Let My People Know

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: “The need to keep the essential message pure.”

Because the Chasidic movement put such store on the intimate relations with the Rebbe or teacher, it was felt that writing only created a barrier.

There was something dead about a book in contrast to the direct communication between master and disciple, teacher and pupil.

Not only were the true problems of the soul left unresolved, but the very essence of the message was somehow lost, as the following story about the Baal Shem indicates.

When a volume of the sayings of the founder of the Chasidic movement came out, and this still in his lifetime, the Baal Shem Tov dreamed that he saw a devil walking about with a book under his arm, and when the Baal Shem Tov asked him what it was, the devil replied, not without a smile of satisfaction, “It is a book by you, yourself.”

The next day, the venerable teacher called his disciples together and demanded to know who dared to write books in his name.

When he was shown the volume of his sayings, he read it and said, “There isn’t a single word here that I actually spoke.”

All of the first Chasidic masters were very sensitive about the need to keep the essential message pure by transmitting it directly from soul to soul.

Writing may have value for others, but not for them, the Chasidim.

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz