Long before podcasts were “in,” Sicha Yomis was giving chassidim a way to tap in every day and listen to a sicha of the Rebbe relevant to that particular day. Close to 30 years later, it’s still going strong.
From Anash Magazine, published by Anash.org
As a bochur in Argentina, Rabbi Shmary Gurary was an avid listener of Sicha Yomis. Today, as director of development at Bnos Menachem of Crown Heights, he continues to listen daily.
“I’m on the road a lot, so I listen to the Sicha Yomis all the time. It’s easier to focus on one concise idea that is related to the particular day,” Rabby Shmary shares.
One day, after Pesach of 5782, he was listening to the day’s sicha and was taken by the Rebbe’s powerful message to mosdos to accept 10% of their students for free. The Rebbe explained that there is plenty of funds in New York, “Es felt nisht gelt in New York…” and yeshivos could fundraise in order to help their students who can’t afford yeshiva.
“Being a school fundraiser, I wanted to share it with his balebatim,” Rabbi Gurary shared, “but it didn’t have an English translation. I reached out to Sicha Yomis director and found out that it was simply a question of funding. Having just heard the Rebbe’s words about plenty of funds, I was determined to make it happen. I committed to fundraise the $60K needed for the English translation, and it was BH launched that Gimmel Tammuz.”
Sicha Yomis, a 10-12 minute daily recording of the Rebbe, began almost 30 years ago, just a short while after Gimmel Tammuz.
“It was 5755 (1995) and I had just started out as a mashpia in the Montreal Yeshiva,” shared Rabbi Tzvi Hirsh Gurary, director of the Sicha Yomis program, “and my father – Reb Itche Meir zol zein gezunt -, the head mashpia in the yeshiva, suggested that I set up a system for bochurim to hear audio clips of the Rebbe on a daily basis to keep the hergesh of hiskashrus alive.”
At that time, the Rebbe’s sichos were only available on audio cassettes; videos were certainly not widely available. To create such a resource was a novel idea and a huge undertaking. In those days before digital recording, every step had to be done manually with painstaking attention to detail.
“To choose the sichos,” Rabbi Gurary explained, “I would listen to a tape, and coming to the point I wanted to use, I would record it with a second tape player. It would take many hours just to find, record, and prepare one daily ten-minute clip. It was a labor of love and took a tremendous chunk of my day.
“For the first few days, I took whatever short inspirational snippets I could find. But as I began working on it further, I realized how it would be more meaningful to connect it to the Rambam, chitas or yoma dipagra of that time.”
The recordings were played in yeshiva every day for the bochurim in Montreal, and for the Montreal anash in shul between mincha and mairiv. When the hanhala of Oholei Torah heard about the initiative, they asked to have it for their bochurim as well. Now Rabbi Gurary would have to record the clips in advance and send it to New York by bus week by week.
As time went on, more and more yeshivos and shuls heard about it and wished to start it. It was a powerful tool for young bochurim and anash in general to live with the Rebbe and receive a daily dose of hiskashrus. At this point, Rabbi Gurary began to prepare a year in advance to be sent to locations around the world.
While Sicha Yomis became hugely popular among bochurim and adults who had stood at the Rebbe’s farbrengens, introducing the younger generation, untrained in hearing the Rebbe, would require something more.
A mashpia and passionate mekushar, Rabbi Hirshel Raskin wished to convey his hiskashrus to his young students at the Montreal Mesivta. To this end, he copied the clip from where it was printed in Sefer Hasichos, allowing students to follow along while listening to the audio. This paved the way for Sicha Yomis to recruit R’ Hershel Notik to prepare a professional word-for-word transcript which was now sent along with the recordings.
After a few years, it was being written up in Lashon Kodesh as well, for Hebrew speakers. This brought in a new crowd of bochurim and anash who didn’t understand Yiddish well and now could follow along.
With the computer age taking over at that point, the audio files were digitized and the sicha became available on the new website that was created. This made it easier to listen to and more accessible to audiences all over.
With the help of Rabbi Shmary Gurary, Sicha Yomis is also available in English, translated by Rabbi Zalman Margolin.
Today, Sicha Yomis is available as an app, on their website (TheDailySicha.com), and on a call-in hotline in Eretz Yisroel and America for those without internet access. The Sicha is learned daily in many shuls and yeshivos around the world, inspiring many with a short, timely snippet.
Sometimes, it results in wonderous hashgacha pratis.
While rehanging mezuzos in his home, a shliach was listening to the Sicha Yomis clip as he tries to do daily. But as he approached one door, something strange happened: the Rebbe began to speak about the importance of ensuring that mezuzos are not only kosher, but also that they’re placed correctly.
That had the shliach wondering perhaps that doorway’s mezuzah was on the wrong side. After sending a video of it to a mezuzah placement expert, it was confirmed that it had to be changed, which he promptly did.
“While there are many video clips of the Rebbe,” says the Sicha Yomis director, “there is something special about just focusing on the Rebbe’s voice and message. It is a powerful way to really hear the timeless teachings the Rebbe shares with us.”
This article first appeared in Anash Magazine, published by Anash.org.