As we enter the three weeks – a time of tragedies in Jewish history, we present a letter of the Rebbe in answer to a writer, whose search for the truth lead him to the Old Testament. He asks why it is that Jews have remained loyal to their faith in spite of the many persecutions and suffering. The letter, written originally in English, is from the archives of the Rebbe’s trusted secretary Rabbi Nissan Mindel.
By the Grace of G-d
16 of Shevat, 5714
West Olive, Michigan
This is to acknowledge your letter in which you describe the various phases of your religious experiences and convictions, which finally led you to discover the truth of the Old Testament and to a leaning to “Old Testament Hebrewism”, as you call it. In your search for the truth you began to study Hebrew, in order to be able to study the Old Testament in the original. Incidentally, you include Greek and Hebrew as the “original Languages” of the Old Testament. But surely you know that the Greek text is not the original, but a translation, as the name “Septuagint” indicates. (The Translation of the Seventy Elders).
Since you invite my comments, I offer you the following:
The difficulty in the search for the Truth is to find the right approach to this problem. I suggest, in your case, the following “stages”. Any normal thinking person is aware of the universe as a cosmic unit governed by law and order, indeed a strict regularity and conformity of behavior is clearly evident even in inert matter (the “lowest” of the four kingdoms), where the behavior of atoms and molecules, as all other physical laws, clearly point to the fact that the universe is governed by “something” which is outside and “above” the universe, an immanent as well as a transcending Supreme Being.
In such a Divine order as the cosmos represents, everything must have its place and function, for it would be unthinkable otherwise, since even in a well organized human system, such as an organization or a machine, everything has its place and purpose, and it would be absurd to credit the Supreme Being with less wisdom than a human being.
To continue with the illustration, a humanly organized system offers but two ways of approach: a) cooperation and harmonious adjustment within the system, which is beneficial both for the system as well as for the part or individual concerned, or b) the other extreme – non-cooperation, i.e. excluding oneself from the system, which not only deprives the system of service, but creates disharmony and causes direct harm to the system, and necessarily also to the part or individual concerned; moreover, since the part or the individual is the cause of such disharmony, the harm done to himself is much greater than to the system in question. Most important of all, the very fact of not adjusting oneself to the order of the system is in itself the greatest loss and penalty.
To follows from the above, that no man has a right to say “I will do as I please, and it is no one’s business.” For by harming oneself one harms also the whole system.
The same is true, and infinitely more so, of the whole universal order. However, being part of the inner order, man cannot grasp the tremendous structure of the intricate cosmic order, but for the fact that the Architect and Ruler of this universe revealed a part of the laws and workings of the system, the part that concerns man to enable him harmoniously to fit into and adjust himself within the universal order.
Obviously, desiring to give man free choice of action, the Architect of the world order did not create a race of mechanical robots, but endowed man with an intellect and ability to choose his way. At the same time, however, being the Essence of Goodness, He surely revealed those laws in such a way as to leave no doubt in the right-thinking mind as to the origin of these laws.
To satisfy even the most skeptical and doubting mind, the Divine Revelation was made not the experience of a single man, nor of a group of men, no matter how trustworthy, since in such a case the interpretation might be tinted with conscious or unconscious subjectivity common to the particular group. But the Revelation was presented to a mass of people, of varying interests, views, ages and so on. When such a mass of people simultaneously experience the same experience, receive the same message, in the very same form, there can be no room for doubt as to the authenticity of the experience and message. Thus, the Revelation at Mount Sinai must be considered as the most authentic and scientifically most proven fact. Does this truth hold good also for the successive generations, to the present day? The verification may be deduced by a similar method: if, in generation after generation the message is transmitted in the same form, the same wording, the same minute detail, etc., and followed and adhered to by a very great number of people, of varying strata, interests, backgrounds, environments etc., there is irrevocable testimony of the authenticity of it.
The only set of laws and instructions, i.e. the only religion, that satisfies the above conditions, is the Jewish traditional faith, the tradition of which can be traced from our own time, through a successive and uninterrupted course, back to the Revelation at Sinai. At no time was it limited to a single person, or to a group of twelve persons, or even to a larger group. There is no weak link in the chain of Jewish tradition, leaving no doubt as to its authenticity.
Herein lies the answer to the question which you refer to in your letter, why, after thousands of years of persecutions, massacres and all forms of “persuasiveness”, the Jews remain loyal to their faith. The explanation is not mystical alone, connected with spiritual ties between the Jew’s soul and G-d, but also logical and scientific, based on personal experience, based on direct Divine authority, which s accepted even if not understood. No transient human power can challenge this conviction and strength derived from the All, the Eternal.
As an integral part of the Revelation, (which for reasons known to the Creator Himself was given to the children of Israel), the gentiles also were given laws and instructions as to their course in life, in the general “Seven Laws of the children of Noah”, with their ramifications.
I take the liberty of one further remark, in reference to your writings about the incompatibility which has arisen between you and your wife on religious grounds, which has led to your separation. You do not mention all the circumstances, however, despite your statement that you had no “brera” separation of husband and wife is not a desirable solution, and should only be resorted to after all other attempts have proven futile.
With the prayerful wish that the Creator of the Universe guide you in the right path, the path of Truth, that you may be able to fulfill your function in this life on earth, and thus enjoy spiritual contentment, so necessary also for physical wellbeing.
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.