The text of this letter was sent to various individuals, personally addressed to each one.

B”H, Chol HaMoed Sukkos, 5711,
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Greetings and blessings,

Enclosed is the kuntreis for the coming Shemini Atzeres-Simchas Torah [festival].1 Certainly you will share it with all those in your surroundings, to arouse, strengthen, and illuminate—now and throughout the year—their rejoicing in the Torah. As a result of this, this will arouse, strengthen, and illuminate their happiness in the observance of mitzvos. And as a consequence, their study of the Torah and observance of its mitzvos will be carried out in a more elevated manner.

For just as Torah study is equivalent to and leads to [the observance] of all the mitzvos,2 so, too, the happiness associated with the Torah3 is equivalent to and leads to the happiness associated with the mitzvos. Divine service with happiness4 and gladness of heart breaks through all the constraints and limitations that exist, both on this earthly plane and Above. It distances a person from [worldly] desires and nullifies [heavenly] judgments [against him]. And then, “in the light of the King’s countenance, there will be life.”5

With the conclusion of the festive days of Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkos, Shemini Atzeres, and Simchas Torah, a Jew must return to [ordinary] weekdays, and, moreover, [ordinary] weekdays of the winter,6 where there will be [almost] half a year without festivals.7 He must [therefore] take with him “provisions for the way,” powers and Divine influence that will endow him with the potential that when fulfilling the commandment: “And Yaakov went on his way,”8 he will be able to proceed confidently, even though “all ways are presumed to be dangerous.”9

For this purpose, on the day of Shemini Atzeres, all of the general Divine influences of the month of Tishrei are gathered together and collected.10 And on Simchas Torah, there is the beginning of the revelation and the drawing down11 [of these energies]. As a result, it will be easier to express all the good resolutions taken during the month of Tishrei in positive activity throughout all the days of the entire year.

In particular, the rejoicing connected with the Torah on these days will lead to the rejoicing associated with a mitzvah during all the days of the year. And as a consequence, all of the limitations, obstacles, and hindrances to the study of the Torah and the observance of the mitzvos will be removed.

For Simchas Torah represents the highest encompassing light which includes all the other general encompassing lights of the month of Tishrei.

On this basis, it is understandable that we find two seemingly contradictory points with regard to Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah:

a) It is Jewish custom—and [Jewish custom has the power of] Torah Law12—to celebrate at this rejoicing more than during Simchas Beis HaShoeivah and more than during the celebrations of festivals in general.13

b) Celebration on the festivals is a positive commandment of Scriptural origin.14 The extra happiness experienced on the festival of Sukkos—which also includes Simchas Beis HaShoeivah—is explicitly mentioned in the Scripture.15 And so is the happiness associated with the observance of a mitzvah.16 The [concept of] celebration on the final day of Sukkos, [i.e., Shemini Atzeres,] in contrast, is derived only through the non-literal technique of interpretation referred to as derush.17 (It is understood that is impossible from this to derive the concept that [the day mandates] extra rejoicing.) And according to some, there is no Scriptural obligation at all.18

The explanation is that one concept complements the other. Since this happiness is of such a sublime and general nature, it cannot be included in the enumeration of the mitzvos, following a similar line of thinking as Rambam writes with regard to the general mitzvos.19 And according to the opinion that it is merely a custom, the explanation is similar to that given with regard to the hakkafos.20

May G‑d enable us to merit that this happiness reach [even] the lowest powers of the soul, [enabling us] to make a firm resolve and decision to accept the yoke of G‑d’s sovereignty through establishing fixed times for Torah study, the observance of the mitzvos, and Divine service of the heart,21 and bring these resolves from a state of potential to actual practice. Then, as my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe, הכ״מ, concludes in his maamar in the [enclosed] kuntreis:22 “The light that is good will be drawn down in vast goodness, both material and spiritual.”

(Because of the sanctity of the festival, I did not sign.)

Menachem Schneerson23