16.

Pesach was fast approaching. By now, thank G‑d, I knew many of the laws of Pesach orally and knew where to find them in the Shulchan Aruch. At the baking of shemurah-matzah I was already taking my share of responsibility and word had even reached me that this had caused my father pleasure. I now hoped that when it came to the baking of matzas mitzvah on erev Pesach1 I would be at my best.

One night, about three days before Pesach, I could not fall asleep. I was busy with happy thoughts about all the upcoming events — drawing water at dusk towards the end of the thirteenth of Nissan for matzah-baking;2 the Search for Chametz3 [the following evening]; the siyum4 [in the morning] which would mark my completion of Tractate Megillah by heart; the baking of matzas mitzvah [that afternoon]; and reading the description of the offering of the Pesach Sacrifice5 [after Minchah].

A year earlier, in 5650 (תר"ן; 1890), my father had also taken me to draw water with him, to stand next to him while he pronounced the blessing over the Search for Chametz, to help him as he inspected the rooms, and to accompany him early in the morning of the fourteenth to hear the completion of Tractate Zevachim. At that time, however, I was a mere participant. I drew water without understanding its meaning; I stood and listened to the blessing over the search without understanding the obligation involved; I listened to the siyum without knowing the meanings of the terms involved, such as bamah gedolah and bamah ketanah, pigul and linah. I only recalled how struck I had been by the fact that in such a short time, from when the tractates of the Talmud were apportioned on Yud-Tes Kislev6 until the fourteenth of Nissan, my father had managed to study 120 double pages of Gemara with the commentaries of Rashi and Tosafos....

That year, which was the first year in which I cracked walnuts for the charoses which recalls the mortar [used in the Egyptian bondage], my father called me to his study.

“Early in the morning prayers,” he said, “we read: ‘Master of the worlds! You have commanded us to offer the daily sacrifice at its appointed time.... Therefore, may it be Your will... that the prayer of our lips be regarded and accepted by You....’ Tell me, what is the meaning of this prayer?”

By that time my studies had reached a point at which I knew the meanings of the prayers, as well as of the Mishnayos and the psalms [quoted there], almost perfectly. I was thus able to translate this prayer [into Yiddish], including all the details of the sacrifices mentioned there.

“On the fourteenth of Nissan,” my father began, “the Pesach Sacrifice used to be offered. For there are two separate times: on the fourteenth it was offered, but it was eaten at night, on the eve of the fifteenth, for the fifteenth is the time of our Exodus from the Egyptian exile. It was offered after the daily afternoon sacrifice, which could be offered from plag haMinchah onwards, which on our clock is 1:25 p.m. We read the laws of the offering of this sacrifice after praying the Minchah service which stands in place of the daily sacrifice of the afternoon.

“In order that you should understand what this signifies I shall study it with you. You will then review it alone two or three times, and after Minchah you will come to me and we will read together the description of the offering of the Korban Pesach.”

17.

While we are on this subject, let me mention that every year, from 5650 (תר"ן; 1890) to 56797 (תרע"ט; 1919), my father called for me and we read the Order of the Korban Pesach together. (The only exceptions were 5661 (תרס"א; 1901), when my father was in Verishoffen, and 5667 (תרס"ז; 1907), when he was in Lubavitch but my family and I were in Wurzburg.)

In honor of the reading he would wear his round Yom-Tov hat and Yom-Tov clothes as well as a gartl. He always read it standing, and facing south. He read it in a happy frame of mind, taking careful note of every one of its words and discussing the laws they conveyed. From the year 5656 (תרנ"ו; 1896) onwards, he used to explain one of its aspects from the perspective of Chassidus, and from the year 5668 (תרס"ח; 1908) onwards, he also explained one of its aspects from the perspective of the Kabbalah.

18.

Unlike the years of my earlier childhood, this year — 5651 (תרנ"א; 1891) — I knew all about the drawing of the water and its proper time, and likewise the details of the Search for Chametz, and especially the concluding passage to be studied aloud for the siyum. I was so excited that I did not sleep all that night, but I knew what I had learned and I knew how happy my father would be when I explained the last page of the Gemara, whose topics included the Reading of the Torah and the blessings recited over it, and the raising and binding of the Sefer Torah.

Before dawn I washed my hands for netilas yadayim and dressed, and then walked up and down my room. There was more than an hour to wait, for on erev Pesach my father was accustomed to rise at five. The day’s tasks passed smoothly and successfully — not only the siyum, which went very well, but I also made myself useful at the baking of the matzas mitzvah. Part of the time I stood next to the oven and changed the rods with which the matzos were placed inside, and part of the time I stood at the place where the individual portions of dough were handed out to the people rolling them flat. Most of the time I was supervising wherever someone was missing.

This year’s reading of the Order of the Korban Pesach was also different from that of the previous year. I stood at my father’s right like a well-practiced veteran, just as I had done the previous year, except that this year I knew the relevant laws and procedures from their source in the Mishnayos of Tractate Pesachim which I now knew by heart.

The shul that evening was full of light. A new chandelier had been brought there by one of the worshipers who spent the whole year in Moscow and Petersburg, because he worked for the well-known Minister Poliakov, returning to his home in Lubavitch only twice a year, for the month of Tishrei and for Pesach. This time he had brought a gift for the shul, which was suspended by gilt chains.

The shul walls were whitewashed, the windows sparkled, the benches were clean. A red silk cloth covered the table from which the Torah was read and the aron kodesh was draped over with a paroches of green and red. The amud was covered by a little red silk cloth which had been embroidered by my mother. The Western Wall was depicted in the middle, and its four corners showed the Tomb of our Mother Rachel, the Tomb of the Prophet Samuel, the Tombs of the Davidic Dynasty, and the Tomb of R. Shimon bar Yochai. A fresh white towel hung on a ring near the entrance to the shul, and the lamps made everything bright.

A noble spirit rests upon every corner of this House of G‑d. The faces of the local householders are lit up likewise. Over at the northern corner sits old Zalman Leib, surrounded by a knot of listeners with whom he shares his recollections of long ago. Not too far from him, Yitzchak Shaul the Liar is recounting wild and wondrous adventures from the war against the Turks. Near the Reading Table, Bere the Shammes is talking to Yitzchak Gershon the Chazzan, who proudly tells the music-lovers who buzz around him that even Nisse the Belzer was impressed by his wonderful voice.

Near the south wall sits Zalman Munkes, who is holding forth about his father’s father’s medical expertise. His friend Yeshaya Kastier counters with stories about his own grandmother’s father, who was such a great mathematician that using his fingers alone he could count up to 10,000 in two hours. Zalman Beshes and Zalman the Deaf Guy lean eagerly over them, overawed.

At the southwestern corner near the old clock, two hoary chassidim — R. Chanoch Hendel and R. Shmuel Chayim from Poland — are discussing what Chassidus teaches about the particular sanctity of this night. Listening in are Uncle Leibele’s Reb Zalman, Reb Shlomo Chayim the Shochet, and a number of other chassidim. Among them, listening wordlessly, sits the aged R. Abba, who from time to time raises his eyes aloft.

19.

R. Abba was at least 80 years old. He was born in Tchashnik, where he had taught in his youth, and as a child had twice seen the Mitteler Rebbe. In the years 5595 (תרצ"ה; 1835) to 5600 (ת"ר; 1840) he had taken an active and decisive role in the controversy involving Strashelye. He was completely at home in the works of the Alter Rebbe and the Mitteler Rebbe and in Likkutei Torah. Throughout the lifetime of the [Tzemach Tzedek] he visited Lubavitch by foot every two years. In 5635 (תרל"ה; 1875) he retired from teaching and settled in Lubavitch. He was — in the chassidic sense — a maskil, an advanced scholar in the literature of Chassidus, who made his own notes of maamarim [that were delivered orally]. He refrained altogether from talking and spent his whole day in shul praying, studying and writing.

20.

At the east wall, to the northern side of the aron kodesh, sat the local rav, R. David, next to R. Meshullam, R. Nissan the Melamed and R. Shalom the Melamed. Together they were debating the laws of Pesach. If I was not so tired I would have been able to join in, but at that moment I felt that weariness was about to close my eyes. I shuddered to think how awful it would be to be overcome now by sleep. Within a few minutes the southern side of the east wall began to fill up. My uncles R. Zalman Aharon and R. Menachem Mendel had already taken their places and at the appointed time for Maariv my father arrived.

When the davenen was over, the rav and all the householders converged on the southern side of the eastern wall to wish [my father] a gut Yom-Tov. All were dressed for the occasion and all faces were radiant. People gradually left, and within an hour we were all seated in my grandmother’s home and conducting the Seder.

The excitement of preparing to ask the Four Questions and the pure light that rested on my father’s holy countenance banished sleep from my eyes. Thanks to G‑d’s never-ending mercies, I too found myself seated at the table like one of the grown-ups. Every activity I handled with the self-assurance of a veteran — washing the hands, karpas, breaking the middle matzah, covering and uncovering the matzos, holding the cup of wine in hand as we sang VeHi SheAmdah, and so on. All this gave me the strength to fight off the desire to sleep.

Thank G‑d, I held my own until the exultant declaration, “Next year in Jerusalem!” I then looked forward to going to sleep in a few minutes’ time with a glad heart.

The whole festival passed like just a few days. Then it was time for workdays, days of study. The impressions left upon me by the festival and the marks of closeness that my father had shown me made a positive imprint on my increasingly conscientious study.

This spirit prevailed throughout the next six weeks until Shavuos, which was the first Yom-Tov during which I had ever stayed awake all night. I read the Tikkun Leil Shavuos and before daybreak I too immersed in the mikveh. The truth is that I had wanted to stay awake on the night of the Seventh Day of Pesach, too, but then sleep overcame me. This time, however, I won.

Our financial situation did not allow my father to go to a suitable resort as his state of health required. He therefore chose, at the insistence of Dr. Bogorodski, to spend the weekdays in the forest near Mozinkes.

Considering my current conscientious conduct and my father’s recent manifestations of warmth, it was not surprising that he should want to take me with him on his next journey there. Nor is it surprising that I should earnestly want to travel with him. As well as enjoying his company I would have something to boast about to my friends, because by this time my father’s spiritual stature was widely recognized. Not in vain had I been so disappointed by R. Nissan’s refusal to allow me the pleasure of my father’s company.

21.

One Sunday, to my great joy, an hour before my father set out on his third weekly visit to Mozinkes, he called for me and said: “Today you’re coming along with me. If you have some books that you would like to take with you, bring them here so that I can pack them in my luggage.”

I already knew how to control myself from making my joy visible to all, in order not to bring about any obstacle. Within a few minutes, with all due deliberateness and humility, I had brought the Tanach, Mishnayos, Gemara and Shulchan Aruch which I was then studying.

Until I was actually seated in the wagon I did not believe that I was really and truly going. I was afraid of some sudden hindrance, but thanks to G‑d’s lovingkindness everything passed smoothly and we were on our way. The fact that I was sitting next to my father, the pleasant breeze, the vistas of green fields, the orders that Leibichke the Wagondriver shouted to his horses from his exclusive perch while his long whip stood erect at his right, made my spirits buoyant.

22.

Seated opposite my father on this journey was R. Shmuel [Horovitch], in whose home my father used to stay when visiting Mozinkes. He was born in Deneburg, but as a young man he had been one of the advanced long-term students [of Chassidus]8 in Lubavitch in the time of the Tzemach Tzedek, from 5608 (תר"ח; 1848) to 5611 (תרי"א; 1851). He was a solid scholar who studied Gemara and the poskim in depth, had memorized three Sedarim of Mishnayos as directed by the Tzemach Tzedek at yechidus, had mastered Torah Or and Likkutei Torah, and was a man of upright character.

When he was a student in Lubavitch a learned villager took him as a son-in-law and supported him in his home for several years of fulltime study, after which R. Shmuel continued to work in that village as a farmer. When the timber business reached that region he converted some buildings in his backyard into accommodations for the employees of the lumber merchants.

During the three years in which he had been a “sitter” in Lubavitch he used to spend all day and sometimes all night as well in the beis midrash of the Tzemach Tzedek. For at that time there were two groups of students — the yoshvim and the regular yeshivah students. Both groups were supported by the Rebbe’s household, but they were distinguished by their study schedules and the manner of their avodah.

23.

The yeshivah had been founded in the year 5602 (תר"ב; 1842). The Tzemach Tzedek’s son, R. Yisrael Noach,9 and the Tzemach Tzedek’s son-in-law, R. Levi Yitzchak, each delivered two shiurim weekly.

The lower class comprised 25 students aged 14 to 17; the higher class comprised 35 to 40 students aged 17 to 20. They were all gifted and assiduous in their study of the revealed plane of the Torah, Gemara and the poskim. From time to time they would study a chapter of Tanya and occasionally a maamar from Torah Or as well. Even when the Tzemach Tzedek delivered maamarim they were generally not allowed to enter, except on Yom-Tov and the Days of Awe. These were the regular yeshivah students.

The young men counted among the yoshvim were people entirely occupied with matters of Chassidus. They included two groups: young men either after or before marriage, including some particularly gifted young students; and others whose fathers supported them or who had not been shining scholars — but nevertheless remained and absorbed the ambiance of Lubavitch by rubbing shoulders with exemplary chassidim.10

As R. Shmuel recalled as we traveled: “In the days of the Tzemach Tzedek, at almost all times through the year there were venerable and hoary chassidim visiting Lubavitch. So there were always opportunities to be of service to great men, to observe meanwhile how they davened and how they ate, how they studied and how they conducted themselves. Sometimes this affected young scholars even more than their actual studies.”

And indeed, as the Talmud teaches, “Being of service to Torah sages11 is superior [even] to the study of the Torah itself.” This is palpably evidenced in the life of chassidim and Chassidus: reverently spending time in the company of elder chassidim has accomplished much more than actual study. For study has given a student an intellectual grasp of a concept; attendance on elder chassidim has made of him a servant of G‑d and a chassid.

24.

Regretfully, I did not devote due attention to the conversation of my father and R. Shmuel that day. I was busy envying Leibichke the Wagondriver who sat so high up there, tugging at the reins....

After about five parsas my father asked him to stop the wagon. He strolled among the forest trees, washed his hands with a blessing, and said the Prayer for Travelers12 word by word so that I would be able to repeat it after him.

My father, R. Shmuel and I climbed up and we resumed our journey. The weather was fine, the blossoms were fragrant, the air was still, and the birds were singing. My father asked the wagondriver to slow down so that less dust would be raised and we would be able to enjoy the clear air, so Leibichke allowed his horses to trot along at their own relaxed pace.

As we traveled my father was deep in thought, old R. Shmuel dozed off, and I enjoyed memories of earlier days.

25.

[As I sat in the wagon on the way to Mozinkes,] recollections of our stay among the tall mountains of Yalta13 [a few years earlier] sprang alive before me. At that time my father and mother and my teacher R. Shneur Slonim and I used to go walking almost every day, from 1:00 p.m. until 7:00 or even 8:00 p.m. My father would find a seat and study a learned book that he had brought with him, thinking a while and writing a while. R. Shneur would teach me for about an hour and tell me to review what I had learned, and then he would join my father and they would study that book together. My father would speak and R. Shneur would listen; R. Shneur would pose a problematic query and my father would offer a solution; my father would clarify a point and R. Shneur’s face would glow.

At a little distance my mother sat and read a long letter. From time to time she would offer me milk and cookies from the little bag that lay on the ground next to her and send refreshments with me to my father and R. Shneur.

She used to sew and knit for hours every day, and embroider fabric stretched over a wooden ring with threads of blue and gold.

I recalled how when we were in Crimea my parents had stood on the seashore among those who waited to catch a glimpse of Czar Alexander III who was due to arrive there with his courtiers; the Libadia estate; the Czar’s palace and vineyard; encountering the Czar as we were on our way to the mikveh on erev Pesach; and our journey home via Kharkov, where we spent Lag BaOmer in the year 5646 (תרמ"ו; 1886).

In Kharkov,14 for the first time, I saw a gathering of chassidim — their speech, their melodies, their enthusiasm, their joy and their high spirits.

I was most impressed by the local rav, R. Yechezkel, who looked so dignified with his gold spectacles. At that time many grown men, some of them with snow-white beards and some of them very old, crowded into a middle-sized room. Whether they sat or stood, they all focused on my father, who sat at the head of a long and narrow table. As soon as they perceived that my father had something to say, all the sounds of singing and talking ceased, and in the perfect silence my father spoke.

By one o’clock it was very hot inside. I had been taken from the table there and later found myself in a book-filled room where my mother sat in tears.

* * *

My heart was sore. If my mother was crying she no doubt had a reason to cry, because I remembered that the previous winter in Yalta both she and my father had wept. At that time I persuaded my mother — in exchange for a promise to take my studies more seriously, because this was when R. Shneur had first arrived and I was not at all eager to have him as my teacher — to tell me the reason for her distress.

“You’re still a child,” my mother had said. “Even if I explained it you wouldn’t understand what it’s all about.”

“So you explain it to me in such a way that I’ll understand it,” I countered tearfully. “Look: I don’t understand Chumash, either, but when Father explains it to me then I do understand it. Didn’t Father say that I understand properly the parshah that he taught me? So why shouldn’t you, too, want to tell me this in a way that I can understand?”

“But why are you crying?” my mother asked.

“How can I not cry?” I replied. “If I see Father and Mother talking and crying, then it must be something important. So how can I, their only son, not cry?”

My tears and arguments stole my mother’s heart and she explained: “Your father’s father15 was a Rebbe and a great scholar, who studied Torah and davened all his days. He instructed his sons — your uncle R. Zalman Aharon, your father, and your uncle R. Menachem Mendel — never to engage in any business, but only to sit and study. This they did for about two years, but now [your uncles] have entered the business world.

“Last week your father received a letter from your grandmother and your uncles to say that your uncles wanted to buy a big forest, which they did. When your father read that letter he was so upset that they were ignoring the instruction of their father, the great Rebbe, not to engage in business, that he wept.

“And when I saw your father’s distress and feared that it might affect his health, I wept, too.”

I consoled my mother by promising that I would heed my father’s voice in all matters; I would cause him pleasure and fortify his frail health; I would begin to study energetically with R. Shneur, exactly as my father wanted me to do.

[This was what had come to pass during the previous winter in Yalta.]

* * *

[The author now resumes the recollections that came to mind during his wagon ride to Mozinkes.] On this occasion, therefore, [in the book-filled room in Kharkov on the way home from Yalta,] when I saw my mother crying I was deeply distressed. While I was still debating whether or not to dare to ask her for the reason, I heard jolly noises coming from the room into which all the chassidim had crowded. Running straight there, I saw a man standing on a small high table in a corner and playing an instrument that was accompanied by the voices of all those present.

I climbed up the little ladder that stood near the stove not far from the door that led to the room in which my mother sat, and caught sight of my father. He was wearing the small round silk head-covering that he wore when studying alone in his room. His broad forehead was luminous, his face was flushed and radiant, his eyes were closed, his right hand supported his temple, his left hand rested on the table — and he cast a holy awe upon all those who surrounded him.

After a few moments he opened his eyes and looked at all the people around him. His beautiful eyes gazed deep inside them, penetrating the heart of every man who encountered this gaze that proceeded from my father’s innermost essence. His gaze had the power to straighten out any crookedness of heart. The sweetness that graced his lips endowed even the stricken with hope; it awakened even those whose hearts were broken and downcast.

In response to the request of one of those present, everyone fell immediately silent; everyone sat up straight; everyone prepared himself and waited eagerly. My father put on his silken hat and gartl. The thoughts within shone through his face.

In a moment all those who had been sitting, all those elderly folk with their white beards, stood up. My father’s eyes were closed; his face was flushed then pale, flushed then pale. He wanted to start speaking and opened his eyes, but seeing that everyone around him was standing he requested with gracious humility that they be seated. They for their part implied an entreaty that he allow them to do as they had chosen to do.

He passed his right hand over his eyes and sat in silence for a few minutes. Those were painful moments, as his face betrayed. Suddenly he opened his eyes and began to speak.

What my father said I neither knew nor understood, but I saw that as he spoke all those people listened. He spoke aloud with increasing ardor, adding emphasis with his right hand. All those who stood around him listened intently, though I did not understand why some of them shed tears. After a few minutes of observation I went off to my mother’s room.

My mother, too, was seated and leaning on her right hand, and tears were streaming down her flushed cheeks.

“Why are you crying?” I asked. “Did my uncles buy another forest? Why is Father not crying and why are you crying?”

“Let’s leave it,” said my mother. “When you’re big you’ll know why. Right now you’re a little boy so you don’t have to know all those things.”

This answer did not leave me very happy, obviously enough. I sat down on a chair at the side and remained silent.

An hour and more later my father was still speaking and his listeners were still standing as when he began. Then, all of a sudden, their voices exploded in rollicking joy. I ran into the other room. Hand on shoulder, hand on shoulder, they danced and sang. Within a moment one of them had dragged me inside and I, too, was part of the dancing circle.

The singing came to an end. One of the chassidim picked me up on his shoulder then passed me on to another who handed me over to a third who passed me on a fourth — until they had brought me to the table where I could see my father. In the meantime my father had loosened his gartl and removed his outer hat, and his broad forehead glistened with tiny jewels.

R. Yechezkel handed me a cup of mashke over which to say LeChaim! to my father and to the others present, but I declined. I saw that my father was watching me closely. Noting that there were cookies on the table I said to R. Yechezkel: “My teacher R. Shneur says that first of all you have to say the blessing of Mezonos and only after that do you say the blessing of Shehakol.” I saw a flicker of a smile on the face of my father and of R. Yechezkel and of others who had overheard me.

R. Yechezkel thereupon handed me a slice of cake. I said a berachah and ate, then said a berachah over the mashke, and later said LeChaim! — first to my father, then to the rav and to the other people around me. I touched the cup to my lips, put it on the table, and sat down on the edge of the rav’s chair.

Looking at my father, I saw that his face was not as joyous as earlier, though those who were sitting and standing all around him were singing in jubilation. At that moment I recalled that my mother was sitting in the other room alone. She might even be crying still. My heart grew heavy and I sighed a long sigh.

Without thinking a great deal I got up from my place and approached my father to tell him a secret. He gave me his ear and I said: “Father, Mother is sitting in the other room with tears streaming down her cheeks. I asked her why, but she only said that I’m still a child and I don’t have to know everything.”

My father was visibly saddened by what I said. After thinking for a moment or two he whispered in my ear: “Go and tell Mother that I feel well. My headache has gone, and my heart doesn’t ache any more. She can be at ease: I feel well.”

Once again I was raised aloft from one man’s hands to the next until I arrived at the door to the other room. My mother was sitting near the window, her eyes red from weeping. I approached her and told her what Father had said.

She smiled and said: “That’s very good. Now you can go back to the other room.”

[Only this much of the manuscript is extant.]