Wednesday, May 20, 2009

"Dear Rebbe, Should we Compromise?"

The following is a beautiful Yechidus that took place in the winter of 1962 between the Rebbe and a student of Yeshiva University. Included is a newly released photo of the Rebbe, courtesy of the Rebbe Archive.

Good Shabbos

Question: Often a great many of our students are like “goyim” [gentiles], incapable and unreceptive to absorbing Jewish education. I have heard of Lubavitch’s success in disseminating Judaism in even remote parts of the globe. How are these people approached?

The Rebbe: It is always possible to convey even difficult concepts in an orderly and uncomplicated manner, using simple terms that even a beginner may understand. In addition, the better students may often serve as intermediaries between the instructor and the slower students. Lubavitch has often found that wherever the “darkness” of spiritual ignorance was greater, the response to Torah and mitzvoth was greater. One must not be dismayed by the infinite amount of work and teaching that must be done, but must strive to accomplish a limited amount each day in order to improve the world. Beginning from [Hebrew letters] Aleph-Bais, one must continue to progress until the goal is reached. Just as the Torah, which is limitless, has, nevertheless, confined itself into 613 precepts which every Jew, even the American Jew, is obligated to fulfill, so must the endless task of disseminated Judaism is limited to a certain amount of progress every day.

Question: You said that we should make religion part of our daily lives. However, some students feel that they cannot accept religion completely; they are not interested in fulfilling all the precepts. Is there any value in compromise?

The Rebbe: No one is perfect. “There is no tzaddik [holy man] on earth that has never sinned;” even the most righteous can be found lacking in some spiritual aspect. However, these imperfections do not impair the good that one performs. Every mitzvah accomplished adds impetus to fulfilling more precepts. Let each one do as much as he can today; tomorrow he will do more, or perhaps the day after tomorrow. G-d has infinite patience, but why postpone until tomorrow what can be done now?

Question: How should one begin in instructing his students, with just performance of the mitzvoth, or should he talk about hislahavus [ecstasy] as well?

The Rebbe: You must choose the approach that fits the individual you are dealing with. If hislahavus will appeal to him, choose that method. But one must be cognizant of the fact that the essential is ma’aseh be-poel, the actual performance of mitzvoth, and it is wise to begin with the essential so that if your talk becomes soporiferous in the middle, your audience will at least go away with an essential.

Question: Is quality more important than quantity?

The Rebbe: Einstein said that quantity transfers into quality, mass into energy. The Midrash Rabba cites an interesting point: If even one Jew of the 600,000 had been missing at Mt. Sinai, G-d would not have given the Torah. Not just a Jew like Moshe Rabbeinu, but even the Jew who had an idol in his tent, pesel mika; had he not been present, the Torah would not have been given. Nine Moses’ cannot make a minyan [quorum of ten] to say a kedusha, though that would be a tremendous amount of quality; but if you have ten in quantity, you can say kedusha, just as the Midrash Rabba stated that 600,000 was not necessary for the Revelation. This indicates that quantity and quality are transformative.