This letter was addressed to R. Eliezer Silver, one of the leading Rabbis of the Orthodox movement in America at that time.

B”H, the New Year of the Trees, [15 Shvat,] 5708

Greetings and blessings,

You are certainly aware at least of the fundamental aspects of the work carried out by Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch which was founded and operates under the presidency of my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe Shlita, in various different fields. Therefore I do not think it necessary to elaborate to a person like yourself concerning the importance of this work. We will assume that the cherished feelings which you have shown this work will continue and that you will certainly not refrain from helping in an appropriate manner.

A short while ago, our friend, the distinguished Rabbi, R. Shlomo Aharon Kazarnovsky, visited one of the supporters of the efforts of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch in Cincinnati who had shown an interest in our work when he was in New York two years ago.

While R. Kazarnovsky was in Cincinnati, he detected a willingness to assist Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch within the circle of [the supporter’s] acquaintances. [This is very necessary at the present time] when the lack of means [to carry out] its ordinary work plus the many debts in which it is mired hold back the continuation of its vital and necessary efforts in the sphere of education. Certainly [the financial burden holds back] the widening of those efforts as is necessary.

It would have been fitting and proper that before [R. Kazarnovsky] began working on this, he should have consulted with you and heard your advice and opinion. You, however, were not at home at that time. Hence, out of fear that the excitement would cool off and that if the matter would be postponed it would be postponed indefinitely, he felt it necessary to begin doing what is possible to arrange a group of interested parties and supporters for the work of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch in general and in particular, in the area of publications.

What was accomplished then was merely a beginning, sowing seeds as it were. Before instructing our friend, Rabbi Kazarnovsky, to continue this great mitzvah which he began, we are turning to you with a double and threefold request to provide us with your insight concerning the matter in general, and in particular, [your advice] concerning the appropriate time and manner [to bring it to fruition]. [This is] especially [true since through] your esteemed assistance and your powerful influence, the number of supporters of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch will increase. This is a matter necessary to the actual spiritual health of thousands of Jewish boys and girls.

It is superfluous to mention a matter “concerning which no doubt exists for a consummate man and which is revealed to people at large”: Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch is an institution that has no connection to any particular party and is not connected or related to any yeshivah at all.

To conclude with matters concerning the present day: 15 Shvat, the New Year of the Trees. According to Rambam (see Mishneh Torah, the beginning of Hilchos Maaser Sheni), it appears that its origins are in Scriptural Law. Rashi — in his commentary to [the Halachos of] Rabbeinu Yitzchak Alfasi — with regard to the Mishnah, Rosh HaShanah 1:2, by contrast, [states that it is of Rabbinic origin].

[According to the first perspective,] from Scripture, we derive only that [the New Year of the Trees] follows the Rosh HaShanah for the years at large [i.e., the first of Tishrei, but not the particular day on which it is commemorated] (Tosafos, Rosh HaShanah 10a, entry u’peiros). It is, however, possible to explain that the establishment of this date is determined in [either of] two ways:

a) As applies with regard to other measures [within Scriptural Law], it is a halachah communicated by Moshe at Sinai, as is the opinion of most halachic authorities.

b) The Torah entrusted the establishment of the New Year of the Trees to the Sages. After their ordinance, it has [the power of] Scriptural Law. We see other examples of this principle, according to certain opinions, with regard to doing business with forbidden matters, afflicting oneself on Yom Kippur, performing work on Chol HaMoed, the prohibition of following gentile practices, and caring for a firstborn animal.1

The difference between these two approaches is that according to the latter one, if there is a court that surpasses [the Sanhedrin (which made this definition)] in wisdom and in the number of its adherents, it has the authority to change the New Year of the Trees to another date.2

Since the Mishnah equates all four Roshei HaShanah, it would appear that the first interpretation should be followed.3 Nevertheless, the debate in the Talmud concerning the date when this Rosh HaShanahis commemorated [appears to] depend on logic. For by saying:4 “Follow the majority of years,” it appears that [the Talmud] is giving a rationale, not mentioning a distinguishing characteristic. This would appear to support the second rationale: that the Torah entrusted the determination of the New Year of the Trees — i.e., when the fruit of the new year begins to bud — to the Sages. For the natural order will adapt itself to the Torah,5 as our Sages comment in the Talmud Yerushalmi, Kesuvos 1:2, on the verse:6 “To G‑d who makes His determination [dependent] on me.” I am coming only to raise an idea.

This concept can be expanded upon according to the non-literal approach of Derush:It is written:7 “A man is (— sometimes, only —) a tree of the field.” Our Sages, with the power of the Torah, can determine — and motivate — the time when his fruits (mitzvos) will bud and when there will be a new year (when he will renew his deeds). [This is possible,] provided it takes place after the Rosh HaShanah for a human, as he is human. This is not the place for further discussion of the issue.

With honor for your lofty esteem and with wishes for everlasting good in all matters,

Rabbi Menachem Schneerson
Chairman of the Executive Committee