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I Will Write It In Their Hearts - Volume 1
Letters from the Lubavitcher Rebbe

An explanation of the Previous Rebbe's campaign that every member of Machne Israel should report four positive deeds that he performed that month

Translated by: Rabbi Eli Touger

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No. 32

As the chairman of the executive committee of Machne Israel, the Rebbe was involved in maintaining contact with the membership of that organization. At one point, every member of Machne Israel was asked to send to the central office a report of four positive acts he performed every month. This letter comes in response to objections raised by an unknown member concerning that request.
B"H, 21 Cheshvan, 5703
In reply to your letter,

  1. The practice of reminding all the members of Machne Israel of their commitment to perform four positive acts [every month] stems from the great value placed on encouragement. And our Sages taught:[1] "Encouragement should be given only to those who are eager."

  2. With regard to your comment that [reporting these four acts] runs contrary to the Torah's thrust toward modesty: Needless to say, [when submitting this report,] a person need not mention all the positive activities he performs; four positive acts are sufficient. And moreover, these will be made known only to the directorate of Machne Israel. Thus the [amount of good performed by a person] which will remain hidden will surely outweigh that which has become known. Indeed, four positive acts to be performed over the course of a month is a very minimal [request]. This sum was chosen only to establish the [monthly] membership contribution in a manner which is within reach of every individual.

    One can be almost certain that those individuals who perform only four positive activities in an entire month, would not perform even [this minimal activity] were it not for the announcements and the notices they receive from the directorate.

    As such, the concern becomes one of the matters of which it is said:[2] "A person should always be involved {in Torah study [even] shelo lishmah, for personal reasons.} For from involvement [shelo lishmah comes involvement lishmah, for the sake of the Torah itself]."

  3. [And with regard to that concern and] your statement that [reporting on one's activities] minimizes one's intent lishmah: [There is no fear that the person's intent will be for self-pride, because a mere] four positive activities in the span of a month is nothing to take pride in.

    When one takes into account the Chassidic interpretation[3] of the verse:[4] "The days have been created; to Him, there was not one," that there are certain days - and time, when lost, can never be regained - in which a person did not draw down G-d's oneness. And one must take into consideration that these days were created and given to him so that he would fulfill his mission on this earthly plane, [causing G-d's] oneness to be manifest in [these days] as explained in many sources, including the maamar Tov Li Toras Picha, 5703.[5]

    Surely, you have heard the teachings of my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe shlita, delivered at the meal of Shemini Atzeres this year,[6] with regard to the concept that "a Jew is one." He concluded, explaining that concept by saying: "This oneness must not only be comprehended for oneself, but radiated outward until it affects others."

    This is particularly [true in the present era,] when "the bane of every day is greater than the preceding one."[7] As such, this [negativity] must [be offset] by a constant increase in positive acts, with more good deeds being performed every day, going from strength to strength[8] in this world.

[On this basis,] it is possible to explain the conclusion of the tractate of Sotah which states: "What [merit] maintains the world? The sanctification of G-d's name and the study of the Torah."[9] [A connection can be drawn to the conclusion of the tractate of Berachos.] For the above two merits resemble the going from strength to strength mentioned in the tractate of Berachos, i.e., going from the house of prayer to the house of study. In Berachos, however, the focus is on the individual, while in Sotah, the focus is on the world at large - "What [merit] maintains the world?" Therefore, the answer deals with a matter of holiness that relates to all Israel.

May G-d grant that we have full days [- i.e., that our days be filled with positive content], as reflected in the promise:[10] "I will fulfill the sum of your days." This can be compared to complete teshuvah, which is the medium to bring the complete Redemption.

With blessings for the fulfillment of the promise "Immediately to teshuvah, immediately to Redemption."

   

Notes:

  1. (Back to text) Sifri, Naso 5:2; Bamidbar Rabbah 7:6. See also Toras Kohanim, as quoted in Rashi's commentary to Vayikra 6:2, which states that the word tzav implies encouragement. This charge is given with regard to the priests, who are known to be eager (Shabbos 20a).

  2. (Back to text) Pesachim 50b. Tosafos (Berachos 17a) interprets shelo lishmah as meaning for the sake of honor. In his Hilchos Talmud Torah 4:3, the Alter Rebbe interprets this as referring to even more crude desires. See also the explanations in Tanya, at the conclusion of ch. 39.

  3. (Back to text) See Likkutei Torah, at the conclusion of the maamarim of Parshas Shelach.

  4. (Back to text) [Tehillim 139:16.]

  5. (Back to text) Printed in Sefer HaMaamarim Yiddish, p. 81. [In the verse, the word tk ("not") is written with an alef. The pronunciation is, however, uk ("to him").] Here, heavier emphasis is placed on the pronunciation, while in the maamar in Likkutei Torah, the focus is on the way the verse is written. See Rashi's commentary on the verse which brings both interpretations. See also Sotah 31a.

  6. (Back to text) See Sefer HaSichos 5703, p. 4.

  7. (Back to text) Sotah 49a.

  8. (Back to text) [Cf. Tehillim 84:8.]

  9. (Back to text) Note Rashi's commentary.

  10. (Back to text) [Shmos 23:26;] Torah Or, end of Parshas Mishpatim.


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