Chabad-Lubavitch Chasidim and students of Tanya, are rejoicing this week with the release of the first chapter (19) of the Complete Tanya. This new edition of Tanya, published by the Kehot Publication Society, presents the Tanya text surrounded by three elements: a concise commentary by the Rebbe, references and glosses, and an anthology of commentaries by the Rebbes of Chabad.
The idea for this a unique Tanya is not new. In fact, throughout the years the Rebbe mentions this idea in various letters. Indeed, in 1954, in an introduction to his supplement to the Tanya he published, the Rebbe described his plan of publishing a “Complete Tanya” which would contain the above three elements. This wish, however, never materialized.
Twenty years ago, a short while after the histalkus on 3 Tammuz 1994, several journals of Torah writings by the Rebbe were discovered in a drawer in the Rebbe’s office. Included in these journals was a special section devoted to a commentary on Tanya which the Rebbe began writing in 1930 when he resided together with Rebbetzin Chaya Moussia in Berlin. The scholars who were entrusted to publish the Rebbe’s Reshimos also published the above commentary on Tanya.
These researchers, experts in analyzing the Rebbes handwriting and unique writing style, were convinced that these Tanya journal entries were actually the genesis of the “Complete Tanya” later described by the Rebbe.
While many commentaries by the Rebbes on Tanya were published during the 217 years since the first printing of Tanya by the Alter Rebbe, it would seem from the Rebbe’s introduction to his supplement to Tanya that he was planning a unique Tanya one that incorporated all those commentaries and much more.
In a special interview with Rabbi Chaim Shaul Brook, the indefatigable director of Vaad Hanachos B’Lahak, we learn first hand about the development of this special project.
In 1954 in his Introduction, the Rebbe describes the various parts that would comprise the Tanya he began working on: “A complete Tanya…The Tanya would appear in the center [of the page], around it: references, a concise commentary, a selection from the seforim of the Rebbeim and of their writings which explains the words of Tanya…” This detailed description gives us an idea of the Rebbe’s plan.
THE REBBE’S WORK
In the Rebbe’s Reshimos on Tanya, (discovered and published in 1994), we find various layers in the Rebbe’s design and layout (see attached facsimile). First he recorded a line of Tanya, followed by four blank lines, another line of Tanya and again an empty space of four lines. During all his journeys through Germany and France while escaping the onslaught of the Nazis, and concomitant with his secretarial work for his father-in-law, the Frierdike Rebbe, the Rebbe filled in the empty lines with his concise commentary, references and anthology of commentaries by the Rebbeim and of his father.
If you look carefully, you can discern the subtle changes in the Rebbe’s handwriting, the various colors of ink and point size of the fountain pens he used. This reveals how the Rebbe returned to this work, time after time, during a span of many years. This continued even after the Rebbe arrived in the United States, when he not only continued what he began in Europe but also began rewriting the previous entries in preparation for publication.
For some time now, I harbored a strong desire to do everything possible to help bring the Rebbe’s vision into a reality. Understandably, no one can replicate the Rebbe’s own “concise commentary.” For this we can only use the commentary penned by the Rebbe in his Reshimos on Tanya. The other parts, however, may be assembled, on our own assessments, according to the Rebbe’s directives, as understood by the experts authorized to publish this type of material.
A monumental work of this nature obviously needs proper organization and ample funding. In addition to my daily work at publishing the voluminous Toras Menachem series (which requires its own funding…) I searched for a donor who would take on this project. In addition, my concerns were also on the nature of the work that would require a team of people with profound understanding, professionalism, responsibility and deliberative reasoning. All this would need to be accompanied by a constant prayer that the work conforms to the Rebbe’s holy wishes.
THE PATRON: In the summer of 2012, when Mr. Shmuel (Sami) Rohr, the renown philanthropist and patron of shlichus around the world, passed away, I approached his son and successor, Mr. Yekusiel Yehuda (George) Rohr, who felt it a special mitzvah to develop the Rebbe’s vision, and joyously accepted the challenge to fund this enormous project.
THE RESEARCH TEAM: Under the direction of the Chabad Research Center (Otzar HaChasidim), a division of the official Chabad-Lubavitch publishing house, Kehot Publication Society, under the direction of Rabbi Yosef B. Friedman, we gathered a team of uniquely talented scholars, editors and writers. After nearly two years of intensive study and research, they reviewed the entire body of Chabad Chasidus literature!
To put this in perspective, there are more than 500 seforim, beginning with the supplemental writings and teaching of the Alter Rebbe, through five additional generations of Chasidic writings and teachings, till the vast body of work by the Rebbe. In addition, the works of the Rebbe’s father, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, have also been included in this new work.
All this material was carefully researched and reviewed, under the careful guidance of Chabad Chasidic scholar Rabbi Aaron Leib Raskin, an expert editor at Kehot Publication Society on the Chasidus of the Rebbeim, for all references to Tanya.
Additionally, ongoing consultations with various Chasidic scholars, mashpi’im and lecturers, ensure that the material is faithful to the overall plan and comprehensive for the subject matter. Also on the review team are the talented scholars, Rabbi Aaron (Ari) Chitrik and Rabbi Yisroel Shimon Kalmanson.
Heading up the editing and assembling of the material is the very gifted schaolr and writer, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Kaplan, of Oak Park, Michigan.
FULFILMENT OF A REBBE’S WISHES: I would like to point to a fascinating sicha of the Rebbe (Yud Shevat 5752 – 1952) in which the Rebbe speaks of the enduring nature of a Rebbe’s thought, desire and will:
…Not only are the deeds of the tzaddik everlasting, but even his plans that were only articulated verbally but have not come to fruition—are also everlasting. Even after many years pass, and even after his lifetime on this physical world, his uncompleted plans endure, albeit that its time had not yet come, or that they are not yet ready. But when the time comes he sees to it that the deed will be accomplished.
These holy words have been a guiding light in this project.
I hope and pray for the successful completion, by all those involved, of this great work, which will be another step and stage in the spreading of the fountains of Chasidus, which will bring the complete redemption, speedily in our days.