1 [From the Previous Rebbe’s Diary]:

It was now two o’clock in the morning, and a pouring rain fell outside. I begged Reb Gershon Dov to remain in my room and rest until daybreak. He acceded to my wishes, and I went to my room. There, I reviewed in my mind everything I had heard that night.

I have neither the tools nor the writing skills to describe the great impression that Reb Gershon Dov’s story made upon me: his description of the conduct of the elder chassidim amongst themselves, and between themselves and the simple folk who followed the ways of Chassidus with pure faith.

I pictured the scene in my imagination: a group of chassidim — masters of knowledge and wisdom — sitting at a farbrengen, listening to someone repeat a Torah teaching that he heard from the Mitteler Rebbe or the Tzemach Tzedek. Reb Shlomo the coachman is present among them. When his turn comes, he too relates what he heard and saw at the holy Rebbe’s court. And these chassidim — masters of intellect — attend to his words with the same thoughtfulness they gave to the discourse repeated by one of their peers!

These chassidim had only one firm belief and hope, and in this world they looked forward to enjoying only one thing: that — after purifying themselves from their sins, through such punishments as suffering in the grave and in Gehennom — they would be found worthy of visiting their holy master and Rebbe [in Gan Eden].

What warmth and feeling the chassidim Reb Shaul Leib and Reb Yosef Shalom displayed, as they envied their comrade Reb Yitzchak Shaul! What hidden love and affection they manifested, when they said Kaddish for the benefit of their friend’s soul!

I gazed into the face of the chassid Reb Gershon Dov, the master of intellect. He was renowned and acclaimed among multitudes of people — who were themselves masters of chassidic knowledge, and whose own avodah was a service from the heart. I discerned the trend of his thoughts: he was sick at heart because of (what he considered to be) his [sinful] situation and condition at present; he was inwardly apprehensive [about his future].

I add the following notes as a testament for the future (may it be good and blessed):

I was seventeen years, three months, and fifteen days old last Motzoei Shabbos, when I heard the story and recital of the chassid Reb Gershon Dov. I saw many chassidim during my childhood; I have seen many chassidim, masters of intellect, masters of avodah, and men of good character, during my youth. I listened to their stories, and observed their conduct.

For the past three years, I have been privileged to be close to my holy father, the Rebbe. He drew me close with his righteous right hand, and related to me a large store of previously unknown facts about the lives of the greatest chassidim who are now in Gan Eden, and (may they be spared in life) those who are still alive and famous today (may G‑d bless them). But only in the chassid Reb Gershon Dov did I discern a heart broken as a piece of pottery, and a person who held himself as humbly as the dust of the earth.

As I stood there immersed in these thoughts, a powerful weeping sound suddenly reached my ears. I inclined my ear to listen, and discovered that it was Reb Gershon Dov, reciting the opening passage of Kerias Shema before retiring. He was then saying the words “neither shall I again anger You nor do what is wrong in Your eyes ....”2

Even in my very old age, I will never forget the things I saw and heard during that evening and night, nor the feelings that overcame me during those hours.