Many of our readers have long wished for a friendly elder chassid at their elbow who could show them — discreetly — just how a younger chassid should conduct himself throughout his day and throughout his year. It is with pleasure, therefore, that we introduce to our readers Sefer HaMinhagim: The Book of Chabad-Lubavitch Customs.

The Hebrew original of this work was compiled by R. Menachem Zeev Greenglass and R. Yehudah Leib Groner, and was first published by Kehot Publication Society in 1966. A few words are in order on the nature of this unique volume.

1. Commenting on the function of the Hebrew original of the present work, the Rebbe Shlita once said at a yechidus: “The Sefer HaMinhagim is not a Shulchan Aruch. It cites our custom when there are several opinions in the Shulchan Aruch, but does not substitute it.”

2. By its very nature this compendium of Chabad-Lubavitch customs does not set out to give complete instructions on how to perform any particular mitzvah.* When it speaks of putting on the tallis gadol, for example, it does not inform the reader that he should stand while doing so, since this is universal practice; the only stages mentioned are those in which a distinctive mode of practice needs to be pinpointed.

3. This work is comprised almost exclusively of brief verbatim quotations from a wide variety of books, letters, talks and so on. This explains the apparent lack of stylistic cohesion in its treatment of any particular subject.

4. Careful readers will observe that the translation differs somewhat from the order of the Hebrew original. The reason: An effort has been made to bring together all the customs of a particular event or season, and hence to make them more readily accessible to the English reader. For example, all the paragraphs dealing with events in the month of Nissan have been collated from their various sources in the book and dovetailed in calendrical sequence. Consistency in this, however, is unattainable. Firstly, there are considerations of thematic continuity; secondly, Sefer HaMinhagim is basically an anthology, whose lists of customs are often culled from sources where they appear as indivisible units.

In order to streamline the reader’s searches, therefore, a detailed Table of Contents, an alphabetical Subject Index, and a battery of strategically-placed cross references are always on hand, to guide him to the precise item of information that he seeks.

5. Readers in the Land of Israel will of course keep in mind that the customs and prayers enumerated herein are geared for the Diaspora, where the pilgrim festivals are of different length. (On Pesach, for example, only one Seder is celebrated in the Holy Land; Shavuos is observed on the sixth of Sivan only; and the rejoicing of Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah is telescoped into just over twenty-four exuberant hours.)

6. This compilation includes customs current at the date of its original publication in Hebrew. Since then, many thousands of letters and talks of the Lubavitcher Rebbe Shlita have been published, annotated and indexed, and a considerable mass of chassidic scholarship and research has been recorded in manuscript or published in a wide range of learned journals around the world. Scattered between the strata of this vast goldmine are further details and documentation on the customs described in this work, as well as descriptions of the renewed or innovated customs of the ever-vibrant Chabad-Lubavitch community.

For example: The age-old custom renewed by the Rebbe Shlita in 1974, whereby little girls from the age of about three light a candle before sunset on Friday in honor of the approaching Sabbath Queen, is now lovingly observed not only in tens of thousands of chassidic homes around the world, but also in hundreds of thousands of other Jewish homes. Nevertheless, because it became current after 1966, it is of course not mentioned in the present work. Together with many other chassidic customs, it will have to wait until the formidable task is undertaken of mining and sifting through the treasures of the above-mentioned goldmine.

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The original work was researched, restructured and translated by Uri Kaploun. Prominent among the scholarly chassidim whom he consulted extensively were Rabbi Tuvia Blau and Rabbi Avraham Baruch Pevsner, who gave of their time unstintingly. The translation was then scrutinized in all its complexity by Rabbi Yonah Avtzon, Director of Sichos In English, as he prepared it for the press. Yosef Yitzchok Turner patiently gave the book its typographical attractiveness and precision, and we are indebted to Avrohom Weg for the cover design. Thanks are also due to Rabbi Doniel S. Wise, compiler of Shulchan Aruch HaKotzer, for the use of his instructive diagrams. Finally, it was the staff of London Lubavitch Foundation, and in particular Rev. A. D. Sufrin, Director of Education, who first drafted an English rendition of Sefer HaMinhagim, and thereby motivated the undersigned publishing house to undertake this project.

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In making the present translation public, we are confident that the English reader will find this long-awaited elder chassid at his elbow approachable, instructive and authoritative.

Sichos In English

14 Kislev,** 5752