Introduction & Historical Background on Likkutei Sichos-Part 1

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Introduction & Historical Background on Likkutei Sichos

  1. The uniqueness of Likkutei Sichos-The Rebbe’s organized edited work:

Likkutei Sichos is the most authoritative and significant published work of the Rebbe’s talks and teachings which were said throughout the years of the Rebbe’s leadership. The Rebbe publicly spoke on thousands of occasions throughout his more than 40 years of leadership, often for several hours at a time. These talks were transcribed into writing by a select committee of listeners known as “Chozrim.” Being that many of these talks were said during times that they could not be recorded [i.e. until 1959[1], Shabbos, Yom Tov,] therefore those who were chosen to be the Chozrim had to have a remarkable memory[2], in order to put it all down on paper at the conclusion of the Shabbos or holiday.[3] These transcribed talks of the Rebbe are known as “Hanachos,” and have been published in the 53 volumes of Sichos Kodesh, and the Toras Menachem series, which currently contains 138 volumes and is still growing. These transcribed talks, however, for the most part have not been reviewed or edited by the Rebbe and have only been allowed to be published baring the unedited title of Bilti Mugah.

It is in this regard that the series of Likkutei Sichos is most unique, as these transcribed talks were personally reviewed and edited by the Rebbe, and then authorized for publishing and distribution. Furthermore, they are not a transcription of one specific talk with all of its myriads of subjects, but rather are an organized essay of a specific subject and idea that may have been spoken about on various occasions. The work comes to collect the various ideas of the Rebbe on a specific subject and compiles it into a single essay. This work gives us a clear and proper understanding of the Rebbe’s teachings and contains the main bulk of his novel understandings of Torah. Likkutei Sichos became the authoritative medium with which the Rebbe chose to use to disseminate his core teachings. [In this regard, it is different than the set of Sefer Hasichos, which contain the edited talks of the Rebbe that were said throughout the years 1988 until 1992. While these transcripts were also edited by the Rebbe and prepared for publication, they represent the transcript of the talk said on their specific date, which may contain a myriad of unconnected topics that were discussed and are not a compiled essay of the teachings of the Rebbe on a specific topic, as is the case with the series of Likkutei Sichos.]

There is no better description of the value of the Likkutei Sichos series than that which Harav Yoel Kahn was prone to say, which is that it is considered the Shulchan Aruch of the Rebbe’s Torah. It covers a range of topics, including ideas in Jewish philosophy and theology, Biblical and Talmudic commentary, kabbalistic expositions, moral and practical directives, and perspectives of life.

  1. Fuel for the soul of the Jew living in modern times-The revolutionary ideas and perspectives of Likkutei Sichos:

Having a proper perspective and outlook is the key to successfully handling many of life’s struggles and setbacks. The talks printed in Likkutei Sichos contain hundreds of revolutionary philosophical ideas that can really change the way one views life and the different challenges that he faces. In this current work, we have generally chosen the talks from which the most important and revolutionary ideas are conveyed, which can help fuel a Jew in his struggles and dilemmas with the proper perspectives, aiding him with the psychological ammunition needed for victory. In our chosen talks, the Rebbe discusses the proper motivations that one should have in studying Torah, the amount of Torah and level of observance that G-d really expects from us, and the obligations of women towards Torah study. The way that one should look at another Jew and how to always judge another Jew favorably, looking at him with a good eye. There are some revolutionary ideas in the field of Chinuch, and beliefs in Divine providence and Bitachon in Hashem. Especially, many of the talks give the struggling Jew inspiration and motivation to continue his fight for good over evil and not to feel dejected and give up hope. In the table of contents one can find the various subjects of discussion in the various Sichos.

  1. The initiation of its publication:

Throughout the years, starting from the very beginning of his leadership, the Rebbe would urge his followers to visit different congregations and to share with them ideas from the Chassidic teachings. In the late 1950s, two young men[4] who were involved in giving lectures in such congregations asked the Rebbe for permission to publish a compilation of the Rebbe’s talks on the weekly Parsha in order to help them with the content of their lecture. The Rebbe consented to this idea, and the first four volumes of Likkutei Sichos were the fruit of this initiative, being compiled and published by the above said young scholarly lecturers. Eventually, a formal committee was established to put together the talks, and they would present them to the Rebbe for editing and authorization of publishing. This committee was known as the Vaad Lehafatzas Hasichos, through whom most of the talks were compiled and published, with the logo of Kehos. When they were first printed, they were published under the title of “Thoughts for reviewing Chassidus in congregations.” It was only years later, after the first four volumes were published, that it received the official name of Likkutei Sichos.

  1. The Rebbe’s editing of the talks:

As stated above, amongst the uniqueness of Likkutei Sichos, is that all of the talks were scrupulously edited by the Rebbe who invested many hours into editing and researching the content of each Sicha and its citations. Usually, each talk would go through two phases of editing by the Rebbe. After being reviewed and edited for its first time, and being returned to the compilers for the corrections, it was then reviewed and edited a second time, prior to being published as a pamphlet for the weekly distribution. Quite often, the Rebbe would cross out complete sections of the first draft and have them omitted. The Rebbe would also direct which part of the talks should be in the footnotes and which part in its main body. The Rebbe would also take much time to research all of the references that were cited in the footnotes and make sure that they were exact and accurate. Many changes of this effect were made to the first draft because of the Rebbe’s editing.

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[1] Until the year 1959 the Rebbe did not allow his talks to be recorded on a tape recorder and therefore the Chozrim had to transcribe it from memory.

[2] Amongst those chosen for this purpose were the following Chassidim: Rabbis Yoel Kahn [the main Chozer who started 1951], Dovid Feldman, Simon Yaakovson, Yisrael Shimon Kalmanson, Tzevi Greenblat, Shalom Ber Levin, Dovid Olidart, Yosef Yitzchak Yaakovson, Yosef Weinberg, Levi Yitzchak Ginzberg, Yaakov Altein, Michael Zeligson, Eliezer Brod, Shalom Charitanov, Eliezer Brod, Shalom Charitanov, Efraim Demichavsky, Yisrael Friedman, Avraham Shemtov, Yisrael Levkovsky, Leibal Shapiro, Avraham baruch Gerelitzky, Nasan Wolf, Dovid Fisher,Shlomo Zarchi, Nachum Greenwald, Nachman Shapiro, Yosef Karasik, Yosef Hecht, Feitel Levin, Efraim Pikarsky, Berel Levitin

[3] While they did not manage to get everything down, in estimation, approximately 80 to 90% of the Rebbe’s talk would be transcribed from memory by the group. This can be factually seen when comparing the amount of pages a one hour talk of the Rebbe takes up when transcribed from the audio recording and comparing it to the transcripts of the Hanachos which were jotted down from memory. While the transcribing of a five hour talk from the audio would take up about 100 pages, the transcribing from memory would take about 80 to 90 pages. Thus, they managed to transcribe 80 to 90% of the five hour talk from memory. A most magnificent achievement!

[4] Eliyahu Chaim Carlebach and Uriel Tzimmer

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