The following is a free translation of a letter by the Rebbe, dated Tishrei 25, 5719 (October 9, 1958):1

I acknowledge with thanks your letter of Elul 17 and the books you kindly sent for my library; my hope is that you will continue to make available to us the books you will publish in the future. Please forgive my delay in responding, which is due to the busy days2 in the interval.

Many wonder about the saying by our sages that "Rabbi [Judah HaNassi]3 honored the rich."4

To me, the meaning is clear and well-understood, based upon one of the fundamental principles in the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov,5 which is:

Everything in the world, even the most minor thing, is by divine providence, and especially things that affect a great number of people.

The rich are people whom divine providence has granted the means to achieve much good in G‑d's world. Accordingly, they certainly have also been granted the spiritual faculties necessary to fulfill this role—a role many times more demanding than that of a person of average means or a pauper. Rabbi [Judah HaNassi] lived in a period in Jewish history that was a time of transition from a relatively tranquil life to a life of persecution, and he had to rally all the forces within the people of Israel to enable them to withstand these trials and emerge intact and invigorated. So his was the task to appraise each and every individual and seek to utilize all their potentials. Thus he expressed his reverence toward those whom the Almighty had granted greater potentials, which were certainly utilized to preserve all that is holy for Israel, for this was the aim of all Rabbi [Judah HaNassi]'s works.

It is only that, in keeping with the manner in which G‑d conducts the world, every Jew has been given freedom of choice, and "G‑d tests him to know whether he loves G‑d... keeps His commandments and heeds His voice"6; as the Torah writes, "See, I have set before you today the life and the good...."7 A rich man also has the choice of choosing to fulfill the conclusion of the above verse, "and you shall choose life," or, G‑d forbid, the opposite.

It is obvious that if the above applies to those who are rich in gold and silver, how much more so does it apply to those who have been blessed with a wealth of talent and ability to influence their immediate and distant surroundings.

Also obvious is that it is not at all sufficient to merely refrain from using one's "wealth" toward undesirable purposes. Since there is a Master to the world and nothing in it is in vain,8 there must be an active, positive utilization of one's wealth. Failure to do so would disrupt the entire edifice of creation, which was formed so that all its parts should actively contribute toward its all-inclusive, unified goal.

Surely it is superfluous for me to point out that I am speaking of the true purpose of our people, the people of the G‑d of Abraham, as a community and as individuals—namely, life in accordance with our Torah, the law of life, Torah in its entirety without compromise. For the greatness of Torah is that it is "learning that brings to deed"9--the actual observance of the mitzvot in everyday life, as it is said regarding [the mitzvot]: "and live by them."10

Please forgive me for touching on this most basic point immediately in my first letter to you. Perhaps this arouses wonder in you: do I indeed expect to bring about the desired results with these lines? But there are several explanations for this:

Firstly, we are living in a time replete with occurrences that but a short while ago were in the realm of the impossible; anyone who contemplates them, if only briefly, sees things that transcend the reasonable every step of the way. How true are the words of our sages, "Do not discount any thing."11

Secondly—and this is a point whose truth is absolute and rooted in the teachings of Chassidism—it is in the nature of every Jew and the constitution of his soul that when one speaks to him regarding the Torah and the optimal observance of mitzvot, one does not need to achieve any "change" in him, since his deepest self agrees to it. One need only remove whatever might be obstructing the "garden spring, a well of living water" (as the verse12 refers to every Jew) so that it may gush forth on its own. And this can occur, in the words of the Zohar, "in a single hour and a single moment."13

Another basic point: you have been granted, by divine providence, influence over many people, and since many of these people are themselves leaders and wielders of influence in various circles; so if these lines would have any amount of actual effect, this would be disseminated and be magnified many times over...