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The Wellspring Part 4
(Click here for Part 1.)
Behind the Scenes at the Vaad L’hafotzas Sichos
By Rabbi Shalom Yaakov Chazan

Why did the Rebbe decide to start editing the Likkutei Sichos again in 5733 (1973)?

The whole year that the Rebbe didn’t edit sichos was very hard for us. We didn’t know how we should continue to operate in general. Then we decided that if we “shook up” the staff of Vaad L’hafotzas Sichos, perhaps the Rebbe would agree to continue editing the sichos.

At that point several new people came on board: Rabbi Nachman Schapiro, Rabbi Leibel Schapiro, and the late Rabbi Leibel Kaplan. To show the Rebbe that we were really serious, we prepared a number of sichos for his approval. The whole month of Elul we sat and edited Likkutim from Parshas Bereishis until VaEira.

We gave them in to the Rebbe just before Rosh HaShana and informed him of the new make-up of our staff. But we got no answer, neither positive nor negative. All we could do was wait. It was a very tense time for us. We consoled ourselves that at least the Rebbe hadn’t responded negatively. Before Hoshana Rabba, we submitted another three sichos for the Rebbe’s approbation.

On Motzaei Simchas Torah, the entire staff of Vaad L’hafotzas Sichos approached the Rebbe during kos shel bracha. The Rebbe looked at each of us individually and gave us all a broad smile. He then gave Rabbi Shalom Jacobson a bottle of mashke and said, “This is for the new Vaad.”

From the Rebbe’s reaction we assumed that the Rebbe meant that he was agreeing to edit the sichos. The next day, when we didn’t get the sichos back, we were very disappointed. But our disappointment didn’t last very long. The following day we were requested to resubmit copies of the sichos on Parshas Bereishis. It turned out that during all the commotion of the month of Tishrei, the original copies had been misplaced.

Two days after Simchas Torah we merited to receive the edited sichos from the Rebbe. That night everyone was dancing in 770 as if it were Simchas Torah again!

In 5733 the seifer Kesser Shem Tov was published by Vaad L’hafotzas Sichos. What was behind this unusual circumstance?

That Kislev, Rabbi Shalom Jacobson got married. To make sure that the wedding festivities wouldn’t interfere with our schedule, we prepared a number of sichos in advance. Then Rabbi Hodakov told us that the Rebbe was so pleased by our rapid pace that he was asking us to prepare a new edition of Kesser Shem Tov! The new version would contain an addendum of the Baal Shem Tov’s teachings that had previously appeared in other s’farim.

Until then, Kesser Shem Tov had never been printed by a Lubavitcher publishing house. Our version, of course, contained many haaros of the Chabad Rebbeim, including a number of special hosafos from the Rebbe. After we started working on it, the Rebbe asked if we could get it ready for Chaf-Dalet Teives.

By the end of that year both Rabbi Leibel Kaplan and Rabbi Leibel Schapiro had left New York, and Rabbi Yaakov Leib Altein took their place. Incidentally, all of the Likkutei Sichos dating from this period came out in Hebrew, because we thought this would render them accessible to a wider audience.

But two years later everything came to a halt. What happened?

In 5735, the Rebbe again announced that he would no longer be editing the sichos. Unlike the first time, the announcement wasn’t made at a farbrengen. Since the Rebbe refrained from publicly elaborating on his reasoning, I cannot go into it. All I can tell you is that at the time a rumor was circulating that the Rebbe didn’t want to have a three-year chazaka of editing sichos.

In any event, the Rebbe gave us permission to publish Likkutei Sichos that he did not edit. These Likkutim had the official logo of Kehos and the Rebbe’s title page, but clearly indicated that they were unedited.

Just as in 5732, there were many instances in which the Rebbe edited a sicha after it was printed. But the Rebbe did not consider these Likkutim officially edited, and they remained bilti muga.

How long did this situation continue?

Exactly one year. In the beginning of 5736 we asked the Rebbe to start editing again. We also wanted to switch back to Yiddish; it was difficult to translate the Rebbe’s language into Lashon kodesh precisely. The Rebbe agreed, and from that point on the sichos were edited on a weekly basis.

What happened two years later when the Rebbe suffered a heart attack on Sh’mini Atzeres 5738? Did the Rebbe continue to edit the sichos?

To tell you the truth, we had been very worried that the Rebbe would stop even before then to avoid a chazaka. But two days after Sh’mini Atzeres, the Rebbe said to Rabbi Leibel Groner, “The Likut still has to be done.” That week, Parshas Bereishis, the Likut came out after Shabbos, in the middle of the week. That had not happened before.

From 5738 until Shabbos Parshas VaYakhel 5752, the Rebbe edited the sichos every week with almost no exceptions.

In 5748, we switched back to Hebrew. We did this because more people among Anash are fluent in Lashon Kodesh than in Yiddish.

What were some specific instructions the Rebbe gave you regarding Likkutei Sichos?

One time we had prepared a Likut that was extremely complex, requiring a great deal of knowledge of Chassidus in order to understand it. The Rebbe told us that the Likkutei Sichos were intended for everyone, even someone who had never learned in Tomchei Tmimim and had only a superficial background in Chassidus.

From that point on, whenever we had to choose a sicha, we always tried to find one that would appeal to non-Lubavitchers, as well. The Likkutei Sichos are like the written Torah – accessible to every Jew, while at the same time revealing greater depth the more they are studied. The Rebbe’s sichos can be understood even by someone who lacks a high level of formal Torah education. The talmid chacham may derive more, but even the simple Jew will find them comprehensible.

The unbelievable depth of the Likkutei Sichos can be seen in the footnotes. Many of the greatest geonim of our generation have expressed wonder at them. There were instances when the Rebbe wrote long letters of explanation in response to a question about the footnotes.

One time we weren’t sure that we understood what the Rebbe meant in a footnote. We wrote it in our own words, and asked the Rebbe if we were correct. The Rebbe replied: “I meant several things…”

(To be continued -- click here.)



“The Rebbe Melech Ha’Moshiach Shlita”

At the end of 5753, the seifer Besuras HaGeula was published with a significant innovation: On the book’s title page, the Rebbe is referred to as K’vod K’dushas Admur Melech HaMoshiach shlita. Since that time, these words have appeared in every publication of Kehos, not just on the title page, but throughout the text wherever the Rebbe’s name is mentioned.

Anyone who has ever worked on publishing the Rebbe’s sichos and maamarim knows how exacting the Rebbe is about every word in the introduction. The Rebbe would often insist that changes be made, and would inscribe the date on the bottom himself. The words K’vod K’dushas Admur Melech HaMoshiach shlita are thus extremely significant.

In 5753 the Vaad L’hafotzas Sichos prepared a collection of excerpts from the Rebbe’s sichos of 5751-2 on the subject of Geula and Moshiach. Since Tishrei of that year, the Rebbe encouraged the singing of “Yechi” almost every day in 770, and people all over the world received the Rebbe’s permission to publicly identify the Rebbe as Moshiach. We thought the time had come to print the Rebbe’s full title in all official Chabad publications.

We asked the Rebbe about this through one of his secretaries.

After the secretary informed the Rebbe about the publication of Besuras HaGeula and read aloud the first few lines of the introduction, the secretary asked, “It states here that the Rebbe is Melech HaMoshiach. Does the Rebbe mind?” The Rebbe shook his head no.

The secretary repeated the question, adding that this was the first time it was being printed in a Kehos publication, “The Rebbe has no objection?” Again the Rebbe shook his head no

The secretary persisted. “Does this mean that this may be done from now on?” The Rebbe shook his head yes.

Given the Rebbe’s approval, the words have appeared in every publication of Kehos ever since.


The Likkutei Sichos were intended for everyone, even someone who had never learned in Tomchei Tmimim and had only a superficial background in Chassidus.



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