||Hasidic and kabbalistic sermons following the Torah portion of the week.
R. Menahem Mendel of Vitebsk (1730–1788), hasidic leader active in Belorussia, Lithuania, and Erez Israel. He was a disciple of R. Dov Baer the Maggid of Mezhirech, and headed a congregation in Minsk during the lifetime of his teacher; in Zemir Arizim ve-Harvot Zurim (Warsaw, Bialystok, 1798), a pamphlet written by one of the Mitnaggedim, he is mentioned by the name of Mendel of Minsk. When the first wave of opposition to Hasidism erupted (1772), he visited Vilna on two occasions - on the second occasion, accompanied by his disciple R. Shneur Zalman of Lyady - and attempted to meet R. Elijah b. Solomon the Gaon of Vilna in order to point out to him the merits of Hasidism, but the Gaon refused to receive him and "he closed the door upon us twice." Hasidic tradition also regards him as one of the leading spokesmen at the meeting which was convened in Rovno in the house of R. Dov Baer after the imposition of the herem on the Hasidim in 1772. The persecutions of the Mitnaggedim made him leave Minsk, and in 1773 he settled in Gorodok, from where he spread Hasidism in the Vitebsk and Mogilev provinces (assisted by R. Israel of Polotsk, R. Abraham b. Alexander Katz of Kalisk, and R. Shneur Zalman of Lyady).
In 1777 Menahem Mendel went to Erez Israel, accompanied by R. Abraham of Kalisk and R. Israel of Polotsk, at the head of a group of 300 persons, of whom only some were Hasidim. He became the leader of the hasidic yishuv, and sent emissaries to Russia in order to raise funds for its support. In Erez Israel hasidic immigrants also encountered hostility among the Jewish community, as a result of the initiative of some Mitnaggedim, who addressed special letters on the subject to Erez Israel. In the wake of the disputes which broke out, R. Menahem Mendel moved to Tiberias, where he erected a hasidic synagogue. He became related by marriage to one of the prominent Sephardim of Jerusalem. After his arrival in Erez Israel R. Menahem Mendel remained the spiritual leader of the Hasidim of Belorussia, who maintained a correspondence with him. He continued to guide them in their conduct and interpreted the principles of Hasidism to them. R. Menahem Mendel did not consider himself to be a zaddik who could bless his Hasidim with the bounties of Heaven. He regarded his function of zaddik as being restricted to teaching and guidance in divine worship and not as that of a "practical" zaddik.
In his teachings, R. Menahem Mendel remained faithful to those of the Maggid. Following him, he regarded the zimzum (contraction) of divine emanation and its restriction as a condition for revelation, because that which is not limited cannot be conceived, just as thought is conceived by restriction and contraction into letters. The worlds were created by divine will as an act of mercy, by the contraction of the divine emanation, because of the deficiency of the recipients. "When one teaches a small child, he must be instructed in accordance with his young intelligence... in accordance with the ability of reception of his mind" (Likkutei Amarim (1911), 17a). Divinity is restricted in every place (the world is not His abode, but He is the abode of the world). It is the duty of man to adhere to the Divinity in the material creation and to redeem the Divine Presence from its exile in the material world.
His main works were:Peri ha-Ez (Zhitomir, 1874); Ez Peri (Lvov 1880); Likkutei Amarim (Lvov, 1911). His letters appeared in Nefesh Menahem (Lvov 1930).
Printed by Israel Jaffe, a disciple of R. Menahem Mendel of Vitebsk and R. Shneur Zalman of Lyady. Jaffe is known for his printing the first editions of many Chassidic works of the Besht and the Ba'al ha-Tanya. Not all tractate were printed as the Slavuta edition appeared at the same time and offered a nicer copy with more commentaries, eventually resulting in the bankruptcy of the Jaffe printing house.