Weekly Letter: Saving Jewish Children

Seeing as Chanukah was celebrated this week – with its emphasis on chinuch – as well as the parsha of Vayigash, where Yehudah confronts the viceroy of Egypt in order to save Binyomin – which represents every Jew’s self-sacrificing efforts to save the Jewish child (Binyomin) we share a letter of the Rebbe written to a supporter of an out of town Lubavitcher yeshivah who wished to introduce reforms in the yeshivah.

The Rebbe’s strong letter points out that in managing a yehsivah – both the spiritual and physical aspects need to reflect the true uncompromising principles of education as established and epitomized by the Frierdiker Rebbe – with a warm spirit and determination to save Jewish children.

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                                                                                                           By the Grace of G-d

November 2, 1950 (5710)

Mr., Esq.

New Haven, Conn.

Dear Mr.     :

I am in receipt of you letter.

With regard to the question of instituting the reforms you mention in your letter, I cannot agree the same. When Rabbi H. was here and informed me of the circumstances and sought my advice, I gave him my opinion and reasons and asked him to convey same to you and others. There is no need for me to repeat myself.

However, I wish to set you right on several points in your letter.

First, as to your reference of my “overriding” your views, etc. I want you to know that it is not my habit to give orders. Besides, the central management of Yeshivah matters belongs to a different office. However, when people come to me for advice, I express my opinion and my views. In this particular instance I am all the more confident that my views are correct, since in my many years’ association with my father-in-law, the late Lubavitcher Rebbe of sainted memory, I have had occasion to learn his views on similar problems, and my vies correspond to his.

At any rate, my opinion is only offered as counsel and is by no means an order. Consequently, your ultimatum and warning that Lubavitch will be the loser, etc., are completely out of order.

My advice is based on the firm belief and experience that it is the only way which will lead your institution to progress and that the other alternatives leads in the opposite direction. (I do not wish to express my prediction in so many words as to where it would ultimately land your institution).

As to your insistence upon the condition that the Board of Directors and the New York determines mundane policy, etc., I need hardly tell you that I have no ambitions of exercising power and dictating policy for the enjoyment of it. I am certainly not less interested in the welfare of your institution than you, and my views are based on the primary consideration that the New Haven yeshivah is for the benefit of the New Haven children and not for anybody in New York.

I can well understand you desire to separate the mundane form the spiritual in the management of the institution, for they seem to be two distinct provinces.  But in the final analysis you will surely agree that no material gains can be made at the sacrifice, or to the detriment of spiritual principles and considerations. This should be obvious in the case of any educational institution and especially a religious one, and more especially a Jewish religious educational institution, and even more so in an institution where the underlying philosophy is the predominance of the spiritual over the physical. Indeed, Jewish life has two aims in the constant world struggle between the physical and spiritual forces, namely, the victory of the spirit over matter, and further, that the physical world itself be sublimated and ‘spiritualized’ as much as possible. Hence the basic slogan of the Jewish credo that the important thing ultimately is not the theory but the practice, that is to say, that the Torah and Mitzvoth should be dominant in every action.

Applying the above to our case under discussion, it is clear that not only the spiritual management of the Yeshivah should reflect the nature of the institution, but the financial policy, too, should bespeak the warm spirit and wholehearted determination to save Jewish children, for which purpose it is necessary to overcome certain financial difficulties which, in institutions of lesser stature, would be disposed to otherwise, that is, regarded as unnecessary.

Concerning the complaints about the Hebrew staff, I trust that in the light of the above the cooperation and harmony will be strengthened, even if in certain respects it was not at its best heretofore.

For your statement that in carrying out his duties Rabbi H. brings upon himself sacrifices and self destruction I have a brief answer: all those who have had the privilege, past and present, to participate in the work of the institutions which were and still are under the auspices and guidance of my father-in-law of sainted memory, such participation, they know, does not entail sacrifice and self-destruction G-d forbid, but rather the contrary, it helps both those who are engaged in the spiritual side as well as those who are helpful financially and actively, since such participation is a source of blessing for them and theirs, spiritually and materially. And while I do not know you, but based on experience, I am sure that from the time you took over the leadership in behalf of the Yeshivah you must have noticed an extra measure of success in your own affairs, material and spiritual. I trust that before long I will hear good tidings of you and a confession that my advice, far from being detrimental, has brought your institution success and progress.

Sincerely,

Rabbi Mendel 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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