The mitzvah of ‘pidyon shvuyim’ – redeeming captives – is one of the central topics in this week’s Torah portion ‘Vayigash’ as we read about Binyamin being imprisoned in Egypt and Yehudah’s determination to release him. In his ‘Hey Tevet’ talk the Rebbe points to an interesting fact: the mitzvah of redeeming captives can refer to books as well!
The books of the Torah can not disseminate the light of knowledge as long as they stay on the stores’ shelves. That’s why buying the holy books may be likened to “pidyon shvuyim” – redemption of captives. By purchasing Torah books, a person does more than just replenish his library. He contributes to the release of “captives” – the “sparks” of holiness and wisdom, scattered in the world. And ultimately, to the Redemption of the world as a whole.
From the Rebbe’s explanations:
– It should be added that the connection between the mitzvah of “pidyon shvuyim” and the time of Geulah (Redemption) is especially manifested in the idea of ‘redeeming books’. Bringing the Geulah depends on the actions that redeem the ‘sparks of sanctity’ which fell into this world, and have not been released until now. All that happens in the world has its source in the Torah. And so, it’s obvious that the potential to release these sparks depends on the redemption of those Torah concepts and ideas, that have not yet been rescued from the captivity [of ignorance]. (Based on the Rebbe’s talk on the Eve of the Fifth of Teves, 5752)
Hei Tevet (the 5th of Tevet), is referred to by chassidim as Didan Notzach, meaning, “We were victorious!” On this date in 5747 (1987), The Federal Court issued a decision in favor of the “Union of Chabad Chassidim” regarding the ownership of the priceless library of the 6th Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch, Rebbe Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn – the Rebbe Rayatz. The ruling was based on the idea that a Rebbe is not a private individual but a communal figure. In large part, the ruling was a result of the testimony of the Rebbe’s wife, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, who stated that just as the Rebbe belongs to his chassidim, so too do the books belong to the chassidim.
The Rebbe further explained that this occasion should be marked by buying and studying new Torah books.
– Today is a day associated with the liberation of holy texts and the redemption of holy texts which were “held captive.” There are still traces of this negative influence remaining, for today there are still a group of holy texts which are waiting to be redeemed from captivity and returned to their rightful owner [the Rebbe Rayatz]. Also they are waiting to be returned to the building which served as his synagogue, house of study, and house of good deeds, “the house of our master in Babylon.” May this day speed the return of these holy texts and the manuscripts that are being held with them. (Based on the Rebbe’s talk on the Eve of the Fifth of Teves, 5752)