Discovered: The Earliest Known Letter of the Rebbe in English

Just days after printing a collection of the Rebbe’s English letters from the 1940s, the Rebbe Responsa team found what they believe may be the earliest letter of the Rebbe written in English. exclusive.

By reporter

Only a scarce amount of the Rebbe’s letters from the 1940s were ever discovered, and in English, even fewer. A newly found letter may be the earliest letter of the Rebbe to be written in the English language.

The letter was discovered by the Rebbe Responsa team, who have already compiled and organized over 5,000 letters of the Rebbe in English. It was found just days after they published a collection of English letters from the 1940s as a teshura for the wedding of Sholom Lever and Chaya Goldberg.

“Just recently, a large collection of the Rebbe’s letters from first years after his arrival in the United States was shared with us for the benefit of the public,” the Rebbe Responsa team wrote.

The priceless and historic collection sheds light on hitherto unknown aspects of the Rebbe’s involvement in spreading Yiddishkeit in America during Lubavitch’s early years on the continent. The letters are sourced from carbon copies, many of which bear markings in the Rebbe’s holy handwriting. The majority of these letters were written by the Rebbe in the capacity of Chairman of the Educational branch of Lubavitch – Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch.

In the teshura, which can be found below, the editors didn’t just print the letters, but attempted to give a broader picture of the events, personalities, and subjects discussed in the letters. The editors wrote that the remainder of the letters in the collection will be published in the coming days.

While going through the next batch of letters, they discovered a letter dated July 3, 1942. The letter, addressed to “Mrs. Guggenheim” is the earliest known letter of the Rebbe in the English language.

“We would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have generously shared their letters with us, enabling thousands throughout the world to learn and internalize the Rebbe’s guidance and perspective they contain,” they wrote.

“As mentioned above, the Rebbe’s letters available from this period are few in number. Many privately held letters from these years (when a permanent secretarial archive was not yet in place) may be the sole copies in existence. We sincerely ask anyone who may have English letters, specifically from the early years, to kindly share them with us for the benefit of the public who thirsts for the Rebbe’s words,” the Rebbe Responsa team wrote.

They also included a brief overview of the ‘Manual of Selected Prayers and Blessings’ a work discussed in these letters:

Manual of Selected Prayers and Blessings: The manual (סדר ברכות ותפלות עם תרגום אנגלי, or as it is referred to in several letters – the “Bencherel”) was published by the Rebbe as Chairman of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch – the educational arm of Lubavitch (founded by the previous Rebbe in 5701). The Manual (spanning 128 pages) consisted of a selection of prayers and blessings (Alef-Beis, Birchos Hashachar, Birchos Hanhenin, Birchas Hamozon, Krias Shema She’al Hamito, etc.) with a newly revised English translation in the spirit of Jewish Tradition, and a short introduction on the importance of Prayer and blessings. At the end of the Manual appears a short message on Torah Study and Shabbos. The manual was geared for Jewish Children as well as members of the Armed Forces.

The Rebbe began working on the Manual in 5702, with the hopes of having it ready on time for Rosh Hashono 5703. In a letter addressed to Mr. Alexander Cowen on the 21st of Tishrei, 5703, the Rebbe writes that though the Manual had been completed, its publication was held up due to lack of funds. The Manual was finally published in Shevat 5703, with the help of Mr. Cowen and the financial assistance of Mr. Julius Stulamn, among others.

On the 20th of Shevat, the Rebbe writes: “The interest created by this publication is quite keen, and the demand is likely to exceed the supply on hand, which goes to emphasize how much it is appreciated.”.
Due to the high demand, a second edition of the Manual was published soon after, as the Rebbe writes (12 Nissan): “I am pleased to inform you that the Manual of Prayers & Blessings has met with great success. The first edition has already been exhausted, finding its way also to Palestine, England and Canada, in addition to those distributed in the United States. A considerable number of copies has been distributed to Jewish members of the armed forces who find it particularly convenient on account of its pocket-size. The second edition of the Manual is enjoying a similar success.”

A third printing was scheduled for the winter of 5703.

The teshura can be downloaded here.
The newly discovered letter can be found below.

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