Wellspring Part 7
(Click here for Part
the Scenes at
the Vaad L’hafotzas Sichos
By Rabbi Shalom Yaakov Chazan and A. Avrohom
Contract is Signed
the telephone rang in the office of the Vaad Lehafotzas Sichos on Erev
Chanukah 5739, it was a member of the Rebbe’s mazkirus asking
Rabbi Nachman Schapiro to stop by as soon as possible. "Rabbi
Hodakov would like to speak to you about an urgent matter."
minutes, Rabbi Schapiro had bounded downstairs and was waiting to hear
what was so important. Rabbi Hodakov, in his usual straightforward
manner, got right to the point. "There is a serious problem at
Kehos [i.e., the Kehos Publication Society]," he said. "The
entire process of publishing the works of our Rebbeim is in a state of
disorganization. Whenever the Rebbe asks for an update about a
particular seifer, he has to speak to several people before he
can get an accurate report of what’s going on. The situation cannot
called you in today to deliver the Rebbe’s directive: The Rebbe wants
the Vaad Lehafotzas Sichos to take over the directorship of Kehos."
Rabbi Hodakov then asked Rabbi Schapiro to return later that day with
the other members of the Vaad for more details.
afternoon, the entire Vaad assembled in Rabbi Hodakov’s office. For
several hours he outlined what would be required of them, and at the end
of the conversation he asked them to prepare an official contract. The
exact wording of the document took a few more days, after which the
contract was submitted for the Rebbe’s approval.
contract specified that the Vaad would be responsible for all of the
numerous steps involved in the printing process, from binding the books,
distributing them in bookstores, and advertising in the newspapers. It
also set several other goals they were to strive for: shortening the
length of time it takes for a book to get published, improving their
quality, lowering costs, etc. Furthermore, should a conflict of opinion
ever arise, the directors of Kehos would henceforth be subject to the
decision of the Vaad, which would be considered final.
the same time, the contract made it clear that the Vaad’s input was
strictly technical rather than editorial. Once a month they were to
submit a detailed report on all works in progress. In other words, the
Vaad Lehafotzas Sichos was to act as an independent body that had
assumed responsibility for the Kehos Publication Society.
the contract was signed, Rabbi Hodakov said, "From now on, whenever
the Rebbe wants to know the status of a particular book, you are the
ones he will turn to. You must be ready to answer his inquiries at all
didn’t take long until the Vaad was given its first opportunity to
show its mettle. That Chanuka, the Rebbe gave them their first kuntreis
to print, the maamer "VeYadata Moskva – 5657."
The members of the Vaad – Rabbis Nachman Schapiro, Yaakov Leib Altein,
Shalom Jacobson, and Zalman Chanin – jumped into action.
Vaad Lehafotzas Sichos did not have the luxury of a grace period to ease
into their new duties. In fact, its members didn’t have even a single
ink was barely dry when the Rebbe sent a message to the Vaad expressing
his surprise that certain books had not yet been printed. The Vaad had
hardly been apprised of the inner workings of the operation, much less
did they know with certainty how each individual book was faring, but
the Rebbe wasn’t interested in excuses. As the Rebbe wrote in a letter
if the excuse is one hundred percent true, and even if it’s beyond
We do not say that it’s as if he did it.
The main objective in publishing books is to get them into the hands of
the people who need them...in other words, it is for them that the whole
operation exists. What difference does [the reason] make to them?
has to be a way to speed things up, although it will involve much
effort. When ‘you have toiled’ will be fulfilled, surely the ending
to the phrase, ‘you have found’ will also be fulfilled."
Chassidim to whom the Rebbe’s wishes are top priority, the members of
the Vaad understood that the Rebbe expected even more from them than was
spelled out in the contract. Thus, even though they weren’t officially
responsible for delays in editing or technical problems, they realized
that it was up to them to set the whole operation in order.
months later, the Rebbe wrote a letter to the Vaad explaining his
reasons for having chosen them: 1) its members were relatively young; 2)
they had just recently graduated from Tomchei Tmimim; and 3) they had
not yet fully conformed to the limitations of being baalei battim.
History of Kehos
Kehos Publication Society was founded by the Rebbe Rayatz in 5702, with
his son-in-law, the Rebbe shlita, appointed as its head. A year
later, the Sifriyas Otzar he’Chassidim Lubavitch was established, and
soon afterward Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch.
function of Kehos, the mosad at the very top of the publishing
hierarchy, was to print all kinds of Jewish and Chassidic books, not
just those that were directly related to Chabad. Under Kehos were two
more publishing operations: Otzar he’Chassidim, which was limited to
producing works of the Rebbeim and their disciples, and Merkos L’Inyonei
Chinuch, which was responsible for educational and teaching materials.
The Rebbe was intimately involved in all of the technical aspects, and
served as editor-in-chief for all three mosdos.
vast number of books were published in those early years. The fact that
so much of the Rebbe’s time was devoted to this undertaking
underscores, more than anything else, the great importance the Rebbe
ascribes to disseminating works of Chassidus. In fact, much of the Rebbe’s
correspondence during these years concerns these matters, as part of the
overall framework to "spread the wellsprings outward" to bring
the Rebbe accepted the nesius and assumed the leadership of the
entire Jewish people, many of the Rebbe’s day-to-day responsibilities
were transferred to Rabbi Yehuda Leib Groner, the Rebbe’s personal mazkir.
Under the Rebbe’s constant supervision, Rabbi Groner began to do some
of the editorial work as well.
the first few years, the Rebbe continued to edit many of the s’farim,
but as time wore on he limited himself to editing the introductions.
Indeed, throughout the years of the Rebbe’s nesius it was a
task he never gave up, despite the time constraints. Every day, or every
few days, the Rebbe would ask for a detailed update of the various s’farim
being readied for print. In fact, up until the 1970’s, Rabbi Groner
would submit the final version of all notations and footnotes for the
Rebbe’s approval, and the Rebbe would add his comments to the margins.
that time, however, the Chabad movement had grown to such international
proportions that Rabbi Groner’s duties as mazkir precluded him
from devoting much time to editing. Little by little, the day-to-day
tasks were transferred to a team of qualified talmidei chachomim,
each of whom was responsible for overseeing a different project.
mentioned above, in 5739 the Rebbe appointed the Vaad Lehafotzas Sichos
in charge of everything after its members had more than proved their
expertise with the printing of the seifer Keser Shem Tov.
despite the administrative changes, the Rebbe continued to be involved
in every stage of the publishing process. In fact, the members of the
Vaad were surprised frequently by the Rebbe’s interest in what seemed
to them minutiae. In the first year alone the Rebbe gave dozens of
detailed directives, some personally, others through mazkirus.
One of the most important themes the Rebbe continually emphasized was
the need for efficiency, actually getting the books into print within
the specified time frame.
Rebbe would often quote Moshiach’s answer to the Baal Shem Tov, that
he would come ‘when your wellsprings will have been disseminated,’"
the members of the Vaad now recall. "We could see how the Rebbe
attached great spiritual significance to the publication of each and
every seifer we worked on as one of the most effective means of
certain instances the Rebbe even asked for daily updates, with
information on what each member of the Vaad had accomplished that day
and was planning to do the next.
of the editors who worked under the Vaad’s supervision chafed under
this acute attention to detail and objected to it as
"micromanaging," as they were not always told that the Rebbe
was behind it. One staff member even went so far as to write a long
letter of complaint, blaming everyone other than himself for his
inability to stick to a strict schedule…
the Vaad was required to inform the Rebbe of all new developments, this
letter was included with their next update. The following morning, Rabbi
Zalman Chanin was summoned by Rabbi Hodakov and told to go to the Rebbe’s
room immediately after davening. With awe and trepidation he
entered, still wearing his tallis and tefillin.
Rebbe removed a Midrash Rabba from the bookcase and opened it to
the commentaries on the verse in Koheles, "Let your garments
be always white." He then proceeded to read aloud:
Yehuda HaNasi explained this with an analogy: There was once a king who
invited some guests to attend a seuda. "Go and wash and iron
your clothes, and get ready for the celebration," he advised them,
yet he did not specify when the seuda would take place. The
smarter guests waited by the palace gates [expecting it to commence at
any moment], but the foolish ones paid no attention to the king’s
directive, assuming that they would have sufficient time to get ready
when they saw that the preparations were underway. The whitewasher
returned to his whitewashing, the potter to his wheel, the blacksmith to
his smithy, and the laundryman went back to his washtub. Suddenly, the
king himself summoned everyone to his seuda. Some of the guests
arrived in all their glory, while others were humiliated. The king was
delighted with the smart ones who had heeded his words; not only had
they obeyed him, but they had brought honor to the royal palace.
However, he was very angry with the foolish ones, for not only had they
disobeyed him but they had dishonored the palace. Declared the king:
"Those who prepared themselves for the king’s seuda shall
partake of it; those who did not shall not participate, without
exception. One group will sit and eat and drink, while the other will
stand and watch them, and be punished."’" The Rebbe closed
the seifer and continued: "Some of the mivtzaim have
reasons that are revealed. The purpose of the Tefillin Campaign is to
effect the verse ‘…and he tears the arm together with the crown of
the head,’ while the Mezuza Campaign protects the inhabitants of the
home. However, the Campaign to Publish Jewish Books is different, and
the advice of the Midrash must be taken: ‘Let your garments be always
white.’ One must always be in a state of readiness to follow a
directive whenever it comes, in order to have this wonderful
Rebbe’s comments on the Vaad’s updates are a story unto themselves.
One time the members of the Vaad informed the Rebbe that a particular seifer,
Seifer HaMaamarim 5687, would be ready by a certain date. The
Rebbe replied by asking if this meant that the book would be ready to
print by then, or if it meant that it would already be distributed and
people would be learning from it…
Rebbe once remarked to Rabbi Hodakov that he didn’t understand why he
had to continually spur them on. Why couldn’t they finish a book
according to schedule without his constant reminders and encouragement?
must be pointed out that in those years, the technology we take for
granted today was still in its infancy. Books were printed in a process
known as hot type, so called because of the molten lead casting that was
used. After the final version of a volume was typed, it was given to the
printer, who would then produce a metal template for each page
separately. These templates were then fitted into the printing press and
run off. And the first computerized presses were not much faster.
Despite these technological limitations, the Vaad performed admirably,
even in comparison with today’s more simplified methods.
Edition of the Tanya
mentioned previously, the contract that was signed by the Vaad gave it
the sole publishing rights to Kehos. But there was also a clause that
stated that in special cases, its members could be assigned to work on
other s’farim. Over the years, the Vaad was thus responsible
for overseeing a number of other works at the Rebbe’s specific behest,
most of which were also produced at the same frenetic pace.
of the most interesting of these projects was the publication of the Tanya
Mahadura Kama, launched in the summer of 5738 after a number of
boxes of rare manuscripts and other s’farim from Poland arrived
at the Lubavitch library. One of these was a handwritten first edition
of the Tanya, in its original format of separate kuntreisim,
before the Alter Rebbe decided to publish it as a single work.
materials were given to the Vaad Lehafotzas Sichos, along with the Rebbe’s
directive to produce a new scientific edition of the Tanya. The
members of the Vaad, who had never before produced a scientific edition
of any seifer, had to first familiarize themselves with the
process of scientific scrutiny. The provenance of each manuscript had to
be researched and verified, and the entire format of the seifer
revamped. Needless to say, it was an extremely laborious and
the end of 5741, the Vaad received a sharply worded handwritten note
from the Rebbe in which he urged them to work even faster. A race
against the clock commenced. Over the next few months its members rarely
ventured outside their office.
save time, it was decided to use the printing presses of the Vaad
Lehafotzas Sichos, located in the building above 770. The Rebbe agreed
to the plan, with one proviso: As it was no longer necessary to wait
until the entire seifer was ready to be given to the printer,
each section should be printed as soon as it was completed. The Rebbe’s
directive was adhered to.
Erev Shabbos Parshas VaYishlach, the final section of the book was
printed and the entire volume bound with only minutes to spare before
nightfall. The members of the Vaad hurried up the steps of 770 and gave
it to Rabbi Groner, who immediately handed it in to the Rebbe. The
following day, when they saw the Rebbe’s nachas ruach at the
Shabbos farbrengen, they could bask in the satisfaction that
their efforts had paid off. "For your work shall be rewarded, says
Rebbe strode into 770 carrying the new seifer, and the entire farbrengen
was dedicated to the newly published edition of the Tanya. In one
sicha, the Rebbe spoke about the three differences between the Mahadura
Kama and the usual printed version of the Tanya. "With
this printing," the Rebbe said, "the Alter Rebbe’s desire to
publish the Tanya before Yud-Tes Kislev has been fulfilled, which
was not accomplished in his time." The Rebbe also praised the
editors who had worked on the project and declared, "I did not
believe that it was even remotely possible [to finish it so quickly],
but I believe in the power of Chassidim!" The Rebbe then connected
it to the coming of Moshiach, and said that in the merit of the new
edition of Tanya, we can now demand from G-d that the Redemption
come that much sooner!
Tanya Goes International
Shabbos Mevarchim Chodesh Elul 5738, the Rebbe called for the printing
of Tanyas all over the world, in the capital city of "each
country where there is a Jewish presence." In the initial stages,
the project was overseen by the mazkirus, and shluchim all
over began to print Tanyas in their respective locations.
it soon became clear that this was not so simple a matter. Despite their
good intentions, there were not many people who were knowledgeable about
printing. Errors began to creep into the templates, and perfectly good Tanyas
were reproduced with a luach ha’tikkun (list of corrections)
that had long ago been amended. The discrepancies between one Luach
ha’tikkun and the next became so numerous that everyone realized a
new plan had to be implemented.
was then that the Vaad Lehafotzas Sichos entered the picture, when Rabbi
Hodakov informed them that the Rebbe had appointed them in charge of
printing the Tanyas. In addition to coordinating the projects,
their responsibilities would include preparing the templates, the
introductory page with the name of each location, and keeping track of
the exact number of printings. Rabbi Shalom Jacobson was assigned most
of the day-to-day duties.
first step involved choosing a particularly clear version of the Tanya
as the prototype or standard. It was decided to use the one that had
been printed in Vilna in 5669 from which to make the templates.
although the typeface of this Tanya was exceptionally easy to
read, it was known that several errors had crept in over the years. The
most famous of these typos was on the first page of the Shaar
HaYichud VeHaEmuna, where the word "Shamayim"
appears instead of "mayim." In all, the Vaad had five
full pages of typos and omissions to correct, and the list kept growing.
The members of the Vaad then discovered that the most accurate Tanya
in the world had been printed in 5714, the publication of which the
Rebbe himself had supervised. True, the typeface was not as clear as
some of the others, but it was from this Tanya that the master
plates were ultimately made, and thousands of international editions
have since been printed.
Start to Finish
in Two Weeks
Rosh Chodesh Kislev 5741 the Rebbe summoned Rabbi Hodakov to his room
and instructed him regarding the production of a comprehensive index (Mafteiach
Inyanim) to the Alter Rebbe’s maamarim. The index would
cover not only all of the Alter Rebbe’s known works, but even maamarim
that had never appeared in print. At the Rebbe’s directive the project
was assigned to the Vaad Lehafotzas Sichos, together with a strict
schedule of production. The entire project was to be completed by
because the Vaad was technically independent from Kehos, the Rebbe
insisted that the participants in this project be paid separately for
their work, above and beyond their regular salary. The money, the Rebbe
specified, would come from a special fund of the Rebbe Rayatz, who was
also a partner in this undertaking. The Rebbe concluded by saying that
he awaited their answer.
contacting all the members of the Vaad, Rabbi Hodakov informed the Rebbe
that their first meeting would take place that afternoon, either at 1:15
pm or after Mincha at 3:30. To the latter suggestion, the Rebbe
responded, "After Mincha? Why so late? Let the meeting take
place at 1:15." And so it was.
the results of this first meeting were conveyed to the Rebbe, his answer
was, "It was received; thank you for being so timely – in the
year of Hakhel. I will mention it at the tziyun.
Rosh Chodesh Kislev, the month of Redemption and the month of light.
Much success, with great alacrity. (As stated in the Igeres HaKodesh
to those who spread the wellsprings outward, similar to the Igeres
HaKodesh of the Baal Shem Tov, i.e., that this will bring about ‘until
next day, the second of Kislev, the Vaad submitted its first update to
the Rebbe. Noting the date, the Rebbe related it to Rashi’s comment on
a verse in that day’s portion of Chumash, "Then Yaakov went on
his journey": "After receiving the good tidings…it became
easier for him to walk."
answers from the Rebbe to the Vaad each day were extraordinary. On the
third day’s report, dated "Tuesday, 3 Kislev, concerning which
‘because it was good’ is written twice," the Rebbe drew a line
underneath the word "Tuesday" and two lines under
"because it was good." Where they had written "With G-d’s
help, we will be able to finish by the designated time," the Rebbe
wrote: "If the time is utilized properly"; "way before
[the designated time]"; and "constraints and limitations
[pertain to] before the month of Kislev."
week the update on Thursday’s progress was submitted to the Rebbe on
Friday, along with a note that Friday’s report would be submitted the
following Sunday. The Rebbe wrote back: "Not only is [Sunday] a
separate day, but it also involves an entirely new calculation (as it is
after the holy Shabbos)." The Rebbe also explained verbally that
the combinations of the letters of Hashem’s Name change on Motzaei
Shabbos, and that they mustn’t intermingle one week’s report with
the next. The Rebbe then stated that he would wait to receive their
update up until it was time to light the Shabbos candles…
similar thing happened that Sunday, when the Vaad submitted its report
from Motzaei Shabbos together with the one from Sunday. Motzaei Shabbos
is connected with Shabbos, the Rebbe explained, but Sunday is a day unto
make a long story short, on the 15th of Kislev the Rebbe indicated that
the seifer should be published in the merit of its editorial and
printing staff, with each person donating $1.80 (ten times 18) towards
its dedication. The next day, when an alphabetized list of names was
submitted to the Rebbe, the Rebbe inserted his own name by the letter Mem.
The editors wanted to do something to emphasize the Rebbe’s name
(using a bold font or writing shlita afterwards), but the Rebbe
insisted that it be printed the way it was, with the addition of shlita
after all the names on the bottom (see facsimile). The Rebbe also
personally worded the dedication.
the night of the 18th, the Rebbe stated that he knew everyone was tired
and hadn’t slept for several days, but he would be very happy if the seifer
would be completed by the next day. Indeed, the new seifer was
bound and on the bookshelves by the night of the 19th, being sold at the
special price of one dollar at the Rebbe’s directive. The entire batch
was snatched up within a matter of minutes.
article on this subject would be incomplete without mentioning the
thousands of special kuntreisim that were given out by the Rebbe
in recent years. The speed with which they were printed is entirely in
the merit of the Vaad Lehafotzas Sichos and everyone associated with
them. Their work to fulfill the Rebbe’s horaos has been
tireless and devoted.
the words of the Rebbe MH"M, in the same way that all these s’farim
were printed in a manner "above the natural order," Hashem
should send us the full and complete Redemption in the same manner, with
the immediate revelation of the Rebbe Melech HaMoshiach now.