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In 5735, for several weeks, the venerable chassid Reb Avraham Mayor would come to the yeshivah at Lubavitch Headquarters in 770 and farbreng with the students each Thursday night.

One evening, Reb Avraham focused on the difference between his days in Lubavitch and the present time: “We barely saw the Rebbe,” he told the students. “He would appear in public only several times a week. Even then permission was not always granted for the yeshivah students to be there.

“Today, you daven with the Rebbe twice a day, three times a day on Shabbos. There are frequent farbrengens. It’s a different world.”

Reb Avraham continued to explain without minimizing the good fortune of the present age what had sustained him as a youth: “We had vintage Chassidim from whom we would learn. From them, we received far more than intellectual knowledge. We would watch the way they davenned, the way they observed mitzvos, the love and closeness they shared between each other. All these were lessons that we devoured.”

The vintage chassidim of my student days in 770 are passing. Reb Avraham Reb Mendel Futerfas, Reb Peretz Motchkin, Reb Nissan Nemenov and many other of the models to whom we looked up are no longer among us. I am reminded of the words of the song: “Who will be the zaidy if not me?”

Some might say that such thoughts are presumptuous: “Can we really expect to live up to the image of a chassid?”

Honestly, the proposition is bold. But it is the kind of boldness which is considered a positive characteristic of a “rash people.”1 We cannot afford spiritual timidity, nor is false modesty in place. We must know our limitations, but we must also know our strengths. And we must appreciate the need to employ those strengths immediately.

Mashiach is coming, and we should be prepared to greet him. And that means prepared spiritually. Chassidus is Toraso shel Mashiach, the teachings of Mashiach. The way we should make ourselves ready to greet Mashiach is by internalizing Chassidus and making it part of our selves.

In this endeavor, the portraits in this book are fundamentally important, for they provide us with images and examples to emulate. I don’t mean that we should copy them for the settings in which we live and the challenges of our time are different. But what was unique about these people was their capacity for spiritual renewal, that they knew how to reach into themselves and summon up spiritual strength. And that is something appropriate in all times and all places. It is a lesson which we can and must learn.

May this book provide us with models and enable us to become models for others.

Rarely was I ever able to sit down with several vintage chassidim together. It was difficult enough finding the opportunity to spend time with one. This book enables a reader to sit down with several Chassidim all at once. Some of the stories were written by the Previous Rebbe, others came from Chassidim. There are different tones and nuances. It’s one large farbrengen.

May our appreciation of this farbrengen lead to the coming of Mashiach and the fulfillment of the prophecy:2 “You who repose in the dust, arise and sing.” And then we will join together with these chassidim in an actual farbrengen; may this take place in the immediate future.

Footnotes
1.
Shabbos 88a.
2.
Yeshayahu 26:19.
Translated from the classic columns of HaTamim by Shimon Neubort
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