This letter was addressed to R. Shimon Glitzenstein, a writer and one of the leading members of the Lubavitch community in Jerusalem.

B”H, Monday, 17 Adar I, 5706

Greetings and blessings,

I will begin by asking your forgiveness for not acknowledging your gift, your book HaRav (a biography of the Alter Rebbe).

Because of my many involvements in publishing [the Responsa of] the Tzemach Tzedek in addition to the other publishing efforts and the day-to-day tasks of MerkosL’InyoneiChinuch and MachneYisrael, withthe exception of the most urgent ones, I have not answered letters during this time. In particular, with regard to your book, I had desired to review it in its entirety and to make recommendations that in my humble opinion require correction. Therefore I postponed the matter until I had free time and the involvements were eliminated. I hope you will judge me in a favorable light both with regard to the delay of the letter and the comments I make.

I will begin by offering thanks for honoring me with your book. I was happy to see it because for a long time, there has been a noticeable lack of a text that relates the life story of the Alter Rebbe in an easily readable manner and simultaneously provides more than a superficial appreciation of his character. [Hopefully, such a text] would awaken within a reader a desire to know more particulars concerning his teachings, philosophical approach, and activities.

After asking your forgiveness, [I must say] that although your book is fitting to meet the first objective, I did not find anything in it directed to the second objective.

To explain my intent: If there was a special chapter with regard to the texts authored by the Alter Rebbe with a description in two or three lines of each text, [a unique impression would be created]. When a reader would scan the list of the texts and find:

a) The text of the order of prayer (with each and every word carefully chosen);

b) Luach Bircas HaNehenim (the laws of blessings relevant to everyone and written in a manner that is appropriate [to its popular application]);

c) The Shulchan Aruch (particularly, Hilchos Niddah and the Kuntreis Acharon),1

d) The Tanya (whose first and third sections can serve the students of Mussar, ethical refinement, as paradigms for those types of texts; its second portion, an exemplar for a text of Chakirah; and its fourth portion, [a fundamental text for teaching] Ahavas Yisrael),

e) Torah Or and Likkutei Torah ([primary texts in defining] the philosophical approach of Chabad),

f) The Kuntreis Acharon in the Tanya and the Alter Rebbe’s own manuscripts printed in Torah Or ([which demonstrate his mastery of] Kabbalah).

Such a list, with a little additional explanation would — even though it is “dry” — serve as a clarion call: “This is a wondrous man.”

Similarly, your book lacks a bibliography which, in addition to the other rationales for its inclusion, would also contribute to the second purpose.

But what disturbs me the most are the mistakes [the book contains]. I don’t know if this will make any difference (e.g., whether changes can be made in the second printing or corrections can be made in another manner). I am, nevertheless, recording my notes [below]. Most of them relate to particulars that require correction in my humble opinion. In the hope that you will not feel indignant about this, I will list them by page numbers.

p. 5: “Schneur, [two lights,]... the sun and the moon” — This wording does not suggest a chassidic style at all. If you have received it from a trustworthy source, I will accept it. But in many sources, different wording is used. See the letter of the Tzemach Tzedek printed as an introduction to Derech Mitzvosecha and the statements in Beis Rebbe in the name of R. Nachum of Tchernobel.

In general, information about the birth of the Alter Rebbe can be gleaned from Kuntreis [Bikkur] Chicago, sichah 4.

p. 8: “a riddle in mathematics” — Clarification is required: What type of riddle exists here? [In truth,] there isn’t any. Instead, [the subject is] “a [complicated] equation.”

p. 15: “the Baal Shem Tov had a select group of students... [with whom he studied] the text Kuzari....” — This statement is extremely difficult to understand. It is not at all appropriate to the spirit of the Baal Shem Tov’s leadership and his approach in gathering together his students. I don’t know of any source for this. (The Alter Rebbe, by contrast, had such a study group; see Sichos Yud-Tes Kislev, 5693, sec. 22.)

p. 19: [After the Maggid’s death,]they asked the Alter Rebbe to accept the Maggid’s position of leadership.” — This is totally unacceptable when one pays attention to the manner in which the Alter Rebbe and the students [of the Maggid] related to R. Avraham “the angel,”2and R. Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk. There is a well-known letter, a pan, and [many] narratives [about this era]. See HaTamim, Vol. II, p. 45.

p. 20: [After the Baal Shem Tov’s attempted journey to Eretz Yisrael was unsuccessful,] “The Baal Shem Tov sent in his stead, his brother-in-law, [R. Gershon Kitover], to the Holy Land” — Clarification is necessary. From the text Ginzei Nistaros, Ithink that it can be demonstrated from the Baal Shem Tov’s letter to his brother-in-law, that the latter was already there when the Baal Shem Tov desired to journey there.

p. 34: “...the wedding in Zlubin, 5547. At that time, the first disputation took place.” (That wedding was the wedding of the Mitteler Rebbe’s daughter. In 5547, the Mitteler Rebbe was thirteen years old!) See the letter Avos HaChassidus (HaTamim, Vol. IV3) and Kuntreis [Bikkur] Chicago, sichah 3, which describe the Grand Disputation of Minsk in the year, 5543.

36: “Because they reveal the inner dimensions [of the Torah in a manner that runs contrary to the Halachah]” — Perhaps it is worthy to add that according to law, a ban of ostracism can be rescinded. (This also applies to p. 23.)

40: “That the Alter Rebbe journeyed to meet with the Vilna Gaon during the year[s] 5552-5553.” See the Alter Rebbe’s letter printed in Beis Rebbe, ch. 12, which indicates that he journeyed to Vilna together with R. Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk, and not afterwards. If so, this took place before 5538.4 [At that time,] the Vilna Gaon did not want to meet with them.

47: [The chassidic movement] “led by R. Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk” — He died approximately ten years previously.

50: [The Alter Rebbe was brought from prison to a misnaged’s home,] “shortly before sunset.” — See Sichos Chof Kislev, 5693, secs. 6-9, which indicates that this took place several hours before sunset. See the explanation of the matter in that source.

69: “When the Alter Rebbe returned home....” — See HaTamim, Vol. I, p. 37, which states that this took place while he was still in Petersburg.

71: “Where is it written that one must recite ViShomru?” — There are several sources which state that this passage should be recited including the Siddur HaAriZal. See the statements of Piskei HaSiddur [R. Chaim Naoh] with regard to sec. 266.

73: [When fleeing from Napoleon, they set forth] “Saturday night.” They set forth on Friday, as the Mitteler Rebbe writes in his letter printed in Beis Rebbe, at the conclusion of Vol. I.5

74: “They left Russia... the time came... at the beginning of the month of Teves” — Corrections should be made on the basis of the above-mentioned letter of the Mitteler Rebbe.

To repeat: I am writing in the hope that you will not feel indignant, relying on the statement of the wise man — quoted by the Tzemach Tzedek in his letter printed in the text: The Tzemach Tzedek and the Enlightenment Movement, which is printed almost in its entirety in Beis Rebbe6— “Love the wise and love truth more than any of them.”

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

Rabbi Menachem Schneerson
Executive Director

According to Sefer HaZichronos (ch. 10), R. Moshe, the grandfather of R. Baruch, left Pozen and settled in Minsk. R. Shneur Zalman (R. Baruch’s father) settled in Vitebsk and R. Baruch was born there in 5483.