This letter is addressed to the renowned Rosh Yeshivah, R. Moshe Dovber Rivkin, a former student of the Lubavitcher Yeshivah. R. Rivkin had responded to the preceding letter and the Rebbe replies to his response.

B”H, Wednesday, 15 Teves, 5706

Greetings and blessings,

In response to your letter:

I) From my letter, you understood that I desired to explain that repeating [a Sage’s] teaching in this world enables the soul of the author of the teaching to study in the heavenly academy. You noted that reciting the teaching is effective only with regard to having [the Sage’s] lips rustle in the grave, but his presence in the heavenly academy is another matter, made possible by the fact that he studied Torah during his lifetime in this world and is not dependent on [others] reciting a teaching which he authored.

I did not find any explanation in your letter that compels one to make such a distinction. I remain firm in my position and [will explain] through the simple meaning [of our Sages’ words], logical deduction, and a statement of our Rabbis.

a) [With regard to] the simple meaning [of our Sages’ words]: The simple meaning of the passage is that reciting a teaching in someone’s name has a twofold effect. The Sage: i) lives, ii) in two worlds. It is possible to live in one world through other means (in our physical world, [one lives as a result of the existence of one’s body,] and in the World to Come, [one lives as a result] of the observance of the Torah and its mitzvos). When [one’s] teaching is recited, however, he lives in both worlds simultaneously.

b) [With regard to] logical deduction: If the recitation of a teaching can cause the Sages’ lips to rustle in the grave, certainly they will be able to affect his soul and cause it to speak [in the heavenly academy]. For [the soul] is the one which is primarily involved in Torah study (although the intent is that the soul be involved in Torah study at the time one is [tempted by] the yetzer hora, [as evident from] Shabbos 89a).

c) [With regard to] a statement of our Rabbis: It appears that in his gloss to Bechoros 31b— which I cited in my previous letter — Rabbeinu Gershom Meor HaGolah interprets “dwell[ing] in two worlds” [as follows]:

“In the material world” — thatrefers to the lips of the person reciting the teaching. “In the World to Come” — that refers to the lips of the author.

From his opinion, we can deduce that the other commentaries also interpret “in two worlds” as applying with regard to this particular teaching.

If one would say that [the soul] exists in the World to Come due to other factors, independent of the fact that a teaching is presently being recited in his name, there is difficulty in comprehending why Tosafos, s.v. Agurah, Yevamos 96b mentions [the soul being in] “the heavenly academy.” Instead, they should have said: “In the World to Come” without further elaboration. Hence we are forced to say that as a reward for having once studied Torah, when his teaching is reviewed, the matter is again aroused. “The reward for a mitzvah is a mitzvah”;1 its reward reflects its nature, i.e., the Sage is now placed in the heavenly academy.

See also our Sages’ statement quoted in Chanoch LeNaar, p. 22,2 that at the time one performs a positive act that comes as a result of a deceased person, [the deceased] receives a reward. From that [statement regarding] a son, we can infer [that similar concepts apply regarding] a student.

II) With regard to the two analogies for the “lips rustling” given by the Talmud Yerushalmi (Berachos 2:1, et al), aged wine and spiced wine: You suggest that they reflect different types of teachings, the first refers to [the mystic teachings of] Pnimiyus HaTorah and the second to [the legal insights of] Nigleh and dialectic analysis. Much clarification is required for several reasons:

a) [If that is the case,] King David should have clarified to Rabbi Yochanan that he was particular with regard to a teaching of this particular type.3

b) In the passages in Yevamos and Bechoros cited above, Rabbi Yochanan and Rav Sheshes are speaking about teachings in Nigleh and yet, they were particular [that their names be mentioned] — [to the extent of issuing a curse of death. According to the opinion that the analogy of aged wine is appropriate, all of this was unnecessary.4

c) The term Kunditin, translated as “spiced wine,” refers to a mixture of wine, honey, and pepper (Pesikta D’Rabbi Kahana, the pesikta beginning BaChodesh hashelishi as cited by the Aruch). When making distinctions with regard to the Torah as a whole, honey refers to the Torah’s esoteric dimension as stated in Chagigah 13a, 14b.5

d) The Talmud Yerushalmi, Shekalim 2:5 elaborates more, stating: “What benefit will he have? Ben Nazira states: ‘It is like one who drinks spiced wine.’ Rabbi Yitzchak says: ‘It is like one who drinks aged wine.’” According to the interpretation you suggested, this passage cannot be explained.

In my humble opinion, whenever a passage — either in Nigleh or in Pnimiyus HaTorah is mentioned, there are [two elements]: the teaching itself — this has limits and bounds — and the dialectic analysis of the teaching which is endless (as explained at length by the Alter Rebbe in his Kuntreis Acharon to Hilchos Talmud Torah, the beginning of ch. 3).

[In this context,] the passage from the Talmud Yerushalmi can be understood according to its simple meaning: A question is raised: “What advantage will the author of the teaching have in repeating his familiar teaching again?” The answer is given (— based on the statement of tractate Sofrim 15:7: “Mishnah is like wine, Talmud like spiced wine —): One Sage says: “Like spiced wine,” i.e., no matter how many times he will repeat his teaching in the heavenly academy, he discovers in it new concepts and ideas, as mentioned above with regard to dialectic analysis. The other Sage says: “Like aged wine,” a venerable mishnah. “Even though he drank it, its flavor remains in his mouth for a long time,” i.e., he feels and delights in the motivating principle contained in a familiar concept.

See the gloss Korban HaEidah to the passage from Shekalim in the Talmud Yerushalmi and the text Amek HaShaalah by R. Mordechai Dov [Twersky] of Hornstiepel, who have interpreted the two analogies mentioned. [Their interpretations] also require clarification in my humble opinion. This is not the place for further discussion about the issue.

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

Rabbi Menachem Schneerson
Executive Director