This letter was written as an introduction to the kuntreis published for Shabbos Teshuvah. 1


The coming days share one theme: Teshuvah. [This applies] in a general sense [to] the ten days from Rosh HaShanah through Yom Kippur. (Concerning these days the prophet commands us 2 — “Seek G‑d when He is to be found; call upon Him while He is near,” for at this time 3 “the Luminary is close to the spark.”)

[More specifically, it refers to] Shabbos Teshuvah. (Every Shabbos [שבת] hints [by its spelling] at the phrase, 4 תשוב אנוש — “You cause man to return,” but on this Shabbos in particular it is customary to address congregations in order to arouse a desire for repentance.)

Likewise, [it is pertinent to] Yom Kippur (i.e., “This is a day of repentance for all, for the individual and for the community...; all are therefore obliged to do teshuvah and to confess on Yom HaKippurim.” 5 )

The underlying theme of the above days is teshuvah, including both of its levels: a) the lower level of teshuvah, 6 which is repentance for the sins, iniquities and transgressions that one performed; b) the higher level of teshuvah, 7 in which the individual, in a spirit of self-effacement and self-sacrifice, returns his soul 8 “to G‑d Who bestowed it” — to its essential Root and Source, to the state which preceded its descent, and higher. 9

Hence, the lower level of teshuvah can also apply only to specific matters and only to some of the soul’s faculties — to those matters and faculties in which the individual’s sin caused a blemish.

The higher level of teshuvah, by contrast, is [the avodah of] Shema Yisrael — “Hear, O Israel!” Its task is to gather together all the soul’s scattered faculties, to elevate them aloft 10 in a sheer expiry of the [entire] soul, 11 and finally, to elicit and draw [spiritual energy] downward 12 into all components of the soul.

Just as this avodah is the task of the individual, it is also the task of the “complete stature” 13 of the entire Jewish people, at all its diverse levels: 14 — “[From] the heads of your tribes... to the drawer of your water.” All these people must be gathered together and must stand together as one, so that all the souls of Israel will return to their Source and Root. 15

One of the factors that helps towards the unification of [any] set of individual elements is their connection with the common source in which they were earlier comprised as one — and at that level they are all of a kind, even now.

As far as we are concerned — the chassidim of my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe, הכ"מ, members of the chassidic brotherhood 16 who are bound to him or who even merely share a connection to him — this applies to the hiskashrus that connects us with him, by studying his Torah teachings and by proceeding along 17 “the straight path that he has shown us,” and so on, as has been explained many times.

Doing so helps to pave the way towards the fulfillment of the blessing that my revered father-in-law would grant those who approached him on the afternoon of erev Yom Kippur with a request for a blessing: 18

“May G‑d grant that your inscription [in the Book of Life] be sealed and confirmed for a good and sweet year, materially and spiritually, so that you will be able to engage in Torah and avodah. As to those who have families, may G‑d grant them nachas from them, and an ample livelihood. Those who still have to build a home, may G‑d help them materially and spiritually.”

Menachem Mendel ben Chanah Schneerson

Erev Shabbos Teshuvah, 5711, Brooklyn, N.Y.