At the Evening Seudah of Shemini Atzeres 5693 (1932) In the Sukkah [Riga]1

1. Thoughts produce practical results

“Thinking is potent.”2 Not only is thought the first and innermost of the three garments or levushim of the soul, and united with it: thinking produces results that extend into the realm of action. Concentrating on a good thought concerning another is in itself an act — though it is an act only in the context of the world of thought. It still needs to pass through the succeeding stages of speech and practical action.

At this point the subject turned to the members of the chassidic brotherhood who were then in Russia, and some of the past and present yeshivah students (temimim) and older chassidim (Anash) were mentioned by name.

The Rebbe3 proceeded: “Thought knows no bounds; no partition can stand in its way; at all times it reaches its required destination.”

One of those present,4 who had recently reached Riga from Russia, then asked: “But what benefit does the other party have from that?”

“He benefits in rich measure,” replied the Rebbe.

After a long pause the Rebbe turned to the questioner: “And where were you last Sukkos…?”5

On Simchas Torah Evening

2. Helping by thinking

It is known and certain that thinking bears fruit. As everyone knows from his own experience, thinking is a starting-point for action, which comes into being after a certain progression from one spiritual level to the next.

Our Sages teach us that “the measure in which blessing is given is greater than the measure of punishment.”6 The word for measure — middah also signifies garment, as in the verse which says, “And Aharon shall put on his garment of linen,”7 or: “And Shaul clothed David in his garments.”8 The “measure of punishment” (middas purannus) thus means “garments that bring punishment.” This refers to evil thoughts and imaginings [since thought, as mentioned above, is the first of the three levushim or “garments” of the soul]. For these not only diminish the divine image in man, but undermine and even (G‑d forbid) destroy one’s physical health.

But “the measure in which blessing is given is greater than the measure of punishment.” This “measure of goodness” (middah tovah) refers to those “garments” of the soul that elicit good; in general, these are thoughts of Torah, and of divine service — meditation in prayer. In regard to Torah thoughts, this does not mean merely thinking about Torah subjects, but the kind of profound contemplation that arouses one to practical action.

In relation to one’s fellow, thinking is likewise potent. With a thought one can help another — especially since a concentrated thought is a basis for action.

3. Worldly frigidity

In a letter to R. Dov Ber, the Maggid of Mezritch, dated erev Sukkos 5521 (1760), R. Pinchas of Korets writes: “Many thanks for having called me to mind on Yom Kippur. You should know that at the very moment I was privileged to be thus remembered, I felt it here.”

Now this incident needs to be understood at its innermost level, for if viewed superficially it involves no remarkable spiritual achievement at all.

Love is manifested at many levels, and modes of conduct, which are the “vessels” or vehicles by which the light of love is revealed, are patterned in harmony with the various levels of this light.

The first level among the “vessels” or vehicles of love is extending one’s hand in offering or receiving the greeting of Shalom. This is only an external mannerism, to be sure; for around the whole world whenever people meet they shake hands as a mark of recognition which need not imply any feeling of love whatever. In truth, however, this very superficiality has been brought about by today’s worldly frigidity.

In days gone by the ordinary Shalom Aleichem was different: it was true, and pure. Things used to be different: truth used to be sound currency. Coins too come in various denominations — you have a tzveier, a pitak, a ruble and so on — but a true little tzveier was worth its true value.

Because people themselves were true, their everyday Shalom Aleichem and Aleichem Shalom were true; because people themselves were warm, their ordinary midweek Shalom Aleichem and Aleichem Shalom were warm; and when two Jews met, their Shalom Aleichem and Aleichem Shalom sprang from the life within.

The current acceptance of worldly notions has indeed introduced a certain order into the conduct of people’s lives — but with it a certain frigidity, a certain absence of truth, and occasionally a lie. In today’s ordinary greeting of Shalom Aleichem one can sometimes, or even often, detect a “Go in good health.” But the Torah-inspired Shalom Aleichem — the Shalom Aleichem of bygone days — is a vehicle for the light of love.

When two friends meet and kiss each other one sees the manifestation of a greater light of love than that expressed in a handshake. A yet higher manifestation may be observed in the long conversation in which good friends love to tell each other of all their experiences.

Beyond this there is a kind of love so intense that words are too dry to express it: two friends in this state can simply stand and gaze at each other without uttering a word.

These, then, are various ways in which friends express their love, the bond which brings them to oneness.

But there is also an inward bond, a bond of thought, through which one friend senses the other. Just as a person sees his friend who stands facing him near at hand, so it is with thought, which is not limited by distance. Through thought alone one man is aware of this friend, just as the friends of Iyov9 (Job) felt his plight despite their distance from him. Speaking in terms of the various levels in the soul of man, their sensitivity belongs to the realm of middos — feelings, and attributes of character — for they were men of refined character; it cannot be placed in the realm of intellect.

True indeed, this sensitivity indicates beauty of middos — attributes of the kind which characterize the level of man. But they are after all middos, and middos exist as well in the animal kingdom; it thus follows that even the beauty of middos does not yet represent the ultimate standard of perfection of the spiritual level which is the exclusive province of man. A magnate, by way of analogy, might build his animals a magnificent stable — but it is still a stable; so too middos, be they ever so beautiful, do not yet represent the ultimate perfection of man’s exalted state.

If, therefore, we take the incident superficially, there is nothing wondrous about the fact that despite the physical distance between them, R. Pinchas of Korets was aware of the moment at which the Maggid of Mezritch had called him to mind. It must be obvious that my intention here is not (G‑d forbid) to belittle the value of the incident. Quite the contrary: because our limited minds cannot plumb the depths of the holy words of these tzaddikim, we are obligated to endeavor to comprehend each word in an orderly manner. And by approaching the story by this means we can learn that this point marks the revelation of the path which the Alter Rebbe was later to pave and follow — namely, the teaching that through thought a person should be with his friend wherever he may be. This is the meaning of the above statement that a concentrated thought is a starting-point for action, that with a thought one can help a distant friend materially and spiritually.

And this is the point of R. Pinchas’s letter. What is remarkable is not that R. Pinchas was aware of the Maggid’s thought: what is remarkable is that by calling him to mind the Maggid accomplished an actual deed — for with a thought one can indeed help a distant friend reach a higher state of being, both materially and spiritually.

4. Whom do the angels envy?

From every letter of Torah and prayer a good angel is created. During the Days of Awe — Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur — some 17 million Jews pray, read Tehillim, study Torah, and do good deeds, and from all these activities angels are created. This sets up a tumult in Heaven, as vast hosts of angels arrive there — a troop of angels from each country, where they were created from the prayers of ardent worshipers as they cried out Kadosh atah — ‘You are Holy...”;10 Uvechein tein pachdecha — “Instill a fear of You upon all that You have made…”; Vesimloch — “You shall reign...”; Meloch al haolam kulo — “Reign over the entire world...”; Unesaneh tokef — “We shall express the might [of this day]...”; and so on, throughout the prayers of the Days of Awe.

Now these exclamations of “You are Holy” and “You shall reign” vary from country to country, according to the state of affairs in each region. Those proceeding from Russia cause a great stir, for they are an outcry of physical suffering and spiritual anguish.

But then comes the time of the joyful angels of Simchas Torah, the angels created by the exultant verses of Atah hareisa11 and now the angels from Russia occupy pride of place. For now, forlorn in his dark house, sits a hungry Jew; his wife and children are famished and broken in spirit; his heart weeps for his lot and for theirs; he almost despairs (G‑d forbid) that things could ever improve. But suddenly he remembers that today is Simchas Torah. A gleaming ray of rollicking memories strikes his whole being like a lightning bolt. His spirits are raised. He runs off to the local beis midrash for Hakkafos and leaps into the circle of dancers. “Elokei haruchos, hoshiah na,”12 he cries out, “G‑d of all spirits, deliver us; examiner of hearts, grant us success; mighty Redeemer, answer us on the day we call!” And he grasps the wooden handle of a nearby Sefer Torah and sings at the top of his voice: “Sisu vesimchu beSimchas Torah13 Rejoice and exult on Simchas Torah!”

Men of this kind are envied not only by all the angels of Heaven, but even by the loftiest souls — the souls of tzaddikim, souls connected with all their brethren, souls whose abode is the supernal World of Atzilus; they too envy this self-sacrificing mesirus nefesh, the pure innocence of this simple faith. Such a mesirus-nefesh Jew is cherished and held sacred in all the Worlds. Together with such Jews we should now proceed to Hakkafos — and it is clear and certain that “thought is potent.”

May the Almighty accept everyone’s requests, and the prayers which seek to arouse His compassion; may He soon free those people (and us as well) from suffering, so that they will be able to observe the Torah and the mitzvos at their heart’s ease. And if the exile as ordained requires that things should be (G‑d forbid) as they have been until now, let the Almighty send down angels.14 Then we will see what benefit we will have from them — just as they have shown in other days when they have come down to This World.

5. A trembling world calms down

On Rosh HaShanah 5650 (1889) my father15 delivered the chassidic discourse which begins with the words Hayom haras olam16 (“Today the world was born”), and which appears in the course of the maamar beginning Tik’u of that year. On that occasion, [alluding to the similarity between haras and reses, which means “trembling,”] my father expounded the above phrase to mean that “today the world trembles.”17 He resumed this theme a few weeks later, after Kiddush on Simchas Torah. Kiddush used to be recited at the home of my grandmother — Rebbitzin Rivkah, the wife of the Rebbe Maharash — and this would be the occasion for a farbrengen. He now added: “On the eve of Rosh HaShanah the world is like someone who feels faint, and who shudders in anxiety while waiting for his life-force to be restored to him. On Simchas Torah, when the blessing Shehecheyanu is recited over the renewed reading of the Torah,18 the world calms down.”19

6. The artful antics of the speculative mind

In the year 5648 (1888) my father was elected gabbai20 of the chevrah kaddisha in Lubavitch, and according to the custom of the time he was conducted to the synagogue with a canopy spread out overhead. Arriving there he stood at the lectern and delivered a maamar which opened with the Talmudic phrase, Ein HaKadosh-Baruch-Hu ba bitrunya — “The Almighty does not confront His creatures with unfair demands.”21 A central theme in this discourse is the contrast between intellectuals (baalei mochin) and men of simple faith (anashim pshutim) with regard to divine service. Whenever there is a call to duty in the Torah-observant community the unsophisticated believer is ready to act, without spiritual preparations and introductions. If, for example, a new Torah school is needed, he is the first to contribute the first tzveier:22 devotedness to the point of self-sacrifice is no difficult thing for him. An intellectual by contrast thinks, then thinks again — and in the end intellect does not grant its consent to the superrational, self-sacrificing demands of mesirus nefesh.

A relative of ours once lived in Lubavitch, a grandson and namesake of my grandfather’s great-uncle R. Chaim Avraham, the son of the Alter Rebbe. For a time he lived in Moscow for business reasons, so he was known as Avraham Moskver. He was a man of sound understanding, a bar daas, but a maskil23 one whose approach to divine service has intellectualization as its starting point. His observance of the mitzvos in practice was impeccable: it was only that he had a certain way of thinking things over,24 and occupied his mind with philosophical speculation, chakirah.

My father once said to him: “Avraham, repent! And do your teshuvah like a man of simple faith, like an ish pashut, without the artful antics of the speculative mind.”25

My father then explained to him at length the subject of the above-mentioned maamar, and went on as follows: “If, G‑d forbid, you don’t, then whether in a year’s time I do not know, but in two years’ time he will be in the World of Truth.”

My father did not say “he”: he addressed him directly in the second person, but I don’t want to say such things in the second person.

He continued: “Whether where you will be situated will be a World of Truth, I do not know.”26

One of those present asked the Rebbe what came of this encounter. The Rebbe replied: “R. Avraham confirmed by a handshake that he would do as he was instructed. It seems however that he did not fulfill his undertaking, for within the next two years he traveled to America, and immediately after his arrival his wife was left widowed and his children fatherless. When this news reached home, my father was deeply grieved.”

7. How to love your neighbor

The Rebbe resumed a topic on which he had spoken the previous day, Shemini Atzeres, in the maamar27 beginning with the words, Bayom hashemini shilach.28 In the course of that discourse he had elaborated on a phrase from Shir HaShirim: shlachayich pardess rimonim.29 In their literal meaning, according to Rashi, these words mean, “Your arid areas (hence, ‘the least worthy among you’) are an orchard of pomegranates.” In this phrase the Rebbe perceived a directive.

We Jews are obligated to make an “orchard” out of these “pomegranates.” The rind of a pomegranate, its kelipah, is tough; what is of value is its inner content,30 its toch. It is in this sense that the pomegranate figures in the Talmudic metaphor depicting the attitude of R. Meir to his teacher who had strayed from the path: “Its inner content he ate, its rind he discarded.” And just as the pomegranate has its pnimiyus and chitzoniyus, its inner content and its outward aspect, so too do we find this duality at all spiritual levels, even in the realm of the black silk frockcoat of the most pious of folk. The same duality is to be found at lower levels likewise. And from all of these one is obliged to make a pardess.

To illustrate the bitter regret of the Egyptians after the Exodus, the Midrash presents the parable of a man who owned a stretch of wasteland which was marred by a mound of stones, and sold it.31 The purchaser cleared the rubble, dug a well, and planted olive trees and grapevines that were irrigated by the waters of the well, until his plot was transformed into a lush grove. Passing by one day the former owner wailed: “Woe unto me, for this is what I sold!”

This, then, is our task: out of these very pomegranates to make a lush orchard — to speak to a fellow Jew and to persuade him to put on tefillin, to wear tzitzis. And even though on the next day he may perhaps not perform these mitzvos, today’s mitzvah is nevertheless a thing of value. Take even the case of a well-to-do family who keep up the customs of their father for appearance’ sake. The local rav sends them an esrog as a gift; then since there is now an esrog at hand, the householder will take it up together with a lulav and give it a shake. And this too is of value.

In whatever direction one can involve a fellow Jew in a positive activity, to reinvigorate his inner essence, in that direction should one exert oneself. This should be done only through kiruv, bringing him close to the mitzvos in a spirit of friendliness. One must however keep in mind that this kiruv requires caution: such friendship must be kept within limits. For just as one man exerts an influence on his friend, so in turn does his friend exert an influence on him. This is a process that passes through various stages. At first one feels compassion for the other. This gives rise to a limud zechus: one seeks ways of justifying the other’s conduct. And this is as it ought to be: one should indeed seek such ways. The person who is the object of this thought, however, must not know of it. The place where this limud zechus belongs is within oneself, when with tears from the heart one reads a passage of Tehillim for another’s sake, through its words requesting the Almighty to have pity on him. This is ahavas Yisrael, the love of a fellow Jew, which each Jew should practice toward his good friend — in the meantime being wary of excessive companionship, until with the Almighty’s help the friend is properly set up in an upright manner so that one may and should seek his companionship.

In the Torah we read: “You shall not hate your brother in your heart; you shall repeatedly rebuke your friend, and not bear sin because of him.”32 On the one hand there is the requirement of the verse, “I hate them (the heretics) with the utmost hatred.”33 At the same time,34 however, we are commanded, “You shall not hate your brother in your heart.” (The meaning of this verse will be understood by reference to the commentary of Ramban.35 ) And this is how one should speak to a fellow Jew about putting on tefillin in the morning, or saying the afternoon Minchah prayer – for there are those who draw distinctions between the morning prayer of Shacharis, and Minchah. Such a person needs to have it explained to him that in the ten minutes that Minchah takes he will not forfeit his livelihood. And if he does not understand this now, he will understand it in his 121st year….36 Then he will be grateful that someone persuaded him to daven, and the like; then he will be happy that he took notice.

8. Shluchim to arid regions

In the writings of the Mitteler Rebbe, R. Dov Ber, one occasionally finds the expression, “In lighter vein one might interpret as follows….” In our subject, too, one might expound the above-quoted phrase, shlachayich pardess rimonim in this spirit, for שְׁלָחַיִךְ reading שְׁלוּחַיִךְ, “your emissaries” — the emissaries of the House of Israel in the various communal institutions, whose duty it is to make an “orchard” out of “pomegranates,” through the strengthening of Torah study and of the observance of Judaism. And may the Almighty grant them His help.

9. Fixed in the soul

The Mishnah uses the expression, “The Torah is acquired.”37 That is to say, the Torah must become an acquisition within the soul, a kinyan banefesh.

R. Yehoshua Zeitlin38 once asked the Alter Rebbe: “What is the situation in your camp with regard to Torah study?”

The Alter Rebbe replied that the working men, who were not professional scholars, all had fixed times for the study of the Torah.

“But the same is true of us!” protested the learned opponent of the new movement. “So what have you innovated with the path of Chassidus?”

“I have already shown you a great deal of what has been innovated through the path of Chassidus,” replied the Alter Rebbe, “and more I will yet show you. As to the present question, the innovation is that whereas with your people the study of the Torah is fixed in time,39 the teachings of Chassidus require in addition that the study of the Torah be fixed in one’s soul.”40

10. Generations vary

In earlier days the maamarim discussed matters of avodah, divine service, with explanations given according to haskalah, the theoretical dimension of chassidic teaching. With my father — who “rose and took the measure of the earth”41 until the coming of Mashiach, with regard to the divine light which is to be drawn down into This World — the maamarim were all on the plane of haskalah, while questions of avodah he discussed with individuals, at yechidus. Now, however, explanations concerning avodah need to be given in public.

11. Aspiring to an insight

In my father’s maamarim one often encounters the expression, “to experience a divine insight”; or, “to experience the essence of a divine insight.” It is exactly this that one takes the liberty of demanding in others, and of aspiring to.

12. One hundred fasts

Thinking has a drawback: removing oneself from a thought requires activity. Thus R. Zeira,42 for example, undertook a hundred fasts in order to forget the Babylonian Talmud, to which the Sages apply the verse, “He caused me to dwell in dark places.”43 This R. Zeira did even though he was yet to return to his study of it — but in order to reach the spiritual level of the Talmud Yerushalmi he was obliged to undertake a hundred fasts.

13. To love G‑d, love your neighbor

My father used to say that fulfilling the commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself,”44 is a means45 to fulfilling the commandment,46 “Love the L-rd your G‑d.”47

Every Jew needs to constantly arouse himself to the performance of this mitzvah of ahavas Yisrael to love a fellow Jew, which is indeed to love the Almighty. This means having good friends, and exerting oneself for them both physically and spiritually — not fulfilling one’s obligations in a general way, as if one could discharge one’s duty by merely meditating on the subject of ahavas Yisrael. Rather, the mitzvah requires doing tangible deeds, having numerous friends and acquaintances, keeping oneself close to the Torah and to avodah, and bringing them likewise close to the Torah and to avodah, each according to his capacity.

At this point the Rebbe said: “We will proceed with Hakkafos together with the mesirus-nefesh Jews, and together with Jews the world over.”

He then rose and gave his blessing for children, health and sustenance,48 in the following words: “Jews everywhere should have children. As to those whose hearts have not yet been made happy, may the Almighty gladden their hearts this year. Jews everywhere should be healthy. As to those who need to be healed, may the Almighty grant them a recovery this year. Jews everywhere need a livelihood. As to those for whom this is still lacking, may the Almighty this year give them sustenance.”

The Rebbe and all those assembled then began Hakkafos.

14. Deeds, not words

In the course of the announcement of the verses of Atah hareisa which the Rebbe was soon to be honored with reciting,49 one of the chassidim who participated in the bidding was a respected householder known for his active support of the Yeshivah in Riga. The verse he “bought” was, “May our words find favor before the Master of all things.”50

Before reciting this verse, the Rebbe said: “There are various verses in the Torah which have two versions, a kri and a ksiv — the way they are to be pronounced, and the way they are written.

“Today is Simchas Torah, the Rejoicing of the Torah. Today the Torah rejoices.

“The sentence as written says, amareinu — ‘our words.’ That is, [so to speak,] the ksiv. But the practical consequence of the verse should accord with its inner intention, which is, ‘May our deeds find favor.’

“The dissemination of Torah is a matter of actual deeds, things which need to be done. Not merely talked about, but done. May the Almighty grant that the students should grow up to be G‑d-fearing men — chassidim, and that those who work in this field be blessed both materially and spiritually.”

15. Salt and honey

At the beginning of the evening meal of Simchas Torah the Rebbe took the piece of bread over which he had pronounced the blessing HaMotzi and dipped it in salt. There was also honey on the table, according to the custom. After he had eaten the piece of bread the Rebbe said: “On Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah honey is not needed, because all things (i.e., the Heavenly blessings) are already prepared Above. But if there is honey on the table, one can dip the HaMotzi in honey.”

16. Mind over middos

The order in which passages appear in the Torah is also Torah, and a guide to avodah as well.

For example: In Parshas Pinchas, a passage in which all the festivals appear, the last-mentioned Yom-Tov is Shemini Atzeres.51 As to the concluding verse, “And Moshe told the Children of Israel according to all that G‑d had commanded Moshe,”52 it could be said that this refers to Simchas Torah.53 The passage on the festivals is followed by the passage on nedarim,54 vows, and this in turn is followed by the episode of the battle with Midian.55

After Shemini Atzeres, the stage of avodah that is next required is the one that is represented by nedarim. In this context the Torah uses the expression, “If a man (ish) should make a vow.”56 Unlike the laws of negaim,57 diseases, where the word used for “man” is adam, the word used here is ish. This term refers to the level of middos, character attributes or emotions, for nedarim in general relate to middos.

In the paths of avodah everything should find its place in an organized fashion. Now, every kind of order demands time. But even before any such plan gets into motion, one should see to it that in the most dispensable of material things, No should take precedence over Yes. This is a general principle in avodah — that in all material things one should wherever possible refrain.

After this stage of avodah with one’s middos comes the battle of Midian. This name is etymologically connected with medanim, which means disputing58 or contending — in this case, contending in the cause of holiness. That is to say that even middos of holiness need to have bounds. How does one come out of this battle victorious? By means of the avodah that is hinted at by the words, elef lamateh59 the thousand (elef) from each tribe (mateh) that were conscripted by Moshe Rabbeinu to do battle with Midian. For elef lamateh read alef lamateh. Alef, the first letter of the alphabet, represents the primary intellectual faculty of Chochmah;60 the word mateh stands for middos. The phrase alef lamateh thus stands for hamshachas mochin bamiddos — the task of drawing down alef, the intellectual level of the soul, lamateh, into the level of the middos, in order that it should influence them.

In general terms, then, the order of the stages in avodah is as follows. Shemini Atzeres is the time of klitah — literally “absorption,” hence “conceiving.” In order that this “conception” should give rise to a sound “pregnancy” and an easy “birth,” Shemini Atzeres is followed by Simchas Torah, the time when the recipient rejoices. The next stage, as mentioned above, is the avodah which corresponds to the next passage in the Torah, that which sets out the laws of nedarim. And this labor of controlling and refining the middos is followed in turn by the stage of avodah represented by the battle of Midian, namely, the avodah of bringing intellectual guidance to bear on the middos.

This subject can be comprehended thoroughly only by studying the lengthy expositions to be found in the teachings of Chassidus.

17. When the nucleus of the soul surfaces

Simchas Torah, and the concluding Ne’ilah service of Yom Kippur, are times that are equal for all. True, they vary according to the essence of each person — but they are nonetheless equal. Simchas Torah and Ne’ilah are times at which the innermost level of the soul, the yechidah shebanefesh, is revealed; the yechidah is then in a state of arousal. On Simchas Torah all Jews have an aliyah to the Torah — all Jews ascend to the Torah.

At the Kiddush and Daytime Seudah of Simchas Torah

18. A message from Gan Eden

Yesterday I promised to tell a story (and don’t ask me for details about it, because I will only tell what I have been allowed to). And my intention in recounting this story is that something of essential value should result from it.

The celebrated chassid by the name of R. Shmuel Ber of Borisov spent the festival of Simchas Torah in the year 5614 (1853) in Lubavitch. Now the house of the Rebbe at the time, the Tzemach Tzedek, stood on the spot later occupied by the large study hall of the Tomchei Temimim Yeshivah, and in the same courtyard there stood another house in which lived his son, [later to be known as] the Rebbe Maharash. One day this chassid fell asleep in the minyan that was held next to the study of the Rebbe, the Tzemach Tzedek. He woke up suddenly and heard the Rebbe going to the house of his son R. Shmuel and telling him to accompany him, because his grandfather [R. Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the Alter Rebbe, who had passed away some forty years before] had promised him that he would teach him a mishnah from Tractate Sukkah just as it is studied in the Lower Garden of Eden. The father and son entered the room of the Tzemach Tzedek, and the chassid in the next room overheard the beginning of the mishnah together with its explanation — and fell asleep.

The next day the Tzemach Tzedek told him: “If one overhears what one shouldn’t, one is liable to get a flick61 — children who grow up to be ignoramuses.”

Throughout his life R. Shmuel Ber revealed nothing of this incident, until he felt his end drawing near, and then he recounted it to my father.

19. Thinking is potent

A person entered while the Rebbe was speaking, upon which the Rebbe said that his entry was a revelation of his thought.

“Today,” said the Rebbe, “I thought of you a great deal” — and mentioned the person’s name and the name of his mother.

20. Musical hypocrisy

A niggun was sung, though hurriedly, and on this the Rebbe commented.

A situation like this arose on Yud-Tes Kislev 5663 (1902). At the time my father said: “When one is involved in one matter and hastens to another, this is a case of ‘one thing in the mouth and another in the heart’ (this being the classic Hebrew idiom for hypocrisy). And who permitted that?”

21. Thought as an emissary

The Rebbe resumed the subject of thought — one of its distinctive merits is that in thought one can be in two places at once; another: in thought, souls (neshamos) can serve as emissaries for salvation.

For in general, all missions which are related to the material world are carried out by angels, while missions carried out by souls involve only the clarification of matters of Torah study and of avodah, the service of the Creator. (Eliyahu the Prophet alone is assigned to both kinds of missions, in that he is also an angel, as is known.) But a mission of salvation through the means of thought can be carried out by a soul as well.

22. Recharging one’s spiritual batteries

In Shir HaShirim there appear the words, venozlim min Levanon — “And running waters from Lebanon.”62 The Hebrew word לְבָנוֹן (Lebanon) comprises two clusters of letters: ל״ב and נו״ן. The numerical value of the letters ל״ב totals 32, alluding to the Thirty-Two Paths of Chochmah63 (Wisdom); the value of the letter nun is 50, alluding to the Fifty Gates of Binah64 (Understanding). The verse thus intimates that from Chochmah and Binah which are in etzem haneshamah, the essential being of the soul which remains Above, there is a constant flow into the he’aras haneshamah, the reflection of the soul which is clothed in the body here below.

For this we have two abstract explanations. The first is ko’ach hamaskil, the superconscious source of the intellect, which is in a state of constant cognition. This source does not exist only when perception reaches a state of conscious revelation: it is constantly in a state of revelation in itself, and only when a person exerts his intellectual powers does it become conscious in them as revealed intellect. This insight then becomes refined and organized through the intellectual faculties of Chabad (acronym for Chochmah, Binah and Daas), and especially through hisbonenus, profound contemplation, which is iyun,65 study.

The second explanation, or analogy, is the power of growth latent in the earth, which is constantly in readiness to function, waiting for the seed from a particular kernel to be sown.

23. Transmuting darkness to light

The Baal Shem Tov revealed — and his disciples, our Rebbeim, explained and amplified his teaching — that it is within the reach of every single Jew, through cleaving (dveikus) to the letters of the Torah and of prayer, to transform66 צָרָה (which means tribulation) into צֹהַר(which means a window).67

24. A butcher from Nevl, no less!

The Rebbe asked that a niggun be sung, and instructed one of those present to conduct the singing “like a melamed who points the place with his finger.” He then proceeded to explain to him what kind of person a chassidisher melamed68 should be.

The function of a chassidisher melamed is to bring light into a household, to make the household luminous, without a great deal of ingenious philosophizing (chakiros un chochmos). Your distinctive contribution is not your ability to teach the alphabet — kometz alef: oh. For it was to the temimim, to all of you here who are alumni of the Tomchei Temimim Yeshivah which he founded, that my father applied the prophet’s expression of affection and esteem, al kapayim chakosich — “I have engraved you on the palms of My hands.”69 And as a teacher you have (May no ayin hara harm you!) a powerful ability to illuminate your fellow Jews with the light of the Torah and the mitzvos.

You come from Nevl. It is a familiar story that once the Mitteler Rebbe was visited in Lubavitch by twenty-odd70 chassidim from Nevl — young men who were supported during their years of study after marriage by their fathers or fathers-in-law. While in Lubavitch they continued their accustomed practices — davenen at length, their prayer being accompanied by earnest meditation on relevant teachings of Chassidus, and studying Torah assiduously — as is described in a certain letter. Observing this, the Mitteler Rebbe quoted two words from Tehillim, הַלְלוּהוּ בְּנֵבֶל (“Praise Him with the harp”71 ), and then echoed them punningly: הַלְלוּהוּ בְּנעֶוול (“Praise Him in Nevl...”).

And my father once said: “I cherish more a butcher from Nevl than a scholarly maskil72 from Kremenchug.”

25. Domestic harmony

One of those present asked whether it is preferable to study Torah at home or in a group, and the Rebbe gave his answer.

Without a doubt Torah should be studied in a group — in shul, or wherever people gather. It is true that Torah study at home has a great advantage insofar as the tone of the household is concerned, for the respect shown at home to a husband and father should not derive only from the fact that he is the breadwinner who provides for the family’s needs. It should derive from loftier things, from spiritual considerations. The family should know that one studies and that one’s mind is occupied with topics of Torah and the fear of Heaven — and then at home one finds favor in a very special way. And this is the genuine domestic harmony, shalom bayis, that the Torah treasures. (In the matter of domestic harmony, by the way, there are a number of current misconceptions that call for correction.)

Nevertheless, Torah should be studied with a group. As for the benefits which the household could gain, it is advised that when the father of the family comes home he should explain some topic taken from his study — some apt quotation from the Gemara, for example.

26. Going the right way

The Rebbe said LeChaim over a sip of strong drink — mashke, in the vernacular.

LeChaim! May the Almighty grant that the mashke should go the right way, and that you all likewise go the right way.

Any word may be interpreted in various directions. There is a right way in a straightforward sense, and there is a right way at ever higher levels, one ascent following the other, materially and spiritually.

27. Making time for avodah

One of the chassidim present asked how the Rebbe’s frequent emphasis on the need for avodah shebalev applied to working people who were not fulltime scholars. According to the Rebbe’s published statements on the subject it would seem that this “service of the heart” — prayer prolonged by the disciplined contemplation of relevant themes in the teachings of Chassidus — belonged more to the realm of the scholars. For such “dwellers in the tents” (yoshvei ohel) are able to devote the time demanded by such avodah, while working people are occupied throughout the day with their business or profession. What, concluded the questioner, should their situation be?

The Alter Rebbe was quoted earlier on the subject of kviyus banefesh: one’s Torah study should be fixed in one’s soul.73

A chassid who works for his livelihood should be like a son-in-law supported by his father-in-law — an eidim oif kest. So long as one is in this situation one has no worries. When, however, one’s father-in-law begins to drop hints that conditions are such that a certain degree of help is called for in his business, one begins to become involved, and helps out a little. Nevertheless, such a young man is still oif kest. So first he eats his breakfast, and drinks his fill, and only then does he set out for his father-in-law’s place of business.

Exactly so should a chassidisher working man be. And everyone here knows what is represented in the teachings of Chassidus by eating and drinking — Torah and the avodah of prayer, respectively.

May the Almighty grant a comfortable livelihood to all of Anash together with all of our brethren of the House of Israel, so that they will be in a position to invest time in Torah and avodah.