By the Grace of G‑d
7th Teveth, 5717
[December 11, 1956]
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Greeting and Blessing:

Recalling the well-known dictum of Rabbi Schneur Zalman, the author of the Tanya and Shulchan Aruch and the founder of Chabad Chassidism, to the effect that “a Jew should live with the times,” i.e., according to the time and spirit of the weekly Sidrah of the Torah, I wish to dwell briefly on the first portion of the Sidrah Shemoth (in the book of Exodus), which is the “Torah-time” when the celebration is taking place.

We are told in this first portion of the book of Exodus how a handful of Jews—seventy souls—managed to survive on the foreign soil of Egypt, in the midst of an overwhelmingly powerful and hostile people. They survived not by imitating their non-Jewish neighbors and trying to hide their identity, but on the contrary, by realizing that they were different and by guarding, most zealously and uncompromisingly, their identity and spiritual independence. Our Sages pointed out this secret of survival in their commentary on the first verse of the Sidrah, “and these are the names of the children of Israel who came to Egypt”: “Because they did not change their names and their customs, they were redeemed from Egypt.” Moreover, not only did they manage to survive in such adverse circumstances, but they multiplied in number and grew strong in spirit, until they received the Torah at Sinai, bringing light to the entire world and accomplishing the purpose of Creation.

This portion of the Torah, giving us the story of the first Jews in the first Goluth (exile), contains the secret of Jewish survival in all dispersions and in all generations. The lesson should, especially, be remembered in our own day, when the Goluth has become so tragically devastating both physically and spiritually. Jews dispersed throughout the world are everywhere surrounded by a demoralized and hostile world, a world in which basic principles of humanity and justice are trampled upon, a world so confused that darkness is mistaken for light, and light for darkness, a world living in fear of atomic self-destruction, G‑d forbid.

In this dark Goluth, we Jews must realize more than ever before the teaching of our Torah, Torat Chayim (the Law of Life), that only through the preservation of our identity and spiritual independence, based on the solid foundations of our Torah and Mitzvoth and nurtured through an uncompromising Torah-true education of our children, can we ensure the survival of our people, spiritually and physically, and moreover grow and prosper.

With esteem and blessing,