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The Wellspring Part 2
(Click here for Part 1.)
Behind the Scenes at the Vaad L’hafotzas Sichos
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.


Recently I visited the offices of the Vaad L’hafotzas Sichos at 788 Eastern Parkway, the building next door to 770, above the main shul and beis midrash of the Rebbe Melech HaMoshiach. The first things I saw were sfarim everywhere. Aside from bookshelves filled with hundreds of volumes and facsimiles of handwritten manuscripts, there are tables piled so high with books you can almost hear the tables groaning. Even the chairs and windowsills have been turned into impromptu libraries.

Outside the window, Eastern Parkway bustles with its usual traffic, but inside here, time seems to have stopped. The members of the Vaad are busy at work, poring over volumes, making notations and checking references in their vast computer archives.

Since we haven’t merited to hear a new sicha for eight years now, I must admit that I expected to find the place empty. Frankly, I was surprised by the fluster of activity. I decided to begin my interview at the end and work my way backwards.

It has been eight years now since the last pamphlet of Likkutei Sichos came out. What has the Vaad L’hafotzas Sichos been doing since then?

We’ve been very busy getting the last few volumes of Likkutei Sichos ready for print. Right now we’re working on the final editing of Volume 39, and Volume 2 of Seifer HaSichos 5747. We’re also working on a set of indexes to the entire Likkutei Sichos series. In addition, several other books are now in the process of being printed.

To the best of my knowledge, the Likkutei Sichos are a reprint of Sichos Kodesh, which were already published in booklet form. Why would it take eight years to do this?

We’ve been hearing that same question for years. People don’t understand why the process takes so long. But it’s not as simple as taking a few booklets and binding them together. Halevai it would be so easy!

You have to understand that even after most of the sichos were printed and distributed, the Rebbe made numerous editorial changes and footnotes. Sometimes the changes were so radical as to totally change the meaning of the sicha. Most of the time this wasn’t the case, but there were always alterations, notations, additions or portions to be omitted. Almost every single sicha had to be corrected in some way or other.

In addition, we were given specific directions from the Rebbe with regard to updating the footnotes. For example, sometimes we had to cite a sicha that had not yet been printed in a volume of Likkutei Sichos. In those cases we would write, “See the sicha of parshas such and such.” After it was published, we would have to go back and change it. This is just one example, but there are many other editorial technicalities. These matters are very time consuming.

Beginning with Volume 18, each volume also contains a detailed summary of every sicha. These summaries were also heavily edited by the Rebbe.

Another important point is that the Likkutei Sichos do not only contain the weekly likkutim on the parasha. At the end of every volume is an addendum, the hosafos, which in itself takes several months to prepare. These are usually letters of the Rebbe that are connected to the weekly Torah portions covered in that volume.

By the way, these letters were printed years before the Rebbe’s Igros Kodesh came out. In those days, Likkutei Sichos was the only place you could find the Rebbe’s letters. Nowadays the editors of the Igros Kodesh (headed by Rabbi Shalom Mendel Simpson) have access to an extensive archive of the Rebbe’s letters, but years ago it just didn’t exist. We had to collect them one by one, contacting each person who had merited to receive a letter. There are 26 volumes of Igros Kodesh, which contain letters through the year 5731 (1971). Likkutei Sichos, by contrast, contains many letters that were written after this date. Gathering all this material and determining which parshiyos they relate to is extremely time consuming.

I would like to point out that some of the letters in the hosafos were given to us directly by the Rebbe for inclusion. The Rebbe even instructed his mazkirus [secretariat] to send us copies of his correspondence for a while. In any event, all of the hosafos were personally edited by the Rebbe, although the material may have already been in print elsewhere.

In fact, the directive to publish the Igros Kodesh series came after the Vaad L’hafotzas Sichos asked the Rebbe for access to more letters.

Volume 39 is about to be printed. What are your plans after that?

It is our fervent hope that the Rebbe MH”M will be revealed even before Volume 39 comes out, and we will merit to hear the new Torah from Moshiach’s own lips. When that happens, we’ll be plenty busy! One time, when Rabbi Zalman Chanin showed a new volume of Likkutei Sichos to the Rebbe, the Rebbe said, “When Moshiach comes, we’re going to first start printing books!”

But if, G-d forbid, we have to stay in exile for another short while, our workload will still be full. First of all, we’re always working on new and improved editions of the Likkutei Sichos. Every little detail since the last printing is updated.

Secondly, following the directives we received from the Rebbe, a few years ago we published several indexes to the Likkutei Sichos. These mafteichos did not include material found in later volumes, which we’re working on now. We’re also updating the previous volumes to make sure that all references are presented in a standardized format. The objective is to make them user-friendly, so that anyone wanting to look something up can find it easily. The way it stands now, the indexes only cover five of the nearly 40 volumes of Likkutei Sichos. A person wanting to know where and when the Rebbe referred to a certain topic has to consult several books. But G-d willing, by the time we finish this project, doing research will be a lot easier.

We’ve also started publishing a new series, Likkutei Sichos – Moadim, which will include the Rebbe’s edited sichos kodesh and letters about the various festivals. Plus, there are several other books the Rebbe instructed us to work on, such as a collection of sichos on nigla that was put together by Rabbi Isser Zalman Weisberg, many of which were edited by the Rebbe.

But perhaps the biggest project in the works these days is a Chumash that will contain the Rebbe’s explanations verse by verse, and a Seifer Tehillim in the same format.  

Some Historical Background
The first time the Rebbe officially edited a sicha for  publication was for Shavuos of 5718 (1958), when the Division for Divrei Elokim Chayim of the central Lubavitch Youth Organization [Tzach] approached the Rebbe with the request. The objective was to help Lubavitchers going out to other shuls to spread the Rebbe’s teachings.

After the Rebbe approved the initial idea, they asked Rabbi Uriel Tzimmer to prepare the hanachos in a simple, straightforward format that lent itself to public speaking. Next, these hanachos were submitted to the Rebbe for editing. The end result was then duplicated and distributed among Anash all over the world. These pages, which didn’t have the Rebbe’s “logo” (some of which were put out by Kehos), were the topics in Chassidus to be given over in shuls. They were solely the work of the Lubavitch Youth Organization.

These sichos came out every week until 5719; in 5722 they were collected and bound in several books – this time, with the Rebbe’s title page. The directors of Tzach came up with the idea during a farbrengen for Yud Dalet Kislev 5719, the Rebbe and Rebbetzin’s 30th wedding anniversary. During a yechidus, they told the Rebbe that Anash wanted to publish the Rebbe’s sichos and present them to him as a gift. The Rebbe gave his approval and blessing, and that is how the first volume of Likkutei Sichos came into being. It was also decided then to print the Rebbe’s edited sichos in a two-column format.

Several years passed. Before Simchas Torah of 5723 (1962), the Rebbe again started to edit his sichos kodesh, apparently in honor of the upcoming 150th yahrtzeit of the Alter Rebbe. These sichos, which were prepared by Rabbi Yoel Kahan, first came out as mimeographed pages. The Rebbe spent an entire year editing them, after which they were published as official volumes of Likkutei Sichos. This brought us up to Volume 4.

In 5725, after the passing of the Rebbe’s mother, Rebbetzin Chana, the Rebbe devoted a major portion of every farbrengen to the literal meaning of the text in Rashi’s commentary. One of the chozrim gave in his first drafts of these sichos for the Rebbe’s approval, and everyone was delighted when the Rebbe agreed to edit them as a memorial to his mother and an elevation for her soul. Like the others, these sichos first appeared as rough mimeographed sheets, without the official stamp of Kehos.

Unfortunately, the joy proved to be rather short-lived, as the Rebbe stopped editing them after Shabbos Parshas VaYishlach of that year. The few sichos that were edited were later printed as an addendum to Volume 5 of Likkutei Sichos.

(To be continued -- click here.)


One time, when Rabbi Zalman Chanin showed a new volume of Likkutei Sichos to the Rebbe, the Rebbe said, “When Moshiach comes, we’re going to first start printing books!”






The directive to publish the Igros Kodesh series came after the Vaad L’hafotzas Sichos asked the Rebbe for access to more letters.



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