Until the late 1970s, the Tanya, the central work of Chabad chasidic philosophy, had been printed less than 100 times since its original publication in 1796 by the Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman. But in 1978, the Rebbe launched a special Tanya printing campaign, announcing that he wanted the Tanya to be printed in any country where it had not yet been printed. Since then, there have been 7,530 editions, thank G-d, and we’re still going strong.
The purpose of printing the Tanyas, as the Rebbe explained it, is to help bring Mashiach, by disseminating the teachings of Chasidism – “spreading the wellsprings outward,” in the traditional phrase. But, instead of those springs just bringing water to some far places, printing a Tanya in a new city was a way of spreading the “fountainhead” itself. A place where the Tanya was being printed would become the source from which the wellsprings of the Torah would flow out further.
He gave a few general instructions regarding the master text, specified that each print run should have at least a thousand copies, and also said something very significant: Printing Tanyas would be a channel to draw down blessings for the year ahead.
As a member of the team responsible for publishing the Rebbe’s teachings, I had worked on a commemorative edition of the Tanya, in honor of the Rebbe’s 70th birthday, a few years earlier.
Now, with this campaign, I became much more involved. On the morning before Yom Kippur of that year, just over a month after the Rebbe announced the printing initiative, we got a call from Rabbi Leibel Groner, the Rebbe’s secretary, who told me that the Rebbe wanted us to print a Tanya that very day and to submit it to him before Yom Kippur began – that meant we only had about ten hours! It was impossible. We started calling some printers, but they laughed when we told them what we wanted. (more…)