“Strengthening Torah and Judaism”
The 12th and 13th days of Tammuz mark the festive days of liberation of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Y. Schneersohn. He had been arrested in the Soviet Union in the year 5687-1927 for spreading Torah and strengthening Judaism.
In a letter commemorating the first anniversary of his liberation, the Previous Rebbe wrote: “It is appropriate to establish this day as a day of festive assembly (hisva’adus) and inspiration for the strengthening of Torah and Judaism in each and every place according to its characteristics.”
Why did the Rebbe speak of the “strengthening of Torah and Judaism” when “Judaism” encompasses the study of Torah and the performance of mitzvos ? It would seem that the “strengthening of Judaism” would have sufficed.
The simple answer is that the Rebbe was stressing those actions that are bound up with strengthening Torah, as he wrote many times in that letter about his labor in “spreading Torah.” But if this were the case, he should have started off with the more general aspect of “Judaism,” and only then accent the specific aspect of “Torah.”
Also, why did he use the term “strengthening” rather than the expression he used elsewhere in the missive, namely, “spreading Torah”?
In truth, the Rebbe was not stressing two distinct courses of action, strengthening the spreading of Torah and strengthening Judaism (the observance and performance of the commandments, etc.), but had one thing in mind — “strengthening Judaism.” It is just that one cannot strengthen Judaism without first strengthening Torah, for the following reason:
In its simple meaning, “Judaism” refers to the general conduct of Jews as Jews. It is therefore necessary to emphasize that “Judaism” means more than the way in which Jews have conducted themselves throughout the ages — something that may mistakenly be ascribed to man’s imagination or creativity, Heaven forfend. Rather, “Judaism” is entirely composed of the performance of the dictates of Torah given to us by G‑d on Sinai.
This, then, is the meaning of the phrase “strengthening of Torah and Judaism.” Before strengthening Judaism, it is necessary to bolster the recognition that it is Torah alone which dictates what Judaism is. It is not the province of man to say that certain things in Judaism are obligatory, while others are not.
Each and every detail of Torah, even Jewish customs that began in later generations and were accepted in most Jewish communities, are part of G‑d’s Torah from Heaven that was given to Moshe at Sinai.
From the above it can be understood that he who takes the stringencies and customs enacted in later generations lightly, thinking they are “the work of man” and thus not vital, is not only lacking certain details of “Judaism,” but is in fact opposing something essential to Judaism as a whole, namely, the realization that none of it is the work of man. Rather, each and every detail is revealed by G‑d through His servants — the Jewish Sages of each generation.
The need to emphasize the “strengthening of Torah” before the “strengthening of Judaism” is also directly related to the passage that follows — “(the strengthening of Torah and Judaism) in each and every place according to its characteristics.”
Were the “strengthening of Torah and Judaism” to be achieved only in a city full of Sages or the like, the process would not need to be emphasized, for all the residents of such a place are surely aware that the essence of Judaism consists entirely of G‑d’s Torah.
But since stress was placed on a strengthening in “each and every place according to its characteristics,” it becomes necessary to emphasize that Judaism remains exactly the same under all conditions, at all times, and in all places.
Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXXIII, pp. 145-146.