1. Prepare a space for Me, too

On Shemini Atzeres, as we have explained,1 an or atzmi is invested from above in one’s keilim, but these vessels are sealed and blocked on all sides. These very vessels need to be opened.

How does one open them? — Through dancing at the Hakkafos of Simchas Torah, and artlessly so. That means that one dances simply because it is Simchas Torah: because the Torah is happy, and the Giver of the Torah is happy too. And by virtue of this unsophisticated faith, one opens up the sealed and blocked vessels in which the or atzmi lies concealed. During the Hakkafos the doors of Heaven are open, because the Torah’s happiness throws open the doors and gates of all the chambers of Heaven.

In the Midrash2 we find the following parable.

A king once married off his only daughter to a prince from another land. After the wedding, when the young man wanted his bride to make the long journey with him to his home, her father addressed him as follows: “This young lady whose hand I have given you in marriage is my only daughter. I cannot part with her — but neither can I command you not to take her away with you to your homeland. Grant me, therefore, one favor: Wherever you both may go, prepare a little room for me, so that I will be able to be near you. For I cannot part with my only daughter.”

G‑d has given the holy Torah to us, His chosen people.

“I have bestowed the Torah upon you,” He says to us. “I cannot part with it — but neither can I command you not to take it unto yourselves. My sole request: Wherever you may be, and wherever you may go, prepare a place for Me, too, so that I will be near you.”

This parable serves as a prelude to the teaching contained in the verse, “They shall make Me a sanctuary, and I shall dwell in their midst.”3

Any person who was brought up in the luminous education of one generation ago at the hands of a G‑d-fearing melamed, in those days when by entering the cheder a child would become saturated with the narratives recounted in the Torah; and in his pure and innocent little mind an image would crystallize of the Beis HaMikdash, of the Mishkan; with Aharon and his Urim veTumim, garbed in his mitznefes and tzitz, and his coat with its tiny bells,4 and with Moshe Rabbeinu with his rays of glory,5 and so on; moreover, as a child in those days grew older, his faculty of pictorial imagination developed too; — such a person can be sensitive to the infinitely rich refinement of spirit that lies in that parable.

2. G‑d’s only daughter

The Torah is G‑d’s only daughter, and the People of Israel are His only son. This only son is the son of a King (for, as it is written, “All of Israel are the sons of kings”6), and he marries G‑d’s only daughter. For it is written, “The Torah which Moshe commanded us is the heritage of the congregation of Yaakov,”7 and on this verse the Gemara comments, “Do not read מוֹרָשָׁה (‘heritage’) but מְאוֹרָסָה (‘betrothed’).”8

This, then, is what G‑d says to the People of Israel who receive His Torah: “The Torah is My only daughter. I cannot part with it — but neither can I tell you not to take it unto yourselves. One favor, therefore, do I ask of you: Wherever you may be, prepare a little room for Me, too, so that I will not have to part with My only daughter!”

Words cannot express the rich and earnest feeling that lies in this statement — especially as it is illuminated by the teachings of Chassidus.

The Torah is reason and wisdom9 — but Divine Reason. The difference between mortal reason and Divine Reason has been discussed on another occasion.10

Of the Torah it is written, וְתוֹרָה אוֹר — “and the Torah is a light,”11 for it lights up the path in life that a man must tread in his passage through this world. This is what is meant by the expression, “The word תּוֹרָה (Torah) derives from the word הוֹרָאָה(hora’ah), meaning ‘a teaching.’”12 That is to say, in all matters the Torah is a guide through the paths of life.

Every concept grasped entails the production of a middah; the dimensions of this middah, of this outcome of thinking, are of course in proportion to the thinking that occasioned it. And herein lies the difference between middos that are produced by mortal reason, and middos that are the result of Torah, which is Divine Reason: the laws of man derive from life, whereas the laws of G‑d create life.

The Torah is indeed Divine Reason — but it is Divine Reason that has been transmitted to man’s actual understanding. And this is the meaning of the parable. The Torah, says G‑d, is His only daughter. That is to say, the Torah is reason — but Divine Reason. That G‑d should part with it is impossible; to say that it should not be taken over by mortal reason is also impossible, for the Torah must be understood. What one must do, then, is to make a room for the Giver of the Torah: one must always remember that the Torah is His Wisdom and His Will.

3. The Mitteler Rebbe’s style of delivery

On the Shabbos of Selichos in the year 5579 (1819) the Mitteler Rebbe delivered the first part of the maamar that opens with the words, Lehavin inyan Rosh HaShanah — “To understand what is the essence of Rosh HaShanah...,” which appears in Ateres Rosh.

It was the custom of the Mitteler Rebbe to expound Chassidus twice in the course of each Shabbos, and often three times. Since on each occasion he spoke for three-quarters of an hour to an hour, he delivered the whole of that maamar in installments in the course of the Shabbos of Selichos (which fell that year on Parshas Ki Savo), the Shabbos of Parshas Nitzavim, Rosh HaShanah 5580 (1819), and Shabbos Teshuvah.

As to Yom Kippur, his custom was to expound Chassidus three times: on the eve of Yom Kippur, after a very early Shacharis; on Motzaei Yom Kippur; and the next morning before davenen. In the course of these three occasions that year, the Mitteler Rebbe delivered the whole of the maamar that appears in Ateres Rosh, in the section entitled Shaar Yom Kippur.

In his maamarim, as is known, the Mitteler Rebbe explains every concept at length, and their oral delivery took far longer than their written text indicates.

In those days the teachings of Chassidus were alive. Hundreds of chassidim — old, young, and middle-aged — studied Chassidus assiduously; in the haskalah of Chassidus they leaped to life.

A chassid by the name of R. Abba of Tchashnik told me that he had known R. Ephraim of Semilian in his hoary old age. R. Ephraim had a rare combination of intellectual gifts. He was intelligent, inventive, comprehensive and profound, and nimble of grasp. Moreover, whatever concept he sought to explain issued from his mouth with pearly eloquence. In addition he was an oved, being occupied in the labor of davenen for several hours every day.

4. After a five-hour weekday Shacharis

R. Ephraim had completed his prayers at about ten o’clock one summer morning — for the chassidim of bygone years who used to daven at length would start at four or five a.m. and be finished by nine or ten. On his way to his lodgings to have some breakfast, he encountered a number of fellow chassidim. They asked him to clarify some queries that they had concerning the Chassidus that had been delivered on the previous Shabbos, so he answered them.

Now R. Ephraim could answer only in his own distinctive style, and it was immaterial whether the question related to nigleh or to Chassidus. As far as he was concerned, they were both one and the same thing: he understood nigleh according to Chassidus, and he understood Chassidus according to nigleh. Whatever the subject was, he would first explain his questioner exactly what his question was, so that he should know just what it was that he did not know. Only then would he proceed to explain the matter at hand — so clearly that no difficulties remained.

In particular, R. Ephraim had a soft spot for yungelait who wanted to thoroughly understand a vort of Chassidus that they had heard. He likewise cherished the plain Jews of simple faith who used to visit Lubavitch in order to see the Rebbe and hear him expound Chassidus. Being men of scant learning, these poor fellows were of course unable to follow the Chassidus that the Rebbe delivered — except for a familiar verse here and there from the Chumash or from Tehillim, or an oft-quoted maxim of the Sages that appears in Pirkei Avos or Ein Yaakov, or an uncomplicated parable that they now heard from the Rebbe. This was what they understood; this was what invigorated them; in this they rejoiced.

When the maamar was over, and all the chassidim assembled broke into a fiery dance, these ordinary chassidishe folk would leap right into it, their souls fired by the same holy flame of dveikus that inspired the most sophisticated maskilim and ovdim. For these homespun chassidim of simple faith were just as alive with their few familiar verses and maxims as the prominent maskilim were with the lofty concepts that they had grasped.

In the face of these very folk, this richly-talented R. Ephraim of Semilian felt deeply and utterly humbled. This may be seen from a remark of his to R. Abba of Tchashnik: “After more than 50 years’ toil in Chassidus, — if only an involved concept in the haskalah of Chassidus would settle into my mind with the same chiyus that is experienced by R. Chaim Elye’s when he hears his portion in Chassidus!”

5. An intellectual envies a barely-literate wagon-driver

R. Chaim the son of R. Elye was a wagon-driver from a townlet called Krupke, who for over 50 years used to pay an annual visit to Lubavitch. He was far from being a scholar, but was a man of refined character. Every verse, every quotation from the Sages, that he heard the Rebbe utter in the course of a maamar, was in his eyes a discourse in Chassidus. He would master its Yiddish translation and learn it off by heart, and throughout the whole year, until his next visit, he would recite to himself from memory those words that he had heard in Lubavitch.

R. Chaim Elye’s was aware of his responsibilities as a chassid. So in addition to treating his “maamarim” in the same way as the maskilim treated their maamarim (for he was forever repeating them off by heart, whether at home or perched up on his driver’s seat), he would gather around him the simple folk who were his cronies, describe what he had seen while visiting the Rebbe in Lubavitch, and repeat the “Chassidus” that he had heard. His speech was always enthused, and he was somewhat musical too, so when he had finished repeating what he had heard, he would start up a melody and spark off his comrades in a rollicking dance.

This was R. Chaim Elye’s custom when he was at home in Krupke, this was his custom at all the wayside inns on the road leading to Orsha,13 and this was his custom when he arrived at Orsha.

And it is this unlettered, chassidisher wagon-driver who is envied by the gifted maskil and oved, R. Ephraim; he feels humble in the face of the simple and sincere avodah of R. Chaim Elye’s. That great intellectual rebukes himself, and seeks to learn a lesson from this intellectually poor and naked wagon-driver. He concludes that “His good deeds exceed his wisdom”;14 as to himself, the maskil, “His wisdom exceeds his good deeds….”15

Forty years had passed since R. Ephraim had made his remark, yet as R. Abba retold it to me he was all aflame. Tears came to his eyes as he recalled how humble and contrite the elder chassid had been at the time.

6. Being alive in the study of Chassidus

When, as we were saying, these chassidim met R. Ephraim after shul on the way to his lodgings, he pondered over their questions for a while, and then proceeded to explain to them exactly what it was that they were asking. Only then were they amazed to fathom the profundity of their queries. Previously they themselves had not known exactly what they had not understood, and only at this point did they become aware of how urgent was their desire to understand the maamar of Shabbos precisely.

This introductory phase behind him, R. Ephraim now went on to explain the entire subject in his own manner, clarifying its every aspect to the utmost. Though his explanations were typically lengthy, he would summarize them at intervals, and only when he saw that his listeners had grasped his meaning would he proceed from one topic to the next.

Continuing steadily in this manner, they strolled through the length of the township, and eventually found themselves in the fields beyond. So entranced were they by their subject, that they did not realize that the day had passed — until the sun began to set, and they hurried back to reach town in time for Minchah.

This is the meaning of being alive in the study of Chassidus.16 When an outstanding maskil derives a moral lesson from an ordinary, sincerely chassidisher wagon-driver, to the point that he becomes contrite and humbled; when a man spends a long summer’s day discussing explanations of chassidic concepts, forgetting that he has not yet eaten anything; — this is the meaning of being alive in the study of Chassidus.

7. Whom is the maamar speaking about?

By this time,17 Tishrei 5580 (1819), five years had passed since the Mitteler Rebbe had settled in Lubavitch.18 Many hundreds of chassidim used to come to town and spend some time there, with the Rebbe’s sanction, studying Chassidus and reviewing and memorizing the newly-delivered maamarim.

On one of the days between Yom Kippur and Sukkos, the Mitteler Rebbe walked out into the courtyard for a little stroll. There he saw a group of some 200 chassidim attentively crowding around one of their colleagues, who was repeating from memory the maamar beginning with the words, LeHavin Inyan Rosh HaShanah. The chozer19 in question was widely known to have a firm grasp of his studies, and when he repeated a maamar he reproduced it faithfully, leaving out no words at all. And this was how he repeated this maamar too, beginning with the first installment that the Mitteler Rebbe had delivered on the Shabbos of Selichos, and proceeding in order with all of its successors.

Accompanying the Rebbe on that occasion was his son, R. Nachum.20 As yet unnoticed, the Rebbe stepped aside near a few trees that stood at the edge of the courtyard, and asked my great-greatuncle to walk across and find out who was speaking, and what maamar he was repeating. R. Nachum soon came back, saying that this was R. Avraham of Sosnitz. (When R. Nachum recounted this story to my uncle, R. Zalman Aharon,21 some 55 years later,22 he spoke with such zest as if it had happened the day before.) Moreover, he reported, the young man was repeating the entire maamar, that is to say, the entire cycle of maamarim that were delivered from the Shabbos of Selichos right up to the morning after Yom Kippur.

R. Nachum concluded his account of the incident to my uncle R. Zalman Aharon with these words: “And do you know what my father (the Mitteler Rebbe) told me to say to Avraham Sosnitzer? — ‘If one expounds the haskalah of Chassidus in a logical and tasteful manner, that’s certainly a very sweet and pleasant thing. But one must not forget Whom one is talking about: one is talking about the Infinite One, the Ein Sof Baruch Hu!’”

The Almighty has given us the Torah, His only daughter. The Divine Reason that is to be found in the Torah needs to be well assimilated in mortal reason. Moreover, a man’s conduct in all the aspects of his daily life ought to harmonize with the light of the Reason of the Torah, which is Divine Reason. But beyond all that, one must have a special room for the Giver of the Torah: one must keep in mind that the Torah is G‑d’s Wisdom and G‑d’s Will.

8. Throwing open the gates of Heaven

On Simchas Torah, when G‑d’s only daughter is happy, and G‑d’s only son, the Chosen People, dance with the Torah, intense joy is aroused On High, a joy that throws open the doors and gates of all the chambers of Heaven.

We once mentioned in a maamar that auspicious times23 in Heaven are of two kinds — the time of Rosh HaShanah and the Ten Days of Penitence and Yom Kippur, and the time of Sukkos (“the season of our rejoicing”24) and Simchas Torah. Each of these is an auspicious period Above, and each induces a generous measure of arousal here below.

This we can see with our own eyes. First of all, there are the Rosh-HaShanah-and-Yom-Kippur penitents. The deepest recesses of their hearts are touched by these Days of Awe; without wailing and without visible gesture they become drenched with tears of fire. Then there are the Simchas Torah penitents. The dancing of Simchas Torah envelops their entire being, as they are caught up in its ecstatic joy. As they dance, the worldly coarseness of their day-to-day life comes to mind, and they are filled with compassion for their own selves. With every passing moment this sensation grows ever warmer and more intense. As they unobtrusively edge their way even more deeply into the swirling circle, the innermost point of their heart is suddenly touched, and it gushes forth in tears of blood, in a firm resolve: a proper Jewish life according to the Torah is starting today.

During Hakkafos on Simchas Torah one can ask for and secure25 rich blessings indeed.

Businessmen have various ways of conducting their affairs; some sell only for cash, others give credit. The Almighty is a merchant who extends credit. In fact the very word Hakkafos comes from hakkafah (which means both “a circuit” and “credit”). Through one’s joy at the time of Hakkafos one can stock up with generous quantities of merchandise — but when one buys on credit one becomes obligated to pay up day by day.

9. Superficial ecstasy vs. intellectually-cultivated arousal

On Simchas Torah 5653 (1892) my father quoted the following vort of the Alter Rebbe.

“The Sages say: Ba letaher, mesaayim oso — ‘He who seeks to become pure is helped [from Above].’26 Now the verb letaher is related to the noun tohar, as in the verse, uch’etzem hashamayim latohar — ‘And like the vision of Heaven in its pure clarity.’27 How does one accomplish this? — Through dancing on Simchas Torah.”

Having quoted this, my father commented: “This the Alter Rebbe said at a time when he had scores and scores of chassidim whom he had himself nurtured, chassidim who had toiled hard and long in the avodah of self-refinement.28 With an assemblage like that, it was all right to have 50 or 100 Simchas Torah chassidim too. But as for us, we need regular, midweek chassidim,29 not Simchas Torah chassidim.”

It is well known that my father cherished those whose avodah was deliberate and inward;30 he had no time for those who were too readily ecstatic (baalei hispaalus), and for those whose avodah was not firmly based and settled.31 He certainly held hispaalus in esteem — provided that it was either a genuine experience generated by intellectual endeavor, or the hispaalus aroused by the innocent faith of a simple worshiper. As to the hispaalus that is brought on by hispaalus alone, my father used to label it chitzoniyus, an outward phenomenon of superficial origin. This explains what my father meant by “Simchas Torah chassidim”: people who are too lazy to exert themselves in understanding the haskalah of Chassidus, seeking instead to discharge their obligations by simple hispaalus.

Whenever hispaalus is born of intellectual endeavor, it gives rise to a worthwhile result, both in the level of one’s understanding, and in the refinement of one’s character and conduct. Not so the hispaalus of excited emotions, that has no roots in seichel. It gives rise to no tangible result, being mere exuberant noise that soon cools down, as if it had never been.

10. Trust more, rebuke less

These days people are using Chassidus for reasons other than its proper purposes.

The improvement of one’s character traits is not the task of Chassidus: it should precede the study of Chassidus. One should certainly not exploit Chassidus for the rectification of one’s positive character traits; how much more certainly should one not do so for the purpose of refraining from the exercise of evil character traits. One should not utilize the avodah of Chassidus even for the inculcation of positive middos and ahavas Yisrael.

Nowadays, not only is Chassidus being used for purposes for which it is not intended, but it is moreover not being used for its intended purposes.

The excuse used in answer to all objections is that people are preoccupied with the anxiety and bother of making a living. Now this is a painful subject, especially to talk about. I feel each individual’s hardships, and know more or less each individual’s pain and suffering, both the worries of earning a livelihood, and the anguish experienced over one’s own conduct. Each one of you is close to my heart, and each man’s distress strikes deep. (May the Almighty have pity, and gladden everyone with an abundance of both material and spiritual good!)

But after all is said and done, everyone knows himself that all this worry and bother achieves nothing; in fact the simple truth is that this worry is (G‑d forbid) a lack in one’s trust. Whoever trusts in G‑d (And who does not trust in G‑d? All Jews trust in G‑d!) should not worry at all. He should only ask the Almighty to have pity on him, and to help him in whatever he needs.

Now these few words of mine are exactly what every individual with a chassidisher upbringing should be telling himself. These are indeed hard times (May G‑d be merciful!) — but people do nevertheless find time for idle conversation.32 It is true that people are busy and bothered — but what kind of excuse is that for not doing what one ought to do? Yesteryear had its poor folk too, but they nevertheless managed to study Torah and to daven, and even to become warmly engrossed in a vort of Chassidus. When it was the other fellow who was the poor man, then at a farbrengen one of his comrades would be sure to remonstrate with him: “Why so sad? Why be downcast? Why don’t you study some Chassidus? A man should place his trust in G‑d!” But when it is the speaker himself who is the poor man, he forgets to tell himself what he should really be telling himself.

There are things that one man should not tell another, and there are things that one man must not tell another. As a rule, one should first try out one’s rebuke on oneself, and only then offer it to one’s fellow. Finally, there are things that one should not and must not tell another — but every individual should and must tell himself.

11. Meditation ought to yield tangible fruit

Every subject in Chassidus, including even the loftiest matter touched on in the haskalah of Chassidus, ought to give rise to a tangible result in one’s avodah. One does not need Chassidus, however, for the task of correcting one’s middos, especially at the elementary level. When in particular, one seeks to regard this activity as a legitimate substitute for genuine involvement in Chassidus, this is a veritable injustice.

This counterfeits Chassidus, and gives it a new face. The genuine coin of Chassidus, comprising both its haskalah and its avodah shebalev, becomes defaced beyond recognition, G‑d forbid.

The pouring forth of the soul that used to characterize a chassidisher davenen is nowhere to be seen. As to the practice of “thinking Chassidus,” i.e., focusing one’s thoughts on one subject for a few hours on end, people no longer know what it tastes like.

12. Simply thinking – for five hours straight?!

The first time I ever saw the celebrated chassid, R. Chaim Dov Vilenski, in Lubavitch, was after Pesach in the year 5649 (1889). On the Shabbos that he was there, my father delivered the maamar that has become known by the title אחרי רמ״ט, and that discusses Tohu and Tikkun.

One very hot day I was on my way home from cheder33 for lunch. (My class was held in the anteroom of the minyan.) Running across the courtyard I met R. Chaim Dov, who asked me to show him the entrance to the garden behind my father’s dwelling. I showed him the way in, near the well, and then followed him in order to see what he wanted to do there. He soon chose one of the fixed seats that stood in the garden, took off his hat, and sat there in his yarmulke. At this point I made my way home.

At that time I was in the class of the second melamed, R. Shimshon. We had to be at davenen at 8.00 a.m., and at cheder by 9.15. From 2.00 till 4.00 was the time for lunch and for writing, and then classes were resumed until 7.00. I would then usually go to the garden to play with a few of my friends.

Imagine my surprise on that day when I found R. Chaim Dov still sitting there, exactly as I had left him five hours earlier! My child’s mind could not grasp it: How could a man sit still in one place for five hours, thinking? I had seen people sitting and studying throughout a whole day, but this sitting and thinking amazed me. I soon recalled that when we were in Yalta34 in the winter of 5648 (1887-1888), and my father used to stroll among the mountains, he would sit down with a little book, and then be lost in thought for several hours on end.

I was so struck by what I had seen in the garden that I could not keep my discovery to myself, and I told my father of it.

As I grew older, such sights amazed me no longer. I observed that thinking for a few successive hours is quite an ordinary phenomenon. As I grew up further, I began to appreciate more fully to what extent the faculty of thinking has an impact on haskalah in general, and on one’s knowledge of Chassidus in particular.

13. Trampling on refined ideals

Most unfortunately, an utterly new breed of chassidim has come into being, chassidim who are introducing an alien spirit into the hallowed folkways of Chassidus.35 This is a clan whose motto is “Do as you please.”36 The conduct of such individuals is directed by their own understanding, and their own understanding is directed by whatever they feel like doing. These are not men whose ego has been laboriously refined, but men whose common and coarse ego37 has been enrobed in the garb of Chassidus. Such a man neither studies Chassidus as it ought to be studied, neither is he steeped in the avodah of davenen — but he’s a chassid.... It is painful to see people whose knowledge of Chassidus is poverty-stricken, people who are utterly denuded of the merest wisp of sensitivity for the world of avodah — and who nevertheless take the liberty of spouting their opinions38 about the way Chassidus should be lived,35 as if they owned it.

With G‑d’s help, I shall do everything in order not to allow the face of Chassidus to be changed. I shall help by all means possible to ensure that Chassidus will continue to be studied in the way that it has always been studied, in the way that has been revealed and laid down by our forefathers, the Rebbeim of their respective generations.

14. The dual objective of avodah

The Tomchei Temimim Yeshivah was structured to educate students in darchei haChassidus (lit., “the ways of Chassidus”). I use that phrase intentionally, because generally speaking the ways of Chassidus are applicable in equal measure to all men.

When it comes to the teachings of Chassidus, there are differences: people are not all alike, and cannot all be alike. A knowledge of the teachings of Chassidus depends on one’s spiritual sensibilities and mental gifts, and accordingly varies from one man to another.

Among baalei avodah too there are differences. With some, it is meditation on a divine theme during davenen that provides the impetus for their avodah. (This applies whether we are speaking of the avodah that takes place in their hearts — their avodah shebalev, in prayer — or whether we are speaking of the avodah that takes place with their hearts, in the refinement of their middos. This refinement refers both to the elimination of even the subtlest traces of undesirable traits, and to the cultivation of positive character traits.) With others, it is an awakening of the awe of Heaven that sparks off their avodah (whether in the heart or with the heart).

In these areas there are differences between people endowed with varying spiritual and intellectual gifts. The more gifted the individual, the swifter his grasp, and the richer his comprehension — which will duly affect the resultant avodah.

There is a verse that says, ul’avdo bechol levavchem — “And to serve Him with all your heart.”39 And on this Sages comment: “What service is this that takes place in the heart?40 — We ought surely conclude: This is prayer.”

Anyone who has some familiarity with Chassidus has heard the following vort on this subject: “Prayer is avodah shebalev (‘service that takes place in the heart’) ve’im halev (‘and with the heart’).”

That is to say, avodah comprises these two kinds of service. When we say that the service of prayer is an avodah shebalev, we mean that its entire avodah takes place in the heart itself.

15. The limits of description

There are things that neither words nor narration can convey. Let the narrator be ever so talented, describing his subject in the finest order possible, yet will that subject have to conjure up an image in the mind of his listener, whose imagination will now represent an authentic portrayal of it.

It is a common experience for a person to hear something described, and then, encountering the subject itself, to have the image that had crystallized in his mind confirmed by his own observation.

The above, however, is true only of things that may be conveyed by description. But there are subjects that defy verbal communication. In spite of all the narrator’s gifts, in spite of his strenuous exertions in seeking out the most fitting words, the truth of such a phenomenon — as it appears in real life — will not be conveyed. True enough, at the hands of a skilled narrator even the most wondrous of subjects will be efficiently described, so that the listener’s mind can summon up an image of its appearance. But this relates only to the external organs of the subject, not to its essential identity as it actually exists in real life.

16. The body of an object can be described, but not its soul

Everything comprises a guf and a nefesh, and this body and this soul exist in a certain proportion to each other. This is not the place to explain that in the nefesh there is a guf41 as well, and that in an inanimate object — in which our fleshly eye detects no trace of life — there is also a nefesh.

Here we have an instance of two things which we created mortals who live in houses of clay42 perceive as polar opposites. As far as we can see, the nefesh is spiritual, and the inanimate object is not only physical43 but material.44 However, as we have said, this is not the place to explain how what appears to us as the highest level of ruchniyus contains a body as well (except that it exists in a certain proportion to the nefesh); nor how a material object contains a nefesh too (except that it likewise bears a certain proportion to the guf); nor how in this manner everything comprises both a guf and a nefesh.

The power of speech can capture only the bodily component of whatever is being described. Even when the subject being described is one of the soul’s faculties45 or perceptive senses,46 it is only its guf, and not its nefesh, that can be explained by the power of speech. Even its chiyus cannot be explained by the power of speech, which is innately limited to describing only the bodily component of its subject. (Within that limited scope, however, speech does describe its subject in sufficient detail to enable a correct image of it to crystallize in the mind of the listener.)

This limitation of the power of speech explains a commonly-experienced phenomenon. It may happen that we hear something described to us, and then upon encountering it we discover that the image that we had pictured to ourselves accords with the objective facts. Nevertheless, our excitement at seeing the object in real life is as intense as if it were utterly unfamiliar.

The reason: Whatever words we had heard had described only the gufniyus — the bodily dimension, the external organs — of the object; in that depiction we had not apprehended its chiyus, and most certainly not its nefesh. When, however, we see the object, we see too the chiyus that animates it — and this is what excites our emotions just as if it had been a complete novelty.

17. Living with spiritual zest

A chassidisher davenen is one of those things that cannot be conveyed by words of description: they will merely touch upon the external organs of a chassid’s prayer. Whatever one can narrate about what a chassidisher davenen used to be like will portray only the outward appearance of the worshiper — utterly devoted to the avodah of prayer, and neither seeing nor hearing what went on around him.

This, however, is only the exterior of prayer. Prayer itself is avodah shebalev, the divine service that takes place in the heart. Now the heart means life, and prayer means chiyus. So when we say that prayer is the service of the heart, we are speaking of living with spiritual zest.47

As we may observe any day, when an ordinary pious Jew davens he does so with chiyus. He pronounces the words of his prayers with such an innocent delight and attentiveness that it is plain to see that every single word adds to his vitality. His Barchu, his Kedushah, his Amen, his Amen-yehei-shmei-rabbah, — all bespeak lively joy. At that moment he is free of all care. He is sated with his davenen, and with the Tehillim that he recites when it is over.

This is true of the quite ordinary, unscholarly worshiper, who knows just the plain meaning of the words that are inscribed in shul over the amud: “Know before Whom you are standing.”48 But there are other sweet folk, artless and unlettered, who do not know even that. Their faith, though, is sturdy, and they know that to daven means to talk to the Sole Creator. And this knowledge invests the words of their davenen, of their Amen, of their Amen-yehei-shmei-rabbah, with vitality.

With the more intellectual worshiper, davenen is an outpouring of the soul. Here there is no standard form of expression. This outpouring is an individual experience, varying according to the dynamics of the individual soul.

In Lubavitch one could see how one should daven, and what davenen means — whether it was a haskalah-oriented davenen or an avodah-oriented davenen, a weekday davenen or a Shabbos’dikker davenen, a midyear davenen or the davenen of Rosh HaShanah and the Ten Days of Penitence. And what we saw in Lubavitch cannot be described in words.

I am sure that what many of Anash and the temimim heard and saw in Lubavitch is engraved in their hearts and feelings, and this should certainly give them the strength to exert themselves in what Chassidus expects of them — whether in the study of its teachings, or in the avodah that takes place in the heart and with the heart, or in the ways in which Chassidus ought to be lived.

18. Perpetuating the loving spirit of Tomchei Temimim

In these ways of Chassidus, darchei haChassidus, there are no differences of level: they apply equally to all men. There may be those whose intellects are not quite so suited to grasping profound concepts in Chassidus. When it comes to darchei haChassidus, though, everyone is suited. Moreover, this is something that one can acquire through habituation.

The spirit that pervaded the Tomchei Temimim Yeshivah was such that the ways of Chassidus became a habit. Above all, this was to be seen in the love and affection that prevailed among the students themselves, and between the student body and the mashpi’im, mashgichim and administrators.

In every student’s eyes, the Yeshivah was his home. When a new student came and was accepted, there was something permanent and fixed about his being received into the Yeshivah — fixed not only in time, but in his soul49 as well. Every student knew that the Yeshivah was his home, and that the spirit of the Yeshivah was his life. This was the foundation of the education of the temimim, and the pivot of their life, and this enabled them to respond positively to its training in darchei haChassidus.

It is vital that the temimim who studied in Lubavitch should tell the temimim who are studying today in the various yeshivos that bear the great name “Tomchei Temimim,” of their life and conduct in the Tomchei Temimim Yeshivah in Lubavitch. It is vital too that all of today’s temimim adopt what they hear as a guiding light in their lives. For on the foundation of such conduct, the Almighty will surely help them become G‑d-fearing and scholarly chassidim, chassidim who with His help will raise up the banner of the Torah and of avodah.