Weekly Letter: The Deeper Meaning of Shalach Manos

This week, we present a letter from the Rebbe written shortly after Purim in 1951 (a little over a month after he accepted the Nesius), in which he thanks a group of students for the Shalch Manos they sent him. The letter, written originally in English, is from the archives of the Rebbe’s personal trusted secretary, Rabbi Nissan Mindel.

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Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson

Office address:

Lubavitch, 770 Eastern Parkway

Brooklyn, 13, N.Y.

Hyacinth 3-9250                                                                                                               19 Adar Sheini, 5711

Brooklyn, New York

 

Rabbi

New York City

Greeting and Blessing:

This letter is intended for the entire study group which you lead and I will appreciate your conveying same to all:

I wish to acknowledge with thanks receipt of the Sallach Monos with the accompanying note. I also want you to know that I was gratified to meet several members of your group at our Purim celebration.

There are a number of topics I should have liked to take up with you. But I must confine tis letter to the acknowledgement, adding but a few lines on the subject of Shalach Monos.

You are surely aware that one of the explanations of this mitzvah is that by observing it we rectify a corresponding transgression committed by some of our people in the day of Ahasuerus. As you are familiar from the Megillah, Ahasuerus arranged a sumptuous banquet. The food and drinks served at this feast were not kosher. At the same time degrading use was made of the holy vessels of the Beth Hamikdosh which were in the custody of the Persian conquerors. Nevertheless, some Jews participated in the banquet and partook of the trefah food. Therefore, when we commemorate the downfall of Haman and the frustration of his murderous plans after the Jews had completely returned to G-d, we celebrate the festival also by sending each other Shallach Monos of ready ot eat food and drinks, thus demonstrating our loyalty to G-d in general and to His laws of kashruth in particular.

There is a more profound explanation also.

Persia, in the days of Ahasuerus, was the mightiest empire in the world. It also boasted of the most advanced civilization of those days. On the other hand, the Jewish people at that time was in despair. The Holy Land and the Beth Hamikdosh lay in ruins. The opinion was widely circulated that G-d had abandoned His people. This was supported by miscalculations purporting to show that the period of seventy years’ exile prophesied by our prophets was at an end, yet the promised liberation had not come. This, in fact, was one of the reasons why Ahasuerus made that pompous feast and dared to profane the holy vessels.

Under the circumstances, when the head of the mightiest world empire and civilization arranged the royal feast, inviting to it representatives of all nations, the Jews among them, many Jews could not resist the temptation.  They were no deterred by the fact that this banquet was to mark the beginning of a new “era” of complete assimilation and were deluded by the friendly slogan of “no compulsion.” Thus they became a party to the profanation of the holy vessels.

Symbolically, the profanation of the holy vessels of the Beth Hamikdosh marked the desecration of the Divine soul which forms the sanctuary of every Jew and Jewess. The purpose and mission of this Divine spark is to light up one’s immediate environment and one’s share in the world at large with the light of the highest Divine ideals. Far from fulfilling their soul’s mission upon this earth, those weak Jews lent aid and comfort to the forces of assimilation and darkness. By partaking from the “food” of Ahasuerus they contaminated their bodies and souls.

Purim, therefore, reminds us not to be carried away by the outer sparkle of foreign civilizations or cultures and not to be misled into assimilation by the notion that it appears to be no in no conflict with our spiritual heritage.

We are a unique people, as stated in the Megillah: “There is one people (although) scattered and spread among the peoples of the world, (yet) their laws are different from those of other peoples.” We have preserved our unity and uniqueness despite our being dispersed in the world, because we have preserved our laws. It is by preserving our Torah and mitzvoth that we Jews in general and our youth in particular can best contribute towards the enlightenment of the world at large and bring real happiness to ourselves, our people and humanity as a whole.

To sum up. The Torah is the Truth. Therefore, there can be no other truth which is in conflict with it. It follows that anything which is in conflict with the Torah is not Truth. The purpose of science is to discover Truth. Therefore, any study which contradicts the Torah is not science but the opposite of it, and instead of leading the student to the truth, leads him away from it. Moreover, even where the science which one studies corresponds with the truth, there is no assurance that it will be applied to constructive purposes and not for the destruction of self and others, unless it is guided by the Divine truth of the Torah. Only then will the world become – as G-d intended it to be – a Sanctuary for the Divine Presence, that G-d may be manifested in it and in ourselves.

With blessing,

Cordially yours,

(signed) M. Schneerson

Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson

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The above letter is from The Letter and the Spirit by Nissan Mindel Publications (NMP).

These letters were written originally in English and were prepared for publication by Rabbi Dr. Nissan Mindel, whose responsibility it was the Rebbe’s correspondence in English and several other languages.

We thank Rabbi Shalom Ber Schapiro, who was entrusted by his father-in-law Rabbi Mindel with his archives and who is Director of the Nissan Mindel Publications (NMP), for making the Rebbe’s letters available to the wider public. May the merit of the many stand him in good stead.

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