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

The campaign to study Mishnayos by heart; the spiritual significance of melikah

Translated by: Rabbi Eli Touger

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  Soliciting involvement in Machne Israel; the campaign to study Mishnayos by heart; applying the concept that the tzimtzum is not to be interpreted literally in our Divine serviceTable of contentsThe importance of publishing memoirs of events experienced in the company of the Rebbeim  

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No. 79

This letter was addressed to Rabbi Avraham Sender Nemtzov, a schochet active in community affairs in Manchester, England.
B"H, Tuesday, 12 Sivan, 5703
Greetings and blessings,

Please forgive my delay in answering your letter until now due to various reasons. I am now approaching you with regard to a matter of immediate concern, namely, the conclusion of the study of Mishnayos by heart [which] is scheduled for Sunday, the 17th of Sivan. At that time, a division will also be made for the coming year, [with the intent that it be completed by] Isru Chag Shavuos, 5704. It is our hope that you, together with our friend, Rabbi Menachem Tzvi Rivkin, and the chassidim [of the community] will arrange the division of the study of the six orders of the Mishnah by heart for the future, and with greater intensity than last year.

Over time, we have sent to your community the publications we have published to the address of Rabbi Menachem Tzvi Rivkin. With a multitude of requests, please assist him in these efforts, and please stir anyone else who is appropriate to become involved in publicizing and selling [of the texts] by organizing a committee of young and energetic people dedicated to this goal, or by any other alternative means which are more appropriate for the conditions of your place. May it be G-d's will that very soon we merit the fulfillment of the promise that through "spreading the wellsprings out," Mashiach will come.

We have written a similar letter to Rabbi Menachem Tzvi Rivkin[1] which certainly arrived at its designated time. May each of you arouse the other, and may G-d's project which is in your hands be successful.

To conclude with words of Torah, in response to the concepts which you mentioned: with regard to melikah[2] and with appreciation for your words of wisdom on the subject.

Based on our Sages' comment[3] to the phrase[4] "Like a hammer breaking a rock," [that the words of the Torah provide several alternative interpretations, we find that] there are manifold perspectives to the Torah. According to explanations in the teachings of Chassidus, the parallel in our Divine service to the concept of melikah can be explained as follows:

[When performing] melikah, [one approaches the fowl] from the neck. One begins separating the head from the body and in particular, from the heart, from the neck, and then one proceeds to the windpipe and the esophagus.[5]

In our Divine service, the difference between the face and the neck can be explained as follows: the face refers to the Divine service stemming from intellect and reason, that [a person's] heart and emotions be directed by guidance from the mind in his head.

The neck, [in contrast, reflects a different thrust]. [In this vein,] the quality of "stiff-neckedness" can be expressed in a positive context, a commitment to kabbalas ol, forcing one's conduct to be desirable [even when this] runs contrary to [the tendencies of] one's heart.

With regard to our Divine service, an animal and a fowl can be compared to benonim[6] and reshayim.[7] (Fish are the parallels to the tzaddikim.[8] Within a person himself, the three levels, tzaddikim, benonim, and rashaim, refer to the G-dly soul, the intellectual soul, and the animal soul which I described in my previous letter.[9]) Tanya (chs. 12, 13, and others) explains the true definition of a benoni and a rasha [as follows]: A benoni has never committed a transgression and the evil in his left ventricle cannot bring its desires from the potential to the actual, because "the mind rules over the heart." Nevertheless, the evil still retains its initial strength and might. Indeed, it has been strengthened more over time.

For this reason, the Divine service of the neck is necessary, i.e., [we need to employ] the power to compel to our emotions without entering into intellectual rationalizations with evil - for [it possesses] many complete [rationalizations] that it is prepared [to offer at any time]. In particular, this applies when an individual feels a deadening of his emotional sensitivity from time to time - and even frequently; the light of his soul and his mind do not shine that intensely. The only remedy for this is crushing oneself, to raise a clamor against the yetzer hara (as explained in Tanya, ch. 29).

Needless to say, [similar action is also necessary] with regard to the animal, the rashaim. In this instance, evil has a hold also on the letters of a person's thought, speech, and action, the aspect of inanimate matter in the soul. [To combat this, the person] needs kabbalas ol, the quality of inanimate matter in our Divine service. If the quality of kabbalas ol ceases before the animal is slaughtered, the animal is treif, unfit to be eaten (see Chullin 19b).

When does this apply? Outside [the Beis HaMikdash]. When, however, a fowl is being offered as a sacrifice in the Beis HaMikdash, [a different type of Divine service is required]. For there, the souls lose their self-concern, like candles which shine before a torch. They have no other will or desire at all. This is the inner intent of the service of prostration.

Therefore, there has to be an arousal from below that reflects the arousal from above. A person must perfect the inner dimensions of his own Divine service according to his level. (This does not apply with regard to an animal [even in the Beis HaMikdash]. On the contrary, [for an animal, the back is important. As our Sages say:] "According to its ability to carry, load it.") Therefore for a bird, the neck is snipped off. Only the face[10] remains, and one concludes with the windpipe and the esophagus.[11]

This service is performed by the priest, with his own physical person. Moreover, the intent is not that the priests are agents of G-d, and we follow the postulate: "The agent is equivalent to the principal." Instead, through the inner dimension of Divine service, oneness is established with face-to-face [communication].

Based on the above, we can also appreciate why ritual slaughter is acceptable even when performed by someone other than a priest, while melikah is not. Even after the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, a resemblance to these concepts applies with regard to prayer and study in a synagogue and house of study, which are called "sanctuaries in microcosm."[12]

Explanation and [a prior] basis for the above concepts can be found in Tanya, ch. 12, which states [that a benoni feels overpowering love for G-d] "only at select times, for example, the time of the recitation of the Shema and the Shemoneh Esreh which is a time of [the revelation of] great intellectual faculties," and in ch. 13, which states that "His desire is [focused] on the Torah of G-d... just like during the recitation of the Shema and the Shemoneh Esreh." And in the conclusion of that chapter, it is explained that the love of G-d experienced by benonim during prayer resembles the love [experienced] by the righteous, as explained in the first maamar entitled Mizmor Shir Chanukas in Likkutei Torah, the maamarim concerning Amalek, sec. 2, and other sources.

With the blessing "Immediately to teshuvah, immediately to Redemption,"

Rabbi Menachem Schneerson
Chairman of the Executive Committee

   

Notes:

  1. (Back to text) [The Rebbe's Igros Kodesh, Letter No. 78.]

  2. (Back to text) [Melikah refers to a priest snipping off the head of a fowl to be offered as a sacrifice with his nail in place of ritual slaughter. See Vayikra 1:15.]

  3. (Back to text) [Shabbos 88b; Rashi, Bereishis 33:20.]

  4. (Back to text) [Yirmeyahu 23:29.]

  5. (Back to text) [The two "signs" which must be slit for ritual slaughter to be acceptable.]

  6. (Back to text) [Lit., men of intermediate spiritual status.]

  7. (Back to text) [Lit., wicked people.]

  8. (Back to text) [Lit., the righteous.]

  9. (Back to text) See Letter No. 27.

  10. (Back to text) [In Hebrew, the word panim means both "face" and "inner dimension."]

  11. (Back to text) [The intent appears to be that since for an animal, an analogy for those persons who require the service of kabbalas ol, the neck is necessary, even in the Beis HaMikdash, it is slaughtered from the front. With regard to a bird, an analogy for those individuals who can experience a higher level of love and fear of G-d, by contrast, in the Beis HaMikdash, where those levels are experienced, the emphasis is not on kabbalas ol, and therefore the neck is broken.]

  12. (Back to text) [Cf. Yechezkel 11:16; Megillah 29a.]


  Soliciting involvement in Machne Israel; the campaign to study Mishnayos by heart; applying the concept that the tzimtzum is not to be interpreted literally in our Divine serviceTable of contentsThe importance of publishing memoirs of events experienced in the company of the Rebbeim  


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