Monday, March 17, 2008

Question & Answer With Chaim Of Life-Of-Rubin - Using Igros Kodesh

(Picture courtesy of

A Simple Jew asks:

Since Gimmel Tammuz there has been a common practice amongst Lubavitchers to consult the Rebbe's letters contained in Igros Kodesh in order to obtain the Rebbe's personalized advice for the present. This is accomplished by a person writing a letter to the Rebbe and randomly choosing one of the many volumes of Igros Kodesh off the bookshelf. Once an individual volume of Igros Kodesh is selected, the person opens up the sefer and puts his letter inside. It is believed that the Rebbe's letter contained on this particular page that the person opened up to not only contains an answer to the person who originally wrote the letter but also to the person who is now attempting to elicit an answer.

Do you personally follow this practice or do you have problems with the practice of using Igros Kodesh in the manner in which it currently is being used?

Chaim answers:

I remember very shortly after Gimmel Tammuz I started hearing more and more people doing this. At the time it was very emotional for people and I think that people were using it sub consciously as a grieving process. I'll be honest with you, at the time I did it a few times also. Although I never got a "personalized" answer.

I'll tell you a funny story. A guy I know use to do it a lot and he once told me "what do you think it means that I keep getting answers pertaining to women?"

So I told him I have no idea - that is weird. Then I asked him "what volume" he was using, what years? He shows it to me and I point out to him that this particular volume contained all the letters that The Rebbe had written to the Shluchos (female emissaries) at the annual Shluchos Convention.

Obviously most people will say that it can't be used as a real method in which to receive an answer. I know that many people still use it, but I don't. I don't see the point. Tragically, The Rebbe is not physically with us anymore and that means we can never truly get a "personalized" response. But there are dozens of volumes of letters from The Rebbe.

It's a beautiful thing, if a person wonders what The Rebbe would say about any topic under the sun, all you have to do is find where he specifically addressed it. You don't have to play silly games. It's all right there, in black and white. Just open the Sefer and read all The Rebbe's Igros. Yes, many times The Rebbe did have different answers for different people. But if you read the context of the letters you can attempt to see why the different reasons applied to different people.

I believe we are lucky that we live in the technological times that we do. There are so many unique ways to gain knowledge. We have almost 50 years worth of teaching of The Rebbe in every way imaginable. We have thousands of hours worth of videos and audios.

But I won't admonish people who do it either. For them that's the way they continue to connect with The Rebbe. It's not easy; The Rebbe was more then just a spiritual leader. He was like a father. We're still painfully mourning Gimmel Tammuz and it's very hard to come to terms with the realization that he isn't physically here to answer us like he used to.

But like I said, he left us with more then enough detailed teachings and it's our job, and the job of our Chabad spiritual mentors and older chassidim to help us decipher what we should do and how we should do it.


At May 14, 2009 at 7:39:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Deborah Shaya said...

1. We are only allowed to pray to Hashem.
If people want to pray to anyone else, and make requests of any being other than Hakadosh Baruch Hu, they might as well join Xtianity.

2. When Moshe prayed, he prayed to Hashem. He did not pray to any Malachim or any celestial beings. These are all the creations of Hashem.

(Similarly, the Neilah prayer for Yom Kippur in the Ashkenazi tradition, includes direct Tefillot and requests to Malachim. They are creations of Hashem. We are not allowed to pray to any Malachim. This is completely assur and causes very great damage. The Neilah Tefillah for Yom Kippur should be amended speedily to remove all prayers and requests to Malachim.)

• There should be NO MEDIATOR between a person’s tefillot and Hashem.

If a person chooses to use intercession instead of praying directly to Hashem, this is completely Assur.

If the leaders of Chabad encouraged people to use the “Igrot” - including Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, tz”l - they were wrong. Using the Igrot is using intercession.
It is assur and forbidden.

People who are using the Igrot are using intercession, which is Assur. They should stop doing this straight away. Teshuvah to Hashem should be done speedily instead.

3. Why not choose the very greatest of all prophets, Moshe Rabbeinu?

Why don’t you look inside the Torah - instead of letters written to other people by Rabbi Schneerson tz”l during his lifetime?

Moshe is the greatest of all prophets, and no other prophet was equal to him.

“Zichru Torat Moshe Avdi” we are told in Malachi (3:22)

There simply is no comparison between Moshe Rabbeinu and Rabbi Schneerson tz”l, although Rabbi Schneerson tz”l was a Tzaddik and a very righteous and good man.

4. Moshe Rabbeinu was the greatest of all prophets, and we do not even pray in the name of Moshe. Neither do we pray in the name of David Hamelech, whose descendent is the Mashiach.

However, in the very first Beracha of the Amidah, the silent prayer to Hashem containing our requests, we recall the merit of the Avot: “…..Elokei Avraham, Elokei Yitzhak Velokei Yaakov….” “….The G-d of Avraham, the G-d of Yitzhak and the G-d of Yaakov…”

The beracha is concluded with “Magen Avraham.”

In summary:

(1) We pray to Hashem – at all times.

(2) There should be no mediator between Hashem and a person’s tefillot – otherwise this is Assur.

Therefore the practice of using the “Igrot” for requests and guidance should be stopped. The reason for this is that this is using intercession. And the use of a “mediator” or someone to “intercede on a person’s behalf” to Hashem, is assur.

Teshuvah must be done.

(3) Why not choose the greatest of all prophets – Moshe Rabbeinu – and look inside the Torah?

At March 16, 2012 at 2:40:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rabbi Gershon Avtzon, YLC
1) The Rama rules (Yorei Deah 179:4): "One is permitted to ask a child "Tell me the latest verse that you learned" and act accordingly. The Sifsei Cohen adds to that: "You may even do an action - like open a sefer - and act accordingly".
2) The Posek Erech Lechem (179) rules: "It seems to me that one is permitted to open a Sefer of Torah and see the Passuk and act accordingly, for Torah is our life.
3) The sefer Taamei Minhagim (pg. 509) writes: " The reason you find in Gemarah, that the sages asked children to quote verses - rather than open Sefraim - is because there were no printed Sefarim and they were not available."

Rabbi Kotler used the famous "Goral HaGra," the lottery of the sagely Vilna Gaon. Rabbi Kotler "randomly" opened up the Five Books of Moses, and let Divine Providence communicate an answer through whichever relevant verse he "happened" to turn. The random verse was:
God told Aharon, "Go meet Moshe in the midbar (desert)." (Exodus 4:27)
Rabbi Kotler understood it as clear providential directive for the 20th century:
God told Aharon [Kotler], "Go meet Moshe [Feinstein] in the midbar [of America].

2) Does the Rambam not rule that such behavior is forbidden?

1) The Rambam rules (Hilchos Avodas Koachavim 11:4): "It is forbidden to practice soothsaying as idolaters do, as [Leviticus 19:26] states: "Do not act as a soothsayer."

A person who sets up omens for himself; e.g., if this and this happens, I will do this. If it will not happen, I will not do it, as Eliezer, the servant of Abraham did, and the things of the like - all this is forbidden. Anyone who does one of these things because of such omens is [liable for] lashes."

2) Yet, Raavad (in his commentary to the Rambam) argues and says that What the Rambam is saying it is a great mistake! How can he say that Tzaddikim like Eliezer - and like the stories brought in the Gemarah - transgressed the Torah?!

3) The Kesef Mishna (in his commentary of that Rambam) also argues with the Rambam. He explains that if the "sign" that you are following connects to what you are doing - i.e. a sign for Rivka's worthiness is if she gices water to the camels - than it is for sure permitted. As the Semag rules that we see many sages acted on the verses quoted to them by children.

4) See Ran in his commentary to Chullin (95b) that also argues with Rambam in this regard.

In short: From all the above we see that in this instance, we do not rule like the Rambam.

3) What does the Rebbe MH"M have to say about the above?

1) Someone once wrote to the Rebbe that he has many options and he is not sure which one to follow.

The Rebbe wrote him back (Heichel Menachem Vol. 2 pg. 217): "There are those that open a Chumash or a Tehillim and based on the Passuk that they see, that is what they follow".

2) In the Sicha of Parshas Noach 5749 (pg.309), the Rebbe said:

"We can add, that we find sources for this custom - to look into Torah for signs of how to act - in stories of Chazal regarding the Tanaiim and Amoroim that they asked children the passuk they learned and acted accordingly....This has been the custom of Gedolei Yisrael and even simple people that they would open Sefarim and act accordingly...."



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