Weekly Letter: An Authentic View of Jewish History

With the beginning of the second chumash, Sh’mos, begins the history of the Jewish People. In this letter, the Rebbe advises an author on his project to write a book on Jewish history. So that this book reflects an authentic view of Jewish history, says the Rebbe, it should emphasize the Divine Providence throughout our history as well as its uniqueness. In addition, the Rebbe cautions not to draw from “broken vessels” and to avoid the predictions of the prophets of doom. This letter is from volume 5 of The Letter and The Spirit.

By the Grace of G-d
28th of Adar I, 5725
Brooklyn, N.Y.
New York, N.Y.

Greeting and Blessing:

This is to acknowledge receipt of your letter as well as the preview sampling of your history of the Jews.

I believe that there has been a crying need for a condensed form of Jewish history, which should reflect its essential aspect through the ages, namely that it is quite different from the histories of other peoples. I trust that your book will fit this need.

Speaking of the essential aspect of Jewish history, I have in mind the Divine Providence which has been so evident in Jewish history, perhaps more so than it is evident even in the private life of Jews as individuals, and in the affairs of mankind in general. For, as one turns the pages of history, whether during the time of independence or throughout the long period of dispersion, and one sees the changes which were taking place in the surrounding world, changes relating to culture, religion and other spiritual areas, not to mention the material ones; changes which were often quite radical; and considering the fact that throughout the ages Jews have always been in the minority, and according to any and all historical theories there was no possibility of survival for the Jewish people under such conditions in the natural order of things – yet the Jewish people has carried on its existence with an ever growing vitality.

It seems that even the enemies of our people realized the uniqueness of our people, as we find Haman say, “There is one people, scattered and dispersed among the nations, and their laws are different from those of any other people.” He realized that the Jewish people is “one people” – one, constant and unchangeable, despite that it is “scattered and dispersed among the nations. “ Since the destruction of the first Beis Hamikdash, and even during the period of the second Beis Mamikdash, a sizeable part of our people was dispersed among other nations. The very existence of our people, therefore, is living testimony of hashgocho protis.

And since all matters connected with the Torah, including the history of our people which is alluded in the words,

“This is the book of the history of man” (Gen. 5:1), serve as timely and practical lessons for all times, our history teaches us among other things, the following basic principle:

Regardless of what the prophets of doom of our generation may say as to the final duration of our people, as a people, giving it x number of years until its dissolution, G-d forbid; regardless also, on the other hand of those who wish to “save” our people through sacrificing half of the Torah, or through various other reforms, etc. – the very history of our people is proof that our people will outlive all those prophets of doom and would-be saviors. Moreover, the continued existence and the ultimate fulfillment of the destiny of our people will be carried out through those Jews, though they may be in the minority, who will steadfastly hold to the eternal va1ues and truths of the Torah and mitzvoth, which have assured our existence in the past and precisely on the principle of “Lo, , it is a peop1e that dwell alone and is not reckoned among the nations” (Num. 23:9), and precisely because “Their laws are different from those of any other people”. And although these words ware said by the arch enemies of our people, they spoke the truth and it is part of the Torah.

I would like to add that it is curious how most Jewish historians have been so obviously biased and prejudiced, although a historian must try to preserve complete objectivity and not allow himself to be influenced by personal inclinations. Most of them, as you surely know, have distorted Jewish history, and have emphasized secondary or completely unimportant aspects while minimizing or disregarding the fundamentals. They were further influenced by their desire to follow the trend of the proponents of various historiographies, disregarding the irrefutable truth that the Jewish People is a unique people, whose uniqueness is derived from its being inseparably bound up with the Torah – one people, one Torah, one G-d.

A history book that reflects the author’s determination to present an authentic view of Jewish history, and does not fear the reactions of certain groups which will not find this view to their taste and some of which groups have usurped to themselves the monopoly of Jewish historians – such a history book is to be commended and welcomed. I extend my personal congratulations to you, and wish you to continue from strength to strength.

With blessings,

P. S. I take the liberty of adding the following remark in view of the importance that this type of Jewish history should enjoy the widest circulation and acceptance, including such quarters where knowledge of Jewish history had been drawn from “broken wells”. It is advisable to pay attention to certain external matters such as illustrations, tables, charts, etc., wherever possible. For although these are not the essence of the matter, they do appeal to many people. In your book I notice a description of some illustrations themselves in the preview sampling. But these are things of which we can safely say, “The more the better”.