Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Note Regarding Dayan Simcha Zelig Rieger’s View of Opening a Refrigerator Door on Shabbat

A Note Regarding Dayan Simcha Zelig Rieger’s View
of Opening a Refrigerator Door on Shabbat
Rabbi Michael J. Broyde

Thank you to Rabbi Yaacov Sasson for his comments on footnote 59 of the article "The Use of Electricity on Shabbat and Yom Tov" found in the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society, 21:4-47 (Spring 1991) co-written by Rabbi Jachter and myself.  It is always nice to have people commenting on articles written more than 25 years ago.[1]

Before delving into the halacha, it is worth clarifying some preliminary facts – in particular, whether refrigerators even had automatic lights during the first half of the 1930s.  Some commenters have suggested that such lights were not yet present, or that they were limited to rare and expensive refrigerators.  This is not correct.  I reproduce below a wide variety of newspaper ads from the early 1930s that show that a range of refrigerator models by many manufacturers at various price points featured automatic interior lights (see attachments here). These include a Frigidaire priced at $157.50, a GE priced at $99.50, a Majestic model with no price, a Frigidaire priced at $119.50, a Leonard priced at $114.75 and many more.[2]  And while some of the publications appear targeted to the upper class, many others are clearly meant for wider audiences – particularly those available on installment plans (“$5 down, 15¢ a day”; “Nothing down! 20¢ a day!”; “$7 Initial Payment – enables you to enjoy any of these refrigerators immediately. Investigate our convenient budget payment plans.”).[3] Thus, even in the early 1930s, interior lights were a readily available feature in the refrigerators that were becoming increasingly common in American households.[4] Claims that “normal” or “typical” refrigerators did not have lights are belied by the many ads taken from diverse periodicals that are reproduced here.[5]

A Summary of the Original Article

The relevant section of the article is about using refrigerators on Shabbat, and states in part:

A. Refrigerators
The opening of a refrigerator door on Shabbat has been the topic of vigorous debate in past decades. Opening the refrigerator door allows warm air to enter, thus causing a drop in temperature which causes the motor to go on sooner. If one accepts that turning the motor on during Shabbat is prohibited, then it would appear that opening the refrigerator door on Shabbat when the motor is not already56 running is prohibited. Indeed, many prominent rabbinic decisors have adopted this position.57 However, many authorities58 assert that one is permitted to open a refrigerator even when the motor is off.59

The footnotes to the above-quoted text observe:

56. Opening the door when the motor is already running is permissible because all that is done then is causing the motor to stay on for a longer period of time; see also section V. 
57. See Har Zvi 1:151; Mishnat Rabbi Aharon, 1:4; Minchat Yitzchak 3:24; and Chelkat Yaakov, 1:54. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Yabia Omer 1:21 and Rabbi Yosef Eliyahu Henkin, Edut Leyisrael p. 152, recommend that one be stringent in this regard, although they both accept that it is permissible to open a refrigerator even when the motor is off. 
58. Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach's argument can be found in his Minchat Shlomo pp. 77-91. Others who are lenient include Rabbi Waldenberg,Tzitz Eliezer 8:12 and 12:92, Rabbi Uziel, Piskei Uziel no. 15. Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein reports that Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik subscribes to the lenient position in this regard. 
59. Almost all authorities accept that it is forbidden to open a refrigerator when the light inside will go on. Notwithstanding one's lack of intent to turn on the light when opening the refrigerator, this action is forbidden, since the light will inevitably go on (pesik resha). 
However, Rabbi S.Z. Rieger (the Dayan of Brisk) rules leniently in this regard (Hapardes 1934, volume three). His lenient ruling is based on two assumptions. First, he states that when the forbidden act has no benefit to the one who performs it, and it is only incidental (psik resha d'lo nicha leh), no prohibition exists. Rabbi Rieger assumes that the lenient ruling of the Aruch (see Aruch defining the word "sever") is accepted. Second, Rabbi Rieger states that the light in the refrigerator provides no benefit to the one opening the door.
His first assumption is disputed by most authorities (see Yabia Omer 1:21,5; Minchat Shlomo p. 87). The consensus appears not to accept theAruch's ruling as normative. The second assertion appears to be entirely incorrect. The light serves as a convenience to locate items in the refrigerator and cannot be described as having no benefit to one who opens the door.
Most authorities, however, maintain that it is acceptable to ask a Gentile to open the door of the refrigerator even if the light will go on: see Iggerot Moshe, Orach Chaim 2:68; and Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchatah pp. 100-101.So too, it would appear to these authors that one could allow a fellow Jew to open the door when he does not know the light will go on, as that is only in the category of mitasek (unknowing) and thus permitted; see e.g.,Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Shiurim Lezeicher Avi Mori, p.30 n. 58; but see Teshuvot R. Akiva Eiger #9. 
(bold emphasis added)

Rabbi Sasson’s Criticism

Rabbi Sasson is commenting on the words in the second paragraph of footnote 59 (the bold sentences above).  He proposes that the article is wrong in its understanding of the view of Dayan Simcha Zelig Rieger who did not, he claims, permit the turning on of the light in the refrigerator, but only the motor.  Rabbi Sasson states:

Lo hayu dvarim me-olam. Rav Simcha Zelig did not permit opening a refrigerator when the light inside will go on. Rav Simcha Zelig wrote (Hapardes 1934, num. 3, page 6) that it is permitted to open the refrigerator since the intention is to remove an item, "v’aino mechavein lehadlik et ha-elektri." The authors misinterpreted this statement to be a reference to an electric light in the refrigerator.

And his argument is:

However, it is clear from a simple reading of the articles to which Rav Simcha Zelig was responding that the topic under discussion at the time was triggering the motor by opening the door and allowing warm air to enter; lights and light bulbs are not mentioned at all. In the first of those articles (Hapardes 1931, num. 2, page 3), the language of "hadlaka" is used in reference to the refrigerator motor, and Rav Simcha Zelig’s language of "lehadlik et ha-elektri" appears to parallel the language used there.

As an additional proof, he notes:

In the second of those articles (Hapardes 1931, num. 3 page 6), the act of triggering the motor is referred to as "havara" and "havara b'zerem ha-chashmali", and Rav Simcha Zelig used a similar nomenclature, "lehadlik et ha-elektri" to refer to triggering the motor.

Based on this Rabbi Sasson concludes:

Rav Simcha Zelig's position was that it is permitted to open a refrigerator when the motor will then go on, as triggering the motor is classified as a psik resha d'lo ichpat lei, which is equivalent to lo nicha lei. Rav Simcha Zelig never addressed opening a refrigerator when the light will go on. 
(footnotes omitted)

A Review of the Teshuva and a Defense of the Second Paragraph of Footnote Fifty Nine

The relevant paragraph of the teshuva by Dayan Rieger reads simply:
ובדבר התבת קרח מלאכותי נראה כיון דכשפותח את דלת התיבה הוא כדי לקבל משם איזו דבר ואינו מכיון להדליק את העלעקטרי הוי פסיק רישיה דלא איכפת ליה אפילו להדליק אם הוא באופן שהוא פסיק רישיה.
And in the matter of the artificial [electric] icebox it appears that since when one opens the door of the box to get something from there and does not intend to ignite (light) the electricity it is a psik resha that he does not care about, even to light in way that is a psik resha.

The rest of the teshuva by Dayan Rieger presents his view of the halacha in cases in which there is a psik resha d’lo ichpat lei, which is that this is a dispute between Tosaphot and the Aruch.  Furthermore, Rav Chaim M’brisk maintains that the Rambam is in agreement with the Aruch, and the custom is like the Aruch; therefore, it is completely proper to rely on the Aruch in cases in which there is a psik resha d’lo nicha lei.[6]

A careful reader of the first sentence, and indeed of the entire teshuva, can sense that there is some ambiguity here about the electrical object referred to, since Dayan Rieger does not specify the source or consequence of igniting the electricity. I am inclined to reinforce the original explanation that it was the light based on the following three observations.

First, the many articles in Hapardes do not necessarily use as interchangeable the terms zerem chashmali or chut chashmali or chut elektriki with the term hidlik et haelektrik – which seems to have a different connotation.  Particularly in the Yiddish spoken culture of that time, the term “electric” seems to have meant “lights” and not electricity or motor.  Rabbi Sasson’s claim that the phrase "havara b'zerem ha-chashmali" and Rav Simcha Zelig phrase "lehadlik et ha-elektri" are identical is, I think, not indubitably correct.  Elektriki, according to my colleague at Emory, Professor Nick Block, more likely means the light than anything else in 1930s Yiddish.  This is particularly true in my opinion, when added to the word “le’hadlik,” a word of ignition.

Second, and much more importantly, the halachic analysis presented by Dayan Rieger addresses a direct action, while everyone else who discusses the motor speaks about an indirect action.  This is very important to grasp.  The light in the refrigerator immediately turns on when the door is opened, as the opening of the door also opens the switch that controls the incandescent light.  Not so the motor, which is controlled by a thermostat; opening the door usually leads to an increase of air temperature inside the refrigerator, which eventually directs the motor to go on.

As the editor of Hapardes notes (in volume 5), there are persuasive grounds to permit the opening of the refrigerator door based on two distinct principles of enormous halachic importance that are deeply grounded in factual reality: davar she’eno mitkaven and grama; it is based on this that many poskim to this day permit a refrigerator door to be opened, as our article from 25 years ago notes.

Simply put, many times when the refrigerator is opened, the motor does not go on at all, since for the motor to go on immediately, the refrigerator must be at just a certain temperature such that the warm air immediately causes the thermostat to turn the motor on.  Sometimes the motor is already on, sometimes the motor is not hastened, and sometimes there is a very long time delay.  This reality gives rise to important halachic grounds discussed in our article and quoted by many poskim, including many before and after the great Dayan Rieger.

But Dayan Rieger makes no mention of this: he does not discuss grama, or davar she’eno mitkaven or any of these other factors that apply to indirect action.  Instead, he assumes that when the refrigerator door is opened, the electrical object under discussion is always ignited, and it does so immediately and directly, thus causing a melacha. This is the formulation of pesik resha, which inexorably causes melacha each and every time -- in contrast to grama, davar she’eno mitkaven or any other principles of indirect or delayed or uncertain causation.

Dayan Rieger is not speaking about acts caused indirectly, uncertainly or after a delay – he is speaking about an action that directly and immediately occurs and is fully and directly caused by my opening the door.  As he writes in his first paragraph:

ובדבר התבת קרח מלאכותי נראה כיון דכשפותח את דלת התיבה הוא כדי לקבל משם איזו דבר ואינו מכיון להדליק את העלעקטרי הוי פסיק רישיה דלא איכפת ליה אפילו להדליק אם הוא באופן שהוא פסיק רישיה.

No intermediary (like a thermostat) and no indirect or delayed causation is present in the case Dayan Rieger is discussing – the prohibited action is caused by the door opening.  The act of opening the door turns on the elektri according to Dayan Rieger.  His halachic insight is that even when such causation is direct, it is of no value to the opener of the door, who just wants to take some food out; it is a psik resha of no benefit.  Factually, this is not an accurate description of the motor at all, which frequently does not turn on immediately, but it does correctly describe the mechanism of the refrigerator light.  Dayan Rieger implicitly concedes that if one were to open the door with the intent to turn on the light (or motor), that would be assur min ha-torah, since he sees no indirect causation in the process, something that most poskim think is not at all true for the motor.

Professor Sara Reguer noted by email to me that “my grandfather conferred with scientists and specialists in electricity before giving his response,” and given this fact it is extremely unlikely that he missed such a basic point that anyone who repeatedly opened and closed a refrigerator would have observed.  This was simply not true about refrigerator motors as the original question notes explicitly in Hapardes Volume 2. This technological assumption about the refrigerator is true about the light, which always turns on when the door is opened, but not about the motor.

I would also note two additional factors for consideration. First, the other substantive halachic logic employed by Dayan Rieger which analogizes elektriki to sparks seems to me to be a closer analogy to a light than to a motor which is hardly fire at all; sparks, like incandescent lights, are fire according to halacha.  Secondly, there has been a regular subset of poskim (as shown by Rabbi Abadi’s most recent teshuva, Ohr Yitzchak 2:166) who adopt the exact analysis and view of Dayan Rieger and view the light as lo ichpat since one does not want it and a light is on already.  If Dayan Rieger is speaking about the motor, he has gotten the facts terribly wrong as well as provided a halachic chiddush that is totally unneeded, whereas if he is speaking about the light, he has adopted a halachic view that has some company, and gotten the facts correct. Furthermore, his halachic analysis is needed to reach the desired result.

Given these factors – the linguistic ambiguity, the presence of logic that is discussing a psik resha and not a grama or a davar she’eno mitkaven, the analogy to sparks and the parallel teshuva by Rabbi Abadi reaching the same conclusion and employing the same logic for lights – I am still inclined to think (as the original article notes) that this teshuva is speaking about the light and not the motor.

On the other hand, there is a good and natural impulse to read halachic literature conservatively and to press for interpretations that align gedolim with one other and not leave outliers with halachic novelty.[7]  Furthermore, I do recognize that many halachic authorities who have cited Dayan Rieger’s teshuva have quoted it in the context of the motor and not the light,, as Rabbi Sasson claims is the proper reading.[8]  But, I think these citations are less than dispositive for the following important reason: Those who quote Dayan Rieger’s view as something to consider about the motor note that his analysis is halachically wrong (see for example, both Yabia Omer OC 1:21 [paragraphs 7-11 are explicitly directly at explaining why Dayan Riegler’s halachic explanation for motors is wrong] and Minchat Shlomo 1:10 [section 7 calls this logic אולם לענ"ד צ"ע הרבה] who both note deep problems with Dayan Reigler’s analysis as applied to the motor).[9]  Poskim generally spend less time and ink explicating the views of authorities whom they believe to have reached inapt or incorrect conclusions of fact or law compared with those whom they cite in whole or in part to bolster their own analysis. Simply put, the precedential value of how one posek cites another when they centrally disagree is not as great.  

Thus, when given two choices of how to understand what an eminent posek wrote, I prefer an approach that is both halachically plausible and factually correct rather than one what is halachically unneeded and factually wrong.[10]


In sum, while there is some ambiguity in Dayan Rieger’s teshuva, the recent (ca. 1930) introduction of lights in refrigerators, the fact that Dayan Rieger makes no mention of grama, davar she’eno mitkaven or any of the other classical grounds for discussing the motor, and from the fact that he uses the Yiddish word for light, all incline me to think that he is speaking about the light, although I understand the ambiguity.  Let me add, lehalacha, as the original article notes, that I think such a view is not halachically normative in that we do not follow the view of the Aruch as a general matter.
Having said all that, in hindsight I would have worded footnote 59 a bit differently to reflect more of the nuance that is present in this post (and may in fact do so if the article is ever republished).


Allow me to note my general agreement with Rabbi Sasson’s conclusion when he writes:

I would add two endnotes - when surveying Halachot with significant practical implications, such as in the realm of Hilchot Shabbat, it is an author's responsibility to ensure that all sources are cited accurately, lest a reader rely on an incorrect citation with the result of Chillul Shabbat. Secondly, when confronted with a Halachic position of a Gadol B'Yisrael that seems to be entirely erroneous, the possibility that the Gadol's position is being misunderstood must be explored.

This is true even when the citation is in a footnote and even when it is noted as not normative.  More generally, readers of blog posts about nuanced textual disputes should, whenever they can, go back to the original sources and check for themselves. (The editors of the Seforim Blog should be commended for helping their contributors include images of such texts for the benefit of the readership.)

Let me also add a final endnote of my own: While vigorous debate has always been a fundamental part of Torah study within the confines of the beit midrash, and while online forums have brought intelligent Torah conversations to a much wider group of participants (and observers), the tone and tenor of these conversations often take on the harsh, acerbic voice of the internet at large. I generally find that the sharper the rhetorical tone, the less value the substance has. Orthodox Judaism today would benefit greatly from deep, substantive conversations on a whole host of halachic and hashkafic matters that are conducted in a respectful manner. We certainly could use more light and less heat.

[1] Located here .
[2] In 2015 dollars, these range from about $1400 to $2200; see CPI Inflation Calculator here.  They are not inexpensive, but seem to be attainable for middle-class consumers.
[3] See attached advertisements here.
[4] Indeed, the number of household refrigerators increased dramatically during the Depression years, as increased longevity and reduced spoilage helped stretch family food budgets.
[5] Nor are these refrigerators more expensive than any other as the ads show.  The reason for this is obvious, upon reflection.  The compressor was the expensive, high-tech component at that time, whereas the spring switch light connected to the door had been invented many years earlier and was very low cost.
[6] The final section addresses ice making and it is not under discussion in this article.
[7] For more on this, see the concluding chapter of my ‘Innovation in Jewish Law: A Case Study of Chiddush in Havineinu” (Urim Publiscations 2010).
[8] Added to this is the voice of Dayan Reiger’s granddaughter, Professor Sara Reuger, who tells me that she is certain that this teshuva is referring to the thermostat or motor and not the light.   However, I was not persuaded by her recollection since she had no direct conversation with her grandfather about this and is only recalling conversations with her own father and (as explained above) this view places Dayan Reiger’s teshuva in a weak halachic light analytically (as well as other reasons).
[9]   For another example of this, see Hapardes volume 11:2 at page 8-10. 
[10] Another possibility was suggested to me by Professor Miriam Udel of Emory who noted that the Hebrew term “התבת קרח מלאכותי” corresponds well to the Yiddish term ayz-kastn which is really a very early refrigerator (ice chest).  Ice chests were pre-modern refrigerators that had no electricity at all, but were cooled by ice; see here and here  By 1925 companies were selling add-on kits to these ice chests that contained an external motor which cooled a coil insert.  See the article in the Washington Post, August 9, 1925 entitled “Modern Electric Plant Displaces Need For Ice Man: Its Refrigeration” at page F7.  See also Display Ad 18 -- No Title Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963); Jun 14, 1925 (attached) which notes simply “If you have a good refrigerator in your home, you can convert it into a Frigidaire easily and inexpensively.  The Frigidaire “frost coil” is placed in the ice compartment; the simple mechanism is the basement or other convenient location.  Small copper tubes connect the frost coil and compressor and a connection is made to your electric wiring.”  This converted ice box, to the best of my knowledge, had no mechanism related to the door being open at all. (The interior ice compartment would have remained closed.)  Dayan Reiger could not have been speaking about this, as he is addressing a door mechanism and not a hot-air-entering-the-refrigerator problem.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Evening Prayer Revisited

Evening Prayer Revisited
Chaim Sunitsky

There is a dispute in Tamud Bavli (Brachot 4b) as to whether one should say Shma with Brachot before or after Shmone Esre during the evening prayer. The opinion of R. Yohanan is that Shma is said first while the opinion of R. Yehoshua ben Levi is that Shmone Esre is said before the Shma. Moreover, while R. Yohanan holds that Shma is followed by Shmone Esre immediately, according to R. Yehoshua ben Levi Shmone Esre can be recited separately and Shma with its blessings does not have to follow immediately after. The practice of all Jews today is to follow R. Yochanan.

Most Rishonim[1] and the Shulchan Aruch rule like R. Yohanan and indeed this seems to be the opinion of the Babylonian Talmud. This is called being “Somech Geula leTefila”, meaning the blessing of Gaal Yisrael (Who Redeemed Israel) is recited immediately before the Shmone Esre.   At first sight it seems that the last blessing after evening Shma (Hashkivenu – let us go to sleep) only makes sense according to R. Yehoshua ben Levi. Indeed, Talmud Bavli (ibid) asks how the blessing of Hashkivenu would not be considered an interruption between Geula and Tefila according to R. Yochanan? It answers that it is considered “long Geula” (or continuation of the Geula). Our thesis is that in Palestine in Talmudic times, the opinion of R. Yehoshua ben Levi was the more accepted shita and moreover that they used to say Hashkivenu as the last blessing before going to sleep (as we say Hamapil[2]).

Rashi (Brachot 2a) brings in the name of Talmud Yerushlami: Why do we say Shma in the synagogue in the evening, even though this is done before[3] the earliest time to fulfil the obligation? It answers that we do this  כדי לעמוד בתפלה מתוך דברי תורה

While it seems from Rashi that they said Shma with the blessings before Shmone Esre[4], the Tosafot (ibid) in the name of R. Tam[5] says that they used to simply recite Shma without blessings before Maariv, just like we say Ashre before Mincha. Later on they would say Shma with the blessings following R. Yehoshua ben Levi.  Indeed the sugia further in the same Yerushalmi (1:1) supports this interpretation entirely[6]:

מילתיה אמרה שאין אמר דברים אחר אמת ויציב מילתיה דרבי שמואל בר נחמני אמר כן רבי שמואל בר נחמני כד הוה נחית לעיבורה הוה מקבל רבי יעקב גרוסה והוה רבי זעירא מטמר ביני קופייא משמענא היך הוה קרי שמע והוה קרי וחזר וקרי עד דהו' שקע מיניה גו שינתיה ומאי טעמא רבי אחא ור' תחליפא חמוי בשם רבי שמואל בר נחמן רגזו ואל תחטאו אמרו בלבבכם על משכבכם ודומו סלה מילתיה דר' יהושע בן לוי פליגא דרבי יהושע בן לוי קרי מזמורים בתרה

It discusses if it’s permitted to speak after one already said the blessings after evening Shma[7]. It mentions R. Yakov Grosa used to not speak after he said Shma with blessings, and then mentions R. Yehoshua ben Levi[8] who used to still say various psalms afterwards[9]

From the Yerushalmi it seems that most people used to say Shmone Esre during the daytime, and later ate their meal[10] and laid down to sleep[11] saying the evening Shma with blessings.[12]

We can also explain from here how the shita of Bet Shamai regarding saying evening Shma while laying down could have developed. It is unlikely that Shma in the evening was pronounced in normal position and then in some generation Bet Shamai suddenly ruled that one has to literally lie down to say it. A more likely scenario is that it was the norm to recite the evening Shma while lying down and the dispute of Bet Hillel and Bet Shamai arose as to whether this is the requirement or is merely done for convenience so as to not interrupt and fall asleep immediately.

Another obscure shita we can now explain is in Zohar Hadash (Bereshit 17d in Mosad HaRav Kook edition). It mentions that the idea of praying with “redness of the sun” applies to Maariv, not Mincha[13] like our Talmud (Brachot 29b). In light of the shita of R. Yeshoshua ben Levi we can understand this. It seems the ideal time for Maariv according to this was around sundown. However one cannot fulfill the mitzvah of Shma at this time. It is also interesting that in Tosefta (Brachot, 3:2) the opinion of R. Yossi is mentioned that Maariv should be recited at the time of “Neilat Shearim”.

In conclusion, it seems that there were some communities where the norm was to recite Shmone Esre of the evening prayer before Shma with blessings, and these communities apparently recited the last blessing of Shma (Hashkivenu) in place of our Hamapil.

[1] I am currently unaware of any Rishon that paskened not like R. Yohanan, however the Meiri writes that “majority” pasken like R. Yohanan, so there must have been some who did not.
[2] Indeed Yerushlami does not mention the blessing of Hamapil, but it seems they used to say Hashkiveinu as the last Bracha and fall asleep afterwards. It’s interesting that our siddurim added Hashkivenu without Hatima at the Seder of going to sleep even though in reality for us this brocha is not necessary since we have Hamapil.
[3] It was normal to say the evening Shmone Esre in Eretz Yisrael during day time, before stars come out (possibly because of the danger to go outside at night as their synagogues were outside of the city).
[4] As many do today when praying early Maariv.
[5] See also Rosh (Brachot 1:1) and Korban Netaniel (10).
[6] See the commentaries from Baal Sefer Haredim and R. Chaim Kanievky. It’s possible that Rashi did not see this whole sugia in Yerushlami but only saw a quote of it in a Gaonic source. In general regarding use of Yerushalmi in Rashi, see Saul Lieberman’s letter to Solomon Zeitlin published at the end of Saul Lieberman and the Orthodox by R. Marc Shapiro, see also the discussion from Homat Yerushalaim printed in the beginning of standard Yerushalmi editions.
[7] The Yerushalmi calls the blessing after “Emet Veyatziv” as this was their Nusach, but our Nusach in the evening is “Emet Veemuna”.
[8] Of course R. Yehoshua ben Levi followed his own shita and said Shma with Brachot after Shmone Esre. Note that the same sugia before in Yerushalmi also discusses whether it’s permitted to speak after “Emet Veyatziv”. It continues with והא תני אין אומר דברים אחד אמת ויציב פתר לה באמת ויציב של שחרית.
[9] This is mentioned in our Talmud (Shevuot 16b) as well.
[10] And the prohibition of eating before Shma did not apply since they read Shma already even though they did not fulfill their obligation or because they were eating before the time of Shma arrived.
[11] For those who did not immediately go to sleep, the Yerushalmi (ibid) indeed mentions that they should recite Shma (with blessings) before midnight.
[12] Interestingly even at later times when many communities had a custom to say the evening prayer early, some people recited Shma without Brachot. R. Hai Gaon (Tshuvot Hagaonim Hahadashot – Emanuel, 93; this tshuva is brought in Rosh 1:1 and Bet Yosef 235) suggests that the one who is found in such a congregation should only say Shma without blessings and pray Shmone Esre together with them, but later one say Shma with Brachot.
[13] Indeed the Talmud there states that in Palestine they cursed the one who prays Mincha so close to sundown as it may lead to missing the time. Obviously this does not apply to Maariv for which there is plenty of time afterwards.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Shadal on Exodus by Daniel A. Klein (Kodesh Press) - New Book Announcement

Order on Amazon or on the Kodesh Press website.

Very rarely in the history of parshanut has one author written both a translation of the entire Torah text and a complete Torah commentary in Hebrew.  Most likely, no one has accomplished this feat since Shadal (Samuel David Luzzatto, 1800-1865).  Now, the second volume of his Pentateuco is available in a new, all-English version—Shadal on Exodus:  Samuel David Luzzatto’s Interpretation of the Book of Shemot, translated and edited by Daniel A. Klein (New York: Kodesh Press, 2015).  This edition is a double translation, rendering into clear and modern English both Shadal’s Italian version of the text and his Hebrew perush.  This marks the first appearance of Shadal’s complete work on Shemot in 143 years, since its original publication in Padua, 1872. 

A great-grandnephew of Moshe Hayyim Luzzatto (author of Mesillat Yesharim), Shadal served for more than 35 years as a professor of Bible, Hebrew, and Jewish history and religion at the Collegio Rabbinico of Padua, where he mentored many of the future leaders of Italian Jewry.  Shadal was a superb linguist, writer, and religious thinker, devoting his talents above all to parshanut.  Although he was a devout believer in the divinity, unity, and antiquity of the Torah, Shadal approached the text in a remarkably open spirit of inquiry, drawing upon a wide variety of sources, ancient and contemporary, Jewish and non-Jewish, and focusing on the “plain” meaning (peshat) as he saw it.  A passionate scholar with a torrid “Italian” temperament, Shadal laced his commentary with occasional touches of wit and sarcasm, and many of his interpretations may strike even the modern reader as fresh and novel.
Among his most interesting comments on the Book of Exodus are the following:
  •     Even when performing miracles, God prefers to adhere to the ways of nature in part.  Thus, the plagues of Egypt resembled in some respect phenomena that were natural in Egypt, some occurring in one year and some occurring in another, except that in the year in question, all of them came clustered together, and each one contained a novel aspect that was not found in nature (see at Ex. 7:20).  Similarly, the splitting of the Red Sea was a miraculous event mixed with natural elements, not entirely unlike a phenomenon that saved the Dutch fleet during a seventeenth-century war with England (see at Ex. 14:21).  In so holding, Shadal rejected on the one hand the extreme attempts by some moderns to naturalize the Exodus miracles, and on the other hand any fanciful embellishments by more traditional scholars that “unnecessarily overloaded the Torah’s account with signs and wonders.”
  • In the phrase tehomot yekhasyumu (“the depths covered them”) in the Song of the Sea, the grammatically strange and unique word yekhasyumu is best explained as a use of onomatopoeia—that is, the employment of an imitative and naturally suggestive word for rhetorical effect—because the double “u” sound arouses an impression of darkness and depth and thus portrays to the listener’s ear the enemy’s sinking into the deep waters (see at Ex. 15:5).  In fact, Shadal’s treatment of the entire Song is the pearl of his Exodus perush In the course of his commentary on chapter 15, he includes, among other things, (1) a discussion of why ancient Hebrew poetry contains traces of Aramaic, (2) a thorough explanation of the poetic device of parallelism, (3) an essay on the derivation and semantics of the word kodesh (“holiness”), and for good measure, (4) a stinging diatribe against the philosophy of Spinoza.
  •  One of the purposes behind the collection of the silver half-shekel for the Tabernacle was to diminish the people’s fear of the “evil eye” (see at Ex. 30:12).  They were being counted, and the people believed that a census might arouse the evil eye unless they paid a “ransom” to help build the sanctuary.  God did not wish to abolish the folk belief in the evil eye altogether, since it had the beneficial effect of keeping the people from putting too much trust in their own might or wealth.  In fact, said Shadal, what the common people attributed to the evil eye—and modern scholars just as misguidedly dismissed as coincidence—was a Divinely decreed phenomenon of nature, that “pride goeth before the fall.”
Shadal on Exodus is equipped with explanatory notes, a source index, a subject and author index, and a list identifying the many and varied authorities that Shadal cited. 

EDITED 12.17.2015 here are a few sample pages:

The book may be ordered now on Amazon or on the Kodesh Press website.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Toil of the Mind and Heart: A Meditation in Memory of Rabbi Yehoshua Mondshine

Toil of the Mind and Heart: A Meditation in Memory of Rabbi Yehoshua Mondshine
by Eli Rubin

Rabbi Eli Rubin is a writer and editor at, and works to further intercommunal and interdisciplinary study of Chassidism. Many of his articles can be viewed online here.

This is his first essay at the Seforim blog.

A new anthology mines the oral teachings of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi for new insight into the historical development of his leadership and the crystallization of his ideology, and also charts the impact of Rabbi Shlomo of Karlin and Rabbi Avraham of Kalisk on the emergence of Chabad as a distinct Chassidic movement. “HaRav: On the Tanya, Chabad thought, the path, leadership and disciples of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi” ed. Rabbi Nochum Grunwald, Hebrew, 798 pp. (Mechon HaRav, 2015) (link).

In memory of the acclaimed Chabad scholar Rabbi Yehushua Mondshine who passed away one year ago, on the final day of Chanukah, 5775.[1]  

Introduction - From Liozna to Liadi

The past few years have seen many new publications shedding light on the life and times of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of the Chabad school of Chassidism, and making his teachings more accessible.[2] For the most part, however, the historical and the ideological domains have been treated in relative isolation from one another. Moreover, while R. Schneur Zalman’s magnum opus, the Tanya, has been a frequent object of study, less work has been done on the vast corpus of his oral teachings, transcriptions of which now fill some thirty published volumes.[3]

HaRav: On the Tanya, Chabad thought, the path, leadership and disciples of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, appeared just a few months ago as a rather belated marker of the 200th year since Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s passing on the 24th of Tevet 5772 (January 1813),[4] and comprises a collection of articles, teachings and commentary, on the topics referred to in the volume's subtitle. Rabbi Nochum Grunwald, the volume's editor and primary contributor, is a leading Chabad thinker and historian, and the editor of the Heichal HaBesht journal. Other contributors include Chabad scholars Rabbi DovBer Levine, Rabbi Eliyahu Matusof, Rabbi Aharon Chitrik, and le-havdil bein chaim le-chaim, the late Rabbi Yehushua Mondshine.

Of the volume’s six sections, it is the third—Shaar Ha-Maamarim, focusing on R. Schneur Zalman’s oral teachings—that is the most substantial, in terms of both quantity and content. In a loose series of articles, the volume’s editor, Rabbi Nochum Grunwald, takes several important steps towards the integration of the ideological content of these discourses within a broader historiographical context, giving particular attention to Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s relationship with Rabbi Avraham of Kalisk.

An article by Rabbi Shalom DovBer Levine—in the volume’s penultimate section—traces the impact of Rabbi Shlomo of Karlin on Chabad’s emergence as a distinct school of Chassidism, adding additional dimension to the developing picture.[5]

Grunwald’s overarching thesis pivots on Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s move from Liozna (90km North-West of Smolensk) to Liadi (Lyady, 70km South-West of Smolensk), shortly after being released from his second internment in Petersburg in the summer of 1801.[6] The precise reasons for this move remain unclear, but the distinction between the Liozna and Liadi periods—also referred to as the periods “before Petersburg” and “after Petersburg”—appears in a variety of Chabad historiographic traditions to mark an array of changes in his role as a leader and teacher of Chassidism. As one source has it, “when he dwelt in Liozna the quality of emotion toward G-d radiated from him, whereas afterwards, when he dwelt in Liadi, it was not so; there the quality of intellect radiated from him.”[7]

Grunwald’s discussion of how this shift developed is complicated by Levine’s account. And though their parallel theses are both presented in the present volume, it remains the task of the reader to integrate them. 

Transcendence and Interiority

In a 1903 talk delivered by Rabbi Shalom DovBer Schneersohn (Rashab), the fifth rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch, he distinguished between the type of teaching that entirely transcends [מקיף] the students/listeners, but overwhelms, encompasses and transforms them instantaneously, and between the type of teaching that is directed to the interiority [פנימיות] of the students/listeners, to permeate their intellects, so that they can then transform themselves from within:  

Before he returned from Petersburg the second time his Chassidic teaching would burn the world, for it was of transcendent quality… there was no one who would hear Chassidic teachings from him and remain in their previous condition. But after Petersburg it changed and it wasn’t so, because then… the Chassidic teachings began to be of internal quality… Through the accusations that were in Petersburg the interiority specifically was revealed…

Before this… the Chassidic teachings were specifically of transcendent quality… which causes very intense inspiration, and such examples are also found in Likutei Torah… But the ultimate intention is the quality of interiority specifically, for with the coming of Moshiach specifically the interiority will be revealed… and the quality and advantage of interiority is achieved specifically through great and extremely immense toil… with service of the mind and the heart…[8]

Here and elsewhere it is clear that the Rashab didn’t simply rely on Chassidic traditions alone, but drew philological insight from his own knowledge of the relevant texts.[9] It is this philological project that Grunwald seeks to expand, and following the Rashab, he rejects the suggestion of other scholars that the teachings of these two periods are primarily distinguished by their relative length.[10] Instead he describes six features that, in his opinion, characterize the teachings of the earlier period. It appears that the most central of these features is the almost exclusive focus on the practical challenge of serving G-d at the highest possible level. Theoretical issues are only mentioned and engaged with to the degree that that they are directly relevant to the specifics of divine worship.[11]

Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s preoccupation with this challenge is clear from Tanya, which began circulating in the early 1790s and was published in 1796. This work, as described in the author’s introduction, is comprised of “answers to many questions, asked in search of counsel… in the service of G-d.”[12] As Grunwald notes, the Tanya is a systematic presentation of the solutions and advice that its author provided in private audiences (yechidut) on an individualized and more immediate basis. “During this period,” Grunwald concludes, “the distinction between private audiences and the oral delivery of Torah was almost non-existent.”[13]

The purpose of the oral teachings during the earlier period, accordingly, was to directly inspire religious transformation by providing practical direction and immediately applicable solutions. They therefore do not digress into involved discussion of complex theoretical questions and abstractions,[14] nor do they linger on the stylistic niceties of orderly progression.[15] Instead they drive directly to the point, emphasizing it with sharp language[16] and vivid imagery,[17] and uncompromisingly demanding utter submission to the exclusive reality of divine being (“ain od milvado”). In the earlier period, Grunwald notes, such Chassidic exhortations “are not complicated by a mantle of explanation or justification, but are [delivered] straight… penetrating the gut.”[18]

In the later period, conversely, Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s oral teachings were often devoted to the theoretical explanation of a particular concept or issue, or to several related concepts. Here we find detailed and orderly expositions on the nature and purpose of the Torah and the mitzvot generally, or of particular mitzvot and festivals, as well as on complex Kabbalistic ideas. “In the extant discourses [from before Petersburg],” Grunwald writes, “it is almost impossible to find a delivery that is dedicated entirely to the clarification of an aspect of the cosmic chain of being [seder hishtalshalut], in order for it to be understood in depth and in conceptualized form. As a case in point, after Petersburg Rabbi Schneur Zalman delivered a discourse on the topic of ohr ain sof and tzimtzum nearly every year… but before Petersburg we don’t find anything like this at all.”[19]

Grunwald acknowledges that this distinction is a generalization, that in each period one can find anomalies, and that there is far more to say about the development of Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s oral teachings with the passing years. But the distinct and rather rapid change in emphasis is clear enough to demand a broader historiographical explanation. The question is sharpened when we consider that the second part of Tanya, Shaar Ha-yichud Ve-he-emunah, which was circulated and published during the earlier period, does provide a systematic and thorough account of the unity and singularity of divine being, vis-à-vis the created realms. The orderly conceptualization and contemplation of esoteric concepts was already then a fundamental element of Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s approach to the service of G-d.[20] (So fundamental, in fact, that—as discussed elsewhere in the present volume—Rabbi Schneur Zalman originally intended Shaar Ha-Yichud to be the first section of Tanya, rather than the second.[21]) Why then do we not find more of this kind of material in the oral teachings dating from this era?  

The Making of a Tzaddik[22]

Conventionally, the onset of Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s leadership—and the establishment of Chabad as a distinct school of Chassidic thought and practice—is dated to 1783, when he settled in Liozna, or to 1786, when Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk and Rabbi Avraham of Kalisk wrote from the Holy Land prevailing upon him “to draw close the hearts of the faithful of Israel, to teach them understanding and knowledge of G-d.”[23] Grunwald, however, argues that throughout the Liozna period Rabbi Schneur Zalman continued to see himself—not as an independent leader of a Chassidic community, nor as a tzaddik in his own right, but rather—as a personal mentor and guide acting as the appointed representative of the Chassidic leaders in the Holy Land.[24]

One source that Grunwald would have done well to cite to strengthen and crystalize this nuanced conception of Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s role is a 1786 letter by Rabbi Avraham responding to the complaint of the Chassidic community in the region of Lithuania and Belarus—which,  along with Rabbi Menachem Mendel, he continued to lead from afar—that they were unable to hear Torah directly from the mouths of the Tzaddikim in the Holy Land. Rabbi Avraham instructs them to focus less on their desire to hear new wisdom, and more on the practicalities of action:

If only you would place action before hearing, and our sages already said (Avot, Chapter 3) “Anyone whose wisdom is more than their actions etc. [their wisdom will not hold.]” And in my opinion it is tried and tested that too much wisdom is detrimental to action… Commit your eyes and heart to one thing of Chassidic teachings that you have heard, and strengthen it with nails that it should be imprinted and dug into your heart… and due to this you climb and ascend… to exile materiality bit by bit…

And as for action you have a master, our honored friend and beloved, the beloved of G-d, precious light… our teacher the rabbi, Shneur Zalman… filled with the glory of G-d, with spirit, wisdom, understanding and knowledge to show you the path…[25]

Strikingly, Rabbi Avraham encouraged the Chassidic community to turn to Rabbi Schneur Zalman only as a master of “action,” as one who can guide them along the methodological “path” of practical service, but not as an independent tzaddik from whom to “hear” new wisdom.[26] More than a decade later Rabbi Avraham’s opinion “that too much wisdom is detrimental to action” would become a cause of contention between him and Rabbi Schneur Zalman.[27] Yet, even following the passing of Rabbi Menachem Mendel in 1788, and even as the crowds seeking Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s counsel turned Liozna into a bustling Chassidic court, the latter continued to restrict his instruction to the practicalities of actual service of G-d. In his introduction to Tanya too, in the same breath that he emphasizes that its content consists entirely of “answers to many questions, asked in search of advice… in the service of G-d” he continues to emphasize his deference and debt to “our masters in the Holy Land.”[28] 

But not all Chassidim in the region were so eager to accept Rabbi Schneur Zalman as their mentor. A strong contingent looked for guidance and inspiration to his contemporary, Rabbi Shlomo of Karlin, who emphasized ecstatic faith and the centrality of the tzaddik, and was famed as a seer and wonderworker. As documented by Levine—following the earlier work of Rabbi Avraham Abish Shor—Karliner loyalists persistently lobbied the tzaddikim in the Holy Land to appoint Rabbi Shlomo in Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s place, or to allow them to travel to visit him in Ludmir, Galitzia, where he settled circa 1786. Such agitation was consistently rebuffed, but never entirely quelled.[29] Rabbi Shlomo was shot by marauding cossacks in 1792, and the Karlin legacy was continued by Rabbi Asher of Stolin and Rabbi Mordechai of Lechevitch.[30] Despite the relative peace that reigned during this period, Rabbi Avraham continued to exhort the Chassidim to seek counsel from Rabbi Schneur Zalman alone into the early months of 1797, when he had apparently not yet seen the recently published Tanya.[31]   

The period from 1788 to 1797 is described by Grunwald as an intermediate one, in which Rabbi Schneur Zalman came to ever increasing prominence and also crystallized the distinctly systematic approach to the service of G-d presented and published in Tanya. Neither by restricting himself to topics directly related to practical worship, nor by describing himself as a “compiler” (melaket) of a “collection of sayings”—rather than as the author of an independent work of Chassidic thought and instruction—was he able to mask the originality of his approach. No reader of the Tanya can evade the primacy given to intellectual contemplation, to toil of the mind, as the fundamental basis of heartfelt service and actual practice, a primacy that is further underscored by the discussion of divine unity in Shaar Ha-yichud Ve-ha-emunah.[32]

As Levine explains, the crystallization of this systematic methodology to the point of publication was seized by Karliner loyalists as an opportunity to press their case before Rabbi Avraham of Kalisk, eliciting his sharp critique of Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s path in a series of letters penned between the latter part of 1797 and the summer of 1798.[33] Paradoxically, it was precisely this critique that led to Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s emergence as a Chassidic leader of a different stripe, and ultimately as an autonomous tzaddik in the fullest sense of the term.

In Grunwald’s words:

Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s two great confrontations, with Rabbi Avraham on the doctrine of Chabad, and with the Lithuanian mitnagdim on the doctrine of Chassidism, transpired and erupted at approximately the same time. The period from 1798 [when he was first arrested and taken to Petersburg on mitnagdic charges of treason] until after the second imprisonment marked the birth pangs that brought forth the shining era of the Chabad doctrine and Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s leadership… It is due to this [difficult] period that we merited the doctrine of Chabad in all its greatness and depth.[34] 

According to Grunwald the distinction between the Liozna and Liadi periods is far greater than has previously been understood. Much has been made of Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s unwillingness to deal with the worldly concerns (mili de’alma) of his constituents, and of the rules he imposed to regulate the throngs who traveled to Liozna to meet with him and receive spiritual guidance in person (takonat liozna).[35] But according to Grunwald the documentary record attests that these kinds of restrictions were only imposed during the Liozna period, when Rabbi Schneur Zalman insisted that his role was only that of a spiritual guide.[36] In the Liadi period, when he no longer acted as a personal mentor and took on the full responsibility of autonomous leadership, he no longer protested against those who came to him with their worldly concerns, and imposed no regulations on those who wished to come and hear Torah from his lips.[37]

The focus of Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s leadership now shifted from the personal to the public, from direct inspiration and methodological instruction, to the coherent formulation, explanation and dissemination of a theoretical edifice accessible enough to be studied, assimilated and acted upon by every aspiring Chassid. It was only after Petersburg that Rabbi Schneur Zalman began delivering oral teachings each and every week, and often several times in a single week. It was in the later period too that new emphasis was placed on the systematic transcription of these teachings not only by Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s brother, Rabbi Yehudah Leib, but also by the former’s sons Rabbi DovBer (the Mitteler Rebbe) and Rabbi Moshe, his grandson Rabbi Menachem Mendel (the Tzemach Tzedek), as well as by noted Chassidim such as Rabbi Pinchas Reitzes. These teachings were not simply instructive or inspirational, each was a new window onto the transcendent philosophy of Chabad, to be carefully preserved, reviewed, studied, assimilated and applied, transforming the Chassid from within.[38]  

Cerebral Love

According to Grunwald, the theoretical emphasis that emerged in the Liadi period also constituted a substantial shift in Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s approach to prayer, and, more broadly, to the service of G-d with love and awe.[39]

In Tanya, Chapter 16, Rabbi Schneur Zalman distinguishes between love that is revealed openly in one’s heart, “so that one’s heart burns like flaming fire, and desires with heartfelt fervour, longing and yearning,” and love “that is hidden in the mind and concealed in the heart.” Both are the product of mindful contemplation of the greatness of G-d’s infinitude. Both provide the impetus to bind oneself to G-d through the Torah and its commandments. But the former bursts forth as an emotive outpouring of love (hitgalut ha-lev), while the latter remains “enclosed in the mind and the concealment of the heart” (mesuteret be-mocho ve’taalumat libo). Rabbi Schneur Zalman establishes it as “a fundamental rule in the service of ordinary people (beinonim)” that though open love is apparently more ideal, mere mindful animation is “also” acceptable impetus for Torah study and mitzvah performance “since it is this understanding in one’s mind and the concealment of one’s heart that brings you to toil in them.”

In a later teaching Rabbi Schneur Zalman specifically refers to this passage in Tanya, but argues that a more cerebral experience of love is actually preferable, rather than merely acceptable. For one thing, emotional experience is fleeting while cerebral animation achieves a permanently effective transformation. For another, an open experience of ecstatic love may itself be so spiritually satisfying that one will no longer seek to bind oneself to G-d through actual Torah study and practice of the commandments.[40]

Though the text in question bears no date, Grunwald devotes an entire article to a survey of several similar examples, each of which date from the period following the second imprisonment specifically. Yet Grunwald fails to note a fundamental distinction between these two texts: Tanya speaks of an individual whose “intellect and spirit of understanding is insufficient”  and consequently suffers from emotional indifference. But the oral teaching he cites clearly addresses an individual who possesses the intellectual and spiritual capacity to experience open love, but is enjoined to use the intellect to exercise emotional discipline in order to cultivate a more pervading experience of submissive subjugation (bitul) before G-d.[41]

Contrary to Grunwald’s suggestion, this later text does not present a complete reversal of priorities when compared to Tanya.[42] It instead introduces a loftier form of service, through which toil of the heart is further refined rather than abandoned. As Grunwald explains elsewhere, emotional enthusiasm—even when directed towards G-d—is essentially a form of self-expression and self-affirmation, whereas the Chabad ideal is to internalize the recognition that nothing exists other than G-d.[43] Ecstatic experience can accordingly be counterproductive, and as already mentioned, may well remain limited to the realm of emotion. A loftier—and more thoroughly transformative—mode of worship uses the mind to exercise emotional self-discipline, subduing self-expression and subjecting the entirety of one’s being to the mindful apprehension of divinity and the practical service of G-d.[44]

The distinctions are perhaps not as sharp as Grunwald portrays them, but the shift is certainly a real one. In the earlier period Rabbi Schneur Zalman instructed his disciples to use their intellectual capacities to inspire emotional expression and exuberance (as reflected in Tanya). In the later period he taught them to cultivate a more contained and constant form of internal animation, channeling mindful enthusiasm directly into the practical service of G-d—Torah study and mitzvah performance—rather than allowing it to overflow into the heart unbridled.[45]

A related point, addressed in a different article, is the debate between Rabbi Schneur Zalman and Rabbi Avraham of Kalisk on the complex relationship between faith and knowledge. In 1805 the former delivered a series of discourses on the topic, elicited by the latter’s renewed critique, and Grunwald’s rich treatment of the sources further underscores the centrality of such theoretical issues in Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s later teachings.[46] 

As we have seen, the transition between the Liozna and Liadi periods was rooted in the parting of ways that transpired between Rabbi Schneur Zalman and Rabbi Avraham. One result of this transition—Grunwald further argues—was the subsequent parting of ways between Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s oldest son, Rabbi DovBer of Lubavitch, and his foremost disciple, Rabbi Aharon of Strashelye. As has been most extensively described by Naftali Loewenthal, these two personalities clashed precisely over the question of Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s approach to emotional enthusiasm, particularly during prayer.[47] Rabbi Aharon first came to Liozna at the age of 17, shortly after Rabbi Schneur Zalman settled there in 1783. Rabbi DovBer would have been less than ten years old at the time, and he did not begin transcribing his father's teachings until 1798—that is, at the very end of the Liozna period. Grunwald accordingly asserts that the eras in which they each matured as students of Rabbi Schneur Zalman can be broadly distinguished along the lines of their later disagreement.[48] While this claim rings true, it is complicated by the facts that Rabbi Aharon and Rabbi DovBer were close associates for many years, and that by 1798 the later would already have been 25 years old.[49]

Grunwald enriches his analysis of the relevant transcripts with several recollections and comments of the Tzemach Tzedek.[50] One example is a note in the latter’s own hand, appended to a teaching in which Rabbi Schneur Zalman categorically rejects any emotionalism, preferring the cerebral approach “even if it is only superficial and somatic… with very brief contemplation, and coldness…” The Tzemach Tzedek recalls that this extreme formulation was directed towards a particular individual whose enthusiastic conduct needed to be reined in, and was not necessarily intended to be applied more generally. More applicable is the general thrust of this teaching, which gives ultimate primacy to “the quality and substance of internal subjugation (bitul) in the mind and heart, in the aspect of prostration… without any detectable movement.”[51]

Another source records that seeing the Tzemach Tzedek’s note, one of his grandsons asked him if the specific individual referred to was Rabbi Aharon of Strashelye: “And his grandfather answered him… G-d forbid! I was not thinking of him, for he experienced G-dly enthusiasm…”[52] Grunwald relates this remark to a distinction drawn by Rabbi Schneur Zalman himself between the worship of an ordinary individual and that of a tzaddik, who is not susceptible to the pitfalls of ecstatic love and emotional enthusiasm. Regarding the difference between Rabbi DovBer and Rabbi Aharon, he refers to the vivid image provided by the Rebbe Rashab:

Like a burning stick of hay. When it is dry it burns with a flame. It burns through and nothing remains. [Such was the service of Rabbi Aharon] But when it contains moisture its substance is entirely burnt through, and yet [its form] remains standing. Touch it. It is nothing. Yet the form stands. Such was the Mitteler Rebbe [Rabbi DovBer]. This is the love of glowing flame, an all consuming fire, yet the form stands.[53] 
Of Angels and Other Things

Notable both for its topical interest and for the broader significance of its central point is an analysis of the treatment of angels in Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s teachings by Rabbi Aharon Chitrik. “Chabad teachings… present comprehensive and deep explanations, extending to very specific details of the nature of angels: their creation, their character, their station, their role, their subjugation to G-d, prayer and song, their constant service, their free-will or lack thereof, etc. etc.” But these discussions, Chitrik convincingly demonstrates, do not reflect any intrinsic interest in angels at all. Angels are only the focus of such intense discussion as a counterpoint from which we can achieve a better understanding of the unique nature of the Jewish soul, and its mission on this physical earth.[54] In an 1804 discourse explicating this point, Rabbi Schneur Zalman extends this principle to all Kabbalistic discussions of the cosmic chain of supernal realms: Ultimately all such theoretical investigations are but a stepping stone to achieve direct knowledge of G-d’s essence.[55]

Two additional articles are devoted to the Tzemach Tzedek’s intensive engagement with his grandfather’s discourses, firstly from a theoretical perspective,[56] and secondly as editor and publisher of Torah Ohr and Likutei Torah.[57] In Grunwald’s apt and illuminating formulation, the Tzemach Tzedek is to Rabbi Schneur Zalman as the Tosafists are to the Talmud Bavli: Surveying Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s different treatments of the same or related topics, the Tzemach Tzedek seeks to compare them and combine them, ironing out apparent conflicts through innovative explanation, differentiation, and harmonization, and also to contextualize the former’s teachings within the broader Jewish tradition of philosophical and mystical thought.[58]

For all the rich depth, analysis and insight of Grunwald’s scholarship, his work in this volume tends to suffer from a certain looseness of form. Moving from text to context, from observation and analysis to elaboration and speculation, order and balance is sometimes lost; some points are too often repeated, others scattered in footnotes or hardly developed at all. His article on the Midrashic notion of “a dwelling in the lower realms,” as developed in Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s thought, abounds with relevant sources, thoughtful comparisons and observations. Yet it runs to nearly sixty pages and reads more like a voluminous draft than a tightly argued thesis.[59]

At the outset, Grunwald takes stock of the various perspectives within the Jewish tradition from which the purpose of the Torah and its commandments can be viewed—the Halachic, the philosophic and the kabbalistic—before proceeding to the unique contribution of Chassidism. Self admittedly his analysis is too sweeping. But it could also be better grounded in the relevant texts.[60] His conclusion that the Chassidic object of “a dwelling in the lower realms” is tied to the revelation of divine unity is in particular need of justification and elaboration. His initial discussion of the philosophical purpose of the Torah and its commandments similarly highlighted divine unity, a point that will further confuse many readers. The Rebbe Rashab explicitly discussed the Chassidic renewal of this midrashic conception in terms of its relationship with philosophical and kabbalistic approaches, and Grunwald is as familiar as anyone with the relevant sources. But it is not till footnote 99 that the first discourse of Yom Tov Shel Rosh Hashanah 5666 (“Samach Vav”) makes an appearance.[61]   

Given the immensity of Grunwald’s project, as editor of this volume and its chief contributor, he is to be applauded for his successful effort to share such a great wealth of information and insight. Nevertheless, in several instances Grunwald’s arguments would have been substantively enhanced if he had the time and resources to ensure that they were composed and constructed with more orderliness and concision. In fact, the more one delves into his work, the more one can envision  all that remains to be written. Many a brief note, expanded into a fully developed thesis, could be the topic of an independent article.[62]  

Moving beyond the direct transcripts of Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s oral teachings, the volume includes a substantial collection of short sayings and teachings attributed to R. Schneur Zalman in a wide variety of secondary sources.[63] A second collection draws exclusively on the oeuvre of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn of Lubavitch (1880-1950), whose journals, letters and private talks preserve a rich reservoir of anecdotes and historiographical data passed down from the first generation of Chabad.[64] Both of these rich collections were compiled by Grunwald and benefit greatly from his critical notes, comments and citations.

Also included in this volume is a newly edited edition of the seminal commentary to the Tanya by one of the principal educators in the original Yeshiva Tomchei Temimim, Lubavitch—Rabbi Shmuel Groinem Estherman (d. 1921).[65] Even in its as yet incomplete form this is a substantial text, which bears study and review in its own right. Another article gathers information on the period spent by Rabbi Schneur Zalman in Mohyliv-Podil’s’kyi on the River Dniester, following Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk’s ascent to the Holy Land.[66] Similar articles are devoted to some of the former’s Chassidim, including, but not limited to, the well known Rabbi Binyamin of Kletzk[67] and the lesser known —but perhaps equally influential, and certainly more intriguingly named—Rabbi Dovid Shvartz-Tuma.[68]

Subjective Transformation  

Although the importance of Halacha for Rabbi Schneur Zalman and his work as a legal authority receives little attention in this volume, there are two notable exceptions. The first is Grunwald’s discussion of the relationship between the legal focus on physical activity and the mystical/Midrashic notion that G-d desired a dwelling in the physical realms specifically.[69] The second is a discussion by Rabbi Noach Green juxtaposing the objective rule of law in cases of monetary disputation with a more subjective process of arbitration and compromise. Rabbi Schneur Zalman prefered the subjective approach in practice, and also devoted several discourses to the mystical basis of that preference, explaining that this was the surer way of transforming our lowly environment into a “dwelling” for G-d.[70] As Green puts it: “The truth of Torah is imposed objectively, without actually refining the lowly material. Whereas the kindness of Torah is in accord with the nature of creation, and comes to refine the material as it is.”[71]

This preference—for subjective transformation rather than submissive acceptance of objective law—correlates with the ultimate focus of Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s broader educational project. As we have seen, during the Liadi period his teachings delved deeply into the most esoteric of kabbalistic doctrines. But their purpose was ultimately focused on the conjunction of the highest highs and the lowest lows: direct knowledge of G-d’s essence and the physical practice of the commandments. As is often noted in Chabad teachings, this overcoming of the cosmic hierarchy will only be accomplished fully with the advent of the messianic era. But the period of the exile is not merely a ceaseless struggle between our reality and our ideals, and messianic revelation is not simply bestowed from above. As Rabbi Schneur Zalman asserts in Tanya, it is achieved through our subjective toil throughout the era of exile.[72]

But the question remains to be asked: Why did Rabbi Schneur Zalman place such an emphasis on the assimilation and contemplation of theoretical ideals, which most of us cannot yet adequately replicate in practice? Why did he not restrict his instruction to the more directly attainable elements of divine service, as he had in the Liozna period?  

A fascinating array of sources related to these questions are collected in another article by Grunwald.[73] One example attributes the following distinction between toil of the heart and toil of the mind to Rabbi Schneur Zalman: G-d promises that with the messianic advent “I shall remove the heart of stone… and give you a heart of flesh,” but nothing similar is said of the mind. In the realm of the heart, of emotional inspiration and refinement, we may ultimately rely on divine intervention. But we must first ready ourselves for such revelation intellectually, independently toiling to “subjectively assimilate, and affix in our minds, all the stations that will be achieved with the messianic advent.”[74]

Grunwald argues that for Rabbi Schnuer Zalman this kind of intellectual work isn’t simply a technical condition to the messianic revelation. It is actually central to his vision of such revelation as something achieved through human toil, through the subjective transformation of our lowly reality into a lofty messianic state. It is only if we have internally readied ourselves that the messianic advent can be complete, with the mindful quality of interiority openly spilling over into our hearts.[75] In the words of the Rashab, cited earlier in this article: “The ultimate intention is the quality of interiority specifically, for with the coming of Moshiach specifically the interiority will be revealed…”[76]

[1] On Mondshine’s life and work see Eli Rubin, “Rabbi Yehoshua Mondshine, 67, Acclaimed Scholar and Author, Passes Away in Jerusalem,” (25 December 2014), available here. See also David Assaf, “Avad Chassid Min Ha-aretz,” Oneg Shabbat blog (26 December 2014), available here here.
[2] Notably, the new and improved edition of Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s Igrot Kodesh (Kehot Publication Society, 2012), edited by Rabbi Shalom DovBer Levine, and the still ongoing publication of all extant transcripts of Rabbi Shneur Zalman’s oral discourses in the multi volume series Maamarei Admur Ha-zaken. See also Rabbi Shalom DovBer Levine, Toldot Chabad Be-russia Ha-tzaarit (Kehot Publication Society, 2010), and Rabbi Yehushua Mondshine, Masa Barditchev (2010), Ha-maasar Ha-rishon (2012) and Ha-masa Ha-acharon (2012), among other works. In English see, most recently, Immanuel Etkes, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liady: The Origins of the Chabad School (Waltham, Mass.: Brandeis University Press, 2015). While this is a valuable introductory work that takes advantage of first-hand documentary sources, I have noted elsewhere that its scope is rather limited. See Eli Rubin, “Making Chasidism Accessible: How Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi Successfully Preserved and Perpetuated the Teachings of The Baal Shem Tov,” (10 September 2012), available here. The shortcoming of that work are further highlighted when compared with the insights offered of the present volume. See my related comment below, note three. For an earlier, but in many ways broader, more complex and more insightful work see Naftali Loewenthal, Communicating the Infinite: The Emergence of the Chabad School (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1990). For a partial review of recent publications see Eli Rubin, The Rabbi Who Defied Napoleon and Made Mysticism Accessible: New publications illuminate the life and legacy of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi,” (11 January 2013), available here.
[3]  For an important exception see Loewenthal, Communicating the Infinite, 66-76 and 117-119. Though relatively brief, Loewenthal’s discussion is well grounded in the primary sources, and in several ways prefigures insights that are presented with far more elaboration in the present work. Another important work is Roman A. Foxbrunner, Habad: The Hasidism of R. Shneur Zalman of Lyady (University of Albama Press, 1992), which takes stock of some important aspects of Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s teachings through a particularly wide analysis of the oral, as well as written, teachings. In certain respects this work similarly prefigures the present volume, but without the diachronic dimensions that will here be highlighted. For further treatments see Eli Rubin, “The Future is Now: Assorted reflections on the oral teachings of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi,” Chabad-Revisited (30 November 2015), available here, and Jonathan Garb, “The Early Writings of Rashaz,” delivered at Johns Hopkins University, April 2015, and available online here. Etkes’ fleeting discussion of the oral teachings (Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liady, 50-54) relies on secondary sources, and at one point (note 93) confuses Rabbi Schneur Zalman with his great grandson, Rabbi Chaim Schneur Zalman of Liadi. It should be noted that none of these sources, including the present volume, address the two volumes of discourses published by Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s son, Rabbi DovBer: Siddur Tefilot Mi-kol Ha-shana Im Pirush Hamilot Al Pi Dach (Kopust, 1816), online here, and Bi’urei Ha-zohar (Kopust, 1816), online here. See also Elliot R. Wolfson, Open Secret: Postmessianic Messianism and the Mystical Revision of Menahem Mendel Schneerson (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009), where many texts by Rabbi Schneur Zalman are contextualized within a discussion of the thought of Chabad’s seventh Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson; Elliot R. Wolfson, A Dream Interpreted Within a Dream: A Dream Interpreted within a Dream: Oneiropoiesis and the Prism of Imagination (Cambridge, MA: Zone Books, 2011), 197-217. For more on Wolfson's oeuvre, see Joey Rosenfeld, “Dorshei Yichudcha: A Portrait of Professor Elliot R. Wolfson,” the Seforim blog (21 July 2015), available here.
[4] Such belatedness seems to be something of a custom with such publications. In the introduction to the present volume (p. 15) reference is made to Sefer HaKan, a collection of articles on Rabbi Schneur Zalman that was intended to mark the 150th year since his passing in 1962, but which did not appear till the beginning of 1970, and is available online here.
[5] For the relationship with Rabbi Avraham see Loewenthal, Communicating the Infinite, 51-54 and 77-90; Nehemia Polen, “Charismatic Leader, Charismatic Book: Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s Tanya and His Leadership,” in Suzanne Last Stone, ed., Rabbinic and Lay Communal Authority (New York: Yeshiva University Press, 2006), 60-61; Immanuel Etkes, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liady: The Origins of the Chabad School (Waltham, Mass.: Brandeis University Press, 2015), 209-258. On the relationship with Rabbi Shlomo see the articles of Rabbi Avraham Abish Shor, as cited specifically below.
[6] See Rabbi Meir Chaim Hillman, Beis Rebbi (Berditchev, 1902), Part 1, Chapter 20, note 5. See also the account in Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, Igrot Kodesh Vol. 3 (Kehot Publication Society, 1983), 444-445.
[7] Cited in HaRav, 401, and attributed to Rabbi Shlomo Zalman of Kopust in the name of his grandfather, the Tzemach Tzedek.
[8] Rabbi Shalom DovBer Schneersohn, Torat Shalom (Kehot Publication Society, 1970), 26.
[9] See Loewenthal, Communicating the Infinite, 72-73. Grunwald, HaRav, 402-406.
[10] Torat Shalom, 114. Grunwald, HaRav, 412-413.
[11] This is the second of the six features described by Grunwald, HaRav, 415-416.
[12] Another article in this volume, by the late Rabbi Yehoshua Mondshine (HaRav, 609-650), collects extant accounts of such audiences, providing illuminating glimpses of Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s interactions as a personal mentor.
[13] HaRav, 415, and at greater length, Ibid., 394-396. See, however, the discussion of Tanya as exoteric in relation to the esoteric aspect expressed in the oral teachings, as cited by Loewenthal, Communicating the Infinite, p. 235-236, note 67.
[14] HaRav, 416.
[15] HaRav, 415.
[16] HaRav, 420-421.
[17] HaRav, 416-418. See also Jonathan Garb, “The Early Writings of Rashaz,” delivered at Johns Hopkins University, April 2015, and available online here.
[18] HaRav, 413. On this last point see also Loewenthal, Communicating the Infinite, 68. On the stringent demands Rabbi Schneur Zalman attaches to worship of G-d see Foxbrunner, Habad, 116.
[19] HaRav, 415. For an ongoing exploration of Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s discussion of ohr ain sof and tzimtzum, on the part of the present writer, see my series here.
[20] See HaRav, 430-431.
[21] See the extended discussion in HaRav, 361-375.
[22] A formulation borrowed from Jonathan Garb, “The Early Writings of Rashaz,” delivered at Johns Hopkins University, April 2015, and available online here.
[23] See the introduction to Igrot Kodesh Admur Ha-zaken (Kehot Publication Society, new and improved edition, 2012), 42-43, and sources cited there; Levine, Toldot Chabad Be-russia Ha-tzaarit, 29-31; Loewenthal, Communicating the Infinite, 42; Etkes, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, 9-19.
[24] HaRav, 391-396. See also pages 421-423 where Grunwald argues that Rabbi Schneur Zalman sought to deemphasize the role of the tzaddik in chassidim altogether. In my view the picture he paints is overly simplistic, and he himself notes that more research is required. As I have argued elsewhere, while Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s understanding of the tzaddik’s role was different to that of other Chassidic leaders, he understood it to be no less central than they; see Eli Rubin, “The Second Refinement and the Role of the Tzaddik: How Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi discovered a new way to serve G-d,”, available online here. For further comments on the role of the tzadik in Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s teachings see below note 28.
[25] As published in Rabbi Aharon Surasky, Yesod Ha-maalah Vol. 2 (Bnei Brak, 2000), 85-86.
[26] In a similar vein see Rabbi Avraham Abish Shor, Kovetz Beit Aharon Ve-yisra’el, Issue 167, 137.
[27] See the related discussion of this source in Rabbi Avraham Abish Shor, Kovetz Beit Aharon Ve-yisra’el, Issue 157, p. 187).
[28]  Elsewhere in the present volume, Rabbi Eliyahu Matusof points out that when, in 1806—that is, in the Liadi period—Rabbi Schneur Zalman published a new edition of the Tanya, this reference to “our masters in the Holy Land” was omitted. Both Matusof (HaRav, 344-380) and Grunwald (HaRav, 398, note 30) see this as evidence that the distinction between the earlier and later periods of Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s leadership (as described in more detail below) is to be extended to Tanya as well. In the earlier period it served as a proxy for one-on-one mentorship (yechidut). In the later period (when references to yechidut were also omitted from the 1806 edition of Tanya) it was transformed into the foundation of Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s broader project to formulate, explain and disseminate the unique theoretical edifice of Chabad in terms that were accessible enough to be studied, assimilated and acted upon by any aspiring Chassid for perpetuity.
Grunwald’s general thrust also provides an important counterbalance to the argument advanced by Nehemia Polen (Charismatic Leader, Charismatic Book, 53-64) that the Tanya was designed to craft a balance between control and empowerment, enforcing a rigid structure of social stratification, in which the tzadik is placed on a spiritual plain that the average man (benoni) can never hope to reach. Grunwald’s work complicates this sociological interpretation by demonstrating that during the period of Tanya’s composition the sociological structure of the Chassidic community had not yet been crystallized into distinct hierarchies led by individual tzaddikim, but was rather a complex network with a spectrum of different kinds of authorities and leaders, whose homogeneity Rabbi Schneur Zalman did not seek to break. It is my belief that Tanya’s portrait of the tzaddik in contrast to the average man is primarily to be read theoretically and psychologically rather than sociologically. That is, it relates to the inner world of man, rather than to the external world of the community. As Polen acknowledges, the entire distinction between the tzaddik and the beinoni is such that outwardly the latter may be mistaken for the former. Tanya does discuss the role of the tzadik within the community, but it primarily does so using the terms “wise men” (chachamim), “Torah scholars” (talmidei chachamim), “wise men of the generation” (chachmei ha-dor), and “visionaries of the community” (enei ha-edah), which carry more obvious degrees of social implication. This claim, I believe, is born out by the sources discussed in my article, as cited above, note 24. Moreover, the plural tense of these terms better reflects the less stratified sociological reality of the time.
[29] Levine, HaRav, 661-684; See also the important series of articles by Rabbi Avraham Abish Shor, Karlin Be-tekufat Galut, in Kovetz Beit Aharon Ve-yisra’el, as cited by Levine, Ibid., 662, note 9.
[30] See Rabbi Avraham Abish Shor, Al Harigato Shel Moshiach Hashem, in Kovetz Beit Aharon Ve-yisra’el, Issues 39, 39 and 40.
[31] Levine, HaRav, 668-669. During this more peaceful period a match was arranged between Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s widowed son-in-law—Rabbi Shalom Shachne, father of the Tzemach Tzedek of Lubavitch—and Rivka Rivla, the sister of Rabbi Asher of Stolin. See Shor, Kovetz Beit Aharon Ve-yisra’el, Issue 162, p. 139-140.
[32] See the relevant discussions in HaRav, 426-431; Immanuel Etkes, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liady, 98-100; Jonathan Garb, Yearnings of the Soul (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2015), 50-57. This last source is particularly notable for its emphasis on the respective roles of the mind and the heart in Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s teachings, which is also the broader theme of the present essay.
[33] Levine, HaRav, 670-672. See the excerpts appended to Igrot Kodesh Admur Ha-zaken (Kehot Publication Society, new and improved edition, 2012), 496, 498-500.
[34] HaRav, 400. The coincidence of these two ruptures is underscored in a letter by Rabbi Schneur Zalman noting his inability to respond to Rabbi Avraham’s critique until circa 1799-1800, due “to the distress of the times,” referring to his arrest. See Igrot Kodesh Admur Ha-zaken, 341; HaRav, 672.
[35] See the editor's Introduction to Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (ed. Rabbi DovBer Levine), Igrot Kodesh (Kehot Publication Society, new and improved edition, 2012), 35-37.
[36] With regard to mili de’alma see HaRav, 391, note 13; 409-410. With regard to takonat liozna see HaRav, 398, note 29; 408, note 65. See also Levine, Toldot Chabad Be-russia Ha-tzaarit, 36.
[37] In one of the very last texts penned by Rabbi Schneur Zalman before his passing he even went so far as to justify and explain this central link between material concerns and the spiritual service of G-d. See sources cited and discussed in the editor's Introduction to Igrot Kodesh, 39. See also Yanki Tauber, “The Physical World According to Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi,”, available here.
[38] HaRav, 396-398; 388-389, note 6. See also the discussion by Shor, Kovetz Beit Aharon Ve-yisra’el, Issue 172, 151-152. Loewenthal, Communicating the Infinite, 71-77. For a similar shift in the role that Tanya came to play in this period see above, note 28.
[39] For Grunwald’s extended discussion see HaRav, 432-461. See also Loewenthal, Communicating the Infinite, 75-77 and 117-119. For a particularly extensive discussion of the nature and role of love and awe in Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s teachings see Foxbrunner, Habad, 178-194.
[40] Maamarei Admur Ha-zaken Al Maamarei Chazal, 94. HaRav, 453-454. See also Foxbrunner, Habad, 186.
[41] My thanks goes to Rabbi Avraham Altein for bringing this distinction to my attention, and for providing other important comments and citations.
[42] HaRav, 438-552.
[43] HaRav, 433-434. See also Foxbrunner, Habad, 185.
[44] In a discourse delivered in the autumn of 1799 (Maamarei Admur Ha-zaken Ketuvim Vol. 1, 67 [96]), in between the first and second imprisonments (and misleadingly described by Grunwald as “the very beginning of the period following Petersburg”), Rabbi Schneur Zalman describes how to cultivate this cerebral form of love. It is noteworthy that this contemplation is explicitly directed from the mind to the heart:
“Speak to your heart quietly and coolly, which is the opposite of the heated movement of the heart… Settled mindfulness (yishuv ha-daat) is cool, without any movement, and you shall delve deeply into settled mindfulness with ease and calm (be-nachat), and say to your heart: ‘The infinite revelation of G-d creates [existence], something from nothing, at every moment, it is clear in my intellect that this is so… If so how can I be separate [from G-d]? And [how can] all my thoughts and the capacities of my soul not constantly be cleaving to G-d… ?”
[45] See also Loewenthal, Ibid., where similar argument are made drawing on additional textual examples. Loewenthal also demonstrates an increased focus on abnegation (bitul) in contrast to emotionalism.
[46] HaRav, 473-505. See also Levine, HaRav, 675-684. Levine, Introduction to Igrot Kodesh, 49, points out that the year 1805 is when the term “Chabad” comes into use as a way of expressly distinguishing the followers of Rabbi Schneur Zalman from those of other Chassidic leaders.
[47] Loewenthal, Communicating the Infinite, 100-138, and 167-174 and 195. See also Hillman, Beis Rebbi, Part 1, Chapter 26, and Louis Jacobs, Tract on Ecstasy (Vallentine Mitchell, 1963); Louis Jacobs, Seeker of Unity: The Life and Works of Aharon of Starosselje (Vallentine Mitchell, 1966). For more recent comments on Rabbi DovBer, Rabbi Aaron and the interrelationship of their thought see Wolfson, A Dream Interpreted Within a Dream, 210-214, and Garb, Yearnings of the Soul, 56-57.
[48] HaRav, 432-438.
[49] See also the accounts transmitted by Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn in Igrot Kodesh Vol. 3 (Kehot Publication Society, 1983), 477; and in Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, Reshimot Ha-yoman (Kehot Publication Society, 2006), 367.
[50] HaRav, 448-449.
[51] Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch, Ohr Ha-torah, Bereishit Vol. 3, 603-604 (Hebrew pagination). This last quote—as well as the source quoted above, note 44—further emphasizes the central role that the heart continued to play in Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s thought, even in the later period. See Maamarei Admur Ha-zaken 5570, 207-210 for a discourse delivered by Rabbi DovBer in the lifetime of Rabbi Schneur Zalman, which similarly emphasizes this point, contrasting between the exteriority of the heart and the interiority of the heart (pnimiyut ha-lev). As Loewenthal puts it (Ibid., 122) Rabbi DovBer too demanded ecstasy: “not ecstasy of the self, but of the nonself…”
[52] Hillman, Beis Rebbi, Part 1, Chapter 26, note 4.
[53] Torat Shalom, 213.
[54] HaRav, 563-572.
[55] Maamarei Admur Ha-zaken 5565, 4.
[56] Rabbi Nochum Grunwald, HaRav, 573-586.
[57] Rabbi Nechemia Teichman, HaRav, 587-606.
[58] Grunwald’s description here is inspired by the comment of the Maharshal regarding the achievement of the Tosafists. See Yam Shel Shlomo, introduction to Chulin.
[59] HaRav, 506-562.
[60] For one relevant text that Grunwald does not discuss see Ma’amarei Admur ha-Zaken 5565, Volume 1, 489–90. For my own discussion of this text, as well as a contextualization of Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s approach within the broader streams of Jewish rationalist and mystical thought that differs somewhat from Grunwald’s approach see Eli Rubin, “Intimacy in the Place of Otherness: How rationalism and mysticism collaboratively communicate the Midrashic core of cosmic purpose,”, available here.
[61] HaRav, 544-545. Footnote 99, incidentally, is well worth reading. Among other points there, Grunwald makes explicit reference to Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik’s Halakhic Man. Indeed, hints to the similarities and differences between the latter’s approach and that of Rabbi Schneur Zalman are already apparent from the onset of Grunwald’s article. For more on this general topic See Elliot R. Wolfson, “Eternal Duration and Temporal Compresence: The Influence of Habad on Joseph B. Soloveitchik,” in Michael Zank and Ingrid Anderson, eds., The Value of the Particular: Lessons from Judaism and the Modern Jewish Experience - Festschrift for Steven T. Katz on the Occasion of his Seventieth Birthday (Leiden: Brill, 2015), 196-238.
[62] Take for example page 562, footnote 145, where Grunwald gestures to the question of Jewish chosenness as developed in Chabad thought through the generations. For a lengthy treatment of this topic see Wolfson, Open Secret, Chapter 6. See also Eli Rubin, “Divine Zeitgeist—The Rebbe’s Appreciative Critique of Modernity,”, available here, and Wojciech Tworek, Time in the Teachings of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi (dissertation submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, University College London, 2014), 126-136. None of these treatments deal with the diburificating statement Grunwald points to Likutei Sichot Vol. 16 (Kehot Publication Society, 2006), 477-478: “When will it be achieved in a revealed sense that the Jews are a dwelling for G-d? …Specifically… when, through the Jews, the lower realms themselves become a place that is fit for G-d’s dwelling… Since the intention of a dwelling in the lower realms is [rooted] in G-d’s essence, it is impossible to say that this intention should be compounded of two things…”
[63] HaRav, 3-124.
[64] HaRav, 125-211.
[65] HaRav, 215-343.
[66] HaRav, 653-658.
[67] HaRav, 701-740.
[68] HaRav, 765-770.
[69] HaRav, 516-528.
[70] HaRav, 693.
[71] HaRav, 698. On Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s Halachik work and method Rabbi Shlomo Yosef Zevin, “Shulchan Aruch Admur” in Sofrim Ve-seforim Vol. 2 (Tel Aviv: Hotza’at Sefarim Avraham Tziyoni, 1959), 9-21 [Hebrew], translated and adapted by the present writer as, ‘Systematization, Explanation and Arbitration: Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi’s Unique Legislative Style,”, available here. For an overview of the current state of scholarship on this topic see Levi Cooper, “Towards A Judicial Biography of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liady,” Journal of Law and Religion 30, no. 1 (2015), 107-135. On the need to address the relationship between Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s Halachik and Kabbalistic work see Garb, Yearnings of the Soul, 155-157.
[72] Likutei Amarim, Chapter 37. For an extended discussion of the prominent place of the messianic idea in Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s thought, correcting a major gap in previous scholarship, see Wojciech Tworek, Time in the Teachings of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi (dissertation submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, University College London, 2014), especially Chapters 2 and 3. See the related discussion in Foxbrunner, Habad, 85-93, and also Eli Rubin, “The Idealistic Realism of Jewish Messianism: On Chabad’s apocalyptic calculations, and why Jews have always predicted elusive ends,”, available here.
[73] HaRav, 462-472.
[74] HaRav, 469.
[75] HaRav, 470-472.

[76] Torat Shalom, 26.

Print post

You might also like

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...