Bochurim Are Making This Untapped Treasure Accessible

The Rebbe’s English letters are a literal treasure, unparalleled even in other areas of the Rebbe’s Torah. But for many years, they remained virtually inaccessible, until a group of bochurim took action. 

By reporter

It always bothered bochur Shimon Gansburg that the Rebbe’s English letters, one of the most unique areas of the Rebbe’s Torah, were virtually inaccessible. So he decided to do something about it. 

There are over 30 volumes of the Rebbe’s letters in Yiddish and Lashon Hakodesh printed, but when it comes to the English letters, the story is very different. There is no one cohesive place to find all the Rebbe’s English letters, and the only place they could be found was in various books and publications, usually together with other material. 

“Anytime in Yeshiva when we were heatedly discussing what the Rebbe’s views were of a specific topic, we would turn to the Igros of course,” explains Gansburg. “We would need to pull out twenty or thirty books just to find all the letters we were searching for- there was no online database to quickly search and access a topic.

“At some point we realized that there was a bigger issue at hand. With regards to Igros, although there was no online database at the time, there was printed books collecting all the letters. With regards to the letters the Rebbe wrote in English, however, there actually was no cohesive compilation of the letters at all. We decided to start putting together what we could find and gathered a group of bochurim who volunteered and helped us collect more letters.”

“I’ve been interested in doing something about it for a while,” says Chaim Muss of Flatbush. “It always bothered me that there’s this last part of the Rebbe’s Torah that still hasn’t been published.

“The letters in English are unqiue, even compared to the letters in Yiddish and Lashon Hakodesh. The way the Rebbe describes everything in English is unparalleled, it’s done in a way that your nefesh habihamis easily understands. Even if someone knows Hebrew and understands letters written in Igros, reading the letters the Rebbe wrote to people in English adds a new dimension- it’s a whole different style.”

When Chaim heard that there were two bochurim planning to create a virtual platform where they could compile and organize all the Rebbe’s English letters, he immediately joined the efforts. The planning of a new app, called Rebbe Responsa, began in Teves of 5781, and took a team of over twenty dedicated volunteers.

“When word got around about our efforts, people reached out and we went from a couple of hundred letters to over 5,000. It was a huge effort and took over a year and a half until we were able to finally launch the long-awaited app.”

The letters needed to be found and compiled from all over the place. There were collections that people had of their own letters, collections that people compiled for their personal use, family letters printed in wedding tshuros that were scattered about the globe, and groups of letters on different topics collected in books for different occasions.

All of those letters had to be cataloged, put into an index, scanned for text, and divided by date and topic so that the app would have multiple options of how to access them. Now, when someone opens the app, they can decide to learn the letters that share that same date, or they can search a particular topic they want to read to understand the Rebbe’s view on the matter.

The project took a team of over twenty dedicated volunteers, headed by Gansburg, Muss, Zalman Pape and others. The app was created and designed by Yosef Mintz.

“I find myself looking at life through a lens of the Rebbe’s views after I work on the letters for the Responsa app,” says Shimon. “When I spend hours reading what the Rebbe held on every topic, my perspective changes, and I start seeing the world through the eyes of Chassidus.”

Rabbi Yanky Gitler, Shliach in Freiburg, Germany has a daily class teaching a letter a day from the app. It’s an amazing resource to use on Mivtzoim and on shlichus all over the world.

“I was learning Tanya with someone here and he mentioned that because he learns Tanya, he feels more connected to the Alter Rebbe than to our Rebbe,” shared Rabbi Rabbi Chaim Yosef Kantor, head shliach of Thailand. “I told him to download the app and after some time learning the letters he said he really relates to the letters and it makes him appreciate and connect to the Rebbe on a whole new level.”

As chassidim, when we have questions in life and when we find ourselves struggling with different things, we of course want to know what is Chassidus’s perspective on the particular hurdle we are trying to get over. The simplest way to get that information is through learning what the Rebbe said on the topic, and the simplest way to find that now, is through the app. It is a tiny pocket-sized guidebook for every step of the day in the life of a chassid.

The 5,000 letters accumulated are just the tip of the iceberg of letters that the Rebbe sent. If you or a member of your family has letters, please share them and help inspire many more people with them. You can email it to [email protected].

To download the app click here for the Apple app store and here for Android.

To take part in this tremendous project and donate please click here.

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  1. Many years back the rebbe asked the “mazkir roshi” (thats the tital in the back of kehos sidur) of merkaz Rabbi/Dr. Nissan to publish the English letters as well besides for the Igros that was publishedalready. He began preparing this project and now there are already 4 or 5 volumes published in a misuderdike oyfin and by topic and more are being prepared for publication.

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