This letter was addressed to Mr. Julius Stulman. The Rebbe prepared notes to be translated into a letter to him in English. The English text of this letter is prefaced by a short note: “This is my first opportunity to respond to your letter of August 1st [12 Menachem Av]... Unfortunately, because of the recent death of my father הכ"ם, it was impossible to respond to you and offer my comments beforehand.”

The Rebbe’s father, the saintly Kabbalist, R. Levi Yitzchak, passed away on 20 Av of this year. The Rebbe received word of his passing shortly thereafter. This is the first published letter written after the conclusion of the period of mourning.

{10 Elul, 5704}

I took pleasure in reading your essay, seeing that you reflected upon deep ideas and assessed them with powerful thought. I thank you for presenting your ideas to me and asking me to comment on them.

Because of the many details involved with the preparations of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuchfor the coming school term, my response to you was delayed. For this, I ask your forgiveness.

The concepts you touched upon are very deep and mortal language is lacking in its ability to express these concepts in full and complete detail. Therefore there are some matters that are left unclear and they give rise to doubts.

Instead of touching upon the particular points mentioned in your essay, I will address several of its general thrusts. After stating [— what I perceive —] to be the conclusion of your essay, I will respond to it.

Your conception [appears to be]: Every entity initially exists in a germinal state. It develops and grows until it reaches a state of fulfillment according to its present state. This state of fulfillment, however, is itself only a seed (perhaps it would be better to say a preliminary and preparatory stage) for the rung which it will ascend to. And so, it will ascend from level to level, becoming one with other entities (who have also gone through a similar process of development). The combination of all of them together forms a seed from which a compound entity grows. This compound entity serves as a seed for a more developed entity. And so this chain continues.

Man finds himself at a given point in this chain. He possesses and manifests a new power — spirituality and free choice — that empowers him to climb further according to these “laws” of development or to oppose them.

Several factors remain unclear in the exposition in the essay:

a) Free choice is given only to man. All the other entities are controlled by a natural process of growth and development. [Thus] giving man free choice appears to be to his detriment. All of the other entities can proceed only forward, while man, because of his power of free choice, can also retreat.

b) It is not clear what is meant by an entity that grows and develops. For example, a seed is planted. This seed itself grows and becomes a tree that bears sour and small apples, but from that tree [comes fruit which produces] a tree with sweet and larger apples.

It is inappropriate to say that the first seed will develop into a second, improved seed, for the first seed no longer exists. Similarly, it is inappropriate to say that the species of apple trees has developed, since a species is not a defined entity. It is an abstract concept which our minds employ to make it easier to comprehend different [concepts] by grouping phenomena into different categories and species. Is it your intent to say that nature developed? That until the present what had existed was a tree with sour fruit and through this process of development, nature produces a tree with sweet fruit?

c) You did not explain what are the criteria through which we can evaluate what is development and what is regression. For example, when comparing sweet apples to sour ones, we cannot say absolutely that the sweet apples represent development. For it is only from the perspective of man’s needs that it is considered as such.

Acute sight can be considered as an advantage and a sign of development for an animal living in a bright place that is required to use its eyes. For an animal in different circumstances, it would be considered a lack, and a regression, since it is of no value to him and the eye requires “nourishment,” i.e., attention and energy. It is well known that the eyesight of the horses which live underground and work in the coal mines in England for many years deteriorates from year to year. Similarly, there are several types of fish who live in caves at the bottom of rivers and lakes where sunlight does not reach them and their eyes are almost useless or they have no eyes at all.

In a general sense, a more developed and complex entity is — according to our perspective — on a higher rung of the ladder of development than a more simple entity (e.g., a monkey is more developed than a worm). From the standpoint of that entity and its striving for existence, the opposite is true. A simple entity (e.g., a worm) can exist in both the cold and the heat. When it is cut, each portion becomes a separate, living entity. Its sustenance and its needs are simply and amply available. There is almost no sense of sickness that applies to it. These characteristics are not found in more complex forms of life.

d) According to the scheme that, at the outset, simple entities develop individually and afterwards, they join together, their coming together and uniting as a single (complex) entity is considered an ascent to a higher level of fulfillment for each of them. Here a question arises: What or who is the grand coordinator who from the outset leads each of the entities on its path of development in a manner that it will complement another entity? With regard to the development of the entity itself, it is possible to say that everything is included in the seed, the germinal state from which the development begins. What connection, however, can it and its essence have with another entity? Therefore we must say that there is a coordinator outside of both entities and above them. It rules over both entities and leads them on the appropriate path to a common purpose that also surpasses these two entities.

* * *

Some basic concepts relevant to the above have their foundations in the teachings of Chassidus:

a) The Holy One, blessed be He, created the world and all it contains. In every entity, there is a Divine spark that brings it into being and grants it life at every moment. This spark is hidden, and not revealed. And yet, were it not for it, the entity would return to utter nothingness and void. (To cite an example, a person’s soul is not seen. Its existence can be appreciated only by the mind.)

b) Whenever this G‑dly spark is more apparent and active in a particular entity, that entity is — in a revealed manner — closer to its true existence. Accordingly, it ascends, develops more, and reaches greater fulfillment.

c) G‑d is the source and the essence of life. Therefore the more this life-energy is revealed, [the greater] the ascent on the ladder of development. Therefore plant life is higher than inanimate existence. Animals are higher than plant life. And humans are higher than animals.1

d) The Creator enjoys absolute liberty. For He created, not only all existence, but also the laws of nature. The only thing comparable to this — freedom and free choice — we find in man. This is one of the proofs that man is higher — in development — than the other created beings.

e) If a person, acting with his free choice does the opposite of what is desired and appropriate, through his deeds (acting in a “gluttonous and indulgent”2 manner), he increases the concealment of the G‑dly spark in himself and in other entities. Not only does he not ascend on the ladder of development, he descends and brings down with him (the food, the drink, and the Divine spark enclothed within them), adding to the havoc of the world.

[The opposite is true] when, however, through his free choice, he chooses good deeds. Not only does he personally ascend the ladder of development — such ascents are also common to other created beings who fulfill their purpose [in creation] — but he — due to his own [initiative] and will, for he had free choice — contributes a new dimension to the creation. In this he becomes a creator as it were. It is as if the Creator endows man with His creative power. As our Sages comment (Bereishis Rabbah, ch. 98): “Yisrael (Yaakov) creates worlds.”

* * *

If you have any feedback with regard to the above, I would be happy to hear from you at any time.