This letter was sent to R. Elkanah Pomerantz, one of the members of the Lubavitch community in Chicago.

26 Tammuz, 5711,

Greetings and blessings,

I received your pan1 via the chassidic mentor R. Shlomo Zalman Hecht. When I will be at the gravesite of my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe זצוקללה"ה, נבג"ם, זי"ע,2 I will read it. He will certainly arouse abundant mercies for you and your wife in everything that you need, and will fulfill the desires of your heart for good, in both a general and particular manner….

Rabbi Hecht mentioned that you now have a possibility of opening a business. May it be G‑d’s will that you be successful and that you merit the fulfillment of the adage that my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe, related in the name of the Alter Rebbe, the author of the Tanya and the Shulchan Aruch:3G‑d gives Jews gashmiyus, material sustenance, and from this material sustenance, the Jews make ruchniyus, spirituality.”

I am concluding with a concept from the weekly Torah reading, Parshas Mattos. Although it is brief, time constraints do not allow me to elaborate; for someone like you, this should be sufficient.

As is well known, the concept of vows differs from the other commandments of the Torah, in that [a youth’s obliga­tions begin before bar mitzvah], while he is “an advanced youth near the age of adulthood,” i.e., after the age of twelve, and not thirteen, in contrast to the Torah’s other commandments. According to several Rishonim,4 this categorization applies according to Scriptural Law. The lesson to be derived from this [can be explained as follows]: The entire concept of vows is a safeguard, as our Sages state:5 “Vows are a safeguard for absti­nence,” i.e., a person accepts a vow so that he will not stumble in his observance of the Torah and its mitzvos. Our Sages said (Talmud Yerushalmi, Nedarim 9:6): “Is not what the Torah for­bade sufficient for you?” Thus it could be said that taking vows is an expression of haughtiness. [Moreover,] there is even a possibility of a prohibition being involved, for we are forbidden to detract or add to the Torah’s commandments.6 Therefore the Torah comes and states explicitly that the opposite is true. [Vows are desirable,] for through the observance of the Torah and its mitzvos alone, it is possible — as Ramban states at the beginning of Parshas Kedoshim — “to be a degenerate with the license of the Torah.” [To prevent that from happening,] it is necessary that one “make a safeguard to My safeguards.”7 With the mitzvah of vows, the Torah explains the manner in which one can obligate a person when he reaches the age of “at thir­teen, to the mitzvos”:8 by preparation through adding safeguards and abstinence beyond those matters which the Torah [explic­itly] prohibited. Thus vows represent a beginning stage, a preparation for the observance of the Torah and its mitzvos. Thus it [parallels] “an advanced youth near the age of adult­hood.”

It is obvious that [this preparatory service] is not a uniform matter. For the degree of abstinence one particular person must take upon himself may not be comparable to that required for another person; indeed, for him, the matter would not present a question. For example, our Sages state:9 “A common person is forbidden to eat meat.” The opposite applies to a Torah scholar, as our Sages say:10 “Instead of bringing vegetables, bring meat.” Therefore, the passage of vows was addressed to the heads of the tribes;11 i.e., it was dependent on the specific quality possessed by the nesiim (princes) [of the tribes]. For the nullification and maintenance of vows is dependent on the nesiim of the tribes; [it is their understanding that determines] what vows should be taken and when it is not desirable to take vows. Since this is not a matter that is universally applicable, it must be [guided] by a nasi, one [who has the awareness that] enables him to say: “This is the word...,”12 seeing through “the clear glass.”13 This is sufficient for a person of understanding.

With blessings for proper health and all types of good,