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Because The Rebbe Says So
By Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Ginsberg

 When R’ Reuven Dunin was a student in Tomchei Tmimim-770, the Rebbe paid him special attention. The Rebbe called him to his room many times and sent him on numerous errands, always explaining the reason for doing so. On one of these occasions, R’ Reuven burst into tears and said, “Rebbe, I don’t want you to tell me why to do something for you; I want to do it simply because the Rebbe says so!”

At a farbrengen that took place around that time, when the Rebbe spoke about the need to take action in a certain matter, he said, “Like Reuven Dunin says, you must do so without knowing why — only because you are told.”

* * *

Reb Mendel Futerfas, a’h, emphasized emuna (faith) and mesirus nefesh (self-sacrifice), which are characteristic of serving Hashem beyond reason. He approached Torah study with this outlook, particularly the study of Chassidus. He wanted his students to understand what they learned, but at the same time he wanted to ensure that their depth of study would not, ch’v, affect their wholehearted, pure faith.

Reb Mendel frequently repeated the story about the mashpia in Lubavitch, Rabbi Chanoch Hendel Kugel, known affectionately as Hendel, who was sent by the Rebbe Rashab to Zembin. The talmidim there learned with mashpia R’ Shmuel Grunem Esterman and Hendel was sent to evaluate the school’s progress. Upon his return, when asked what he had seen, he said, “M’pilpelt zich un m’pilpelt zich. They engage in intellectual debate in Chassidus, but they are liable to forget, ch’v, the One who gave the Torah.”

* * *

In 5743, in preparation for Beis Nissan, the anniversary of the day the Rebbe Rayatz became nasi, the Rebbe MH”M shlita told the directors of Otzar HaChassidim to publish the Rebbe Rayatz’s first maamer,Reishis Goyim Amalek,” which was said on Parshas Tzav after Mincha, the final day of Shiva for his father, the Rebbe Rashab. It is based on the maamer of Purim 5680, the final maamer the Rebbe Rashab said in public. As Chazal say, “This one began where the other left off.”

When the maamer was published, following the Rebbe MH”M’s directive, it was studied everywhere by Anash, particularly by the Tmimim. Reb Mendel once approached one of the talmidim and asked him, “Tell me, what is the nekuda (point) of the maamer?”

The boy had learned the maamer well, so he didn’t have to hesitate before answering. The maamer discusses the difference between kav ha’mida and k’nei ha’mida, he said. Kav ha’mida is the limitation imposed upon the light so that it can illuminate and be revealed, whereas k’nei ha’mida is limitation for the sole purpose of concealing.

Reb Mendel was utterly shaken by this response. Although it is true that this topic is discussed throughout the maamer, is it the nekuda? Is that what one is to be left with from the entire maamer? Indeed, the maamer provides a penetrating account of the wiles of the animal soul:

Each individual knows from his own experience the great suffering and pressure that comes from his yetzer ha’ra and animal soul. They never rest; they challenge him every step of the way and confuse him with many immoral thoughts, inciting him and goading him with deception. Sometimes they raise him to lofty heights and say to him that these hidurei mitzva are not worth his while, and that it would be better for him to delve into Torah or to do a mitzva. The intention in this is evil, so that he does not do good. And sometimes they degrade him, saying: “This service is far over your head. Why are you mingling with the great and wondrous?” He is thus made to demand the truth (demanding that everything be done with truth). The intention in this is to prevent him from doing what he ought to do.

A second point of the maamer is contained in the amazing words about the greatness of hiskashrus and the holiness of a tzaddik:

One can say that this is the idea of “holiness does not depart from its place”… The place of Torah and avoda of a tzaddik maintains its holiness also after he rises up from physical life to true life, and the illumination of the light of his avoda remains in its place. The place where he learned and delved into Torah, and all the things he used for the purpose of avoda, all have holiness, as part of his refinement of the world.

I once saw my father, the Rebbe, enter the room of his father, my grandfather, the Rebbe, which had been left exactly as it was in his lifetime. (This was about 5645 or 5646). He entered it wearing a gartel, and stood near the desk facing the chair. His lips moved as though he spoke, and he cried profusely.

The bachur could have gotten so much out of the maamer in terms of his attitude towards how to respond to a directive of the Rebbe, how to respond to the schemes of the yetzer ha’ra, and how to have true hiskashrus. But he chose to ignore these very important lessons. That’s why Reb Mendel was irate: What did you find in the maamer? Only the haskala (intellectual aspect) about kav ha’mida and k’nei ha’mida! Chassidus is much more than just intellectual concepts.

* * *

Reb Mendel treated the Rebbe’s takana (enactment) of the daily study of Rambam quite seriously. It wasn’t only because of his reverence for the wondrous explanations the Rambam offers, and the organization and arrangement of the entire Torah so that it can be practically applied, but because of the fiery emuna that characterizes the Rambam’s work. Indeed, the Rambam mentions the name of Hashem wherever possible, far more than other halachic works. The Rambam constantly uses phrases like, “tziva ha’Keil baruch hu, brich rachmana d’syaan, and “ha’Keil ha’nechbad v’hanora ha’zeh,” and the like. Moreover, the Rambam establishes that “it is a principle of faith that Alm-ghty G-d speaks to men,” and he stresses that one must believe in a prophet in order to connect to Hashem. This emphasizes how important and essential it is to connect to the Rebbe, in order to be connected to Hashem.

Reb Mendel would say that despite all the advantages of studying the Rambam, the most important thing is being able to learn what emuna is. With all the wisdom inherent in the Rambam’s works, the Rambam retains his simple faith, without embellishment.

Reb Mendel would constantly tell what he had heard about the Rambam. For instance, when the Rambam put on tefillin he needed two men to hold him lest he fall in dread before the Alm-ghty.

“See,” said Reb Mendel, “that’s the Rambam’s true greatness. Despite all his intellectual achievements, his wholehearted faith and fear of Hashem were the true foundation of all his Divine service.”

Reb Mendel was extremely particular about his daily study of Rambam. There were no exceptions. Even when it became too difficult for him to look inside the text on his own, his chavrusos (study partners), bachurim who learned with him regularly, would read it to him and explain it. He never missed the daily shiur. Even when his health was most precarious, he always tried, along with his chavrusa, to understand the simple meaning and the lesson to be derived in avodas Hashem.

At a certain point, Reb Mendel regularly participated in a Rambam shiur that took place in the Beis Menachem Shul. He couldn’t linger much over his studies as he did with his chavrusa, and he would jest that one of the advantages of the shiur was that even if somebody didn’t understand it, the others were motzi him, releasing him of his obligation.

Reb Mendel really didn’t like it when people said that they learned only one chapter of Rambam a day in order to be able to study it in depth. Reb Mendel would declare that the Rebbe fervently encouraged the study of three chapters a day. All the Rebbe’s explanations of Rambam had to do with the three-chapters-a-day cycle. If the Tmimim wouldn’t learn it properly, then who would? Then he would add that, generally speaking, those who said this didn’t even study the one chapter properly. In fact, sometimes they didn’t even learn it at all! He wanted everyone to be sincere in their approach to carrying out the Rebbe’s directives.

In the sicha of Parshas Mattos-Massei 5736, the Rebbe said (unedited):

I once heard a Jew say that he was certain he would live a long life. I asked him, “What makes you so sure?” He said that he had a promise from the Rebbe, my father-in-law, that he would be G-d-fearing. Since he knew that he was still far from fear of Heaven, and that in order to become a yerei Shamayim he would need plenty of time, he was sure that he would live a long life!

I asked him, “What are you doing in order to fulfill what the Rebbe said?” He told me that he wasn’t that particular about “Ashrei” and “U’va L’Tziyon,” but he was very careful about the shiurim of Chitas.

There are a variety of different customs concerning the saying of “Ashrei” and “U’va L’Tziyon,” and he wasn’t interested in that. Chitas, however, was something he had heard about from the Rebbe, and the body follows the head. If he had heard it from his head, how could he possibly forget it?!

At that time the Rebbe said:

Never mind about Rashi or Rambam, etc., which he forgot, but something that he heard himself, how m’kocht zich in it at farbrengens, how could he forget that?!

* * *

At this point, we have just completed the 17th cycle (the gematria of “tov”), and have begun the eighteenth cycle (the gematria of “chai”). The Rebbe’s words echo in our ears about the obligation to make a shturm about the siyum ha’Rambam, which inspires others to join in the daily study of Rambam.

I once wrote a letter to the Rebbe in which I reported, among other things, about the siyum ha’Rambam I made at the shiur which I gave at that time. The Rebbe answered me by underlining the words siyum ha’Rambam with two lines!

We all remember how the Rebbe repeatedly emphasized the great z’chus of personally participating in the siyum, and said that he was there, too. The Rebbe sent a dollar for tzedaka to all those who participated.

The main thing is that more and more people should join the daily shiur. Not a day should go by without learning Rambam. It should be a kvius b’nefesh. Nothing should interfere, even if it’s left for late at night, and the yetzer says: there’s no point in just “reading the words” and falling asleep over it – even if he feels it would be better to wait until tomorrow.

The tactics of the yetzer ha’ra ensure that we relinquish more ground so that he can demand even more. The intent is that when tomorrow comes it should be pushed off again. That’s why it’s important not to give in at all, but to learn the daily shiur no matter what, whether you understand it or not. This affects chayei nafsho (the life of one’s soul), which is why there can be no compromising!

The Rebbe said (sicha Shabbos Parshas Mattos-Massei 5746, printed in Likkutei Sichos, Vol. 28, p. 286):

…including the shiurei Chitas (Chumash, Tehillim, Tanya), which the Rebbe, my father-in-law, established as shiurim that are suited for everyone, for every Jew of our generation (for the leader of our generation is the leader of all the people of the generation): Chumash – divided for each day of the week (according to the aliyos); Tehillim – divided over the month; Tanya – divided over the year.

It is a mistake to think that these shiurim are (only) part of one’s obligation of Torah study. In that case, one could say that the shiur in Tanya (which is part of the oral Torah) cannot be fulfilled unless one understands it (which is a requirement for oral Torah study). The shiurim of Chitas primarily affect chayei nafsho (and the shiur in Tanya, pnimiyus ha’Torah, is the life of the pnimiyus of his soul. Indeed, it is known that the hidden part of Yisroel is connected with the hidden part of Torah.) Just as the shiurim in Chumash and Tehillim (the written Torah) are fulfilled even when you do not understand what you read, you can say that the same applies to Tanya.

So too — since it has recently become accepted and widespread — a shiur in Rambam, in one of three ways: either three chapters a day, Seifer HaMitzvos, or one chapter a day.

It wasn’t for naught that the Rambam concludes his work with the topic of Moshiach and Geula. By doing so, he stresses, as does the Rebbe, that the ultimate purpose of one’s Divine service is the coming of Moshiach and the Geula.

Like a soldier who fights, runs, sleeps, and awakens, all for the purpose of achieving the objective set by the commander, every Jew’s actions, Torah, and avoda are all directed towards the purpose of seeing our Rebbe MH”M shlita bring the Geula for us all.


Reb Mendel was irate: What did you find in the maamer? Only the haskala! Chassidus is much more than just intellectual concepts.





It is important not to give in at all to the yetzer ha’ra, but to learn the daily shiur of Rambam no matter what, whether you understand it or not.




The Rambam concludes with the topic of Moshiach and Geula, stressing that the ultimate purpose of one’s Divine service is the coming of Moshiach and the Geula.


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