This letter was addressed to R. Moshe HaKohen Shayevitch.

B”H, 24 Tishrei, 5708

Greetings and blessings,

I had thought that just like every year, on the days of Shemini Atzeres and SimchasTorah, we would meet and be able to speak together. It appears that [this year] various factors stood in your way and prevented you from making the journey.

How regretful! As our Sages (Rosh HaShanah 16b) state: “A person is obligated to appear before his teacher on the festivals.” See the Kessef Mishneh to the Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Torah 5:7.

Although at present, there are those who are lenient with regard to this and several explanations have been given in this context, a further point is involved. As a preface, there is a well-known question with regard to [the wording of the liturgy]:1 “We cannot ascend, appear, and bow down before You.” That we cannot “ascend and appear... before You,” is understandable — “because of the hand sent forth against Your Sanctuary.” But bowing down is [seemingly] possible in any place, as we say: “And we bend the knee and bow down.”2 Why is the Beis HaMikdash necessary for this?

The resolution of this question is that there are two levels in bowing down:

a) the external expression of bowing: that one bows with one’s body; or on a higher level in the external level of bowing, with regard to the actual deed, which is dependent on one’s body, [one demonstrates a commitment] not to rebel against the King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He;

b) the inner expression of bowing that comes as a result of the bittul (nullification) of one’s will before G‑d’s will, that he has no other will or desire at all; i.e., it is the soul that bows down.

The [latter] bowing is endowed to the Jewish people through their appearance [before G‑d] on the festivals in the Beis HaMikdash. After the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, although we can no longer bow down, a vestige of the holiness of this ray extends into the “sanctuaries in microcosm,”3 the synagogues and houses of study, during the times of prayer (Likkutei Torah, Parshas Berachos, the first maamar entitled Mizmor Shir..., sec. 2).

We see in actual fact that to reach the level of “Negate your will...,” your intellect, and the other powers of your soul without assistance is very difficult. For when a person appreciates his own worth, he will not find reasons sufficiently [cogent] to nullify his own will entirely. On the contrary, if he comes to the recognition and the decision that he must negate his own will, then a person who comes to such a decision is G‑d-fearing and on a significant level. If so, it is difficult to comprehend why he cannot rely on the decisions made by his intellect and will. The [proper] counsel in such a situation is to seek help from a person4 whom he acknowledges is [functioning] on a higher level than his own and who has no self-interest in such matters. Then he will certainly heed the directives which [that sage person] instructed him in the paths of G‑d. The appropriate time for [such an encounter] is on the three festivals, corresponding to [the experience] at the time the Beis HaMikdash was standing. It is superfluous to elaborate further.

May it be G‑d’s will that the letter [sent by] my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe Shlita, will compensate for this, at least to the extent that can be conveyed in writing until you are able to see him face to face.

With wishes for everlasting good in all matters,

Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson
Chairman of the Executive Committee