February 9, 2020 • יד שבט תש׳׳פ
Meet Rabbi Mendel Lipskier.
Originally from Crown Heights, Rabbi Lipskier now lives in Melbourne, Australia, where he serves as both a teacher and “mashpia” at the boy’s Mesivta for almost twenty-five years.
As a young boy himself in the heart of Chabad Lubavitch culture, Lipskier was lucky enough to learn the Rebbe’s sichos in real time, as they continued spreading their light around the world. In the 80’s and 90s’, he was a young “bachur” immersing himself in Chassidus and the Rebbe’s wisdom- something which he continues to do today, and with even more enthusiasm.
“Sometimes you think you understand something your first time learning it. But even your second time, you’re often not scratching the surface. The Rebbe’s Torah is layered and nuanced, and requires us to dive in deep.”
For a good few years before Project Likkutei Sichos began, Rabbi Lipskier was spreading the Rebbe’s sichos through his own weekly YouTube channel, in addition to his daily classes at the Mesivta. And just about a month before the project kicked off, he began a podcast in honor of Yud Shvat, actualizing his dream in making sichos accessible to English speakers, starting with the unedited sichos and maimarim.
Shortly afterwards, Lipskier saw the project advertised, and reached out immediately!
The rest is history. Rabbi Lipskier has been involved with Project Likkutei Sichos from the very beginning, and continues to share the Rebbe’s weekly sichos in an accessible and straightforward way. He teaches two of the project’s weekly classes- one of the full sicha, and one as a quick overview.
Often people aren’t fully comfortable with the original language of the sichos, be it Hebrew or Yiddish, and Lipskier is committed to sharing the sicha straight through in English, in a smooth and direct way. He covers every word without pause, and presents the Rebbe’s words unedited and unchanged, for those looking for a simple read-through.
With his overview lesson, Lipskier summarizes the sicha’s main points in about 10 minutes, intended to be used as an aid, when trying to learn the whole Sicha. He answers the overarching questions of the sicha, and covers all the bases while giving the full picture, creating some order and clarity where the Rebbe’s words may get quite complex.
“One of the most rewarding parts of the process is feeling like I did justice teaching a sicha, and succeeded in sharing its depth and nuance. Sometimes we rush to finish things in order to cover more ground- when learning Torah and in life. But we miss the real essence of the words when we skim through them. I have been learning Likkutei Sichos my whole life, but nothing like this. Learning it in order to teach is a completely different experience, and an extremely fulfilling one.”
Preparing a sicha comes with its challenges as well, as you have to understand every single aspect, including the tangential sources the Rebbe brings down. Sometimes its complexity becomes heavy and intense, but when the pieces finally come together, as Lipskier explains, there is nothing like it- especially when you have the opportunity to share it with others.
“The experience really comes together when I have people thanking me for the classes I give, especially other teachers, who use my classes to prepare their own!”
Lipskier has friends reaching out to him he hasn’t spoken with in over 30 years, telling him how nice it is to learn together again! He even has old students reminiscing with him about the “good old days”; his shiurim take them back 25 years, sitting in Lispkier’s classroom once again.
But the inspiration felt isn’t only for his audience; Rabbi Lipskier himself sees the profound way the project has impacted his own life. The Rebbe puts great emphasis on the kind and compassionate way we are to treat others, and the importance of our influence on those around us. The Rebbe reminds us that we each have a mission in this world, and Lipskier knows that being a teacher for Project likkutei Sichos is part of his.
“We are taught that everyone must do what they can for Yiddeshkeit- one with his body, another with his money, and someone else with his speech. Every one of us can carry the Rebbe’s mission in our own unique way. I use my teaching; and I am extremely blessed to have the opportunity to spread light in this incredible way.”
Meet Rabbi Chananya Hoffinger.
For seven years, Rabbi Hoffinger has dedicated his life to making Torah accessible in a new way; one that accommodates the needs of the masses, using one of our generation’s greatest resources: technology.
Torah learning is a staple of our tradition, and a cornerstone of our faith. And yet, the works of our sages and Rabbis are often intricate and complex, filled with wisdom that can sometimes be hard to discern. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
After years of seeing the consistent challenge in Torah learning among his students, Rabbi Hoffinger inspired a new, straightforward, and structured way to dive into the texts. Using power-point presentations, color coding, and flow charts, he has developed an easy-to-use supplement to Torah learning, designed to engage students and organize the text.
Although his work originally began as the Gemara Academy, focusing only on Gemara study, expanding to Likkutei Sichos has always been a dream for Rabbi Hoffinger; and just 10 weeks before Yud Shvat two years ago (the yardtzeit of the 6th Chabad Rebbe) things began to fall into place, revealing Hoffingers next stop along his journey, and ultimately leading him to Project Likkutei Sichos.
“I was at a farbrengen leading up to Yud Shvat, and was inspired to take on something new in its honor. I decided to experiment with creating my presentations for Likkutei Sichos, and spent those 10 weeks uploading a sicha a week.
That was around the same time that Project Likkutei Sichos was well in the works. The pieces were coming together, as it went from dream to reality. I got a message from one of the founders who had seen my presentations of the sichos, and we spoke about the project. The next day, I was already on board, excited to see where it would lead.”
This happened within days of his birthday, and to Hoffinger, it feels like a birthday gift from the Rebbe himself, blessing him with the opportunity to teach and spread his Torah.
Rabbi Hoffinger’s work with Project Likkutei Sichos has provided students with a visual, step-by-step and in-depth journey through the Rebbe’s weekly sichos, which can take up to 10 hours for Hoffinger to prepare.
Each sicha follows the same overall structure, creating a clear and logical flow to the sicha’s progression. A red box contains the sicha’s questions, green contains the answers, purple contains the sicha’s lesson, and so on. The map that Rabbi Hoffinger creates allows students to analyze the sicha’s rich and often complex content in a familiar and reliable way.
However, the Rebbe’s Torah doesn’t always follow the same flow, and each sicha is a world unto itself, leaving ample room for Hoffinger’s creativity.
“The Rebbe doesn’t just answer the questions he poses; he introduces new ideas and new sources that answer those very questions, and we are meant to journey with him to discover those answers.”
As Hoffinger explains, the Rebbe’s work often feels paradoxical, and yet, makes complete sense at the same time. There is a deep profundity and beauty within each sicha, especially when the Rebbe catches us off-guard with a counterintuitive approach.
He expands the bigger picture, finding the perfect synergy in bringing everything together, and creates a solution that transcends all of the details.
The Rebbe doesn’t fix problems; he introduces us to a new way, which is something Hoffinger is passionate about sharing with his students.
To him, being a part of Project Likkutei Sichos is an expression of his identity as a Chassid of the Rebbe. It’s bigger than the learning, and even bigger than the teaching. It’s his way of connection to something so much larger than himself.
“As a teacher in the world of chinuch, your attachment needs to transcend any type of overt experience. On the one hand, there is no greater reward than the results of teaching; however, our dedication cannot be dependent upon it. In chinuch, our dedication goes deeper than that. It becomes our lives, coming from something so deep within the soul.”
Spreading consciousness isn’t quantitative, but rather a quality that slowly seeps throughout our lives. However, looking back, Rabbi Hoffinger sees over 100 sichos he has already taught, and watches that number grow each week.
“Slowly, all the pieces come together to create the greater whole. But we must take one step at a time. One sicha a week adds up. It may feel small, but we must remember that one million is made up of a million ones.”
Meet Rabbi Chaim Wolosow.
Wolosow has always loved teaching. He loves spreading knowledge in a simple, clear and accessible way. He loves the eureka moments his students experience when understanding dawns on them, having successfully internalized the complex and deep concepts of Torah.
Rabbi Wolosow began his life in Brooklyn, and many years later found himself a teacher in Boston, where he has lived for close to 41 years teaching and leading the community of Sharon, Massachusetts, and currently serves as a shaliach with his wife, Sara.
When the founders of Project Likkutei Sichos approached Rabbi Wolosow, he was already knee deep in his own teaching, with in-person Torah classes every day, his own Youtube Torah channel, and a website geared towards spreading the in-depth Torah of Chassidus. But Wolosow quickly jumped at the opportunity to learn with the project. The Rebbe’s sichos are nothing new to him, but the structure and incentive that the project provides in learning the Rebbe’s Torah creates a whole new experience: one that is unparalleled.
“It’s extremely important to have a defined time of study whenever we begin a new project, or a new endeavor. When you have a timeline, you push yourself where you need to be pushed in order to succeed. The Rebbe’s Torah is vast, with so many sichos to learn; but the Rebbe knew we could push ourselves a bit harder. He knew that we could succeed.”
And when a group of people come together with a shared vision, they are nothing less than unstoppable. Project Likkutei Sichos provides the framework for a challenging task, making it accessible to the masses. Even Rabbi Wolosow himself sees the huge benefits to his own learning. In the past, he never felt the pressure to finish all of Likkutei Sichos, as it is undoubtedly a big undertaking. However, with the project, Wolosow has committed to learning and teaching 2 sichos each week.
He admits that with a strict schedule to adhere to, it’s possible for people to rush through the learning. But that is exactly where the teachers come in, to make the learning a bit easier; to help support participants reach their goal within 7 years, something that Rabbi Wolosow is deeply passionate about.
Wolosow’s classes are known for their accessibility. For years as a teacher, he would see students reading Jewish texts over and over, but without truly understanding them. He doesn’t want to simply read words; he wants to share a message in a clear and simple way. Before he dives into the sicha itself, Rabbi Wolosow always gives a bit of an introduction with the basic ideas and themes of the sicha, preparing listeners for what is to come.
“Sichos are an endless fountain of insight, and the Rebbe has an amazing ability to bring out the core human experience in even the most esoteric concepts. He brings Torah down to earth.
There is no individual who would not be mesmerized with the wisdom of the sichos, even for those who didn’t grow up with it. They are so applicable to anyone and everyone, in ways that other commentary may not be.”
The Rebbe was a revolutionary, who saw deep into the hidden wisdom of the text, even when it seemingly defies all simple “pshat”, or translation. In many instances, the Rebbe stood alone in his viewpoints, and in doing so, revealed unparalleled truth. As Rabbi Wolosow explains, with each sicha, there is a whole new wave of enlightenment. Knowing the Rebbe’s greatness is one thing, but experiencing it firsthand through his writing is mind-blowing each and every day.
If there’s one thing Wolosow has learned about himself through his time with Project Likkutei Sichos, its that no dream is unattainable, and no task is too hard. There is always more time in the day for learning if you just look for it; and when you work a bit harder, you can accomplish anything.
“The Rebbe always taught us of the importance of action. We learn Torah in order to live Torah; in order to make this world a home for G-d with good deeds and mitzvos.
With the Rebbe’s blessing, may we take the immense power of our learning through Project Likkutei Sichos, and create a better world.”
Meet Rabbi Levi Avtzon.
By the 3rd week of Project Likkutei Sichos’ debut, Rabbi Avtzon was hooked, and knew he wanted to partake in the teaching, in addition to the learning. The commitment to teaching each week gave Avtzon the push he needed to fully dive into Likkutei Sichos the way he never dreamed he could. He excitedly joined the project’s team within weeks, engrossed in the Rebbe’s weekly words, and continues to bring a unique twist to the Rebbe’s sichos today.
Rabbi Avtzon, who currently serves as the Rabbi of a vibrant shul in Johannesburg, South Africa, believes that as a teacher, context is the most important thing you can give to a student; and unlike other classes in Project Likkutei Sichos, Avtzon’s primary focus is creating context around each sicha. He works to piece back together the different parts of the whole story, and build the bigger picture for his students.
“There are often quite a few differences between the original, unedited versions of the Rebbe’s sichos, and the way they were published in Likkutei Sichos. In the process of writing down the Rebbe’s words into essay form, some of the flavor of the oral form didn’t make the cut.”
In the written edited form we can miss out on stories the Rebbe shared when giving over the Sichos, or the humor the Rebbe would often share in the conversational style of Farbrengen. The spoken versions bring with them a special flavor and character, and add a personal touch that helps the message come across in a more relatable way.
Each week, Rabbi Avtzon travels back in time to the original Farbrengen when the sicha was said. Weekday Farbrengens were recorded, and in the later years, videod. Shabbos and Yom Tov farbrengens were memorized, and then written down after Yom Tov by “Chozrim”.
It’s in oral communication of the Rebbe’s Torah, where you are touched by a world vibrant with the Rebbe’s voice, as a teacher.
“The Lubavitcher Rebbe did incomparably more speaking than writing, unlike many of the other Rabbeim. And when you follow the Rebbe through his original discourse, it becomes a conversation with him that enriches the written essay form of Likkutei Sichos.”
Avtzon brings his students an intimacy that so many of us only dream of with the Rebbe, and connects his words with the bigger picture that we’ve missed over the years. Often, the introductions are taken out, lessons are not fully developed, and sometimes 1 sicha in LD may even be a compilation of three original sichos! But Rabbi Avtzon is committed share the flavor of the original farbrengen. The Sichos were not shared in a vacuum, and when looking at the Farbrengen the context becomes alive.
Many Project Likkutei Sichos students listen to Rabbi Avtzon’s class after diving into the full sicha with another teacher of the project; his insight is like a dessert after the main course, which is of course the Sicha. When there are no discrepancies between the original transcript and the modern sicha, Avtzon looks deep into the footnotes, focusing on points that might be overlook, and brings new context from there.
Just recently, while researching a sicha, “I found a beautiful point about Moshe and Am Yisroel, that never made it into LS. We learn that nation is compared to Moshe — אתה והעם; and just as Moshe is able to bless every Jew, so too every Jew can bless one another and bring down Yeshuos. It is such an incredible message about the power of a sincere Brocha from one Yid to the next!”
For Rabbi Avtzon, being a part of Project Likkutei Sichos goes beyond the incredible accomplishment of one day finishing all of the Rebbe’s sichos- which is no small undertaking. His own father was the publisher of Sichos in English, the flagship organization dedicated to getting the Rebbe’s Torah out to the English speaking crowd. He grew up in a home in which sharing the Rebbe’s wisdom forward was the atmosphere of the home, and being able to continue the family tradition is both meaningful and powerful.
“It is a privilege to be a part of the project, and to be exposed in a systematic way to the Rebbe’s incredible wisdom. The passion and commitment of the project’s organizers and teachers are what inspire us all to keep learning each and every day.»
Meet Rabbi Moshe Klein.
Originally from the “City of Gold”, Jerusalem, Moshe Klein has been living in Crown Heights for fifty-one years now. When he is not managing his Judaica business, selling mezuzot, teffilin and other Judaica items to Jews from around the world, he is traveling the world himself as a mohel, welcoming in the newest members of our nation. For Rabbi Klein, living a life connected to the Rebbe, is of utmost importance. We connect with the holy energy of the Rebbe through infusing our lives with Torah and Mitzvot; and most importantly, through learning his Torah.
When Project Likkutei Sichos began, Rabbi Klein saw just how many fires it ignited within people around him. Jews from all over the world, both Chabad and non-Chabad, were tuning in weekly to be inspired. He began the weekly learning himself, and quickly realized the lack of Yiddish language learning present in the project. Without a second thought, he jumped on board as one of the few teachers spreading the Rebbe’s Torah in Yiddish.
While the majority of the Rebbe’s sichos were originally taught in Yiddish, most have been translated into English, Hebrew, Spanish etc.; and while translations may bring greater accessibility to the masses, we often lose the magic of the Yiddish language- something that Rabbi Klein doesn’t ever want to forget.
For 19 years, Rabbi Klein has been giving his own weekly classes on Likkutei Sichos in Yiddish at his local shul. But for the past year and a half, he has taken on the 8-year commitment of learning Likkutei Sichos along with the Project, with a structure that pushes him to explore even the most challenging sichos.
“I used to choose the easier sichos in the past for my classes- the ones that were the easiest to digest and understand. I wanted to make sure it was accessible to everyone. But I missed so much of the Rebbe’s wisdom because of it. Now with the Project, there is no way around it. I dive into even the most complex and long sichos, and have learned how to turn some of the hardest sichos into classes.”
As Klein explains, the project has encouraged him to create a whole new style of learning for himself, as well his teaching. He spends hours each week poring over the sicha, reading each footnote in detail, and then learning the original sources too! The Project reaches Jews around the world, and as the Tzemach Tzedek once said, ‘something printed is forever’. Taking the time to be thorough and correct is important to Rabbi Klein as he records his classes each week. And when he does not know the answer, he runs through 770, until he finds the answer he needs.
While many of his listeners are Lubavitchers, well-versed not only in Yiddish but in Chabad Chassidus, many are not. Rabbi Klein has students tuning in from around the world, in non- Chabad Chassidish communities where Yiddish is still spoken- a large number of them living in Israel- and he takes the time to explain Chabad concepts, ensuring everyone’s ability to tune in and understand.
Rabbi Klein teaches with passion and love, and his own enthusiasm inspires that of his students, who now feel the Rebbe with them throughout the week. The students are beginning to feel like Torah scholars themselves, each week expanding their horizons with the Rebbe’s brilliance and knowledge. Often, Rabbi Klein even gets calls from students, excited to share their experience- how a sicha changed their outlook on life, or a lesson came exactly when they needed to hear it!
Learning Likkutei Sichos is not just about learning Torah. It goes much deeper than that, as each and every person steps into a personal connection with the Rebbe’s wisdom, and the Rebbe himself.
“It’s hard to describe the feeling of being so connected to the Rebbe. It’s hard to put into words, you begin to live with the Rebbe.
In Tehillim, we are taught that when we learn a piece of Torah, the writer of that Torah is right there, with you. And when you learn the Rebbe’s sichos, he is right in front of you, learning together with you and G-d”
As he continues his journey through Likkutei Sichos, Rabbi Klein understands one thing very clearly: when there is a will, there is a way. No matter how tall the mountain, you will get there with the right determination and patience; although Project Likkutei Sichos may be a big mountain, it is a beautiful one, and from the top you will see a whole new world.
Meet Rabbi Eliahu Stiefelmann.
Already from a young age, Rabbi Stiefelmann was deeply enchanted by the wisdom of Likkutei Sichos; and at the age of 15, he made the commitment to spend the next eight years of his life learning the Rebbe’s words each and every night. Whether in yeshiva, at 770, or even on vacation, Rabbi Stiefelmann would open up Likkutei Sichos, and get lost in the world of the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s Torah. With strong determination and a carefully planned yearly schedule, Stiefelmann achieved his goal, entering the profound world of the Rebbe’s light; and he has never looked back since.
His curiosity and passion for Likkutei Sichos swiftly grew with each sicha he learned, and he began creating his own personal evaluation system for the sichos, in addition to writing a short synopsis for each one- which he still uses for his classes today!
“I had a whole chart in place, rating every sicha according to its complexity and level of challenge, the themes it teaches us, and what situation it could be used in- at the Shabbos table, in a shiur, or maybe during mivtzaim… My life was filled with the Rebbe’s sichos, and I am proud to say that it still is today. I even use the 2 filled booklets of my notes from years ago!”
Today, Rabbi Stiefelmann lives with his family in S. Paulo, Brazil, and serves as a Shaliach for the Jewish community, teaching Torah classes and running the Kollel learning program. For twelve years, Stiefelmann has been teaching three sichos a week, creating classes inspired by the Rebbe’s wisdom and infused with his lessons for life. Likkutei Sichos was written for the masses; the Rebbe spoke to the people of our generation, and Rabbi Stiefelmann is committed to continuing this vision by sharing the Rebbe’s Torah wherever he can- in his Chabad house, on social media, and even through his own Spotify podcast.
Stiefelmann first learned of Project Likkutei Sichos about two years ago when a fellow shaliach in Brazil became involved in the project, and asked Stiefelmann to join him in spreading the Rebbe’s light. His colleague would teach the first sicha, and Rabbi Stiefelmann would take on the second each week, recording their classes for the Portuguese speaking community.
“It was complete Hashgacha Pratis, brought to me directly by G-d! I was so surprised when the opportunity came my way, but I knew he asked the perfect person to join him. Likkutei Sichos have been my life’s passion for over a decade, and although the task seemed a bit daunting, I was excited to give it my all!”
In the beginning, Rabbi Stiefelmann committed to an 8-month trial run of the project, before stepping into the 8-year role. But fast forward 6 months, and the trial run became ancient history, as Stiefelmann himself completely forgot about his 8-month pilot. He was addicted; and there was never even a question whether he would continue to be a part of such an incredible initiative.
While Rabbi Stiefelmann may have spent decades exploring the deep waters of Likkutei Sichos on his own, the project has given him even more than he ever imagined. It challenges him on the complex sichos he so often skipped in the past, and pushes him to dive even deeper, immersing himself unlike ever before.
“I have never learned the Rebbe’s sichos this way. I have never absorbed them in such a way that they become such an integral part of me. I understand the Rebbe’s Torah on a whole new level now, which allows me to share that very wisdom with others.”
Every Sunday morning, Rabbi Steilfelmann sits in his office and pours over the sicha of the week, exploring each “ha’ara” or reference, to really understand the full picture of the Rebbe’s words. Just a few weeks ago, Stiefelmann excitedly finished the longest and most intricate sicha he’s ever learned, a siyum on Masechet Chagigah, marking his longest recording for Project Likkutei Sichos yet.
The project has given him the opportunity to explore sichos that a 15-year-old Stiefelmann found scary and untouchable; and it is precisely in those very challenging and detailed sichos where often the most meaning can be found. He has a newfound appreciation for sichos that were once too tedious and detailed, discovering that within each sicha is a vast world of knowledge and expertise waiting to be explored.
Living with the Rebbe in such an intimate way has been lifechanging for Rabbi Stiefelmann, who lets the Rebbe’s words guide him into his week with the sichos.
“You begin to see life in a different way. The Rebbe talks to us through his sichos, and reminds us how to live. There is more trust in G-d and more faith in life. I not only bring these life lessons into my classes, but keep them for myself in dealing with the personal, emotional and financial challenging moments that life brings to us all. It’s transformational.”
As a young bachur, Rabbi Steilfelmann looks back and remembers his awe in the many Rabbis who always had a piece of Torah to share, ready at a moment’s notice with the perfect words in any situation. Today, he finally understands how; and as he continues his journey with Likkutei Sichos, Rabbi Stiefelmann is beginning to teach exactly the same way.
Meet Rabbi Ari Shishler.
For almost twenty-three years, Rabbi Shishler, along with his wife and 8 children, have had the privilege of building and expanding their thriving Chabad house in Strathaveon- Johannesburg, South Africa. Although it has always been a family affair, things became official when their eldest son recently married and joined them on their mission of the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s shlichus. Together, they are continuing to help their vibrant Jewish community grow.
When Rabbi Shishler first heard about Project Likkutei Sichos, he knew he had to take part in such an incredible initiative. To teach two of the Rebbe’s sichos each week is to live with the Rebbe, and Shishler sees the deep transformation it continuously has on him.
“Every week, each sicha reveals a new and innovative perspective on Judaism. Even with the sichos I have learned before, I find a whole new perspective every time I open up Likkutei Sichos. We are learning sichos that in the past may have been challenging, and even glossed over. Now, we have to opportunity to dive into them, and learn their deep truths.”
As Rabbi Shishler desrcibes, within each sicha there is an “ein sof”, a never-ending source of wisdom that we can continuously reveal, rich with the deep layers of the Rebbe’s Torah. It is this wisdom that Shishler brings back with him to his community as a shaliach every week, to instill in their values, and infuse within his Torah classes.
The Rebbe’s Torah has always been meant for our modern world; as modern people living in a physical reality, the Rebbe taught ways in which to bring divine loftiness back down to earth. One of Rabbi Shishler’s favorite parts of teaching each week is the challenge in translating abstract Torah concepts into “real world” terminology, something the Rebbe guides him in doing through Likkutei Sichos. At times we may feel disconnected from the esoteric concepts we hear and speak about while learning Torah. But when we can connect to them through our very own lives, we find that these lofty Torah ideas are actually living through us, running through our veins, with every action we take.
Rabbi Shishler asks us to question our preconceived notions with the concepts and ideas many of us have been learning since age five. How can we understand them on a deeper level? How can we find their very real relevance within our lives today?
“The Rebbe addresses modern issues for our generation; we simply need to find the right language to make his Torah both easily digestible and accessible to anyone and everyone who wants to learn the Rebbe’s wisdom.”
Although Shishler may not get face-time with his audience- and while he admits this may be his biggest challenge with the virtual world- the feedback he receives goes a long way. An old student of Shishlers is even committed to giving him weekly feedback- and posts it on social media with a link to the shiur!
“A little bit of feedback is enough to keep a person feeling like they are making a difference. Never underestimate the value of one compliment.” Now, not only does Rabbi Shishler receive the positive feedback that encourages him to keep teaching, but he sees the Rebbe’s Torah spreading like wildfire as a result; he sees it changing lives, his own family feeling this impact possibly the most.
Within months of Project Likkutei Sichos starting, the Shishler family received a difficult medical diagnosis for their youngest daughter. As Rabbi Shishler and his wife, Naomi, began learning how to navigate such a challenging time for the whole family, the Rebbe’s weekly sichos quickly became an invaluable lifeline. Plugging into the Rebbe’s sichos every single week, Shishler explains, has been a key factor in keeping both him and his wife focused and balanced. To be aligned with the Rebbe’s light and with his outlook on life during such a challenging time, is a precious resource they both cherish.
The value in connecting with the Rebbe’s Torah is undoubtedly clear, and Shishler believes that it is exponentially greater than the time and energy it takes on our side.
He encourages us all to become students of the Rebbe, and start learning today. Project Likkutei Sichos has made learning the Rebbe’s sichos an accessible goal. Once, learning every sicha would have seemed an impossible feat; and yet, here we are, almost 2 years later, still learning each week.
“Start today. Start with just one sicha. When you hold that focus, slow and steady, you will get there. In just 6 years, you will know the entirety of Likkutei Sichos, and learn the Rebbe’s unbelievable insight into how every Jew can live a meaningful life in the 21st century.”
We have been given a guide for life from the Rebbe; it is a gift, and learning Likkutei Sichos is indeed an investment worth making.
Meet Daniella Golan.
Just a year after the passing of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, Daniella Golan received the lasting blessing from the Lubavitcher Rebbe himself to open a place of Torah study for women in Israel; and in 1989, Golan officially opened Ohr Chaya, named in blessed memory of the Rebbetzin, which has been a warm and transformative home to thousands of Jewish women ever since.
Located in the golden city of Jerusalem, Ohr Chaya brings the Rebbe’s Torah to life, and inspires women daily. Golan holds her mission from the Rebbe with fervor, closely to her heart.
“Thirty-five years ago, very few orthodox Rabbis were teaching women, and encouraging women in Torah study. The Rebbe was a visionary, a reformer. And Ohr Chaya stands today because of him.”
Daniella has been teaching Torah for years, but it was just a few years ago that her life completely transformed with Likkutei Sichos. When she first discovered Project Likkutei Sichos, Golan was excited to bring it to the women of Ohr Chaya. It was a wonderful way to dive into the Rebbe’s weekly sichos, with the right resources needed to truly experience the magic of the Rebbe’s words. Golan quickly became involved in the project herself, and was asked to teach one of the weekly sichos in Hebrew to women.
Today, she teaches the weekly sicha in person to three different classes of women in Ohr Chaya, while many more women from around the world have the opportunity to tune in from the comfort of their own homes. Daniella believes in going beyond the simple translation, and beneath the words. She travels with her students into the ideas and deep insights that the Rebbe hands us- insights that are truly life-changing.
“With every sicha you learn, it becomes a part of you. You are right there with the Rebbe, learning Torah with him. And it is just incredible.”
As she prepares each week for her class, Golan spends days diving deep into the world of the Rebbe, learning every word and understanding each “ha’ara,” or comment. She learns with the project’s other teachers as well, listening to 5 or 6 of their classes as she builds her own. And Golan admits, the learning beforehand is her favorite part.
“When teaching a sicha, you cannot simply pretend to understand it. You must know it to its core, to its depth, if you truly want to share its wisdom with others. As a woman myself, I love being able to explore the ideas that speak to me with other women.”
Together, Golan and the women in her class have created a weekly community of women- one with a lot of life. They discuss the ideas with one another, ask questions, and experience the light of the Rebbe’s Torah; and Golan is extremely grateful to be a part of it. Her weekly class hasn’t yet once been canceled, and even from afar while traveling, Daniella will find a way to make it work.
Unabashedly, Likkutei Sichos has become her whole life, and she has the project to thank for gifting her with this treasure. Her days are filled with a deeper connection to the Rebbe, and more joy in her heart; and her life is filled with many more blessings and miracles. Daniella even shares some of the Rebbe’s Torah with her grandchildren as she teaches them ideas from the sichos over milkshakes together!
“Project Likkutei Sichos is genius. I am so lucky to be a part of such an incredible project, and work alongside brilliant teachers. The project will change the world in ways we cannot even imagine.”
Golan lives with the project day in and day out, and even learns the second sicha of the week on her own after she teaches the first sicha for the project. Just recently, Golan received the “Yakir Yerushalayim” prize from the mayor of Jerusalem, recognizing her immense contribution to the culture and education of the city. Before an interview with a local newspaper, her daughter reminded her jokingly to not only speak about the project! Her family laughs with her that her world has become Project Likkutei Sichos, completely filled with the words of the Rebbe- and she holds this with pride.
“It’s all I talk about. I have changed completely as a person through this experience. I thank everyone involved for bringing this blessing into the world.”
Meet Mrs. Rivky Slonim
As the Chabad shluchim at Binghamton, NY, Rivky and her husband, Rabbi Aaron Slonim, spend their time giving to the thriving Jewish community they have been building over the last thirty-seven years: it is an ever-expanding student community at Binghamton University who then become alumni once they leave. As Rivky explains, “it is her whole life,” one that is filled with teaching, traveling, connecting and creating.
When she first heard of Project Likkutei Sichos, her busy schedule left little room for new commitments, despite the excitement and intrigue it left her with. But as a global pandemic began making its way into the minutiae of our daily lives, Rivky knew she could make use of the free time she now had; and with that, she joined the project and jumped right in, finding a new way to spread light during challenging times.
For close to two years, every Monday morning at 10 AM, Rivky signs onto Zoom to gather with a group of women from around the world, ready to learn a new sicha of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. As one of few classes held live each week, Rivky has the privilege of meeting her students face-to-face.
“There is a certain power that comes with people joining together to learn Torah. We have created a small community of women, and have created connections through this. I may be the one doing the formal teaching, but I feel the presence of—and learn from—everyone; we very much learn together.”
Learning live creates a space for questions and reflections, and one where the women have come to inspire one another through showing up. Most of the women have full families, day jobs and busy schedules; and yet each week, they make the time to sit with their community, and learn Torah. It is a commitment not only to the Rebbe, but to one another.
The weekly commitment has made the experience truly transformative, not only in regards to the community it has helped to build, but in the learning itself. There is a cumulative effect when we commit to consistency; we enter into a new headspace, and the experience becomes that much more powerful. As Rivky explains, the Rebbe taught us how to think, not what to think. And through showing up consistently each week, we are beginning to enter into the deep world of sichos.
“Every sicha you learn helps you to understand every other sicha. It is a science with its own rules and axioms and terrain.”
It is through entering this world that one begins to understand the vastness of the Rebbe’s teachings, and Rivky admits that it may take another one hundred- thousand years to truly appreciate the enormity, depth, and breadth of the ocean that is Likkutei Sichos.
Through the teaching process, Rivky has deepened her personal connection to the Rebbe, and has gained a whole new level of “bekius” or basic Torah knowledge. But maybe most importantly, she has gained an understanding of just how much she will never know, an understanding that will keep her an eternal student of the Rebbe’s guiding Torah.
“It is amazing how deeply each sicha speaks to you. Everything you take in becomes a part of you, and I see them integrated into my everyday life. The sichos have become my ‘North Star’.”
Every week, Rivky sets aside the time to properly choose the right sicha for that week’s learning. Of the two sichos, which seems most relevant to our moment? Which may be more compelling, especially to our community of women? Which one seems to be doable in an hour or an hour and a half?
Then, together with her husband, who has supported her role in the project from the very beginning, Rivky learns the sicha at length- and multiple times, often calling other teachers and Rabbis with questions. In a community bursting with so many Torah resources and experienced teachers, learning from others is a tool that Rivky feels privileged to have, and can bring back with her to the women in her class.
There are times when the material is challenging, as each sicha brings in something new to explore. Especially for women, some sichos enter territory many women have never explored before in Torah learning, and that can be intimidating. But with each sicha, the women show up together with the power of commitment and determination, and try their best.
“We have created a certain sisterhood among women across the globe- South Africa, England, South America and of course, across the United States…we have a web around the world; both a web of learning and a web of support. One member was able to speak on Zoom about a loved one on the day of her last Kaddish. We made a “lechaim” and we were all crying together.”
For Rivky, her weekly time with Project Likkutei Sichos is a time to cherish.
“It has become a kind of Shabbos to me, an axis around which my whole week revolves, and I am deeply grateful for it in my life. The project has ignited a fire. The heavens have opened to something unstoppable- a repository of treasures for all people to access, in our day and for all time.”
This profile is part of a featured series on the incredible Maggidei Shiurim who teach for Project Likkutei Sichos.
Meet Rabbi Moshe Spalter
Rabbi Spalter has lived with the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s sichos for much of his life. He knows their brilliance, and sees their impact. When he heard about Project Likkutei Sichos through the grapevine, he signed up before it even began, knowing from the start what a revolutionary project it would become; and he was right.
As the Chabad shaliach of Southern Ontario, together with his wife, Rabbi Spalter has been involved in teaching Torah and spreading Judaism within his vibrant community for forty years now. Both his passion for teaching and vast experience reflect the large role he has taken on within Project Likkutei Sichos.
Every week, Rabbi Spalter prepares 4 classes for the project, committing himself to learning both of the Rebbe’s weekly sichos. For each sicha, he dives into the text, translating and reviewing the Rebbe’s wisdom word for word- either from Yiddish or Hebrew. But in addition to his text-based classes, Rabbi Spalter teaches a weekly synopsis class, which has become one of the project’s most popular lectures. Not everyone can find the time or the headspace for an in-depth weekly class, but with a weekly summary, even the busiest listeners can soak in the Rebbe’s light.
“The synopsis classes are a creative challenge for me, a chance for me to become more innovative. I need to digest each sicha on my own before I choose how to bring together the Rebbe’s points in a short and meaningful way. I both need to absorb the sicha, and then distill it in order to share it with listeners.”
As Spalter explains, sometimes we cannot see the forest for the trees; we may lose the large picture, or the Rebbe’s intention, if we focus too closely on smaller details and risk getting lost there. The weekly synopses allow us to see the whole forest, and hear the clear message of the Rebbe in a concise way.
While the commitment of teaching four weekly classes is no small undertaking, in addition to the responsibilities of running his own Chabad House, Spalter welcomes the challenge. He may have been learning Torah all his life, but the project has given him more reason to dedicate much of his time to learning the Rebbe’s Torah, something that has certainly changed his life for the better.
The weekly task at hand focuses him; the project gives him the drive to be fully committed, while creating a vessel for learning in an orderly and consistent way. It not only creates structure for his own Torah study, but Rabbi Spalter knows it does this for all of its participants.
“The amount of content being generated by the project is truly remarkable. It has created an accessible way for anyone, anywhere to learn the Rebbe’s sichos. Participants can find a way to learn that speaks uniquely to them. Teaching style, language, level of intensity…there are so many options. There are even learning options for children!”
Although he may not have face-time with his virtual students, Rabbi Spalter sees the deep impact Project Likkutei Sichos has on the larger community. The numbers keep climbing, and he knows he is a part of something innovative. Something big. And the feedback he receives makes the experience that much more gratifying.
Spalter has had the privilege to meet some of his students in person, and is encouraged by the positive responses he receives. He has even gotten calls from time to time from listeners looking to discuss or understand a concept taught in one of his classes. He then gets the opportunity to dive a bit deeper, one-on-one, with his students.
But his most gratifying feedback is undoubtedly from his own 17-year-old granddaughter, who calls Spalter up often to discuss his classes on the sichos, and to share her own reflections on the Rebbe’s Torah. Her level of engagement is but a small window into the vast world of learning that Project Likkutei Sichos has brought into the community.
Spalter encourages the project’s students to continue learning alongside its weekly study schedule.
“Likkutei Sichos is where the Rebbe laid out his vision of the world, and our role as Jews within it. It will change your lives.”
This profile is part of a featured series on the incredible Maggidei Shiurim who teach for Project Likkutei Sichos.
Meet Mrs. Freidy Yanover
From a young age, chassidus has been “mother’s milk” to Freidy, a staple in her development and growth, as well as a constant in her life.
“Chassidus simply flowed in our home. It was where everything came from.” She recalls that it was early on in her life when she connected to the profoundness of Chassidic wisdom; there is always a knowledge beyond the knowledge.
Chassidus is layered with a deeper meaning nestled into the words on a page, and it is precisely in the spaces between the words where the intended message can be found.
And so it is with the Rebbe’s teachings. We can read the words with a basic understanding, and yet, if we do not dive into their core, we risk losing so much of their intent.
It is with this understanding that Freidy approaches her weekly classes for Project Likkutei Sichos.
Blessed with parents who valued the intention behind a word and coming from a family of teachers and translators who are shluchim around the world, words have always been a big part of her life. She grew up learning the nuances of language, and the power which sits at the core of each word.
“When you have both a love of language and a love of chassidus, there is a merging that takes place, where you can almost marry the words on the page with a deeper understanding beyond what can be seen at face-value.”
Freidy began teaching for the project from the very beginning, and although it was her first time teaching the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s sichos on such a consistent basis, she jumped right in- into the sources and references the Rebbe laid as foundation throughout each sicha. Each “ha’ara” is like another clue on the map, and when each reference is gathered along the way, it reveals the deep treasure waiting to be found.
Freidy is committed to following the learning path that the Rebbe has laid out within each sicha, a brilliant framework connecting the dots from all across Torah. The references in the Rebbes sichos navigate the entire world of Torah thought. References lead us to the Talmud, followed immediately by another that leads us to Kabbalistic sources. And as we piece it all together, the journey we are on suddenly becomes clear, and the message clear as well.
Every week, Freidy humbly aims to use greater accuracy in delivering the sichos, not just in their stark translation, but to translate them into words that represent their deeper meaning, a meaning that is applicable to each and every one of us today. In doing so she endeavors to get to the heart of the matter, to understand the lesson the Rebbe intended.
“We are always teaching to a generation. We teach not to what was in the past, but to what is now, and with an eye to what will be. We need to look at our generation, and find the message that is meant for us. The Rebbe taught like this, and the sichos are transcribed to do just this.”
Freidy explains that as she continues to live with a new sicha each week, she grows more and more familiar with the way the Rebbe develops an idea. The Rebbe’s framework for teaching has seeped into her own teaching, as she builds her lectures and classes on contemporary thoughts in Chassidus.
In her work as a therapist as well, Freidy sees the influence of the Rebbe’s sichos. When she is not teaching for Project Likkutei Sichos, she is bringing the Rebbe’s unique methodology into her therapy practice with clients, and of course into the way she lives her own life.
“It is an incredible zechus to be a part of this project, to be able to learn so much myself, and then to share it with women around the world. I may not know all my students personally, but as I expand my understanding, it is a privilege to facilitate this for others as well.”
This profile is part of a featured series on the incredible Maggidei Shiurim who teach for Project Likkutei Sichos.
Meet Rabbi Moshe Gourarie
Originally from Detroit, Michigan, today Gourarie and his wife run the Chabad House of Tom’s River, NJ, where they have lived with their 12 children for 18 years and counting. What began as a more typical “Chabad house” style community- focused primarily on outreach- slowly blossomed into one with a thriving religious Jewish life, as more traditional families began joining the community in recent years.
With this shift, the Gourarie family’s reach has broadened, and so have their services.
Not only is outreach a part of their mission, but imbuing the community with chassidus is now a big part of it too.
Thus, it is no surprise that Project Likkutei Sichos is so close to Rabbi Gourarie’s heart. Involved with the project from the very beginning, he watched as a personal passion project quickly turned into a community-wide operation, connecting people across the globe through the wisdom of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. And each week, he continues to take part in that mission.
As Gourarie explains, “The Rebbe taught that every milestone creates a special energy that is meant to be harnessed and utilized”. On the 70th anniversary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s leadership, a very powerful energy was used to help create and cultivate such a successful project, and it continues to help Project Likkutei Sichos flourish each week, as its resources, languages, and viewers worldwide rapidly expand.
“God’s hand is in everything we do. Yet, there are times in life when we are blessed to see it clearly. The Rebbe’s role in the project is so clear to me, from the very beginning. I am incredibly blessed to be a part of such a special endeavor.”
Rabbi Gourarie teaches a classic text-based class on the first sicha each week. He may already be a full time shaliach and father, but the Rebbe’s sichos have become a huge part of his daily life, beginning with his weekly class preparation.
Gourarie believes in giving his students the full story; each sicha of the Rebbe is without a doubt a whole world unto itself, with comments that direct us to other sources and references divinely placed to teach us through their context. These “ha’aros” are crucial, Rabbi Gourarie explains, and through collecting the many puzzle pieces along the way himself, Gourarie strives to give his students the full picture, without them needing to know the different references beforehand. He provides the context needed for listeners, as he dives into the text of the sicha each week, and translates it into English from both Yiddish and Hebrew.
But the sichos’ influence on Gourarie’s life go well beyond the scope of teaching; they have become a part of his family. Each week, both his wife and children learn alongside him, and work on creations of their own to help spread the Torah of the Rebbe. Gourarie’s wife, who grew up in a family of sicha transcribers and translators, has found her own unique way of continuing the family tradition, and has teamed up with their children to create weekly animated videos, based on a poem she writes each week for the sicha.
“There is an enthusiasm around the Rebbe’s sichos in our home, as my children create, direct and edit their work each week. The Rebbe’s ideas follow us to the Shabbat table. It has become a part of our family, and has not only made me into a better person, but has had a positive impact on my family as well.”
And well beyond his family, Project Likkutei Sichos has become a “household name” among many, finding its place in the wider community, and making its way into mainstream culture.
This comes as no surprise, as the project itself both survives and thrives on the community it has created, and the many volunteers who put in the work day in and day out. It takes a village; and when a village comes together with a shared vision, the results are truly remarkable.
“The project is all about connection, in its consistency and simplicity. People come together to learn each week, and there is a great power in that one simple goal.”
Although Gourarie doesn’t teach face-to-face, every time he hits “record” at the beginning of each class, he feels the adrenaline rush as if it were day one- and his students feel the excitement too. Many see Rabbi Gourarie as their weekly chavrusa, and feel a personal connection to him even though they’ve never met.
Gourarie recalls visiting a community member during a challenging time. “He asked me to bring my Likkutei sichos to learn, and I laughed. But he was serious, because we already learn together each week! There is a built-in friendship and connection through the project, despite not getting the chance to teach in person, and seeing the results of my classes is both meaningful and inspiring.”
But the learning and teaching goes both ways. One of the Rabbi’s favorite parts of the process is his own learning. As he teaches, Gourarie gains a whole new level of understanding, and gets to learn from some of the other project’s teachers as well. As he prepares each week, he speaks with teachers from around the world, as they connect over the Rebbe’s ideas.
“The best part of teaching is the learning,” Rabbi Gourarie shares “and as I continue to grow as a teacher, I become an even better student.”