By the Grace of G‑d
13 Elul, 5701 [תש"א; 1941]
Brooklyn

To our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of Israel,
wherever you may be:

May G‑d’s blessings light upon you with everlasting peace!

“It is a time of trouble1 for Yaakov, but he shall be delivered from it.”

Our brothers and sisters overseas are in an awesome predicament. Hundreds and thousands of individuals and entire communities are being tormented by deadly terrors. Those who survive are doomed to hunger, captivity and exile, and no one can be certain that these calamities will not spread (G‑d forbid) to other lands.

Rambam writes Rambam writes: Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Taaniyos 1:1-4. in the Laws of the Fasts: “It is a positive obligation2 stated in the Torah to cry out to G‑d in prayer whenever a great calamity should befall3 the community.[…] This is counted among the paths of repentance — that when a calamity arrives and people cry out and sound the Shofar, everyone will know that it was because of their wrongdoing that this evil befell them […], and this will cause the calamity to be removed from them. If, however, they do not cry out […], arguing instead that ‘this event happened to us as part of the natural way of the world’ and that the calamity happened by chance, this approach is cruel, because it causes people to persist in their wrongdoing and thus brings about further disasters[…]. Moreover, the Sages ordained that people should fast over every calamity that overtakes the community, until heaven shows them compassion.”

The days of compassion and of the penitential prayers The days of compassion and of the penitential prayers: In the original, yemei harachamim vehaselichos. are approaching. Accordingly, with the sanction of the revered admurim and learned rabbis, we hereby proclaim a worldwide public fast4 for the entire Jewish people, concerning the current awesome disasters.

By uniform consent, one day has been fixed for the fast throughout all the dispersed communities of Israel — the first day of Selichos, the twenty-second of this month. The penitential prayers will be recited, the passage beginning Vaychal5 will be publicly read in the Torah, and the prayer beginning Aneinu6 will be added to Shemoneh Esreh. (Those who are unwell, and likewise pregnant and nursing mothers, are not obliged to fast, but should redeem the fast by a charitable donation.)7

“Listen carefully, Israel, and hear!”8

It is plain to see that all the troubles and tribulations that are befalling us are the birthpangs of Mashiach. Our G‑d demands that we return to Him in wholehearted repentance, every man and woman according to his individual level in the observance of the commandments, so that we should not hinder the coming of Mashiach, our Righteous Redeemer.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of Israel, let us all as one arouse ourselves and return in repentance to our G‑d, to His Law and to His Torah.

I beg of you, dear brothers and sisters, have pity on yourselves and on your sons and daughters, so that no one will (G‑d forbid) perish during these birthpangs. Forsake the profanation of the commandments,entreat our Father in heaven to grant forgiveness for the past, and choose to observe the practical mitzvos.

We place our trust in the promise that “G‑d is mighty and will not spurn [the prayers of the public]”;9 that the arousal in repentance and the prayers and supplications of Jews in all their dispersed communities will find their way to the Master of All and “He will say to our troubles:10 Enough!” — and that He will bless us all, our brothers and sisters together with their sons and daughters wherever they may be, with a good and sweet year both materially and spiritually. And may we all be found worthy to behold the ultimate Redemption in the very near future, Amen, Amen!

Yosef Yitzchak