- The dates of the publication:
The compiled Sichos of Likkutei Sichos were first published and distributed on a weekly basis, as a pamphlet known as a Likut, in correspondence to that week’s Parsha. It was only later that these published pamphlets were put together and printed as a full volume. Throughout the 1960s and 70s these talks were periodically edited and distributed, with many breaks in between. The first two volumes were published in 1962, and in the coming years each volume was published after enough pamphlets were issued to make a new volume of the book.
- The general format of the Sichos:
The general format of the talks in Likkutei Sichos is as follows:
- A question on the Parsha: Often, especially in the Rashi Sichos, the formation of the question can take up the first couple of pages of the talk, including within it several questions and nuances.
- A search for an answer to the dilemma: Often, an initial answer or answers is then given, which is then rejected for one reason or another, as related in the Sicha.
- A final conclusive answer.
- A lesson that can be derived from the novelty of the answer: After the final answer is given, the Rebbe often concludes with a lesson in Divine service that one can learn from the content of the talk.
The Rebbe desired that the reading be as user-friendly as possible and be accessible and understandable by a wide range of the public audience, even if this meant compromising on the original way that the talk was delivered. The Rebbe instructed that it be written in a most professional manner, analyzing every word and letter for correctness and precision.
- The language:
The first nine volumes of Likkutei Sichos were written in Yiddish, which was the language in which they were given over by the Rebbe. In the year 1973, the Rebbe authorized the initiative of publishing the talks in Hebrew to benefit those who do not understand the Yiddish language, including the many Israeli Baalei Teshuvah who had then come into Chabad. Thus, volumes 10 through 14 were published in Hebrew. However, after receiving many complaints of the quality of the Hebrew translation and compilation, this was stopped in the year 1975, and hence volumes 15 through 29 were printed in Yiddish during the years between 1975 in 1987. In the year 1987 a new and professional committee was set up to once again compile the talks in Hebrew, and hence volumes 30 through 39 are printed in Hebrew.
- The content:
The content of the talks can basically be split to three subjects:
- Talmud and Jewish law, including Rambam.
- Jewish and Chassidic Philosophy.
- The Parsha & commentary of Rashi.
Some of the talks, are dedicated to understanding a certain matter of difficulty that is found in the Talmud or Rambam, or Jewish law and Chabad custom. In other talks, the main theme is an idea in Jewish and Chassidic philosophy. Other talks are dedicated towards understanding difficulties in the weekly Parsha, especially within the words of Rashi. The common theme in all the talks, is that they almost always bring out a most novel and revolutionary way of understanding the subject under discussion. Whether it be a new and revolutionary way of understanding a certain difficult passage in the Talmud, or Jewish law, or it be a revolutionary new philosophy and understanding of life and Judaism. Often, these themes become intertwined, as what begins as an analytical study on a passage in the Talmud or Jewish law, eventually leads to a new revolutionary philosophy, which concludes with a most valuable Divine lesson.
- The Rashi Sichas:
One of the most revolutionary ideas of scholarship that the Rebbe introduced, is his in-depth analytical studies on the commentary of Rashi on the Parsha. The Rebbe began sharing his teachings on the commentary of Rashi starting from the year 1965 after the passing of his mother, during the weekly Shabbos farbrengen. A large portion of the talks printed in Likkutei Sichos are these “Rashi Sichas.” The format of a Rashi Sicha begins with a number of analytical questions on a given commentary of Rashi. An initial answer, which is then later rejected, is usually given. After the concluding explanation, the talk usually concludes with a lesson in Jewish law, and Jewish philosophy, which can be derived from the presented explanation. While these talks are some of the hardest to study and understand, they often contain great revolutionary conclusions in the fields of Jewish philosophy and Chassidic teachings. In this book, several of these Rashi Sichas have been chosen for publication, due to their most important content and concluding message.
- The number of volumes and the Parshiyos they correspond to:
The classic set of Likkutei Sichos contains 39 volumes, with a 40th volume having been recently printed by one of the committees in charge of the original publishing. The first four volumes contain two sets of talks on all 53 Parshiyos of the Torah. Volume 1 and 3 contain one talk per Parsha for the books of Bereishis, Shemos, and Vayikra. Volumes 2 and 4 contain one talk per Parsha for the books of Bamidbar and Devarim. Starting from volume 5, each book contains Sichos corresponding to only one of the Chumashim. Thus, in total there are nine volumes printed on every Chumash of the five Chumashim, and on almost every Parsha in the Chumash.
- Learning Likkutei Torah versus Likkutei Sichos-what has precedence?
The Rebbe stated in a public talk on Simchas Torah in the year 1971 that he was going to stop publishing Likkutei Sichos for that year. One of the reasons the Rebbe mentioned is because he saw that the Chassidim were studying it instead of studying the works of Torah Or and Likkutei Torah, and that the intent of the Likkutei Sichos was to be in addition to the regular studies of Torah Or and Likkutei Torah and not instead of them. In the Rebbes words from that talk of: “I already discussed, that in the past the custom was that on Shabbos they would learn Torah Or/Likkutei Torah, or other discourses relevant to that week’s Torah portion. However, from the time that the Likkutei Sichos have been printed it has become the main subject of learning of the week, as being that he is a Shpitz Chabad, he claims that since it was printed that week this is a sign that this is the main subject of learning of the week, and he thinks throughout the entire week that since he needs to learn the Likkutei Sichos therefore he is now exempt from learning Torah Or/Likkutei Torah… Therefore, since we are now beginning a new year from now on everyone should learn the discourses in Torah Or/Likkutei Torah and the other discourses that begin with verses of the weekly portion, and they should learn it in depth.”