1Reb Yosef [the maggid in Lubavitch] spent the festival of Shavuos with the Baal Shem Tov. He had departed Lubavitch in his usual manner, disclosing neither where he was going, nor the purpose of his trip.

The Baal Shem Tov sent for Reb Yosef and instructed him that — on his way home from Lubavitch — he should pass through Smorgon and visit the local yeshivah, which was quite renowned in those days. There, he would find a yeshivah bochur named Yissachar Dov who came from Kabilnik, a village near Minsk. He was to take this Yissachar Dov as a husband for his only daughter.

Of course, Reb Yosef obeyed the Baal Shem Tov’s instructions. When he arrived in Smorgon, he approached the Rosh Yeshivah to arrange an introduction with this Yissachar Dov of Kabilnik (that was how it was done in those days), and he proposed to him the match with his daughter. Reb Yissachar Dov agreed to become the Lubavitcher Maggid’s son-in-law; it was also agreed that he would remain at the yeshivah for another year.

During that year, Reb Yissachar Dov became a close friend of a brilliant young man who came from Minsk, named Reb Menachem Mendel. This Reb Menachem Mendel had once been the substitute Rosh Yeshivah, during the absence of Reb Zerach Eliah Krittinger. This same Menachem Mendel later became one of the pillars of the Chassidic Movement.

At the beginning of Elul 5511 (1751), Reb Yissachar Dov arrived in Lubavitch and became the son-in-law of Reb Yosef the maggid. Reb Yissachar Dov remained in Lubavitch and was supported by his father-in-law, while he continued studying Torah.

Sometime during the year 5515 (1755), three years after the maggid Reb Yosef had taken Reb Yissachar Dov as his son-in-law, he finally disclosed to him the fact that he and Reb Zevulun the scribe were disciples of the Baal Shem Tov. He also told him that whenever they disappeared from Lubavitch, they traveled to Mezhibuzh to visit the new leader of the Jewish people.

The father-in-law began to acquaint Reb Yissachar Dov with the new teachings of Chassidus; these teachings quickly captured his heart. A whole new world was revealed to him. Things he had not understood previously, now became clear to him.

During Elul of that year, Reb Yissachar Dov and Reb Zevulun went to visit the Baal Shem Tov. The maggid Reb Yosef had to remain in Lubavitch because of the approaching High Holy Days. Reb Yissachar Dov spent three months with the Baal Shem Tov. He was present during the High Holy Days and the other festivals, and he saw the Baal Shem Tov both at times of the greatest awe, and at times of the greatest joy. He carefully observed his conduct, listened to his davening, and absorbed his teachings. Thus, the young Reb Yissachar Dov became a fervent chossid, but he still had much to learn.

He returned home and began to study Chassidus in even greater depth. Reb Yosef the maggid, Reb Zevulun the scribe, and the young Reb Yissachar Dov now constituted a society in Lubavitch: all three were disciples of the Baal Shem Tov, and were fiery chassidim. The threesome could now meet together in Lubavitch to study Chassidus and to share their insights on various lofty topics.

No one in Lubavitch — or anywhere else for that matter — was permitted to learn their secret: they were chassidim, followers of the Baal Shem Tov of Mezhibuzh. Although his name was gradually becoming known throughout the Jewish world, it was still dangerous to be his follower openly. It was not yet time for the Baal Shem Tov’s disciples to broadcast their Rebbe’s new teachings to the world at large.

Certainly — in White Russia, Lithuania, and the surrounding countries — the time was not yet ripe for this. These countries still had to await the coming of the fiery souls such as the Alter Rebbe — founder of Chabad — to introduce the Baal Shem Tov’s teachings in these regions, and to entrench them firmly for future generations.

Meanwhile, our three disciples of the Baal Shem Tov in Lubavitch sat and studied Chassidus, while putting the teachings into practice and reinforcing them through good deeds. Thus, they prepared that territory for the future introduction of Chassidus. Their new style of doing good deeds, their love of simple working folk, their whole new approach of implanting Jewish values in the hearts of the masses, served to pave the way for the future chassidic leaders. Indeed, we shall see that it was in Lubavitch itself that the foundations of Chassidus [in that region] were laid.

It is no wonder that Lubavitch became the headquarters of Chabad and the very center of Chassidus in White Russia and Lithuania. Not only were the foundations of Chassidus laid by these chassidim in Lubavitch; it was in Lubavitch that the Alter Rebbe — Reb Schneur Zalman — studied Torah. And his early teacher was none other than Reb Yissachar Dov.

Even before the founder of Chabad knew anything about Chassidus, perhaps before he ever even heard the Baal Shem Tov’s name (he was only a lad of twelve years at the time), he already heard the basic tenets of Chassidus being expounded by the maggid Reb Yosef in his sermons. Thus, Reb Schneur Zalman studied not only under his teacher Reb Yissachar Dov, but also under his teacher’s father-in-law, the maggid Reb Yosef. Probably, he also studied under the scribe Rev Zevulun, for all three were always studying together.

The spirit of Chassidus could be felt in all of their speech, in all their actions, and in their interpersonal relations. It could especially be felt in their love for simple folk. This love for ordinary folk was — and has remained — the very cornerstone of the Baal Shem Tov’s teaching.

The Alter Rebbe, Reb Schneur Zalman, used to refer to the Baal Shem Tov as “Grandfather.” This was because he had been a disciple of the Baal Shem Tov’s disciples: first, of Reb Yissachar Dov, son-in-law of the Lubavitcher Maggid; later, of the Rebbe Reb Ber of Mezrich, from whom he learned the teachings of Chassidus as they had been received from the Baal Shem Tov.

After Reb Yosef passed away, Reb Yissachar Dov — who was visiting the Baal Shem Tov quite frequently — became his father-in-law’s successor as maggid in Lubavitch. Since Reb Schneur Zalman was a disciple of these two disciples of the Baal Shem Tov, especially of Reb Ber, he felt that he was truly a “grandchild” of the Baal Shem Tov. He used to say that Reb Baruch of Mezhibuzh was the Baal Shem Tov’s grandson in the flesh, while he — Reb Schneur Zalman — was the Baal Shem Tov’s grandson in spirit.

Later, when Reb Schneur Zalman became attracted to Reb Ber in Mezrich and became his disciple, he truly became a double “grandson” of the Baal Shem Tov: a disciple of Reb Yissachar Dov, and a disciple of the Mezricher Maggid, who was the Baal Shem Tov’s real successor.

Because of this two-fold connection to the Baal Shem Tov, Reb Schneur Zalman also became connected with Lubavitch, where he had studied under Reb Yissachar Dov in his youth. This laid the foundations for [the later development of] Chabad Chassidus in Lubavitch. However, the Alter Rebbe himself lived first in Liozna and later in Liadi. It was the Mitteler Rebbe who finally settled in Lubavitch.