This letter was addressed to R. Tzvi Lieberman.

B”H, 11 Adar II, 5708

Greetings and blessings,

It was with great pleasure that I received your letter, for I had heard of your efforts to strengthen the Torah and its mitzvos, and in particular in the sphere of education. Certainly, you are expanding your sphere of activity from time to time. For as stated in Tanya, Iggeres HaKodesh, Epistle 14, the revelation of the sublime light continues to grow. Accordingly, one may conclude that the arousal from below or at least the medium [to receive that light] on the lower level must also expand. [Our Sages’] question:1 “Has the generation improved?” applies. Nevertheless, it is well known,2 “The reward is granted commensurate to the painstaking effort invested.”

To respond at least in brief to your notes:

a) Reb Baruch, the Alter Rebbe’s father, earned his livelihood from the work of his hands. He did not accept any position as a Rav, a preacher, or the like. Instead, he worked as a gardener, as stated in the Memoirs. It appears that he did not travel on missions from the Baal Shem Tov, or did so only on rare occasions. Therefore it is not difficult to understand why, [although] in that era they were careful in writing titles [when referring to distinguished people], they did not refer to him with the title “the Rav, the Gaon,” or the like. This is clear. For he would actually flee from any public acknowledgment as related in the Memoirs. And “[the fulfillment of] a person’s will is [the way to] honor him.”3

b) [With regard to] what you wrote concerning the concept of preparation for one’s initial yechidus:4[These matters] are not explicitly stated. Nevertheless, in my humble opinion, it is clear that after the explanation of the concept of yechidus andthe explanation given by my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe Shlita (quoted in HaYom Yom, p. 86), which includes three matters: the clarification of the status of the person entering yechidus,the definition of the nature of his Divine service, and [the development of] a bond in which one commits oneself and surrenders oneself — all of this should not be approached superficially, but with sincere truthfulness.

One must be an appropriate medium to receive all of the above and a suitable medium (earning this [through one’s own efforts]) to receive all of the above. As the levels to which one has reached through his own powers will increase, so, too, will [the endowment] he receives in yechidus increase. (Perhaps[this applies] also to what he is granted in yechidus.5For there are certain unique occasions when [the influence] granted in yechidus was not at all commensurate to the medium (keli) of the person who entered [yechidus]; [as an example] perhaps, one can cite R. Y. Ch. Z. of Lieple.6 Ordinarily, what is granted is influence that is merely above the level of the particular recipient, [but not entirely transcendant]. To cite a parallel: the difference between the encompassing light associated with a garment and that associated with a house.7)

How great is the difficulty for an intellectual person to bring about [a change] within himself that [motivates him to] make a commitment and surrender himself beyond the limits of intellect! For there is no rationale within logic to sacrifice oneself [to fulfill] the directives of so-and-so. [How great is the difficulty] for a person with a powerful will to reach the level of negating his will — not only doing the will of others! The greater the person, the more difficult [it is to make such] preparation.

c) With regard to the fact that one of the people you know copied the Tanya by hand and you note that, although the parallel is not total, perhaps since Tanya is the “Written Law of Chassidus,8 there exists a similarity to the positive commandment to write a Torah scroll.

According to my humble opinion, [one can say the following]: With regard to Divine service, there are matters that are defined by intellect and matters that are segulos, acts that have mystic significance and power beyond that which is apparent to our logic and reason. For example, breaking an undesirable emotional quality by continuous expression of the opposite quality, or refining one’s power of desire by using it only for desirable matters are all [methods that can be understood] logically. That “tzedakah uplifts,”9 making one’s mind and heart one thousand times more refined,10 is a segulah. It is obvious that not all people — or even the same person at different times — are the same. In a given situation, an activity may be only a segulah, while in another situation, it is a matter that is logically understood.

With regard to the aspects of Divine service that are dictated by logic, it is incumbent on every person to seek — based on the explanations in the texts of our Rebbeim — methods and ways [to advance] with regard to his own Divine service and with regard to his efforts with others. With regard to segulos, by contrast, what has been said, has been said. Even then, it is necessary to clarify if the directive was given only for that time or for all time. We do not, however, extrapolate from new developments.

With regard to writing the Tanya by hand as mentioned above: This is a segulah. There are certain people for whom this activity will make such a powerful impression upon their soul that the loss of time that could have been spent studying the Tanya is [compensated by] the reward [for it], i.e., the fact that the holiness of the text is firmly established within his soul. In most instances, however, it is an improper path for, [to speak in analogy,] a servant who could pierce pearls11 to choose on his own initiative — in contrast to a situation when he is directed to do so — to devote his time to simple tasks. This is clear.

There are two well-known stories concerning our Sages [that are relevant]. Rabbi Akiva occupied himself with the burial of an abandoned corpse, [a mitzvah so important] that it takes precedence over all others. Nevertheless, because he neglected attending to Torah Sages because of his efforts, they told him: “For each and every step,...12 (Tosafos, entry Mevatlin, Kesubos 17a). Conversely, when Rav Zeira became weary, he ceased studying and went to sit at the entrance of the house of study so that he would [fulfill the mitzvah of] rising before a Torah scholar (Berachos 28a).13

Enclosed is the kuntreis for Purim that was just published. [It is being sent to you] to share with others, [increasing] the merit of people at large. Similarly, we will send you some of our other publications as you requested. Please acknowledge your receipt of them.

With blessings for a happy and joyous Purim, and with greetings to all those who send good wishes,

Rabbi Menachem Schneerson