Special Edition: Remembering Herman Wouk and His Good Deeds

In this special edition of letters from the Rebbe, we present a series of letters between the Rebbe, and Author Herman Wouk who just passed away. May these letters we are publicizing, be a merit for his soul and bring comfort to his family during the week of shiva. The letters reflect Herman Wouk’s generous and compassionate character and good deeds – especially in the area of chinuch and education. The following letters are printed in The Letter and The Spirit.

By the Grace of G-d
4th of Iyar, 5745
Brooklyn, N.Y.
Palm Springs, Ca. 92262
Greeting and Blessing:
This is to acknowledge receipt of your letter.
It seems that there has been some confusion about the issues involved in the matter of establishing a joint communal school in your city. I will attempt to clarify the issues.
1) The problem has nothing to do with personalities, or whether this or that individual has the necessary credentials to take a leading part in chinuch. The problem is the movement with which such person or persons are identified, and ‚which they represent.
2) This being so, one has to consider the situation most carefully ‚ particularly as it concerns chinuch of our young generation, children of school age, during their most sensitive years, that will leave an impact on their whole life, as it is written: ( chanoch l’na’ar al pi……)(INSERT HEBREW).
Of course, there can be no question of compromise in the area of chinuch, and every precaution has to be taken to ensure that it be consistent with Torah in every respect.
In view of the enormous responsibility, there is only one Jewish approach to such vital questions, namely, to be guided strictly by the Torah itself, which is the Jew’s true guide in life (TorasChaim and Toras Emes). And we have indeed a clear ruling by the Rambam and other poskim. The halacha declares:
(INSERT HEBREW ha’omer sh’ein Hatorah min ha’shomayim…………).
(see it there, also preceding and following halachot).
Needless to say, the halacha absolutely precludes a partnership with a movement that comes under the above category.
3) Nor is it acceptable to rationalize that a concession in the beginning may pay off in the long run. The Torah has not been given to humans to be traded in. Similarly no one has the right to sacrifice one Jewish child now, in the hope of saving another child, or more, next year. Such and similar calculations are simply irrelevant in the face of the clear-cut halacha cited above.
4) At the same time, the Torah is quite clear and definitive on the subject of teshuva – insofar as an individual Jew is concerned, namely,
(INSERT HEBREW: ein l’cho dovor ha’omed ………)

This includes, of course, Jewish individuals who identify themselves with, or belong to the said movement. But so long as one has not renounced or rejected the …….(Hebrew – shitta))and ideology of the movement, not to mention one who is a prominent representative of it, there is no way for a partnership on any religious aspect, least of all chinuch, however well meaning the intentions are.
5) Even if the halacha permitted an exception in a special situation (which it certainly does not), it would have been impossible for Lubavitch to make an exception, because it would not remain an exception long, but rather a precedent that would become the rule in every place where Lubavitch is engaged in chinuch operations. Besides, it is neither the way of the Torah, nor the way of Lubavitch to conceal a directive, or to interpret the halacha differently from city to city, depending on circumstances.
Thus any concession or compromise made in any area of Torah, is bound to be widely interpreted as a (binyan av insert HEBREW…..) , and extended into every other area of the religious life, since communal workers, as well as laymen, usually consider themselves free to draw their own conclusions, without bothering to investigate the special extenuating circumstances, or the halachic grounds on which the exception was made.
This is one more reason why in my reply to Rabbi D. I reminded him of the well known psak din by the leading Rabbonim and Roshei Yeshivah, one of whom, by the way, is also HaRav Moshe Feinstein shlita, who had for many years prior to coming to the U.S.A. held the position of Rav in a Chasidic community in Russis as a Chasidic Rav. When he came to New York, the members of his community included Chasidim and mitnagdim and a variety of other Jewish groups. When it came to minhagim, he has directed members of a particular group to follow their particular customs. But when it came to matters that touched upon Kiddush Hashem, or the opposite, there could be neither flexibility nor exception, especially in view of the fact that it would be widely interpreted, as mentioned above.
More could be said on the subject at hand, but I am certain there is no need for it in discussing it with you. You can readily understand why my hands are tied by the halacha, precluding any other course than the one I have taken.
To conclude on a highly gratifying topic, I wish to take this opportunity of again expressing my heartfelt appreciation of your consistent support to Rabbi D. and his work in your city; and not merely a “supporter” but as a real partner. This is consistent with your participation in the work of Lubavitch in other parts of the U.S.A. and in the Holy Land, as well as other places – always readily responding to a call, whenever the opportunity presented itself.
May Hashem grant that you should continue to go from strength to strength in spreading and strengthening Torah-true Yiddishkeit, and Torah-true chinuch in particular, and thus increase still further the great zechus of what our Sages of the Mishnah extol so much, namely ( zocho v’ziko ess horabbim… INSERT HEBREW).
And may you do so in consistently good health and with Hashem’s blessings for prosperity in all your affairs, in keeping with the rule of Torah, which is also a (netinas ko’ach INSERT HEBREW..), namely, (ma’alin ba’kodesh INSERT HEBREW…).
With esteem and blessing,


By the Grace of G-d
15th of Av, 5745
Brooklyn, N.Y.
Palm Springs, Ca. 92262
Shalom u’Brocho:
Your letter reached me with considerable delay. Thus, by hashgocho protis, your letter, dated on the day of the Chag haGeula of my father-in-law the Rebbe, of saintly memory, is fittingly acknowledged on the auspicious day of the 15th of Av. Both these dates are connected with the dissemination of Torah. It was the cause of the arrest and eventual liberation of my saintly father-in-law under the Stalin regime (1927); while increased Torah study is the main feature of the 15th of Av, as explained at some length at the end of Mesachta Taanis.
This brings me to the paragraph in your letter wherein you refer to “very modest acts” on your part in the field of Torah education. I must challenge this self-assessment on the ground that the record speaks for itself. Moreover, in wide segments of Jewry, especially among American Jews, the impact of your “modest acts” strikes deeper and wider than similar acts of a Rabbi or Rebbe (myself included) could attain, for obvious reasons.
Incidentally, it is well to remember an admonition by my father-in-law to the effect that a person should not underestimate one’s achievements, since only then will one generate the inner incentive and drive to achieve the fullest utilization of one’s total capacities.
For the sake of a mutual consensus, I am prepared to accept your claim of “very modest acts” – in a relative sense, in terms of your potential and future acts, which will dwarf your past accomplishments by comparison. Indeed, this is a natural human aspiration, as our Sages assure us in the well-known adage: ”Whoever has 100 desires 200; and, (attaining) 200 (will not be satisfied with the increment of another 100, but desires double) – 400. And so forth in geometric-progression.
Me’inyan l’inyan. Some time ago I noticed in the JTA Bulletin an item about another “modest act” of yours, namely your involvement in a project to publish the Chumash in Braille. I do not have it on hand, so I am relying on memory. Needless to say, it’s a great zechus.
In light of the famous teaching of the Baal Shem Tov that anything that comes to the eyes or ears of an individual contains some personal message to the beholder or listener, I take the liberty – though I do not usually take such liberties – of volunteering a suggestion. I feel certain that whether you take it or leave it, you will surely accept it in the proper spirit.
My suggestion – that is all it is – is that you consider including in the said project the publication in Braille of the section of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch in English that deals with the month of Tishrei, with the preparations for it in the latter part of Elul. The need for it requires no elaboration to you, and if it is to be implemented without undue delay, there is time, I believe to have it done in good time before Rosh Hashanah h’al (Hebrew…………).
Should this suggestion be approved and acted upon, then – in keeping with Ps. 119:63 – I would like to participate in it with a financial contribution which I leave to your assessment, since I am not familiar with the actual costs involved in the publication and distribution of such an item in Braille. I will look forward to your response on this matter.
To conclude on the auspicious note of the 15th of Av, may Hashem grant the fulfillment, for you and all of us in the midst of Klal Yisrael, of the assurance of our Sages z’l.
With esteem ad blessing,

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