Question & Answer With Schneur Zalman - Me'am Lo'ez
A Simple Jew asks:
In the introduction to "Me'am Lo'ez", Rabbi Yaakov Culi wrote,
"When a person reads this book, it is counted if he had studied Tanach, Gemara, Midrash, and Shulchan Aruch, since all are included in it. I have written it in the vernacular so that everyone will be able to understand it and read it daily. When Hashem asks him if he set aside times for Torah study, he will be able to answer in the affirmative."
Despite this promise, Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan wrote that today "many yeshiva students seem to shun it". To your knowledge, historically to what degree did Me'am Lo'ez gain popularity within Chassidic communities in Eastern Europe?
Schneur Zalman responds:
An interesting question. In my reading I cannot recall that sefer ever being mentioned as being part of the daily or weekly Torah corpus of the Chassidic Jew in Europe. The Or HaChaim HaKadosh, Pele Yoetz, Chok LeYisrael - yes, but Me'am Lo'ez I would have to say no. Actually the Chok was established with the same reasoning by the talmidim of Rav Chaim Vital Calabrese to enable the Jew to study all sections of the Holy Torah daily and yes that was translated to Yiddish in Eastern Europe and was popular, certainly amongst Chassidim.
Finally the yeshiva world shuns everything besides Limud BeIyyun. They shun Shnayim Mikro, Chok, Mishnayot, saying Tehillim and until recently the Daf Yomi. As Dr. Nachum Lamm so knowingly said, the Torah world of today has become Pan-Halachic forgetting about our wealth of material on Midrash, Hashkofa, Kabbalah, Mussar, Chassiduth, Kedusha, Piyyutim, Liturgy, Hebrew Language, etc.