This letter was sent to Rabbi Nachum Labkowsky, one of the scholars in the Lubavitch community in France.

B”H, 23 Tammuz, 5709

Greetings and blessings,

[This is] in response to your letter; (for various reasons, my response has been delayed; I ask your forgiveness):

a) Regarding R. Yaakov Lipskier, I met him on the day I received your letter. He said that a few days previously he had written to your community about all the good tidings regarding him and his family. His address is appended to this letter.

b) [You asked:] [Which part of the hand is included] in the required measure for washing one’s hands on Tishah BeAvand on Yom Kippur?1

Although in his Shulchan Aruch (sec. 613:2), the Alter Rebbe rules that one should wash [only] to the joints of his fingers,2 it appears that you question whether this should be applied in practice because in his [Piskei] Siddur, the Alter Rebbe rules stringently with regard to washing one’s hands in the morning, stating that [one should wash] until the point where the hand is joined to the arm [i.e., the wrist], “because impurity extends until there.” If so, seemingly, one should wash until the wrist on Tishah BeAvand Yom Kippur as well.

The connection between the laws of Tishah BeAvand Yom Kippur and the [required] measure for washing throughout the year is already alluded to by the Magen Avraham 4:7. (See the sources to the Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch, Mahadura Kama, sec. 4:7.) On this basis, a distinction was made throughout the year between the initial preference and [what to do in] a pressing situation3 (the Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch, loc. cit.; Shaarei Teshuvah in the name of the Shalmei Tzibbur; Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 2:3; Mishnah Berurah 4:9; see also the Pri Megadim).

In sacred texts — as quoted by the Magen Avraham and the Be’er Heitev — it is stated that one should wash until the wrist [on all other days of the year]. To a certain degree, this is reflected [in the wording of] the Alter Rebbe in his Siddur. Nevertheless, according to all opinions, on Tishah BeAvand on Yom Kippur, one should wash only to the joints of his fingers. My revered father-in-law, the Rebbe Shlita, gave such instructions.

I saw the rationale for this [in] a text whose name I don’t remember; {a note added later:4 I found it afterwards in the gloss of the Mikdash Melech to the Zohar II, p. 173a}: that on Yom Kippur, the spirit of impurity does not have so much influence. Therefore, when a person wakes up, it rests only until his joints.

Similar concepts can be stated regarding Tishah BeAv: Because of the weakness of [the forces of] holiness [on this day, the forces of unholiness] do not desire to rest upon [his body] to such an extent. To cite a parallel, [see] the statements at the conclusion of the Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch, Mahadura Basra, [sec. 4:2].5 Thus, [on these two days,] the spirit of impurity extends only to the joints of the fingers. This is a logical explanation.

Similar concepts apply with regard to the prohibition against wearing shoes that applies both on Yom Kippur and on Tishah BeAv. Regarding Yom Kippur, see sec. 3 of the maamar entitled Mah Yafu in Likkutei Torah, Shir HaShirim;6 Pri Etz Chayim, Shaar Yom HaKippurim, ch. 4 (cited in the text Naggid U’Mitzaveh). With regard to Tishah BeAv,there is a slightly different explanation in the Siddur of the Maharik.7

A note added later: Afterwards, I discovered the following in the notes of the Tzemach Tzedek to Eichah: It is forbidden to wear shoes on both Tishah BeAvand Yom Kippur. [On Yom Kippur,] it is because ofthe high level of the ascent of Malchus above the level of the naal (sandal)8 and [on Tishah BeAv,] the opposite is true.

c) [You asked] about the laws of interruptions during Pesukei DeZimrah:

In his Siddur, the Alter Rebbe writes: “When one interrupts to recite Modim.... When one interrupts to recite the Kaddish.... With regard to the Kedushah, one should say only.... The [additions to the Kedushah] that are added on Shabbos are not [part of] the text of the Kedushah [per se] and should not be recited in a place where it is forbidden to interrupt.”

From this, I derived two points: a) The Alter Rebbe equates the conclusion of the Modim prayer9 with the additions to the Kedushah; b) These prayers should not be recited in places where it is forbidden to make an interruption. If so, this would also apply with regard to Pesukei DeZimrah.

This is powerfully evident to me from the conclusion of his wording there: “[This prohibition against interrupting applies during] the recitation of the Shema and its blessings.... [But] during Pesukei DeZimrah, from Baruch SheAmar until Yishtabach, it is permitted to recite Amen.” It appears from this that the laws applying to an interruption during Pesukei DeZimrah differ from those applying to an interruption during the blessings of the Shema only with regard [to the recitation of Amen].10 (The reason for this is that Amen is, [like the hymns of Pesukei DeZimrah,] an expression of praise. See the Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch, sec. 51:5.)

Although the wording of the Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch does not necessarily lead to such an inference, his Siddur is his later text, and [we follow his rulings there] as stated in the Tzemach Tzedek’s notes to the Mishnah, p. 46d.

Nevertheless, I still have some hesitation, for it appears to me that the Alter Rebbe very rarely brings new laws that are not found in the works of the halachic authorities who preceded him, even though [these laws] could bederived from inferences from their wording. (This follows the pattern established by Rifand Rambam, as is known with regard to the general principles that apply in [the study of] their [works].) Further insight regarding this [point] can be derived from an analysis of “the Preface to [the Alter Rebbe’s] Shulchan Aruch.11

Therefore, it is possible to say that even when ruling with regard to making an interruption in Pesukei DeZimrah in his Siddur, the Alter Rebbe cited only those laws that are explicitly stated [by previous authorities] and omitted [mention of the places] where an interruption may be made [if he reached that decision by inference without an explicit prior source].

I have seen people following the custom of interrupting Pesukei DeZimrah to recite the entire text of the Modim prayer. They derive this from the wording of the Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch, sec.66:5: “If one interrupts [his recitation of the blessings before the Shema] to say Modim, he should bow and recite the words “Modim anachnu lach,”but no more, for this will suffice.... If one interrupts [his recitation to respond] to Barchu, he should say only: Baruch A‑donai HaMevorach LeOlam Vaed and not the additional phrase Yisbareich VeYishtabach...,12 for its recitation is only a custom. Even Pesukei DeZimrah should not be interrupted for it.” Since the Alter Rebbe did not make such statements regarding Modim, we can derive that we should interrupt Pesukei DeZimrah to recite [the entire passage]. Afterwards, I saw that Rav Chayim Naeh mentions this concept in his Ketzos HaShulchan, Vol. I, sec. 18, and cites the Eliyahu Rabbah as a source. I also saw people observing the practice (and they said that this was the custom in [Yeshivas] Tomchei Temimim in Poland) to recite the entire Modim and Kedushah [even though it was necessary to make an interruption in the midst of Pesukei DeZimrah]. It appears that this is also the view of the Chayei Adam, sec. 20, and the Derech HaChayim, sec. 30.

With regard to actual practice, I asked my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe Shlita, and he told me that one should say the entire text of Kedushah and Modim [during Pesukei DeZimrah], but should not respond Amen after the phrase Tiskabel or the subsequent [clauses of the Kaddish].

* * *

d) [You ask] whether one should interrupt Pesukei DeZimrah to recite B’rich Shmei or VeZos HaTorah. (I have not seen the text Kenesses Yisrael or the collection of responsa Pri HaSadeh to which you refer.)

It is obvious that since the Alter Rebbe does not mention making such an interruption anywhere, we — the chassidim of Chabad — should not do so.

One of the temimim13 told me that he heard it said in the name of the Rebbe Rashab that an interruption may be made to recite B’rich Shmei. Yesterday, I asked my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe Shlita, and he said that this is not so and that an interruption should not be made.

By the way, the source for the recitation of B’rich Shmei is the Zohar II, p. 206a. This, however, is not mentioned in the Shulchan Aruch [of Rav Yosef Caro]. It is also surprising that the Alter Rebbe does not mention it. For in several places, he cites [the rulings of] the Magen Avraham,and the Magen Avraham mentions the recitation of B’rich Shmei [at the beginning of] sec. 282. Perhaps the Alter Rebbe mentioned this in sec. 135 which is not extant.

As is well known, there are several opinions regarding [the time when] B’rich Shmei should be recited:

a) that the fundamental time is during the afternoon service on Shabbos (Ramaz as cited in Shaarei Teshuvah, sec. 488);

b) during the morning service on Shabbos (Magen Avraham, loc. cit., in the name of AriZal; the same is found in Pri Etz Chayim, [Shaar Ha]Shabbos, ch. 19, and Shaar HaKavanos. [The text] Naggid U’Mitzaveh concludes: “Nevertheless, one should not forbid its recitation during the week.”) [According to this view, it should] also [be recited] during the afternoon service on Shabbos (the gloss of Nitzutzei oros to the Zohar, loc. cit.);

c) that it is customary also14 to recite it before the Torah reading on festivals and during the week (Pri Megadim, sec. 282; Be’er Heitev, loc. cit., in the name of the Ari, Shaarei Teshuvah, loc. cit.).

Accordingly, a distinction can be made between those who maintain that an interruption can be made in Pesukei DeZimrah to recite B’rich Shmei, with regard to the recitation of that prayer on Shabbos and its recitation on a festival or during the week.

With wishes for everlasting good in all matters,

Rabbi Menachem Schneerson