Once the yeshiva in Lubavitch was very short of funds. At the same time, R. Michoel, the yeshiva’s senior Chassidus advisor [Mashgiach Ruchni] was elderly and too weak to teach. Given the yeshiva’s financial situation, those in charge decided to stop paying him. When they informed the Rebbe Rashab, he did not allow it. He said that Reb Michoel with his aged appearance and humble demeanor serves as a living example for the students, and that this would be the best education for them.
In a Yud Shvat fabrengen, our Rebbe shared a story that Rabbi Michoel often told. Once a villager received a letter from a distant place. Being illiterate, the villager asked the local teacher [malamud] to read the letter to him. As requested, the malamud read the letter which contained the sad news that the villager’s close relative had passed away. When the villager heard the news, he fainted. The malamud was reading the letter so, at first glance one might think that he should have fainted, not the villager. The answer, of course, is that the malamud did not know the person who passed away; it was the villager’s close relative.
The metaphor is that a Chassidic teaching is not just a random lesson about the heavenly realms; rather, it is a personal letter to the one reading it from Hashem, his Father in Heaven. One should not, chas v’shalom, look at it as if it concerns someone else!
For example, the Torah promises, “If you go in my ways [Rashi says this means if you exert yourself in learning Torah], I will give you your physical needs at the right time” The one reading this may think it is directed to the sages of the Talmud or to Rashi who taught us the teaching. In other words, our friend doesn’t feel that the words are directed to him, personally. Alternatively, he reads the Midrash that says “When you see a Jew who is naked of Mitzvos, exert yourself to clothe him.” As a result, he spreads the message in writing and in public, but it is as if he read the letter to the villager. He doesn’t “faint”, why should he? It’s not his problem! It doesn’t touch him personally.
The same applies when he tells another about the letter in which the Baal Shem Tov relates that Moshiach told him the promised salvation would come when the wellsprings of the Baal Shem Tov’s teachings would flow to the corners of the world. If he doesn’t “get” that he too must participate in the work, then it is as if he read the letter to another and is now free to pursue his own interests. This is true even when the letter states openly, “THIS MEANS YOU!” It is your Father [who is sending this letter]. Nevertheless, he still doesn’t get it. It is just a letter that he is reading to someone else. He has entirely missed the point—the letter really is specifically to him. [sichos yud shvat 5725]
(We who are poor in daas would like to suggest that since the Rebbe told this story on Yud Shvat, the letter, in our case, is the maamar, Basi Legani. When it states that each individual must bring his own animal, whoever hears or learns the maamar should take the teaching as directed to him, personally. And if it seems beyond belief that one maamar can be a “personal letter” to each individual, then employ the power of “Holy Folly” and believe, contrary to logic, that when our Rebbe tells us it is directed to each one of us in particular then it is, in fact, a personal letter from your Father in Heaven. We should accept that the Rebbe knows what he is talking about and proceed.)
CR MDS Free Translation
Leibel Estrin, Bitzalel Malamud
Bitzalel says “Hashem gave me the Rebbe and the Rebbe gave me Hashem”