Translator's Note: The following is a translation of an excerpt from a letter written by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, in 1947, to Rabbi Abraham Hecht.1 Much of the content also appears verbatim in a letter to Rabbi A. Yalles dated several years earlier.2 I have taken some liberties in the translation of the material for the sake of readability and have added notes elucidating on the letter's citations.

In answer to your question: You heard that the saintly rabbi of Zidichov3 disputed the view of Chabad concerning the concept of Time, and asked where you could find this dispute and its content.

The matter is found in the rabbi's book, V'asseh Tov4 near the beginning. He writes, "I have found that someone writes an answer to the question, 'Why wasn't the world created earlier?' in the name of our master and teacher, Rabbi Dov Ber of Mezritch. He says that Time, as well, is a creation, and at first there was no Time. In truth, I do not believe that this statement came from his holiness. What would the rabbi do with the statement in Midrash Rabbah5, '…this teaches us that there was an order of time earlier'? And in the Talmud,6 they say that the Torah preceded the world by 2000 years."

This issue is found in the Siddur7, Shaar Kriat Shma,8 however I do not know if this is what is intended.

He also alludes to Moreh Nevuchim. (Part II, chapter 30).9

-- See Shomer Emunim, the second debate, discourse 17 concerning all the above.10--

Aside from the opinion of Maimonides (ibid) that Time is a creation, many other great Jewish scholars have also stated this explicitly: Rabbi Saadia Gaon, Rabbi Shimon ben Aderet, Rabbi Menachem Azariah of Fano, Sforno and others.

In greater depth: There are two aspects to Time: Measured Time (by some sort of movement, whatever that may be) and the Essential Continuum of Time (which is called by Jewish philosophers by the name given in Moreh Nevuchim, Shiur Zman or Dmut Zman. Or, in the language of the Sefer Ha-Ikrim,11 Zman Bilti Meshuar ["Unmeasured Time"].12) This essential continuum of Time is also a creation13 — contrary to the opinion of the Sefer Ha-Ikrim, ibid. See Sefer HaMitzvot by the author of the Tzemach Tzedek14, The Mitzvah of Belief in G‑d, chapter 11.15 The same is understood from Asarah Maamarot,16 referenced above.

As far as the statement of our rabbis in the Midrash Breishit Rabbah that he mentions: There are various explanations that avoid interpreting this as leaning towards the doctrine of kadmut [the eternality of the cosmos]17: See Ikrim, ibid,18, Bachye at the beginning of Genesis19 and others.

Chabad Chassidism explains this Midrash by distinguishing between Time and the order of time that Breishit Rabba is discussing. The order of time is a greater abstraction than the concept of Time itself (this is the converse of what the author of the Ikrim writes) and it is the origin of Time.20 This is explained at length in the Sefer HaMitzvot, ibid21 in many other writings.

-- Parenthetically: Many people confuse these two concepts of Time and through this become ensnarled in error. For example, those who deal in Einstein's Theory of Relativity.22 But this all concerns only the first concept of Time. They err, as above, and consequently derive extremely peculiar conclusions.23 This, however, is not the place to elaborate. --

Aside from this dispute, the saintly Rabbi of Ziditchov also disagreed in general with the view of those who delve into the teachings of the comprehension of G‑d, such as the teachings of oneness, the order of the higher cosmos and similar matters. In his opinion, faith is enough, as he explains in the aforementioned work.