Letter & Spirit: The Dangers of Compromise

In this week’s edition of Letter and Spirit, we present a letter from the Rebbe to the father of a student of Lubavitcher Yeshiva who was upset that his son had chosen to grow his beard, and asked the Rebbe to intervene on his behalf. The letter was written in English through the Rebbe’s trusted secretary Rabbi Nissan Mindel, and was made available by the latter’s son-in-law, Rabbi Sholom Ber Shapiro.

This weekly feature is made possible by a collaboration between CrownHeights.info and Nissan Mindel Publications. Once a week we publish a unique letter of the Rebbe that was written originally in the English language, as dictated by the Rebbe to Rabbi Mindel.


By the Grace of G-d

17th of Tammuz, 5713

Brooklyn 13,   N.Y.


Duquesne, Pa.

I received your letter and owing to pressure of work could not reply to it sooner.

Your letter concerns your son, for a number of years a student of the Lubavitcher Yeshivah, who is growing a beard despite your objections. You ask me, therefore, to influence him not to do it.

I want to precede my reply by an introduction which, though self evident, must be emphasized nevertheless. Life presents certain difficulties to Jews in general, and Torah true Jews, in particular, which non-Jews do not experience. However, through faith and trust in G-d, Jews have not only overcome such difficulties, but have even derived from them extra powers to live their unique life, first as single, and later as family men, a life true to the traditions of our ancestors and true Toras Chayim, which G-d gave us at Sinai.

Unfortunately, owing to pressure of circumstances many people, Jews as well as non-Jews, make compromises with their ideal. A compromise is never a solution and, as a result, it is only in a minority of cases where the compromises do not create a spiritual disturbance or affect the fundamental principles. In the majority of cases, compromises undermine the structural foundations of one’s being, though the person making the compromise may at first resolve not to go beyond the compromise. In practice, one concession leads to another, leading to things which at the beginning seemed quite unthinkable and impossible. Examples of the effect of compromises, both with regard to individuals as well as whole groups, are too obvious and too numerous to cite. It has also been proven that although the road to compromise is not so dangerous in the latter part of life, when one has already acquired strong anchorage in a mature life, religious, social, family life etc., compromises may be quite dangerous in earlier years, before the person has been able to find his bearings and come to grips with the circumstances of life; it is then very easy to lose one’s balance altogether, G-d forbid, and find life meaningless.

I want to remark, that what I have said about the danger of compromise refers to matters which the person in question considers fundamental , even though to others they may seem of little importance, or not essential, or just a Hidur Mitzvah. If this thing forms a part of a system or philosophy of life of that person, then to try to compel him to give it up is the same as one would try to force a fundamental part of a structure out of its place, which is bound to shake the entire structure. The effect on that person’s peace of mind may not be noticed at once, but the repercussions are lasting nevertheless.

In view of all the above, and having observed your son and knowing that his conduct is motivated by a definite system and way of life, and that it has strengthened him not only spiritually but also physically, and that he has chosen to grow a beard even though some of his friends at the Yeshivah do not do so, all this points to a wholesome foundation for a happy future life. Therefore, I cannot emphasize strongly enough that anyone who is a friend of his should not disturb his inner balance and harmony. It is relatively easy to disturb them and cause unhappiness through misguided consideration, and much harder to restore a person’s peace of mind, once disturbed, especially in the case of a young person.

I can assure you that it is quite unnecessary to remind your son of the commandment to honor father and mother. I hope, however, that you will not use this prerogative as a medium of putting pressure on him in a way that would affect his inner life.

With blessing,


The above letter is from the soon-to-be-published Volume III of The Letter and the Spirit by Nissan Mindel Publications. The letters are from the archives of Rabbi Dr. Nissan Mindel, a personal secretary to the Previous Rebbe and The Rebbe, whose responsibilities included the Rebbe’s correspondence in English.

We thank Rabbi Sholom Ber Shapiro, director of Nissan Mindel Publications and the one entrusted by Rabbi Mindel, his father-in-law, with his archives, for making these letters available to the wider public. May the merit of the many stand him in good stead.

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