This letter was sent to Rabbi Shmuel Zalmanov, one of the leading members of the Lubavitch community at that time.

B”H, Wednesday, Adar 20, 5704, Brooklyn

Greetings and blessings,

In response to your letter: I ask [your] forgiveness for the delay [in answering] due to other pressing concerns. Even now, I do not have time to do more than respond in brief, [which I will do] point after point according to the order in your letter.

a) You commented with regard to what I wrote1 concerning the difference of opinion between Rabbi Yosse and the Sages2 whether a person is judged every day. [You noted that] in Chassidus (Likkutei Torah, the conclusion of Parshas Korach; Kuntreis U’Maayon, Maamar 17), it is explained that although each of these opinions emphasized different points, there is no fundamental difference of opinion between them.

My letter was written in response to the question asked based on the interpretation of the passage in Rosh HaShanah found in the text Mikra’ei Kodesh. [That text]speaks of a difference of opinion between Rabbi Yosse and the Sages. It concludes by ruling that without question the halachah follows the opinion of the Sages. Hence I was amazed, for according to the interpretation of the person whose questions you cited, that is not an unquestionable point, indeed, on the contrary....

b) You bring support [for that contention] from the fact that Rav Chisda (Rosh HaShanah 16a) derives the rationale for Rabbi Yosse’s position from the verse:3 “To perform the judgment of His servant and the judgment of His nation Israel, each day’s measure on that day.” [You suggest that this indicates that the term] “His servant” refers to every person. This serves as the proof that a person is judged every day.

Directly afterwards, the Talmud continues:

Rav Chisda states: “[When there is a question as to who is given priority,] a king or the community, the king is given priority, as [the above verse indicates, mentioning first] ‘the judgment of His servant’ and afterwards, ‘the judgment of His nation Israel.’ ”

Thus the term “His servant” refers to the king. [You maintain that for] Rav Chisda’s statements not to contradict each other, it should be explained that Rav Chisda made the first statement according to Rabbi Yosse’s conception, but Rav Chisda himself does not agree with it.

According to my opinion, for several reasons, this is entirely untenable:

1) [There are times when] one Sage explains the motivating rationale for [another’s] opinion and cites a source for it although he does not accept it. It is, however, extremely uncommon that immediately [afterwards, for the same Sage] to offer a teaching that suggests an opposite interpretation of that passage without [the Talmud] itself noting and commenting on that fact;

2) According to the interpretation that “His servant” refers to every person, what does the verse add by continuing and “the judgment of Your nation Israel”? One cannot answer that it comes to include the judgment [of the Jews] as a communal entity. For if so, it would be superfluous to speak of “the judgment of His nation Israel.” If the judgment of every individual is executed every day, it is obvious that this applies with regard to the judgment of the Jewish people, [for] that is of greater importance.

3) If “His servant” applies to every individual, then an individual receives precedence over the community. This is then directly opposite to the following statement of Rav Chisda.

4) The phrase “To perform the judgment of His servant” is part of King Shlomo’s prayer. The simple meaning of the verse is that it refers to the king [himself], as is the opinion of the Rabbis. If so, what is the proof that every person is judged every day? For interpreting the verse in that manner removes it from its simple meaning.

Alternatively, [it forces us to say that although] the verse applies to the king, by deduction, the concept is applied to every individual although that is not stated explicitly in the verse.

Therefore it is necessary to say that the support for Rabbi Yosse’s opinion that a person is judged everyday is derived from the phrase: “the judgment of His nation Israel, each day’s measure on that day” in one of two ways:

1) that Rav Chisda does not make a distinction between one individual and the entire community as a whole;

2) from the fact that the word “Israel” in the above phrase is superfluous.4

The first suggestion appears more logical to me.

c) From the fact that Rav Cruspedai’s statement in the name of Rabbi Yochanan:5 “Three books are opened on Rosh HaShanah...” is quoted by Rambam as halachah, [you] bring proof that the halachah follows the Sages’ view.

Nevertheless, Rambam’s decision is not proof that there is a difference of opinion, for it is possible that [Rambam] follows the resolution offered in the texts Asarah Maamaros and Likkutei Torah which explain that there is no conflict between the two sources.

Nor may even a person who maintains that there is a difference of opinion between Rabbi Yosse and the Sages employ Rav Cruspedai’s statement in the name of Rabbi Yochanan as proof [that the halachah follows the Sages’ view]. For it is possible to explain that they follow the interpretation of Tosafos (Rosh HaShanah, loc. cit., entry vinechtamim) who state that Rav Cruspedai is speaking about life and death in the World to Come. Even Rav Yosse would agree with that statement, for the verse “the judgment of His nation Israel,” which serves as his prooftext, refers to “the life of this material world.” For that reason, [it is interpreted as the motivating principle for] praying for [blessings regarding] “harvests and infirmity.”2

d) You write that Rabbi Meir (Rosh HaShanah 18a)follows the opinion of Rabbi Yitzchak who states that crying out to G‑d is beneficial even after a decree has been pronounced. [This, you feel,] indicates that Rabbi Yitzchak probably shares Rabbi Meir’s opinion that a person is judged on Rosh HaShanah. [The rationale is that we do not postulate] that there exist differences of opinion between the Sages [unless logic compels us to do so].

I do not understand. [Our Rabbi’s position that we do not postulate] that differences of opinion exist applies with regard to [differences of opinion concerning] the subject under immediate discussion, [but not with regard to other issues]. Just because Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Yitzchak share the same opinion with regard to rescinding a decree that has been pronounced, must we say that they also agree with regard to the extent of the judgment on Rosh HaShanah!? On the contrary, from this Beraisa, support can be brought for the opposite contention, i.e., that they differ, for if not, Rabbi Yitzchak’s position is identical with Rabbi Meir’s.6

e) You bring proof that the halachah follows the Sages’ position from our Sages’ statement (Rosh HaShanah, loc. cit.) that [G‑d is more accessible, even] for an individual person during the Ten Days of teshuvah. That statement, however, indicates only that it is easier for a person to turn to G‑d in teshuvah in these ten days than throughout the year, as it is written:7 “Seek G‑d when He is to be found.” As a result, the judgment against him is rescinded. It is not, however, a proof that a person is not judged every day. (For example, Yom Kippur is specified by the Torah [as a day of atonement, as it is written:8 “For in this day…,” and yet this is not considered as a contradiction to Rabbi Yosse’s approach.)

f) With regard to my statements that we are compelled to say that all of the Sages who maintain that a decree against an individual person is never rescinded follow Rabbi Yosse’s approach that a person is judged everyday, for we pray for [blessings regarding] “harvests and infirmity”: This is explicitly stated in the Talmud (Rosh HaShanah 16a) as I pointed out in my previous letter. The statements of Tosafos (entry Kimaan) are intended to explain why according to the Sages, we recite the blessings for health and material prosperity in our prayers. (The interpretation of the term קצירי as “harvests” follows the version of the text followed by the Bayis Chadash.9) I did not understand the statements you wrote which contradict the words of the Talmud.

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

Rabbi Menachem Schneerson
Chairman of the Executive Committee