th (9).jpg

A container is defined by its contents. If a decanter, for example, contains even a little water, you’ll say, “Pass the water.”

Your home is also defined by its contents. Aside from those who live there, the most significant items are the Torah books lining the shelves and scattered about. They transform the environment in which you live.

There’s another advantage to filling your home with Torah books: You or your kids might just pick one up and read a little. And then maybe even start asking some questions. Beware: This behavior may prove habit-forming.

In the Chabad-Lubavitch community, tomorrow, Dec 27, is the 5th day of the Hebrew month of Tevet. It marks as a most special and joyous day. The day celebrates the "victory of the sefarim"--the victory of the Torah books.

On this date in 1987, a US Federal court issued a ruling regarding the Chabad-Lubavitch library housed at 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, NY. Several books, many of them priceless, rare volumes, had been wrongfully removed from the library. 

When the case went to court, what was at stake was not just the part of the collection that had been removed but ownership of the entire library. What was on trial was our collective relationship to the library and the teachings they represent.

The court's decision—upheld in subsequent appeals—was that the library does indeed belong not to any individual but to the Chabad-Lubavitch community. The pivotal testimony, delivered with absolute sincerity, was the statement of the Rebbetzin, daughter of the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe and wife of theRebbe. In response to the question as to whom the books belong, she answered "The books, like my father, belong to the Chassidim."

The books, the court affirmed, are not the property of an individual but rather of a communal library—and by extension, everyone who makes use of that library.

The Rebbe never regarded this victory as a personal, or even a Chabad-Lubavitch victory. He regarded it a victory for all of the Jewish people. 

The real completion of a Sefer Torah—the Rebbe said—is in the sefarim, the printed Torah books—books such as the ones returned to us on the 5th of Tevet. Books that you carry around with you, stealing a few moments to learn from while you wait for the train or stuck at a red light. Books that you read with your kids over cereal and warm mugs of cocoa. Books that you use to bribe them into brushing their teeth. Books you curl up with as soon as your work, for this day at least, is done.

It is only to the extent that we use our books that we complete—in a spiritual sense—the books themselves, and the Torah scroll whose words they are based on.

Upon the Rebbe's instructions, Chabad-Lubavitch Chassidim have a tradition- 30 years old now- of celebrating the 5th Tevet not only with Chassidic gatherings but also with book sales. 

Because the real victory for the books—for the Torah itself—is when we fill our homes with volumes of Jewish books, and our days with their teachings.

"Books with souls"--that's how the Rebbe referred to the liberated library. Souls that can only find their expression through us.