This letter was addressed to R. Yosef Goldstein, one of the refugees who settled in Paris after WWII and devoted his energies to spreading the study of Chassidus there.

B”H, Tuesday of the week in which we read
the parshah [beginning] “And Yaakov lived
in the land of Egypt,”1 5707

Greetings and blessings,

We received your letter of 11 Kislev in which you share the good news that communal sessions of Torah study were established at an appropriate time. As per your request, we have sent you some of our publications in a separate shipment. Please notify us that you received them. It is incumbent on you to see that many use these texts, either by placing them in a public place (a synagogue, a reading room, or the like) or by lending them to others and then lending them out again. “Whenever one brings merit to people at large..., the merit of the many is dependent on him.”2

We are not in possession of any copies of the Tanya, because they have all been sold. You should approach [the chassidim in] Tel Aviv directly for it appears that they still possess a number of copies.

In a letter of 14 Sivan, 57013 (which I cited in HaYom Yom, p. 12), my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe Shlita, writesthat when the Tzemach Tzedek was a young child, he studied the verse:4 “And Yaakov lived in the land of Egypt for seventeen years.” His teacher interpreted it according to the commentary of the Baal HaTurim, explaining that Yaakov lived his seventeen best years in Egypt.

When he came home from cheder, he asked his grandfather, the Alter Rebbe: “How is it possible that the best years of Yaakov, the chosen of the Patriarchs, were the seventeen years he lived in the land of Egypt, ‘the nakedness of the land’?”5

The Alter Rebbe answered him:

It is written:6 “He sent Yehudah before him to Yosef towards Goshen to show the way.” The Midrash7 — quoted by Rashi — states: “Rabbi Nechemiah says: ‘[He was sent] to establish a house of study’” so that the Torah would [be taught there]. Thus Yaakov’s sons would contemplate the Torah. [This is the intent of the words:] “To Goshen, to show the way.” When we study the Torah, we come closer to G‑d.8 [In this manner,] it was possible that even in Egypt, Yaakov “lived,” i.e., experienced vitality.

It is possible to clarify an additional point: Why was it Yehudah whom he sent? It is possible to resolve the concept as follows: The Alter Rebbe’s explanation (which is based on the Baal HaTurim’s teaching) — that through Torah study, one comes closer to G‑d — is difficult to understand. Obviously, when Yaakov [and his sons] were in Eretz Yisrael, “he was an elder, abiding in the yeshivah,” like the other Patriarchs. (The verse is merely teaching that even in Egypt, Yaakov followed this pattern; see Yoma 28b.) Why then are his years in Egypt considered his best years?

[One might endeavor to reply that] in Egypt there were a multitude of [G‑dly] sparks that were refined9 (Torah Or, Parshas Vaeira, the maamar entitled VaYomer... VaYivla; see also ibid., Parshas Bo, the conclusion of the maamar entitled B’Etzem). [This, however, is not sufficient, because these G‑dly sparks] were not refined until much later, until after the death of that entire generation.

Moreover, the Alter Rebbe’s wording indicates that the matter is dependent on Torah study itself and not on the refinement of the sparks [of G‑dliness]. (If [one would say that the resolution is dependent on the teaching:]10 “This is the path of the Torah:... live a life of difficulty... you shall be happy and it shall be well with you,” [that teaching focuses on relinquishing] delights as itstates: “Eat bread with salt....” On the contrary, in Egypt, the Jews ate “the fat of the land.”11 We do not see that they [enjoyed such prosperity] in the land of Canaan.)

Egypt, however, is “the nakedness of the land,” while with regard to Eretz Yisrael from which they departed, it is said: “The atmosphere of Eretz Yisrael grants one wisdom” in Torah study (Bava Basra 158b. It is difficult to say that [the concept]: “The atmosphere of Eretz Yisrael grants one wisdom” began to apply only after the Jews entered Eretz Yisrael, as our Sages relate [regarding another matter] in Megillah 14a.)

For this reason, [Yaakov] sent Yehudah before him, for [his Divine service] reflects the kabbalas ol (the acceptance of the yoke) demonstrated by a simple servant. [Such a servant] takes pleasure in performing his Divine service with kabbalas ol, for the Master’s pleasure is his pleasure. (See Kuntreis Etz HaChayim, the conclusion of ch. 19; the maamar entitled Acharei Havayah Elokeichem Teileichu, 5666, and other sources.) For the Master has very deep pleasure in Torah study in the land of Egypt. With regard to the Divine service of refining [the sparks of G‑dliness], there is room within logic to say that one must descend to Egypt as explained above. With regard to Torah study, by contrast, [the descent to Egypt] is illogical, unacceptable even to the intellect of the G‑dly soul. It is, however, one of the deep conceptions of the Master [of the world],a revelation of His essence (Or Torah, the maamar entitled Yodua Teida). Through the attribute of Yehudah, it is possible for the servant also to experience deep and essential pleasure [in this study]. Hence it was Torah study in Egypt that granted Yaakov his best years.

With the blessing “Immediately to teshuvah, immediately to Redemption,”

Rabbi Menachem Schneerson
Chairman of the Executive Committee