Weekly Letter: The Rebbe Unusual Request – for a Birthday Gift

In this weeks letter, presented in honor of Yud Alef Nissan and Shabbos Hagadol, The Rebbe makes an unusual request – for a birthday gift. 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

12th of Nissan, 5741

Brooklyn, N.Y.


Hartford, Conn.

Greeting and Blessing:


P.S…..  Although it is not customary nor proper to ask for a birthday gift, but considering our special relationship, I venture ti do so, being confident that you will treat it in the proper spirit.

The birthday gift that I have in mind, which I would consider an honor, as well as a great pleasure, is that you devote a quarter of an hour of your time every weekday morning and dedicate it for the sacred purpose of putting on tefillin, with the appropriate prayer that goes with it such as the Shema and the like. The latter need not necessarily be recited in Hebrew. If you can manage this in ten minutes, I am prepared to forgo five minutes and let it be only ten minutes of your time.

In addition to the thing itself, being one of the greatest mitzvos , as our Sages said that the whole Torah was compared to it, the mitzvah of putting on tefillin on the left arm, facing the heart and on the head, the seat of the intellect, has the special Divine quality of purifying the heart and the mind, emotion and reason and bring them in the proper balance and harmony. While this is important for every Jew, it is certainly of special significance to one whose activities normally involve a great deal of mental and emotional strain, and it is highly important to have them in the proper balance for the utmost degree of efficiency.

The above is of additional significance in your case as chairman of the Board of the Rabbinical College of America, in which you have such remarkable hatzlocho, with G-d’s help and have been able to involve many others to follow in your footsteps. Thus, this “birthday gift” would also have a salutary impact on the Rabbinical College, its administration and students, and further wide the channels for all concerned to receive G-d’s blessing materially and spiritually.

I trust that you put on tefillin every morning in any case, and the reason I am asking you the above is only that you should make it a definite point on your calendar, to make sure that your preoccupation with your personal business and the business of the Rabbinical College would not distract you even once to overlook the putting on of tefillin. And this will be my reward.

P.P.S. Although in matters of the Rabbinical College I usually send a copy to our distinguished mutual friend, I am not sending him a copy of this letter, considering its personal nature. I leave it up to you whether you wish to show it to him.


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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