel Altein

Blessing and Greeting:

Rochel Altein
Rochel Altein
I an in receipt of your letter of the 4th of Shevat.

With regard to the question of the subjects that should be taken up at your group's meetings, it is well to bear in mind the advice of our Sages to the effect that one should always study that which particularly is close to one's heart. In the case of your group, however important it is to endeavor to increase their knowledge, it is even more important to inspire them with Yiras Shomaim [awe of G‑d] and Yiddishkeit [Judaism] in general, and with the light and warmth of Chassidus in particular. But before soil can be planted, it is necessary to clear away all such things as weeds and wild growth, and the simile is obvious.

You write that there are differences in the level of education, background, etc. among the women attending the meetings. This is the rule rather than exception in groups of this kind, and your own experience is the best guide to finding the most efficient course. It is difficult to lay down hard and fast rules in such a case, since each group must be considered on its merits, and even within the group itself conditions can change in the course of time.

Your apprehension that emphasis on Chassidus might alienate some women in the group may or may not be justified, but at any rate you need not emphasize each time that the particular thing was derived from a particular Chassidic source, or that it is "Chassidic," for the important thing is to impart the idea and outlook, and it does not matter if they are not informed at once that it is "Chassidus."

Your suggestion to form a second group, seems a good idea in general, especially if thereby the differences among the women as to education, background, etc. can be reduced.

May G‑d bless you with success in all above, and as you are engaged in His work, disseminating His Torah, He will surely give you added health and strength to carry it out with the least difficulty and maximum efficiency.

With blessing,

By [secretary's signature]

Lack of Spiritual Gratification

By the Grace of G‑d
22nd of Elul, 5716 [1956]
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Mrs. Rachel Altein

Blessing and Greeting:

I received your letter, in which you describe your economic circumstances and certain other conditions which are the causes of dissatisfaction and lack of spiritual gratification.

If you have a copy of your letter, and will re-read it again in a more objective frame of mind, I think you will come to the conclusion that human life on this earth unfortunately is not free from various factors which bring about unhappiness; and that this is universal, though the causes vary: in some cases it is children, in others – health, in still others – Parnosso [livelihood], and so on. To go through life in complete happiness, is not destined for man. One of the basic things, however, is to have a clear vision on the fundamental issues, and to cultivate attitudes. You surely know the explanation of the [biblical] words "baShomaim mima'al veal ho'oretz mitachas" [in the heavens above and on the earth below] that in heavenly (spiritual) matters one should look "up," comparing oneself to one who is on a higher spiritual plane and strive to attain it, while in earthly matters one should see the less fortunate, and thus better appreciate the blessings of the Creator and Master of the world.

It is difficult at this time before Rosh Hashanah to elaborate on the above. But I trust with your training upbringing and back-ground, the above few lines will suffice to give you "food" for further thought and reflection.

As for the details of your letter, it should be borne in mind that the key to self-improvement is not to be found in dwelling upon the defects of the present situation – since there is no perfection in life, but rather in considering the availability of a situation where the benefits are relatively greater and the defects fewer than in the situation which one desires to change.

The same applies to your husband. It is not a question of obtaining "permission" to leave his post. Personally I cannot see where he can find another position which should have at least the same measure of positive aspects, and where one can be reasonably certain that the defects would not be any more than at present, whether of the same nature or not, but equally fraught with nervous strain, etc.

Needless to say, I do not advocate resignation to the existing defects, for one should bear in mind the words of our Sages "Ma'alin b'kodesh" [in matters of holiness one should be in a state of ascendancy]. Nor is the solution in giving up the job, but rather in trying to improve the conditions, lessen the frictions, and making the work more efficient and gratifying.

Wishing you and yours a Kesivo vachasim toivo [to be written and sealed for the good, for the new year],

By [secretary's signature]

If You Are Not There, Who Will Be There?

By the Grace of G‑d
27th of Sivan, 5717 [1956]
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Mrs. Rachel Altein

Blessing and Greeting:

I duly received your letter, in which you write that you accepted the position of Camp Mother at Camp Gan Israel. I was gratified to read this, and as G‑d's reward is in kind, in a very generous measure, your decision to help the campers enjoy a healthful summer, not only physically but also spiritually, and moreover with Chassidishe [chassidic] vitality and light – which is the inner purpose of Gan Israel – will surely bring you and your husband and family additional blessings to have true Yiddish [Jewish] Nachas from each other and from your children, materially and spiritually.

With regard to the Neshei Chabad [women's group] branch, I trust it is unnecessary for me to emphasize the importance of your influence in that group. I trust that in your absence you will have seen to it that there should be some one to replace in some measure your personal participation, and perhaps you will also maintain a correspondence with them so that the mutual contact should not diminish during the summer.

With blessing to hear good news from you and yours,

M. Schneerson

Why Mark Sad Days?

By the Grace of G‑d
29th of Tammuz, 5717 [1957]
Brooklyn, N. Y.

Mrs. Rachael Altein
c/o Camp Gan Israel
Swan Lake, N. Y.

Blessing and Greeting:

The Rebbe during one of his visits to Camp Gan Israel
The Rebbe during one of his visits to Camp Gan Israel
During my recent inspection visit at the Camp, I was gratified to see how happy the children looked, and the evidence of the good care and attention that they are receiving. No doubt you have a substantial part in this, as Camp Mother. Although I know that your work at the Camp is motivated by the highest ideals, so that an expression of thanks may be superfluous, particularly as I know your education and background, as well as those of your husband. Nevertheless, I want to tell you about my feeling on visiting the Camp, as I hope that the knowledge of your success will redouble your efforts on behalf of the children and the Camp.

Although we are, at present, during the period of the Three Weeks, commemorating the sad historic events of the destruction of the Beth Hamikdosh [Holy Temple], it is well to remember that, like all matters of the Torah, the purpose of this observance is not to discourage the Jew or bring him into a state of inertia, but rather, on the contrary, to make him aware that it was only the physical sanctuary that was destroyed, but not the spiritual sanctuary, which is in the heart and soul of every Jew. Every Jewish child is a "little sanctuary." Keeping these "little sanctuaries" pure and holy in accordance with the Torah and Mitzvoth, will hasten the restoration of our great sanctuary in Jerusalem, through our righteous Messiah, speedily, in our time.

As G‑d's reward is in kind, your taking care of the children in Camp Gan Israel will bring you more than a corresponding measure of Divine blessing to your own children, with much Nachas to you and your husband and happiness, materially and spiritually.

With blessing,

M. Schneerson