Letter & Spirit: A Catastrophic Quarrel

In this week’s edition of Letter & Spirit, we present a letter of the Rebbe in which he explains how one small quarrel – the misunderstanding between Kamtza and Bar-Kamtza – could bring about the destruction of the Holy Temple and Jerusalem, as explained in the Talmud. The letter was written through the Rebbe’s trusted secretary Rabbi Nissan Mindel, and was made available by his son-in-law Rabbi Sholom Ber Shapiro.

This new weekly feature is made possible by a collaboration between CrownHeights.info and Nissan Mindel Publications. Once a week we will be publishing unique letters of the Rebbe that were written originally in the English language, as dictated by the Rebbe to Rabbi Mindel.


                                                                                                                                  By the Grace of G-d

Brooklyn, N.Y.

London, England


Greeting and Blessing:

I believe I have already acknowledged your correspondence, but having entered the period of the Nine Days, which forcefully reminds us about the vital need of the meeting of Jewish hearts in mutual love and harmony, the following lines will surely be in order.

You surely know of the saying of our Sages that because of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza Jerusalem was destroyed. This seems to be rather strange for surely, it took more than a single dispute between two unfriendly Jews to cause the destruction, as we say in our prayers, “Because of our sins we have been exiled from our land.”

One of the explanations is given by way of illustration from the reflection of the sun in a drop of water as in the wide ocean. The episode with Kamtza and Bar Kamtza reflects a situation which was then most prevalent among the multitudes of the people. It is this kind of general disunity and animosity – based on unfortunate misunderstanding and misconception – that brought about the Destruction of Jerusalem.  And knowing the cause, we know the cure, which is the complete opposite – mutual affection and unity.

The problem is obvious: how is it possible to unite individuals who differ so much in their minds, dispositions and interests, no less than their physical appearance?

The answer is obvious: They can be united in a single area which is common to all and is essentially and truly one – wherein all other differences may eventually be surmounted. Such true unity is found only in G-d Who is One not only in heaven but also on earth, where all the particular and different creatures were created and are sustained by the Word of G-d, which constitutes their soul and very existence. Hence, their extraneous differences cannot affect their essential unity in the One G-d.

This is particularly true in the case of the Jewish people, and it is succinctly expressed in the verse, “You are standing this day all of you before G-d your G-d: your heads, your tribes, your elders,” etc., down to the “hewer of wood and drawer of water.” Jews of all walks of life, if they stand before G-d, your G-d, stand all together, united despite all external diversities.

Needless to say, the above is not intended as a homily, but to reinforce our partnership in the business of spreading Toras Emes, particularly in the projects which have been the subject of our correspondence and conversation at length.

The present days are especially auspicious for this activity and indeed, demand most energetic action. This is also one of the reasons why I appealed for additional efforts in the five mitzvah campaigns, while making it clear and emphatic that it is not a matter of reducing G-d forbid, the Taryag (613) mitzvos or minimizing the importance of other mitzvos, but that the said five mitzvos have a quality shared by all of them, namely to encourage and induce the observance of all the mitzvos in the greatest possible measure.

I trust that all is well with you and your family and that together with your wife, you are enjoying true nachas, which is Yiddish Nachas, from all your near and dear ones.

May G-d grant the speedy fulfillment of the prophecy that the present days will be transformed into days of joy and gladness.

With blessing,


The above letter is from the archives of Rabbi Dr. Nissan Mindel, a personal secretary to the Previous Rebbe and The Rebbe, whose responsibilities included the Rebbe’s correspondence in English.

Many of the letters are now being published in The Letter and the Sprit, a series of volumes by Nissan Mindel Publications.

We thank Rabbi Sholom Ber Shapiro, director of Nissan Mindel Publications and the one entrusted by Rabbi Mindel, his father-in-law, with his archives, for making these letters available to the wider public. May the merit of the many stand him in good stead.

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