Introduction to Likkutei Torah-Torah Or

This article is an excerpt from the above Sefer

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The meaning of a Mamar Chassidus:

A Mamar of Chassidus is a discourse on a given topic within the Chassidic school of thought. The school of wisdom of Chassidus focuses on the inner meaning of the Torah and Mitzvos, as well as our relationship with Hashem and our purpose in this world. Chassidus is considered to be the inner dimension of the Torah. Nigleh, the revealed aspect of the Torah, directs us as to how we should lead our lives as Jews, how one is to fulfill the Mitzvos, and what is defined as a sin. Chassidus deals with the inner meanings behind the Torah and its Mitzvos. Chassidus drinks mainly from the wellsprings of Midrash and Kabbalah, interweaving Kabbalistic concepts and truths into the Chassidic explanation. Nonetheless, Chassidus is far from being considered the wisdom of Kabbalah, as while Kabbalah describes the inner effects of the Torah and Mitzvos and explores the spiritual worlds, it fails to use these concepts to teach the person a personal service of G-d. Chassidus came to fill this void. Chassidus uses Kabbalistic concepts and ideas to bring the Jew towards a practical service of Hashem, in which the inner essence of his heart and soul is ignited towards love and fear of Hashem and His Torah and Mitzvos. A parable for the differences between Nigleh, Chassidus, and Kabbalah can be drawn from the concept of a diet. A diet requires one to avoid a certain list of foods that are unhealthy for the person. The list of do’s and don’ts on the diet is similar to the revealed aspect of the Torah, in which we are taught that which we must do and that which we are not allowed to do. Studying the effect on the body of each of the foods that he is asked to eat and avoid is similar to the study of Kabbalah, in which one studies the anatomy of the physical world and the effects that each Mitzvah and Aveira has on it. Contemplating the necessity to be healthy, one’s goals and purpose in life, and one’s love for his family, whch wants him to live for many lengthy years, is what connects the person to the practical application of his diet. This is similar to Chassidus, in which we learn and study the meaning and purpose behind the Torah and Mitzvos, our life goals, and the love we share for Hashem. The Mamarim of the Alter Rebbe in Torah Or and Likkutei Torah delve into these topics in accordance with the Parshiyos of the Torah. Every Parsha contains its simple and revealed meaning and interpretation, as discussed in the commentaries of the Chumash. In addition, however, behind every verse in the Torah there is an inner meaning and intent, and a hidden message being relayed to the Jew in his Avodas Hashem. In this work, the Alter Rebbe takes a section of each Parsha and opens its inner meaning to the public. Some of the most fascinating and peculiar episodes of the Torah are given new light and meaning and become a lamp of direction for the Jew searching for a path in service of G-d.

A Mamar-The word of the living G-d:     

A Mamar is much different from other Torah discourses, as while any Jew who is well learned in a subject can transcribe an essay on the subject and orally convey its content, a Mamar can only be recited by a Rebbe. Furthermore, even a Rebbe himself can only recite a Mamar on certain occasions, and not all of his Torah discourses enter the category of a Mamar. The explanation of this matter is captured in the following story:[1] The Tzemach Tzedek once said a Mamar to the public and a debate ensued between some of the greatest disciples as to the correct understanding of a certain passage recited in the Mamar. The Rebbe’s son said one interpretation, while Rav Hillel of Paritch recited a different interpretation. To quell the argument, it was agreed that they would each have an audience with the Rebbe and present him with their explanations and then have the Tzemach Tzedek arbitrate the correct understanding. The Tzemach Tzedek, after hearing both sides of the argument, sided with the understanding of his son. However, upon Reb Hillel of Paritch hearing the Rebbe’s arbitration, he said that it was not binding, and in truth it was possible to explain the passage in accordance with his explanation. Rebbe Hillel was challenged as to how he could argue with the Tzemach Tzedek on the meaning of a passage in the Mamar when the Tzemach Tzedek himself was the one who said the Mamar! Reb Hillel replied that only at the time of the saying of the Mamar did the Tzemach Tzedek have the sole authority over that which was being said. However, once the Mamar had been completed, every listener could attempt to give explanations on the Mamar even if they were different from the explanation given by the Rebbe himself. The reason for this is because at the time when the Mamar was being recited, the Rebbe’s mouth was repeating the words of the living G-d, “the Shechina is talking from his mouth”, and they were not his own words. A Mamar is a G-dly revelation of Chassidic thought that comes through the mouth of the Rebbe, which is completely nullified to Hashem. Once, however, the Mamar has been completed, the Rebbe’s explanation on the Mamar is considered to be a commentary on the words of Hashem that he uttered, and hence Reb Hillel felt that he too should be given the right to give alternative explanations. In conclusion, the Tzemach Tzedek replied that if Hashem chose him to be the one to recite the Mamar, then seemingly he should be trusted to be the one who understands the true meaning of the Mamar as well. While Mamarim can be both written and orally taught by the Rebbe, in general most Mamarim are recited orally and only later transcribed by the Chassidim. The Mamarim of Torah Or and Likkutei Torah were all recited by the Alter Rebbe on various occasions, and later transcribed into writing. This is opposed to his Sefer Tanya, in which all of the teachings were originally written as a Sefer and not delivered as an oral discourse.      

The Dveikus of the Alter Rebbe upon reciting a Mamar:

As stated above, the recital of a Mamar is not similar to that of other Torah topics. This was seen in the case of the the Rabbeim when they would recite a Mamar, as their cognitive state was noticeably different and sublime. Being that in a Mamar the Rebbe repeats the words of Hashem, the state in which the Mamar was said was a completely different experience than with other types of Torah, in which one can arguably say that it was similar to an out-of-body experience in which the Rebbe was elevated from the constraints of physicality. The Rebbe Rayatz related[2] that when the Alter Rebbe would say the Mamarim, he entered into a great state of Dveikus, in which his mind transcended reality. At times, the Alter Rebbe would roll on the floor while saying the Mamar, and continue to say it while rolling. Reb Pinchas of Reitzes, who was one of the transcribers of the Mamarim, would roll behind the Alter Rebbe on the floor in order to hear the words of the Mamar. At times, however, a few words were missed due to this rolling and this caused there to be words missing in the transcripts of the Mamar of Reb Pinchas.[3] Also, the Chassidim prepared for the saying of the Mamar differently than for other Torah talks. A Niggun, known as Niggun Hachana, would precede the Mamar and prepare the state of mind of the congregants to receive the teachings.

The Oral Torah of Chassidus:

Tanya is considered as the written Torah of Chassidus, while the Sefarim of Torah Or and Likkutei Torah are considered to be the Oral Torah of Chassidus. While Tanya lays the groundwork for the path towards one becoming a true servant of Hashem, it is the Mamarim in Torah Or and Likkutei Torah that expand the discussion on these topics, just like the Oral Torah expands the laws that are found in the Written Torah.   

The name Torah Or/תורה אור:[4]

The name of the Sefer Torah Or was chosen by the Tzemach Tzedek[5] and it hints to the name of the Alter Rebbe, which is ShneOr. This name means “double light”. The Gematria of אור times two is the same as that of Veahavta, which is the Mitzvah to love Hashem. Indeed, this Sefer is filled with discourses that light up the love of the soul for Hashem and show man the direction of life.

The name Likkutei Torah:

Likkutei Torah is the second volume of the Sefer Torah Or.[6] Likkutei Torah and Torah Or are essentially two volumes of the same style of Sefer, covering Mamarim of the Alter Rebbe on the weekly Parsha.[7] The Sefer Torah Or covers the Mamarim on Sefer Bereishis and Shemos and some of the Holidays, and it includes 155 Mamarim. The Sefer Likkutei Torah covers the Sefarim of Vayikra, Bamidbar and Devarim, and other Holidays and Shir Hashirim, and it includes 230 Mamarim. The reason behind the different names is due to a technical publishing issue that required the second volume to receive a name change. Ideally, the second volume of Torah Or was to be published in close proximity to the first volume and to carry the same name. However, shortly after the printing of Torah Or, the Russian government ordered all of the Jewish print houses to be closed except for one in Vilna, which would remain closely censored. There was simply not enough manpower and time to print the second volume until almost ten years later, when they named the Sefer Likkutei Torah.[8]

The differences between Torah Or and Likkutei Torah:

Despite the above, that Likkutei Torah and Torah Or are essentially two volumes of the same Sefer, we do find certain differences between the styles of the two Sefarim. The Sefer Torah Or does not include within it the glosses of the Tzemach Tzedek within the Mamarim, while the Sefer Likkutei Torah does incorporate the glosses of the Tzemach Tzedek within the Mamarim. The cause for this insertion of the Tzemach Tzedek’s glosses is related to a certain dream the Tzemach Tzedek once had.


The Tzemach Tzedek’s dream:[9]

As told above, the publishing of Likkutei Torah took place several years after the printing of the first volume called Torah Or. During these years, it was discovered by Chassidim that the Tzemach Tzedek had written glosses on the discourses of the Alter Rebbe, and they began pressing him to print these glosses in the second volume that would be printed as Likkutei Torah. At first, the Tzemach Tzedek was reluctant to acquiesce to their request, but after having a certain dream, he agreed to do so. That year marked the 18th anniversary of the leadership of the Tzemach Tzedek, and in that year he had a dream about his grandfather the Alter Rebbe. In his dream, the Alter Rebbe urged him to print his glosses together with the Mamarim of the second volume. The Tzemach Tzedek did not disclose this dream to anyone for some time, until he discovered that three of his sons also had the same dream, which they related to their father. The Tzemach Tzedek then agreed to publish the glosses, and when it was printed it was named Likkutei Torah.

Who transcribed the Mamarim?

The Mamarim found within Torah Or and Likkutei Torah were recited by the Alter Rebbe throughout the years 1795-1812, and the majority were transcribed, under the Alter Rebbe’s instructions, by his brother Rabbi Yehuda Leib, known as the Maharil. The Alter Rebbe reviewed the majority of these transcripts and edited them thoroughly.[10] Starting from the year 1801, the Tzemach Tzedek began copying these Mamarim.[11] There were several thousands of booklets of Mamarim that were transcribed by various students [such as some of the sons and grandsons of Admur, Reb Pinchas Reitzis, and other Chassidim]. However, mainly those that were transcribed by Reb Yehuda Leib and reviewed by the Alter Rebbe were eligible for printing in Torah Or/Likkutei Torah. The Rebbe Rayatz stated[12] that the Mamarim printed in Torah Or and Likkutei Torah Volume Two were selected by the Tzemach Tzedek from amongst two thousand Mamarim. These are considered to be the most essential of the Mamarim.[13]


When was it published?[14]

The Sefarim of Torah Or and Likkutei Torah were published in different years. The Sefer Torah Or was first published in the year 1837.[15] The Sefer Likkutei Torah was first published in the year 1848. The reason for the delayed publishing is because shortly after the printing of Torah Or, the Russian government ordered all of the Jewish print houses to be closed, except for one in Vilna, which would remain closely censored.[16]


Who published it?[17]

The first volume, called Torah Or, was published by the Kapust publishing house and was brought to print by the son in-law of the Mittler Rebbe, Reb Aharon of Shklov. The second volume, called Likkutei Torah, was published in in Zhitomir by the Shapiro brothers of Slavita, who had recently purchased the publishing house.


[1] Sefer Hasichos 1937 p. 165; Toras Menachem 5712, second  night of Pesach

[2] Sefer Hasichos 1936 p. 127

[3] Toras Menachem 2/270

[4] Letter of Tzemach Tzedek printed in Hosafos of Torah Or p. 141

[5] See letter of the Rebbe Rayatz 4/560 [printed in Hosafos of Torah Or p. 282] that “with the agreement and help of the Tzemach Tzedek it was printed under the name Torah Or

[6] Letter of Tzemach Tzedek printed in Hosafos of Torah Or p. 141; Title page to Torah Or, which was written by the Tzemach Tzedek, that it is “the first volume”; letter of the Rebbe Rayatz ibid

[7] Rebbe Rayatz ibid

[8] Rebbe Rayatz ibid

[9] Rebbe Rayatz ibid

[10] Title page to Torah Or, which was written by the Tzemach Tzedek

[11] Rebbe Rayatz ibid

[12] Hayom Yom, 14th Adar 1

[13] Toras Menachem 1955 Vayeishev 5

[14] Hayom Yom, 3rd Shevat

[15] Written in the Shaar of the first printing, “Kapust 1837”; See letter of Rebbe Rayatz ibid that it was being prepared for print in 1834, although it only actually got printed in 1837

[16] Rebbe Rayatz ibid

[17] Rebbe Rayatz ibid; Hayom Yom ibid

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