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The Wellspring Part 3
(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.


When did you become involved?

It 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.

The 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.

The 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 publications.

When 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.)

The 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.

This 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 new sichos.

Rabbi 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.

When did the Rebbe start editing sichos on a weekly basis?

By 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.

This 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.

On 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?

If the Rebbe chose not to go into detail, I really don’t think it’s our place to do so.

In 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.

At 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 effect?

On 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!”

Nonetheless, 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…”

The 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 work.”

The 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.

What’s 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 in policy.

So what did you do next?

What could we do? We had no idea what the next step would be.

We 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.

The 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.

For 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.

One 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.

For 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.

The 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.

At 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.

(To be continued -- click here.)


Money Matters

Publishing the Likkutei Sichos each week is an expensive undertaking. Most of the funding has traditionally come from individuals who dedicate an issue in someone’s merit or in memory of a loved one.

There was once a Lubavitcher couple that had been married for nine years but was still childless. The husband got an idea to pay for the printing of an issue of Likkutei Sichos. As he wrote in a letter to the Rebbe, in the merit of spreading the Rebbe’s teachings perhaps he and his wife would be blessed with “zera chaya v’kayama.” Less than a year later, their first child was born. The same thing happened with a different couple that had been married for eight years. Again, less than a year after funding the publication of Volume 12 of Likkutei Sichos, the wife gave birth to their first child.

Another couple was also blessed with a daughter after paying for the printing of Seifer HaMaamarim Basi L’Gani, Volume 1, which was also published by the Vaad L’hafotzas Sichos.

Three times a year, the weekly Likut would be dedicated by the Rebbe himself: on Vav Tishrei, the yahrtzeit of the Rebbe’s mother, Rebbetzin Chana; on Yud Gimmel Iyar, the Rebbe’s brother’s yahrtzeit; and on Chaf Menachem Av, the yahrtzeit of the Rebbe’s father, Rabbi Levi Yitzchok. After 5748, the Rebbe would also dedicate an issue in memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka for Chaf-Beis Sh’vat.

In the very beginning the Rebbe would pay by check, but in later years the Rebbe paid in cash. Before the money was sent, the Rebbe would always ask what the going rate was for Anash, which was $150. One time, after receiving the same answer year after year, the Rebbe asked why the price hadn’t gone up, insisting that the price of everything increases from time to time. “I’m not looking for any bargains!” the Rebbe said. “I want to pay the same price as everyone else.” In the end, the Rebbe paid $250 for the dedication.


Although the sichos were being published by the Vaad L’hafotzas Sichos, an independent body, the Rebbe instructed us to use the Kehos symbol.







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.






“It was determined from Above that they would not be able to finish their work.”





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