Living, Learning and Growing with the Tanya's Wisdom


Igros Kodesh:

There are two incredible developments in my career, which began around the same time and, unknown to me then, worked together to deeply impact me. In the beginning of 2009, I was hired for a long-term freelance project editing translations of Igros Kodesh. Not long after, I was hired by Chabad.org to join their Ask the Rabbi team as a mental health expert.


They went together so well. The more letters I did and the closer I felt to the Rebbe and his approach to life, the more I felt he was teaching me how to respond to people in need through written words. In Igros Kodesh, the Rebbe draws from all of Torah and worldly knowledge, bringing them to bear on the recipient's issue. He guides and teaches, directs and supports, consoles and calms, all in words. Which is what I was being asked to do in the hundreds of monthly emails I was writing to troubled, struggling, and in-need people contacting Ask the Rabbi.


Furthermore, letter after letter the Rebbe's describes a healthy way to live life; one that treats and prevents depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and a lack of confidence. The letters are amazing. But to grasp it, in my opinion, takes spending time reading and contemplating them. Read up, enjoy, and grow!

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Letters from the Rebbe:

#5070 Treatment for Memory

Greetings and Blessings!


In answer to your letter of 16 Tevet –


At an auspicious time, I will [prayerfully] mention all those of whom you write by the resting place of my father-in-law, the Previous Rebbe.


Regarding your question about a treatment for memory –


Our Sages’ comments (Eruvin 54a) on the verse, “Ordered in all things, and sure,” are well-known. Namely, that the Torah must be studied with vitality and, clearly, free from the schemes of the Yetzer Hara, who seeks cunning wiles to prevent one from serving his Creator. And one of [the Yetzer’s] techniques is to bring a person to depression and seduce him into thinking that his Torah and Mitzvot are ineffective. However, when he thunders and rages against it, paying it absolutely no attention, then its enticements, concealment, and façade are nullified – as explained fully in Tanya; see there, particularly Chapter 29.


With blessing,


On behalf of the Rebbe


Letters from the Rebbe:

#6529 The Reason that Rebbe (Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi)

esteemed the wealthy

Greetings and Blessings!


With great pleasure. I received your letter of 17 Elul and the books you sent for my library. I hope that in the future, from time to time, you will continue making new books available to us as they are printed. Please pardon my delay in responding, caused by the busy nature of the days since your letter’s receipt. 


Some wonder about the meaning of our Sages’ statement: “Rebbi esteemed the wealthy.” In my opinion, this is understandable and well explained based on one of the fundamental teachings of the Baal Shem Tov. Namely, that everything in the world, including the most minute, is overseen by Hashgacha Pratit; especially regarding general things that impact the greater public. 


Wealthy people, by Heavenly providence, have been granted the material means to bring about much good in G-d’s world, and, certainly, they also possess spiritual talents appropriate for fulfilling this role. Theirs is a task greater than that of a person of average means, and far greater than that of a poor person. 


Rabbeinu HaKadosh lived in an era of transition for the Jewish nation, from a time of relative tranquility to one of evil decrees and persecution. As such, he was responsible for marshaling all the tools needed to help the Jewish people overcome their trials and emerge whole and unscathed. He had to think about each and every Jew and work to bring out their capabilities. For this reason, he extended great esteem and honor to those whom Heaven granted greater potential, cultivating their potential in order to protect everything that is holy among Israel – as was the focus of all of his other deeds.


However, as is found throughout G-d’s world, every Jew has Bechira Chofshit and “G-d tests to see whether there are those who love Him, etc., who keep His mitzvot and hearken to His voice.” Similarly, the wealthy are extended Bechira Chofshit. As it is written, “Take note, I have placed before you life and goodness, etc.,” concluding, “And you will choose life,” or G-d forbid the opposite. Now, if this applies to those wealthy in gold and silver, then it certainly applies to those who are wealthy in terms of their ability to influence those around them or even those distant from them.


It is also clear that since the world has a Master and contains nothing without reason, the wealthy person must actively and positively utilize his wealth. Just refraining from using wealth for negative purposes is not enough, since all of creation is charged with taking an active role in helping the world achieve its general and collective objective.


It goes without saying that the goal I am referring to – the true objective of our people, the nation of the G-d of Abraham, in both general and particular – is life according to our Torah, “Torat Chaim,” the complete Torah without compromise, whose greatness lies in the fact that it “leads to practice,” namely, the actual fulfilling of the mitzvot in one’s daily life. As the Torah says, “And you shall live by them.”


I apologize for touching on such a fundamental subject in my very first letter, and possibly causing you to question whether it is indeed my hope that the above-mentioned thoughts have their desired outcome. Nevertheless, there are several explanations for doing so. First, we live in a time when things that were unimaginable not long ago are literally taking place. One who gives this even the slightest thought sees that at every step there are occurrences that transcend human intellect. How true are the words of our Sages: “Do not reject anything.” 


Second is a point whose truth is absolute and is based upon the Chassidic explanation of the title used to refer to every Jew: “A spring for gardens, a fountain of living waters.” It is part of every Jew’s nature and spiritual make-up that when spoken to about the Torah and its mitzvot in their ultimate form, novelty is unnecessary because in his essence he is already in full agreement. For him to become “a spring for gardens, a fountain of living waters,” all that is required is removal of his blocking and hindering nonchalant manner. He then becomes akin to a well that flows by its own strength, a process which the Zohar explains can even occur instantaneously.


Another important detail to consider: by Hashgach Pratit you were granted the ability to influence [others] and already have a respectable number of people whom you influence. Several of them, in turn, have influence upon others and are leaders in specific circles. As such, changes generated by the previous lines of this letter will become widespread and magnified via those influenced by you.


I have extensively addressed this subject in the general letter for Rosh HaShanah, a copy of which is included herein. I hope that you will find interest in this as well.

With esteem and blessing.

Letters from the Rebbe:

#6507 A greater person has a stronger Yetzer Hara

Greetings and Blessings!


This is to confirm receipt of your letter of 26 Elul. A response to the religious youth group has been included, which I am sure you will explain to them according to their level of understanding, if necessary. It goes without saying that widening one’s circle of friends is very important, especially among those who were once involved in this group – as you write in your letter.


May it be G-d’s will that just as you say you are already tasting the fruits of your efforts in the activities you describe, so shall G-d increasingly assist you to continue toiling and tasting [the fruits of your labor]; that you go from strength to strength in Torah and mitzvot, as well as in influencing others in the aforementioned.

With blessing for good tidings and that you be inscribed – and may that inscription be sealed – for a good year.


Regarding your question about what seems to be a contradiction between the statement of our Sages, “The greater a person is, the stronger is their Yetzer Hara” and the concept, “When one rises, the other falls” –


The explanation is that when one is endowed with a great and lofty Nefesh Elokit, he also receives an opposing Nefesh Bahamit that is comparably great in its own way – i.e., in its opposition to the G-dly. (One reason for this is to prevent anyone from possibly claiming that a particular person overcame his animal soul only because he has a lofty Nefesh Elokit and a weak Nefesh Bahamit.) 


The person then uses the strength of his Nefesh Elokit to wage war with [his Nefesh Bahamit] and illuminate it using “the candle of mitzvot and the light of the Torah.” At first, the generated light [only] drives away the darkness and “when this one rises, the other falls.” Eventually, however, one can also reach the level where “he has no Yetzer Hara because it was slain via fasting.” This idea is further explained in Tanya regarding David, King of Israel.