Being an Epistle sent to the Communities of our Faithful. May the Almighty guard them.
To you, O men, do I call. Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness, who seek the Lord; and may G-d hearken to you, both great and small, all the faithful in our land and those adjacent to it. May each in his place achieve peace and eternal life, for ever and ever. Amen. May this be His will.
Behold, it is known as a saying current among people— all our faithful— that listening to words of moral advice is not the same as seeing and reading them in books. For the reader reads after his own manner and mind, and according to his mental grasp and comprehension at that particular time. Hence, if his intelligence and mind are confused and wander about in darkness in G-d’s service, he finds difficulty in seeing the beneficial light that is concealed in books, even though the light is pleasant to the eyes and [brings] a healing to the soul.
Apart from this, the books on piety which stem from human intelligence, certainly have not the same appeal for all people, for not all intellects and minds are alike, and the intellect of one man is not affected and excited by what affects [and excites] the intellect of another. Compare with what our Rabbis, of blessed memory, have said with reference to the blessing of the “Wise One in Secrets” (חכם הרזים ) upon beholding 600,000 Jews, because their minds are dissimilar from one another, and so on. As also Rabbi Moses ben Nachman, of blessed memory, [explains the reason for this blessing] in Mikhamot,elaborating on the commentary of the Sifre concerning Joshua who is described as “a man in whom there is spirit,” “who can meet the spirit of each and every one,” and so on.
But even the books on piety, whose basis is in the peaks of holiness, the Midrashim of our Sages, of blessed memory, through whom the spirit of G-d speaks and His word is on their tongue; and [although] the Torah and the Holy One, blessed be He, are one and the same, and all the 600,000 general [souls] of Israel with their individual [offshoots] down to the “spark” in the most worthless and least estimable members of our people, the children of Israel, are thus bound up with the Torah, and the Torah binds them to the Holy One, blessed be He, as is known from the holy Zohar— this [bond] pertains [only] in a general way to the community of Israel as a whole. [As for the individual] although the Torah was given to be interpreted, in general and in particular down to the minutest detail, to [apply to] each individual soul of Israel, which is rooted in it [so that these books pertain to every person], nevertheless not every person is privileged to recognise his individual place in the Torah.
[A further difficulty is the complexity of Torah interpretation.] Even in the case of the laws governing things prohibited and permitted, which have been revealed to us and to our children, we find and witness differences of opinion among Tana’im and Amora’im from one extreme to the other. Yet “these as well as these are the words of the living G-d.” The plural is used as a reference to the source of life for the souls of Israel, which are generally divided into three categories — right, left, and centre, namely, kindness (chesed), might(gevurah), and so on, so that the souls, whose root originates in the category of kindness, are likewise inclined towards kindness in the leniency of their decisions, and so forth, as is known. All the more, a minori ad mains, in the case of those things which are hidden [yet revealed only] to the Lord onr G-d, these being the awe and love that are in the mind and heart of each and every one according to his capacity, i.e. according to his heart’s estimation, as explained in the holy Zohar on the verse, “Her husband is known in the gates(she’arim), . . .”
I speak, however, of those who know me well, each and every one of our faithful who lives in our country and in lands adjacent to it, with whom words of affection have been frequently exchanged, and who have revealed to me all the secrets of their heart and mind in the service of G-d which is dependent on the heart. May my word percolate to them, and my tongue be as the pen of the scribe in these kuntresim that are entitled Likutei Amarim (“Selected Discourses”), which have been selected from books and teachers, heavenly saints, whose souls are in Eden, and who are renowned among us. The subjects of] some of [these discourses] are hinted to the wise, in the sacred epistles of our teachers in the Holy Land, may it be built and established speedily in our days, Amen; some of them I have heard from their saintly mouth when they were here with us; and all of them are responsa to many questions which all our faithful in our country have constantly asked, seeking advice, each according to his station, so as
to receive moral guidance in the service of G-d, since time no longer permits of replying to everyone individually and in detail on his particular problem. Furthermore, forgetfulness is common.
I have, therefore, recorded all the replies to all the questions, to be preserved as a sign-post and to serve as a visual reminder for each and every person, so that he will no longer press for admission to private conference with me. For in these [responsa] he will find peace for his soul, and true counsel on every matter that he finds difficult in the service of G-d. His heart will thus be firmly secured in the Lord Who completes everything for us.
As for him whose mind falls short in the understanding of the counsel given in these kuntresim, let him discuss his problem with the foremost scholars of his town, and they will elucidate it for him. And I beg of them not to lay their hand on their mouth, to conduct themselves with false meekness and humility, G-d forbid. It is known what bitter punishment is his who withholds food [i.e. knowledge], and the greatness of the reward [in the opposite case], from the Rabbinic teaching relating to the Scriptural text, “The Lord lighteneth the eyes of them both,” for G-d will cause His face to shine upon them, with the light of the countenance of the King [the Source of] life. May the Giver of life to the living make us worthy to live to see the days when “no longer shall one man instruct the other … for all shall know Me,. . ,” “for the world shall be full of the knowledge of G-d….” Amen. May this be His will.
Since the said kuntresim have been disseminated among all our faithful, as mentioned above, by means of numerous transcriptions by the hands of various and sundry scribes, the multitude of transcriptions brought about an exceedingly great number of copyists’ errors. Therefore the spirit of the noble men, named on another page, has generously moved them to a personal and financial effort to have the said kuntresim published, cleared of chaff and errors, and thoroughly checked. I congratulate them on this worthy deed.
And inasmuch as there is an explicit verse, “Cursed be he that removeth his neighbour’s landmark”— and “cursed” includes both damnation and shunning, G-d forbid— therefore, “like Judah and scripture in addition” I come to invoke a strict prohibition on all publishers against printing the said kuntresim, either themselves or through their agency without the authority of the above-named, for a period of five years from the day that this printing is completed. And it will be well with those who conform, and they will be blessed with good.
These are the words of the compiler of the said Likutei Amarim.