The name of the person to whom this letter was sent was not released.

B”H, 20 Tammuz, 5709

Greetings and blessings,

Your letter from the 3rd of Sivan that was sent by ordinary mail arrived now. In response to it: You do not write which of our publications you are seeking. Hence, please approach our representative, R. Avraham Paris, who is in possession of some of the texts and booklets that we have published. You will also be able to see our catalogue which he has. Notify me concerning those texts that he does not have and we will send them from here.

Since you have written to me, I will use this opportunity to respond to you. Certainly you have seen sichosconcerning the chassidic teaching that from every entity and event one should learn a lesson in the service of man to his Creator. [The latter] is divided into two categories: matters between man and G‑d and matters between man and man.

In truth, according to sincere faith, the above teaching must be accepted by force of logic, but the teachings of Chassidus heighten its emphasis. Consider, a person believes the following:

a) G‑d is the One Who brings into being and controls the entire creation.

b) G‑d is the ultimate of good and is above any type of deficiency.

c) It is obvious that any activity performed without intention is an actual expression of a lack of thoughtfulness. Heaven forbid to say such a thing with regard to G‑d.

d) It is obvious that, with regard to the above, a distinction cannot be made between the activity itself and its circumstances; [i.e.,] the time and place when it occurs.

It follows that when a person, who has free choice, sees, hears, or finds out about any matter, there is a specific [Divine] intent that this take place.1 Hence, if he uses the opportunity to ascend [spiritually] and thus draws closer to He Who controls the world — for this is the only true ascent — he aligns himself with the Divine intent. If not, not only does he lose what he has been given, he brings about a deficiency in the order of Creation as a whole, for he causes a wasted opportunity to exist within the Creation.

If this is true with regard to a particular event, it certainly applies with regard to a person’s profession in which he invests the better part of his potentials, energies, and time. [Your] profession, pharmacy, provides several general directives for one’s Divine service. I will focus only on two of them:

a) Immediately upon entering a good pharmacy, one sees a multitude of drugs and herbs which can strengthen [the body] and cure several diseases, even severe ones. Surely, this will arouse — and rightly so — amazement on the part of an understanding observer.

The pharmacist should, however, explain to him — and fundamentally, explain to himself — that all of these [remedies] are merely preparatory mediums, and for a sick person to be healed, two things are necessary:

i) an expert must prescribe which medication is appropriate for each particular illness and how it should be administered;

ii) this is also not sufficient, [for] the patient must actually take the medicine.

The analogue [to the above can be explained as follows]: Every member of the Jewish people is an agent of the King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He, Who gave him a portion of the world to heal and rectify. He has also been given the cures and instruments necessary for this task. Nevertheless, all of this is merely preparation; he still requires the direction of an expert who will tell him which of the cures he should use to correct his portion [of the world] and his own self on that day and on the next day. Without [this direction], he could bring about danger instead of improvement, and destruction instead of building.

(There are those who say that “‘The entire congregation is holy,’2 and I am among them. I will look into the Shulchan Aruch myself to know what I should do, both for myself and wth regard to my mission in the world.”

The outcome of such an approach can be understood by analogy. To what can the matter be compared? To a person who learned how to read [and decided to] buy medical textbooks and doctor’s implements, and [without any other training,] began [trying to] heal the sick.)

After [receiving such direction, one must still come to what is most] essential: the actual work. Even though study is important, and one honors and respects the expert doctor and has prepared the remedies precisely according to the prescriptions given by the expert doctor, if [the remedies] are not taken, the treatment will not have begun.

A person may offer several explanations [for inactivity]: “This is not an appropriate time”; “This is not an appropriate place”; “[I do] not have enough influence,” or the like. [But these rationalizations] are relevant only regarding the concept of reward and punishment.3 [In that context, it is important] to know whether the person is acting willfully or unknowingly, or whether he is being held back by forces beyond his control — in which instance the Torah absolves him of responsibility.4 But [if the treatment is not administered,] the illness will remain in full force. And since, undoubtedly, the intent is that he become healthy, we are forced to say that his rationalizations are in error and the counsel of the yetzer hara is involved.

b) When one enters a pharmacy, there is a section marked by signs saying that the drugs can be poisonous and extreme care is required. On the surface, one might ask: Why are drugs that are poisonous kept in a special place among drugs that cure and strengthen? But an understanding person knows that something which is considered as poison for a healthy person in ordinary circumstances and in normal amounts may be the sole remedy that can save the life of a patient in extraordinary circumstances, [using] smaller dosages.

The analogy to the above can be understood through an example of the relationship between a person and his colleague. The Torah is “the Torah of kindness”5 and all its ways are pleasant and peaceful.6 Nevertheless, the mitzvah is that when you are invited to your friend’s [home] and there is a question concerning the kashrus of his home, you are forbidden to partake of the meal he serves even though this will embarrass him in public. And if a friend smokes on Shabbos and there is a shadow of a hope that he might cease if you rebuke him repeatedly and shout at him to the point of reproach and [physical] blows, you are obligated to do so.

If you see a group directing those under their influence [in an improper manner]; in particular, [those involved] in education that has no connection to faith in G‑d, His Torah, and its mitzvos, you are obligated to protest to the full extent of your power. [You must] make it known that even if they save the body of the person they are educating for temporal life, they are destroying his soul [and separating it] from eternal life. They desire to cause it to descend to the nethermost pits. It is a mitzvah, one of vital necessity, to save children from them through any possible means....7

One’s mind will begin to wonder: I am a well-mannered person, and even according to Halachah, well-mannered behavior takes precedence over the Torah.8 How could I possibly do the above? How could I... demonstrate in public about so-and-so’s desecration of the Shabbos and by doing so, embarrass him publicly?

To this comes the response that for a healthy person, such behavior would be like poison. But for a sick person like so-and-so, this is the only remedy that can save him from death [and grant him] life.

There is also — albeit in a more abstract sense — a parallel to the above with regard to the relationship between man and G‑d. There are those who complain that chassidim prolong their study of Chassidus before their morning prayers. They also prolong their meditation before prayer and thus they recite the Shema and the Shemoneh Esreh later than the desired times.

The same answer can be given here. For a healthy person, this is a harmful matter, but for a person who is spiritually unhealthy, it is impossible to do anything else. Otherwise, his prayer will be mere lip-service and his heart will be elsewhere. His prayer will be hollow and thus unacceptable (see Rambam, [Mishneh Torah,] Hilchos Tefillah 4:15; the Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim, sec. 98; Tanya, Kuntreis Acharon, the sec. beginning LeHavin MasheKasuv BeShaar HaYichudim).

But, to refer back to the analogy, extra care is necessary in such matters to make sure that an oversized quantity is not administered and that everything is done under the direction of an expert doctor, as is understood.

My letter has become extended; I conclude with wishes for everlasting good in all matters.

If the above contains an idea with which you do not agree, please inform me of the reason and logic [for your objection].