Wellspring Part 3
(Click here for Part
the Scenes at
the Vaad L’hafotzas Sichos
Rabbi Shalom Yaakov Chazan
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.
did you become involved?
all started in the beginning of 5727 [the fall of 1966], when
Rabbi Bentzion Shemtov asked if we were interested in shouldering
the responsibility of disseminating the Rebbe’s sichos kodesh.
Rabbi Shemtov was a longtime activist in bringing the Rebbe’s
teachings to different segments of the Jewish population.
initial idea was well received by Rabbi Chaim Mordechai Eizik
Hodakov, the Rebbe’s personal secretary and the director of
Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch. But Rabbi Hodakov pointed out that the
new mosad under proposal would be independent from the
Kehos Publication Society, and would, therefore, not be funded by
Merkos. The copyright for the first four volumes of Likkutei
Sichos, which had been published by Tzach [the Lubavitcher
Youth Organization], was transferred to the new vaad. The
Vaad L’hafotzas Sichos also became their sole vendor.
first thing we did was to reproduce the sichos from the
first four volumes of Likkutei Sichos, indicating that they
were reprints. Shortly before Chaf Av of that year, Rabbi Shemtov
got the funding for a real printing press, which was very
expensive in those days. This greatly improved the quality of our
we submitted a copy of the title page for the Rebbe’s approval,
the Rebbe indicated that we should add the Kehos logo, as well as
the Rebbe’s special emblem. In other words, although the sichos
were being published by the Vaad L’hafotzas Sichos, an
independent body, the Rebbe instructed us to use the Kehos symbol.
(In later years, several other mosdos would also have this
distinction, such as Sichos in English, Heichal Menachem, etc.)
weekly brochure was put together on Thursday nights by yeshiva
bachurim in the small zal of 770. It was like an
assembly line: one bachur would sort the pages, another bachur
would fold them, a third would staple them together, and a fourth
would put the finished product in an envelope to be mailed out.
continued for a year and a half, without any new sichos
being printed. In the winter of 5729, after we had reproduced a
year and a half’s worth of previous sichos from the first
four volumes, we realized that we had no material for the weeks of
Mikeitz, Sh’mos, VaYikra, Emor, and VaEschanan. We were hopeful
that this meant that the Rebbe would finally agree to edit some
Yoel Kahan prepared a sicha for Parshas Mikeitz, and we
gave it in to the Rebbe for approval. A few days later we got it
back, edited. I can’t tell you what this meant to us. Until then
it was rare for the Rebbe to edit a sicha, and when he did,
it was usually only for a special occasion. The fact that the
Rebbe had edited a sicha without any connection to a
specific date was a milestone.
did the Rebbe start editing sichos on a weekly basis?
the end of 5729, we had no more edited sichos left to
reprint. We wrote in to the Rebbe, and enclosed a collection of sichos
for Parshas Bereishis 5730. It was the night of Hoshana Rabba. The
next morning the Rebbe returned it to his secretary, Rabbi Yehuda
Leib Groner, fully edited.
proved to be a very important date in the history of Likkutei
Sichos, as from that point on the Rebbe began to edit sichos
every week. For the next two years we had more than enough work to
occupy us, and merited to receive countless directives and
instructions from the Rebbe.
Shabbos Parshas Bereishis 5732, the Rebbe suddenly announced that
he would no longer be editing the Likkutei Sichos, citing a
“bechina ruchniyus” (spiritual test) without
elaborating. Could you shed some light on this?
the Rebbe chose not to go into detail, I really don’t think
it’s our place to do so.
the summer of 5731 Rabbi Hodakov called us in and told us in the
Rebbe’s name that the next few months until Simchas Torah would
be a spiritual test that would determine whether or not the Rebbe
continued to edit the Likkutei Sichos.
the end of this period, the Rebbe announced his decision to stop.
In the wake of the announcement, several of the elder Chasidim
wrote letters to the Rebbe begging him to continue. How could the
Rebbe discontinue something that was having such a positive
Simchas Torah the Rebbe acknowledged the many letters he had
received, and stated that there was no need to explain to him the
importance of Likkutei Sichos. The Rebbe said, “I also
know how good [they are]. On the contrary, having added my
personal touch, and given that ‘a person has pity on the work of
his hands’ even when it comes to material things, how much more
so is this true of the Likkutei Sichos. I read and study
them from beginning to end with all the footnotes after they are
printed, in addition to having already done so previously. I can
certainly explain [their significance] better than anyone else, as
I labored over them with all of the annotations. So I certainly
know how precious they are!”
the Rebbe continued, “For various reasons I have my doubts as to
whether it is necessary. In the past there have been other
undertakings that I had no doubt were good, and that in the very
beginning were very successful, but because I am personally
involved (having originated the idea), I decided to put it to a
test… A few months ago I announced that I was waiting until
Shabbos Bereishis to determine whether or not I would stop
[editing the Likkutei Sichos]. According to the natural
order, there was no reason not to continue…”
Rebbe also made it clear that whatever his decision, it in no way
reflected on the staff working on the project. However, “It was
determined from Above that they would not be able to finish their
entire sicha was filled with praise for the Likkutei
Sichos, but at the same time left no room for false hopes.
Whatever arguments could possibly be raised were raised by the
Rebbe himself at the farbrengen. The bottom line was that
there weren’t going to be any more edited sichos.
interesting, though, is that despite what the Rebbe said, a sicha
came out that very week for Parshas Bereishis! However, the Rebbe
made it clear that the sicha was a one-time-only event in
honor of the Tishrei guests, and was not an indication of a change
what did you do next?
could we do? We had no idea what the next step would be.
decided to ask Rabbi Hodakov, and he suggested that we compile a
list of sichos for an entire year and give them in to the
Rebbe. We did this, and also included a sicha for Parshas
Noach that had already been edited in 5725.
Rebbe’s answer was as follows: “As discussed at the farbrengen,
you should consult with the rabbanim.” When we asked the Mara
D’asra of Crown Heights, the late Rabbi Zalman Shimon
Dworkin, what this meant, he instructed us to continue our work of
spreading the wellsprings outward. In other words, as long as the
Rebbe wasn’t editing any new sichos, we should keep on
putting out the old ones and indicate that they were reprints.
the next few months, we published excerpts from the Rebbe’s sichos
dating from different periods. Some of these were sichos
that the Rebbe had edited for the Yiddish-language Di Yiddishe
Heim. Often the Rebbe would review a sicha after it was
printed and give us his corrections after Shabbos. Other times he
would give the corrections to us even before it was printed, and
we would manage to squeeze them in.
time we gave in a whole sicha, yet only a portion of it we
were planning to print. The Rebbe gave it back and we saw that the
entire thing had been edited. We assumed this meant that the Rebbe
wanted us to print the whole sicha, so we asked just to
make sure. And it was good thing, too, because that wasn’t the
Rebbe’s intention. The Rebbe answered that only the first part
should be printed; however, when he had seen something needing
correction in the second half he had corrected it.
Yud-Alef Nissan 5732, in response to the Rebbe’s call to
establish 71 new institutions, we suggested that a new mosad
be formed to put out a printed summary of the Rebbe’s weekly farbrengen,
which would then be distributed among Anash.
Rebbe approved the idea, and we started that Shabbos HaGadol. The
first page contained a general outline of each farbrengen,
with subsequent pages elaborating on the content of each sicha.
These pages came out on the official stationery of Vaad
L’hafotzas Sichos, but were typed rather than printed. The
summaries were approved by the Rebbe. We continued with this
format until Tishrei of 5733.
that point they really began to gain in popularity, and even more
so after Yud Sh’vat, when the Tmimim made an official hachlata
to implement the study of the weekly Likkutei Sichos after
the regular yeshiva seider. The haaros of the
Tmimim were later bound into a book and presented to the Rebbe as
a gift for Yud-Alef Nissan. The Rebbe was so pleased that he said
it should be considered one of the 71 new institutions in honor of
his 71st year.