The name of the recipient of this letter was not released.

17 Sivan, 5711,
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Greetings and blessings,

With pleasure, I received the text Kocho D’Rashbi (The Power of Rashbi)that you sent me. You are also deserving of thanks for this, as our Sages said (Bava Kama 92b): “The wine belongs to the owner, but the waiter deserves favor.”1 Showing favor to the waiter is relevant only when the waiter has free choice, as explained in Sefer HaMitzvos2 by the Tzemach Tzedek, mitzvas milah, sec. 3. Thus the concept is relevant only when the waiter is a Jew. In contrast, [it does not apply to] an angel or a gentile.3 See the biur of the maamar entitled VeHeinif, in Likkutei Torah, Parshas Emor. Explanation is required.

Please convey thanks to the author of the book 4 for his gift. If possible, would he send [a copy of] his other texts to our library, [either as a gift] or in exchange for the texts published by Kehot. Thanks are given in advance. The author [is worthy of] appreciation for publishing a text on the hidden dimension5 of the Torah in general and on the Zohar in particular, because “with it, the Children of Israel will be redeemed from exile with mercy”;6 may this take place speedily, in our days, Amen.

I am, however, surprised, for it is apparent from several places in this text that the author has tasted the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov and his students. Nevertheless, up to now, I have not found any references to the teachings of Chabad [Chassidus], although [those teachings] contain explanations regarding [several of] the subjects with which the text is concerned.

There were times when certain groups would look at the study of the teachings of Chabad [Chassidus] as [something beyond the capacity of an ordinary person, to which applies the instruction]:7 “What is wondrous to you, do not seek out.” Instead, [they maintained] that one should proceed with simple faith the entire day, as explained in the books of the Rebbe, R. Tzvi Hersh of Ziditchov.

This is precisely [the same argument that] had been given several generations before this time by some Jewish leaders concerning publicizing the teachings of Chassidus as a whole, i.e., the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov. Similarly, [the same argument was used] several generations before this time by some Jewish leaders concerning publicizing the Zohar.

After the many decades following the publication of the Zohar, and similarly, after the many decades since the revelation of the Baal Shem Tov and his teachings, there began to shine — and still shine — the six luminaries of the nesiim of Chabad, from the Alter Rebbe until my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe. [It is thus obvious that] the matter has been resolved with living signs.

For when one contemplates the outcome of the study of the Zohar, the outcome of the study of the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov, and, in our generation, in particular, the diligence in the study of Chassidus Chabad, [these results] show without a doubt that the Zohar is the Tree of Life,8 that the teachings of the BaalShemTovare the wellsprings of the Torah concerning which Mashiach spoke with the Baal Shem Tov,9 and the study of Chassidus Chabad is the wayto understand the Zohar, and this is the manner in which the wellsprings will be spread outward. Then, “the master will come,” i.e., the king, Mashiach.

We who have all merited (although legitimately, the question can be asked: “Has the spiritual level of the generation improved?”)10 that, in the present era, there has been revealed — and revealed in abundance — many of the hidden secrets of the teachings of the Zohar and Chassidus to the extent that (at least the external dimension of the concepts, although not the inner depths) have become understandable to the powers of Chochmah, Binah, and Daas11 in the soul. This enables the power of intellect within the soul to become essentially one with the knowledge of G‑d, [comprehending] how He fills all the worlds, transcends all the worlds, and all existence is of no importance before Him.12 [Thus, the connection with these mystic concepts does not depend] only on the power of faith.If — even though by Divine providence a person has become aware of the teachings of Chassidus —he does not follow [the advice of our Sages]:13 “grab and eat; grab and drink,” [and involve himself in these teachings,] that certainly arouses wonder. Moreover, since he could have occupied himself in this dimension of Torah study and failed to do so, he has not fulfilled his obligation of Torah study to the fullest extent of his potential. See the Alter Rebbe’s Hilchos Talmud Torah 1:4 [which states] concerning the above: “The Sages of the true [wisdom]14 also taught [that in order to perfect itself, every soul must engage in the Pardes15 of the Torah according to its capacity to comprehend and perceive….]”And [the Alter Rebbe] concludes: “For whatever the soul can comprehend and perceive in the knowledge of the Torah consummates its perfection. It cannot reach consummate perfection in ‘the Bond of Life — G‑d,’ i.e., in the Source from which it was hewn, without this knowledge.”

Any elaboration in a matter that is easily understood and obvious is superfluous.

I will note several — although not all the — places where the (printed) texts of Chassidus speak about Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai: [Tanya,] Iggeres HaKodesh, Epistles 19 and 26; Torah Or, p. 23c; Likkutei Torah, Vayikra, pp. 18a (in the notes of the Tzemach Tzedek16 it is stated that the Baal Shem Tov was on the same level), 28a (the statement there [that Rabbi Shimon is mentioned] “in every chapter” [of the Talmud]requires some explanation17 ); Bamidbar, pp. 84c, 87d; Devarim, pp. 12b, 43a (seemingly, the intent [in saying that Rabbi Shimon’s soul was above sleep] was that he required even less than sixty breaths; thus his level was also above that of King David; explanation is required); Shir HaShirim, p. 19c; Siddur [Im Dach], Shaar HaLag BaOmer; the series of maamarim entitled VeHechrim, 5631, p. 52ff., et al. The maamar entitled VeEileh Shmos (5617 which is presently being prepared for publication)18 by R. Hillel of Paritch states: “In the name of the Alter Rebbe, it was said that for lofty souls like R. Shimon bar Yochai, [it was as if] the Beis HaMikdash was not destroyed at all.”

I will conclude with a possible explanation of the statement of our Sages which serves as the beginning of the introduction to the text The Power of Rashbi that is taken from the Talmud Yerushalmi, Sanhedrin 1:2: When Rabbi Akiva conveyed semichah19 upon Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, he told Rabbi Meir to sit first. [Hearing that,] Rabbi Shimon’s face became downcast. Rabbi Akiva told him: “It is sufficient for you that I and your Creator recognize your potential (kochacha).”

There are many [points in the narrative] that raise questions. Among them: In the content of [Rabbi Akiva’s] reply: If he did recognize [Rabbi Shimon’s] potential, why did he not seat him first? And if Rabbi Shimon’s potential was not sufficient for this, [seemingly,] he should have said so. [On the surface,] the fact that “I and your Creator recognize your potential” is not significant. The resolution offered by the Pnei Moshe,20 that Rabbi Meir was older, [does not appear sufficient], for if so, the fundamental point is lacking from the text.

With regard to the wording of [Rabbi Akiva’s] reply: [What is the implication of the term] “your Creator”? Seemingly, he should have used the terms, “the Holy One, blessed be He,” or “the Merciful One” which are frequently used by our Sages. In particular, this is true, because the acquisition of the knowledge of the Torah does not come to scholars [innately,] as a result of the creation, but as a result of the 48 qualities21 with which they labor [to acquire it]. [Also,] what is the implication of the term “your potential”? Seemingly, he should have said “your wisdom,” for the passage concerns the ordination of elders (זקנים) and the very name זקן, “elder,” refers to the phrase זה שקנה חכמה, “one who acquired knowledge.”22 [Also,] with regard to the order of [Rabbi Akiva’s] reply: Seemingly, he should have said: “Your Creator and I” and not the opposite.

To explain in brief, because the time is not appropriate for lengthy exposition: The entire Torah exists on the sublime level of Atzilus (see Torah Or, Parshas Chayei Sarah, the maamar entitled Lashon Admur Nishmaso Eden). Afterwards, it enclothes itself on lower spiritual planes: Talmud (the thorough explanation of the motivating rationales for the laws)23 in the realm of Beriah;and Mishnah (the body of redacted Torah Law whose motivating principles are enclothed and embedded in them) inthe realm of Yetzirah. Seeanexplanation of all this in Tanya, ch. 52. Kabbalah alone remains in Atzilus. (See the above-mentioned maamar in Torah Or; Tanya, the note at the end of ch. 40; and in Kuntreis Acharon, at the conclusion of the maamar entitled Lehavin Mahshekasuv B’Pri Etz Chayim.)

Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai was one of the masters of the Torah, one of the intermediaries to draw it down to the other Tanaim, who were also referred to as Eisanim,24 “the mighty ones.” [His spiritual mission was] to draw down pnimiyus haTorah, the Torah’s mystic core, in Nigleh, the revealed dimension of Torah Law, in an overt manner, as explained in the series of maamarim entitled VeHechrim, [5631], cited above.

With regard to the discussion and analytical development of concepts, there is not such a great difference in the order in which the elders sat, between the one who sits first and those who follow him. With regard to rendering binding decisions of Torah Law, seating is significant. With regard to cases involving financial matters, the sage of the greatest status who sits in the most prominent position renders his decisions first, while with cases involving capital punishment, the sages sitting on the side render their decisions first (Sanhedrin 4:2).

On this basis, we can understand the quote from the Talmud Yerushalmi cited previously: When Rabbi Akiva came to determine the order in which Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Shimon should be seated, a matter that relates to delivering halachic rulings, he seated Rabbi Meir first, because Rabbi Meir would “illumine the eyes of the Sages in Halachah” (Eruvin 13b). As a result, Rabbi Shimon’s face became downcast, for he recognized his own potential in the analytical development of Torah concepts (see Shabbos 33b): that he was the master of the secrets of the Torah, and that he was intended to serve as an intermediary for the other Sages, as explained above. (One might argue that some of these positive qualities were acquired by Rabbi Shimon a long time after he received ordination from Rabbi Akiva. Nevertheless, he already possessed some of them at that time. And more important, he knew his potential in this matter, the heights that he would achieve because “the quality of a squash plant can be detected from its buds.”25 )

Rabbi Akiva told him: “It is sufficient for you that I (which refers to the Shechinah, i.e., Malchus of Atzilus; see Zohar, Vol. I, p. 6b, et al; see also Sukkah 53a, “If I am here…,” this is the spiritual level associated with the study of Kabbalah, as explained above) “and your Creator” (the Talmud, which is associated with Beriah, the realm of creation, which is drawn down from the Shechinah into the realm of Beriah) “recognize your potential”26 (even though it has not become actually revealed in a decision of Torah Law, whose place is in the realm of Yetzirah as explained Above; therefore, he used the term Borecha, “Your Creator,”not Yotzrecha).27 (See the explanation of the term koach, “power,” in Likkutei Torah L’Gimmel Parshiyos, p. 56c).28 All of these represent wondrous levels. Therefore, “it is sufficient for you,” even though with regard to halachah, directives for actual practice, Rabbi Meir was given the place of prominence.

Thus all the statements that are difficult to understand are explained.

With blessings for good in material and spiritual matters,