This letter was sent to Mr. Baruch Litvin.

B”H, 26 Tishrei, 5710

Greetings and blessings,

In response to your letter and questions:

Question 1: In a supplication that is recited between the different sets of shofar blasts according to certain versions [of the Machzor], mentionis made of “Yeshua, the sublime minister of the interior.” You were told that the reference is to “that man.”1

Answer: Many [explanations of the above] have been written. ([See] Minchas Elazar {Munkatch, 5662}, Vol. I, sec. 75, and Vol. II, towards its conclusion; Ketzei HaMatah {Kleinwarden, 5683}; Elbono Shel Torah {Berlin, 5689}, and the Neiros Shabbos Journal {Jerusalem, Erev Rosh HaShanah, 5706}.)

[In these sources,] the conclusion is that the passage should state “Yeshaya...” or “Yeshayahu, the sublime minister of the interior,” which is one of the names of the angel Metatron. This name was chosen because it is numerically equivalent to 400.2 That in turn is the numerical equivalent of the phrase אליהו הנביא זכור לטוב (Eliyahu, the prophet, of blessed memory) and the acronym קר"ק (which refers to the series of shofar blasts: tekiah, teruah, tekiah). Indeed, this is the version that was found printed in ancient Machzorim and texts. It is probable that missionaries stealthfully changed that name to Yeshua. It is noteworthy that the Alter Rebbe, the Vilna Gaon, and other Jewish sages have ruled that this passage should not be recited at all. This is our custom.

Question 2: Sefer HaMaamarim [Yiddish], p. 216, states: With regard to his emotional qualities, Rav Nosson conducted himself “according to the [letter of] Torah law, not making any concessions [as would have been dictated by] the attribute of piety.”3 It also says that “he was not so involved with [the refinement of] his emotional qualities.” How is it possible for the two statements to be reconciled?4

Answer: Being involved with [the refinement of] one’s emotional qualities — love, hate, fear, licentiousness, mercy, cruelty, and the like involves two dimensions: The first is that the emotions should follow the dictates of the mind. [This approach is called] iskafia, subjugating [one’s nature]. Afterwards, one transforms the emotions, [which is called] is’hapcha. To illustrate, one has a competitor in his [line of] business. Moreover, [the competitor] operates in the neighborhood [where one’s own business is located]. If one would allow himself to follow his natural emotional tendencies and his animal soul, feelings of animosity would be aroused toward his competitor. The intellect of his G‑dly soul, however, is aroused and tells him: “Surely you believe that G‑d controls the world. Accordingly, if G‑d has ordained that you will be given sustenance, how can the competitor take it away [from you] against G‑d’s will? And if it has been decreed from Above that you will receive less income, do you think that without the competitor, there are no ways for it to be arranged from Above [that your income will be reduced]? If so, since [the competitor] is not taking anything away from you, why should you hate him?”

After many internal debates of this nature, the person will feel that his hatred will stop influencing his actions, and then his speech, and then even his thoughts. Nevertheless, this cannot compare at all to the transformation of one’s qualities.

The G‑dly soul, however, continues [its efforts], telling him: “[It is written:]5 ‘Love your fellowman as yourself.’ Now, you are a specialist in his line of business. [Since helping him] cannot cause you a loss, go help him out with some good advice, a loan, or the like.” Ultimately, the hatred becomes transformed into love and he conducts himself in this way.

It is only the second phase (is’hapcha) that can truly be called involving oneself with one’s emotions and the attribute of piety, although according to [strict] Torah law, a person can excuse himself, offer a rebuttal, and fulfill his obligations with the first approach (iskafia).

Question 3: The maamar cited above describes Reb Avraham, who was not a scholar but had far better and far more chassidic emotional qualities than Reb Nosson, who was a scholar, but had not sufficiently involved himself with his emotional qualities. [In light of such writings,] it is not at all surprising to find people who oppose chassidim for elevating an emotionally developed, unlearned person higher than a Torah scholar.

Answer: Such people must [then] also oppose the Talmud (Taanis 7a) which states: A Torah scholar who is not virtuous should be decapitated (see Rashi). Rambam rules in ch. 5 of Hilchos Deos concerning the paths of conduct for a Torah scholar and writes (Hilchos Talmud Torah 4[:1]) that if a person does not conduct himself in this manner, one may not teach the Torah to him.

The Talmud makes even sharper statements in another source (Yoma 86a), and Rambam quotes them as halachah (Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah 5:11), stating that although one is a Torah scholar and an observant Jew, if he does not speak pleasantly with people and does not receive them graciously, but instead, continually conducts himself with strife and anger, he desecrates the name of G‑d. [That sin] cannot be expiated by any [punishment] other than death.

And there is an even sharper statement in the Talmud (Yoma 9b) which states that at the conclusion of the era of the Second Beis HaMikdash, [the Jews] occupied themselves with the Torah and its mitzvos. Why was [the Beis HaMikdash] destroyed? Because there was unjustified hatred among them.

Think about that! The Jews studied the Torah and observed the mitzvos. That means they did not rob; they did not steal; they did not deceive and did not embarrass their fellowmen; they merely did not go beyond the letter of the law (Bava Metzia 30b) and they showed the attribute of hatred rather than of love. For these reasons, the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed and the Jews were driven into exile for almost 1900 years. At the conclusion of the era of the First Beis HaMikdash, [the Jews] committed severe sins and they looked upon the Torah with disgust, and yet that exile lasted only 70 years.

[After this,] can there be any question how high a regard should be paid to good emotional qualities and pious conduct!

With blessings for all forms of good,

Rabbi Menachem Schneerson

I will answer your earlier letter at my next opportunity.