This letter was addressed to Mr. Baruch Litvin.

B”H, 7 Nissan, 5709

Greetings and blessings,

I received your letter with the question: In what way can one study Tanya to get a taste of it?

You do not clarify what you mean by getting a taste. I think you mean simply understanding it. It is only that since obstacles [to understanding] exist, and Chassidus in general and Tanya in particular are especially difficult [to comprehend] — indeed they are almost beyond understanding — you call understand­ing merely “tasting.”

I must clarify at the outset that Tanya and Chassidus are — like the other portions of the Torah — accessible to everyone who in truth desires to study and understand. Conversely, however, they possess a depth which even the greatest sage in Chassidus cannot say that he can comprehend it in its entirety. In this as well, this is comparable to other aspects of the Torah.

The proof of this is that there are new maamarim and texts being produced which — on the basis of [existing] Torah principles — reveal new concepts and show and clarify deeper and broader [concepts than those] communicated previously.

The reason for these two above-mentioned aspects of Torah in general and Chassidus in particular — simplicity and unique depth which are seemingly opposite — is that they stem from the wisdom of the Holy One, blessed be He. Just as with regard to G‑d: a) even simple people know of Him, [and yet,] b) even the greatest sage who is occupied with G‑dly wisdom cannot grasp Him in His entirety, so, too, [these concepts] apply with regard to the Torah, because “the Torah and the Holy One, blessed be He, are one.”1

Regarding a program of study for Tanya and Chabad Chas­sidus: You do not say in your letter what you have already studied or whether you are first starting now. If this is a begin­ning for you, it appears to me — to the extent that it is possible to offer an opinion — that the order of study should be Shaar HaYichud VehaEmunah, Iggeres HaTeshuvah, Tanya, Vol. I.

The first time you study [these texts], you should not focus on particular words [or] terms, even if [their meaning] is not entirely clear as long as you understand the general concept [communicated] by the chapter. In order to understand the general concept in the chapters of the first volume of Tanya, the text Kitzur Tanya by the Tzemach Tzedek published by Kehot is very beneficial. After studying it once superficially, if you [then] study the maamarim in the Sefer HaMaamarim [of my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe Shlita] from time to time, I think that you will certainly be able to study the Tanya in a more funda­mental manner and you will be able to focus on the contents of the chapters in a more detailed manner.

It is obvious that if you have questions concerning the above or regarding the study of Chassidus in general and you think that I will be able to help you, please write to me in a more detailed manner. [You can write] in whichever language is easiest for you to express yourself and I will answer according to my knowledge of the subject. At the outset, however, I would like to make one stipulation: You should not feel slighted if my answer is delayed because of my work for Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch and the like.

I hope to hear good news from you regarding your progress in studying Tanya and Chassidus. I conclude with blessings for a kosher and happy Pesach holiday,

Rabbi Menachem Schneerson
Chairman of the Executive Committee