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The Wellspring
Behind the Scenes at
the Vaad L’hafotzas Sichos
Part 1

By Rabbi Shalom Yaakov Chazan


How exactly do the Rebbe’s sichos kodesh get into print? How many steps are involved? What’s the difference between a “hanacha bilti muga” and a sicha that’s been edited by the Rebbe? * The following interview with the members of the Vaad L’hafotzas Sichos – to whom the Rebbe gave sole authority to publish Likkutei Sichos – coincides with the printing of its latest volume, number 39, and is presented in the fervent hope that we will merit to hear the “new dimension of Torah” from the Rebbe Melech HaMoshiach immediately.


“Likkutei Sichos” are two words that say it all to a Chabad Chassid. To the collective Chabad consciousness, they immediately bring to mind the weekly publications that for decades have formed the backbone of our spiritual existence. Likkutei Sichos also refers to the “Chabad Shas,” the dozens of volumes of the Rebbe’s teachings that are found in every Lubavitcher home.

Ever since it was founded, the members of the Vaad L’hafotzas Sichos have maintained a respectful silence about their work. Aside from practical questions pertaining to the Rebbe’s sichos, they have not, as a rule, commented publicly on the process involved in bringing them into print. Now, however, with the 39th volume of Likkutei Sichos about to be released, they have decided to break their silence and grant Beis Moshiach the following interview. In it, they reveal many of the directives they received from the Rebbe MH”M, and discuss the various stages involved in spreading the wellsprings of the Rebbe’s sichos kodesh outward.

Background Information

Before we get to the interview, a little background information is necessary to define exactly what is meant by a “sicha.”

At each farbrengen, the Rebbe would speak on an extremely wide range of subjects, touching on halacha to Talmudic teachings to current events. In most cases, a text of the Rebbe’s words would then be produced based on the recollection of those who were present. This text, which followed the actual flow of topics as they were mentioned by the Rebbe, was known as a “hanacha bilti muga,” an “unedited version” of an entire farbrengen. Although a “hanacha bilti muga” has the advantage of following the exact order of the Rebbe’s development of various themes, its obvious disadvantage is that it was not officially “approved” by the Rebbe, raising the possibility of inaccuracies. For this reason, a “hanacha bilti muga” is not considered an “authentic” sicha.

In addition to these unedited sichos, there were also special publications coming out each week under the heading of Likkutei Sichos. These booklets were arranged according to topic, usually the Torah portion of the week or a particular Yom Tov, and would contain a number of the Rebbe’s sichos relating to that subject. While these weekly publications did not convey a farbrengen in its entirety, the particular topic under discussion would be presented in great depth.

The greatest advantage of these Likkutei Sichos booklets was that they were edited by the Rebbe, complete with notations and footnotes. These sichos received the official “imprimatur of the king,” and were approved by the Rebbe as accurate.

The enormous task of editing the Rebbe’s sichos kodesh was assigned to the Vaad L’hafotzas Sichos. The Vaad is composed of a staff of exceptional talmidei chachomim with decades of experience in interpreting and editing the Rebbe’s sichos and maamarim. Its offices are a virtual beis midrash, with hundreds of reference volumes to assist them in transforming “hanachos” into “sichos.” Obviously, the exact meaning of the Rebbe’s words must be completely understood before a sicha can be submitted to the Rebbe for his approval. Whatever points remain unclear must be clarified by the Rebbe himself.

Turning a hanacha into a sicha is a joint effort involving all the members of the Vaad. Because some hanachos may have been produced hastily, inaccuracies in meaning or context sometimes crept in. Also, because the hanachos were a reflection of oral speech, they contained many repetitions that are not appropriate in a written work. Furthermore, because the Rebbe would speak on the same subject on different occasions, each time revealing another facet or responding to questions that had arisen in the interim, the Vaad would have to “create” a unified sicha taking all of these factors into account.

After the Vaad agreed on a version, the next step involved submitting it to Rabbis Yehoshua Dubrowski and Tzvi Hirsh Gansberg for linguistic and grammatical fine-tuning. The Rebbe once commented about Rabbi Dubrowski, “When Dubrowski makes something, it’s worthy of being printed.” Rabbi Dubrowski also wrote the hanachos that appeared in the magazine Di Yiddishe Heim, about which the Rebbe said, “I have never seen such a good hanacha.”

At that point, a sicha would be ready to be submitted to the Rebbe. The Rebbe would edit it once, then return it to the Vaad with his corrections. This would often take place in the middle of the night, prompting members of the Vaad to rush off to the printing presses to correct whatever needed fixing. The sicha would then be submitted to the Rebbe a second time, and on rare occasions, a third.

Every few years, the edited Likkutei Sichos would be collected and reprinted in book form. These volumes represented the Rebbe’s sichos of a particular time period, and were arranged according to the order of the Torah portions and holidays. They also contained letters of the Rebbe connected to the subject matter.

Over the years, the Vaad L’hafotzas Sichos was so successful that the Rebbe assigned it a variety of other projects, such as editing the works of our other Rebbeim. The Rebbe also gave the Vaad the sole authority to print all the books of the Kehos Publishing Society.

For the purpose of clarification, the full roster of members of the Vaad consists of Rabbis Nachman Schapiro and Yaakov Leib Altein, assisted by Rabbis Elimelech Zwiebel, and Sholom Dov Ber Lipsker. For many years, Rabbis Yosef Yitzchok Wilshansky and Dovid Olidort also participated. Rabbis Schneur Zalman Chanin and Shalom Jacobson are responsible for the actual printing.

(To be continued -- click here.)


Turning a hanacha into a sicha is a joint effort involving all the members of the Vaad.


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