A First in English: A Chasidic Discourse Composed in 1869

by Baila Olidort - BROOKLYN, NY

August 21, 2002

Are you living an illusion?

“There is none else but G-d”—a cardinal principle of Chabad Chasidic theology, speaks to the Divine omnipresence that renders all else negligible. But how to reconcile this with the first verse of Genesis that asserts the creation of a world?

True Existence, Mi Chamocha 5629, the fifth volume of the Chasidic Heritage Series, is a discourse on the unity of G-d. Composed in 1869 by the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Shmuel Schneerson, the discourse explores a number of theological motifs central to Chabad Chasidism. Now, as part of the widely acclaimed Chasidic Heritage series, it will be published in lucid, close translation by Rabbi Yosef Marcus, with extensive annotations, footnotes and commentary.

In a legendary epiphany by the founder of Chasidism, the Baal Shem Tov is charged with the universal dissemination of Chasidic teachings. Since that auspicious date in 1746, a proliferation of Chasidic texts have uncovered a vast new dimension of Torah, forever changing the way Judaism is studied and experienced. A successive dynasty of Chabad Chasidic Rebbes contributed to the treasure trove of Chasidic philosophy. Summary translations and paraphrased abstracts in numerous languages have given non-Hebrew readers a good grasp of the world-view and theology of Chabad Chasidism.

But the challenge to bring these primary texts in all their veracity to an English readership remained a daunting one, and fulfilling the Baal Shem Tov’s mandate has been no small hurdle for publishers of Chasidic literature.

Now, with the newly launched Chassidic Heritage Series, every thoughtful, English-speaking adult is finally given the opportunity to study Chasidic texts in a translation that does not compromise the complexity and depth of the original Hebrew discourse.

“This project represents a new stage in the scholarly presentation of Chabad teachings in English,” says Dr. Naftali Loewenthal, a lecturer on Jewish spirituality at London University. “A historic milestone,” says Rabbi Dr. J. Immanuel Schochet, English translator of the Tanya.

A project of Kehot Publication Society, the Lubavitch publishing house, the Series is the result of a coordinated effort by a team of Chasidic scholars, researchers and English language experts. The four volumes released to date have thus far garnered enthusiastic responses from teachers of Chasidism worldwide. “I finally have the opportunity to study Chassidic literature with my constituents from the original text,” says Rabbi Yosef Kranz, director of Chabad in the Virginias, one of many Shluchim who are using the volumes as study texts in their weekly classes.

“In their original format, Chassidic texts can be a formidable challenge to the student who lacks background,” says Rabbi Yosef B. Friedman, co-editor of the series. “These volumes aim to give students the ability not only to understand the concepts but to actually learn them in the words of the Rebbe, from the original text.”

Each volume of the Series treats a selected, key discourse by a given Rebbe. The careful translation with extensive footnotes and, in cases where none are otherwise available, a complete biographical sketch of the author, give students the means to study the discourse in context.

“The incredible impact Rabbi Shmuel had on the development of Chassidic thought has been lost on so many because very few of his works have been translated,” says Rabbi Avraham Vaisfiche of the Chasidic Heritage team.

Also planned as a companion to True Existence is a Video-CD featuring Rabbi Manis Friedman, an expositor of Chassidic thought, as he discusses several themes of the discourse and offers further insight into the topics discussed in the book in a clear, understandable style.

Release of True Existence is scheduled to correspond to the 120th anniversary of Reb Shmuel’s passing, Tishrei 13th, and will be available in Jewish bookstores by the end of the month.

For a detailed brochure on the Chassidic Heritage Series, readers can call 718 -774 4000, or visit www.kehotonline.com.

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