Simchas Torah 5690 (1929)1 Part One New York2

(From the notes of one of the audience; second edition, including supplements and explanations by the author.)

1. Question and answer

When the soul of the Baal Shem Tov ascended on high in the year 5507 (1746),3 he visited the heavenly abode of Mashiach and asked him: Eimasai ka’asi mar — “Master, when are you coming?”

Replied Mashiach: Lich’sheyafutzu maayanosecha chutzah — “When your wellsprings will be disseminated abroad.”4

A question and its answer constitute a certain edifice comprising haskalah (“abstract intellection”) and hassagah (“comprehension”). Every edifice comprises the building itself and its inner content, and the same is true of the haskalah-edifice. The question is the building (which in the world of concepts is called the haskalah), and the answer is the contents, the illumination of the building (which in the world of concepts is called the hassagah). And these two elements, haskalah and hassagah, fortify and illuminate each other.5

Haskalah is the foundation stone and root of hassagah, and hassagah is the palace in which haskalah resides.

These thoughts will enable us to grasp the profundity of the classical adage, Sh’eilas chacham: chatzi teshuvah — “A wise man’s question is half an answer,”6 or: Sh’eilos haChochmah: chatzi haChochmah — “Wise questions are half of wisdom.”7

As far as conceptual content is concerned, it is perfectly clear that two distinct ideas are to be found in these two versions which tell us that (a) the manner in which a wise man asks a question in itself provides half an answer, and that (b) knowledgeable questions are in themselves half of knowledge. These ideas are definable, and may be explained at length. We shall not delve into them now, however; we shall merely examine the meaning of the words.

The former quotation implies a strength and a weakness. The strength — that the wise man’s question is half an answer; the weakness — that it is no more than half an answer. It does however indicate the fusion of haskalah and hassagah: haskalah is the source of light for hassagah, and hassagah in turn illuminates haskalah.

Referring back to the exchange with which we opened, we may say that in the matter of the coming of Mashiach, the question of the Baal Shem Tov is the haskalah, and the answer of the Mashiach is the hassagah. The haskalah is: “Master, when are you coming?” The hassagah is: “When your wellsprings will be disseminated abroad.” And this answer [as it appears in the original, in the Holy Tongue] has a dual connotation: (a) “When your wellsprings will be disseminated outward”; (b) “When your outlying wellsprings will be disseminated.”

In a question and answer, as mentioned above, the question is the building, and the answer is the illumination of the building. In the edifice of the coming of Mashiach (May it be soon, in our own lifetime, Amen!), the question of the Baal Shem Tov is thus the haskalah, and the answer of Mashiach is the illumination, the comprehension of that edifice.

Comprehension has a foundation upon which it is built, and a root from which it sprouts.

In every concept we may identify its body and its vitality. However refined a spiritual “body” — such as the reasoning underlying a concept — may be, the vitality of that concept is more refined. The foundation is the base which supports the body; the root is the source of the vitality.

A concept too comprises a foundation and a root. That is to say, that the elements of a concept may be considered in two ways: (a) the foundation is the basis of the concept: the foundation is below and the idea is above — like a building, in which the foundation is below, and the building stands upon it; (b) the root is the source of the concept: it is above, and the idea is lower than it.

2. Unity vs. uniqueness

Our chassidisher understanding is based on Chassidus. This means that its foundation is quintessential intellect,8 and its root is revealed G‑dly vitality,9 as distinct from Elokus as found in nature.10

Every Jew has an intrinsic awareness11 that “G‑d is One (echad).”12 This word is an acronym which connotes two meanings of the word itself.

Here it conveys the concept of G‑d’s oneness, in the sense of uniqueness. The question is therefore raised in Chassidus: If so, then surely the appropriate word should have been yachid. The word echad means “one,” but it does not exclude the existence of another. It does mean that He is the first being, as in the verse [that refers to the first day of Creation], “And it was evening, and it was morning: one day (…yom echad).”13 But the word that signifies uniqueness is yachid. Why, then, do we say instead, Havayah echad?

The distinction is clarified in Chassidus. The term yachid signifies being the sole one — unique; echad signifies becoming one — united, as in the case of a number of units which appear to have separate identities, but which are united by one element, just as the number one thousand joins a thousand individual units into one.

Used in this sense, echad is a countable concept; it proceeds from numeration, and is indicated by a number. As used [by contrast] in the phrase Havayah echad, it signifies a One that connects everything because everything comes from Him. The phrase Havayah echad thus refers to G‑d as the Creator of everything and the Uniter of everything. More briefly, it means: He is everything, everything is Him.

The content of this phrase is indicated by the initials that make up the word אֶחָד (echad). However, since the meaning of “He is everything” is different from the meaning of “everything is Him,” the initials that constitute the wordאֶחָד indicate two distinct ideas, and the word אֶחָד may be understood both forwards and backwards.

Each of its three letters has its own significance. The letter alef refers to the Infinite One, blessed be He, Master (aluf) of the Universe, Master of all that exists; the letter ches [whose numerical value is eight] refers to the earth and the seven Heavens; the letter daled [numerical value: four] refers to the world’s four directions.

On the one hand, אֶחָד thus means that “He is everything”: alef, signifying the Infinite One, created ches, signifying the earth and the seven Heavens, as well as daled, the world’s four directions.

At the same time, אֶחָד also means that “everything is Him”: daled, referring to the world’s four directions, and likewise ches, referring to the earth and the seven Heavens, are utterly nullified before alef, referring to the Infinite One, Master of the universe.14 And this is why we say הֲוָיָ׳ אֶחָד, and not הֲוָיָ׳ יָחִיד — because אֶחָד connotes unity, meaning that Divinity is clothed in the garment of nature: Divinity as found in nature.

3. Studying Torah lishmah, for its own sake

We said above15 that the foundation of Chassidus is quintessential intellect, and its root is revealed G‑dly vitality. This is why chassidim grasp a subject with absolute clarity. The subject itself is true; untrammeled by spectacles nor by a veil, it is understood by chassidim with the clear mind of chassidim.

The foundation of Chassidus is quintessential intellect, and the root of Chassidus is G‑dly vitality. A foundation on which something stands is lower than whatever stands on it; a root from which something grows is [spiritually] higher than whatever grows out of it.

The foundation of Chassidus is quintessential intellect. The term seichel includes intellect of various kinds — mortal intellect16 and G‑dly intellect.17 The former is acquired; the latter is intrinsic. The difference in their essential substance is profound.

When I was in Vienna with my father on Purim 5663 (1903), my father spoke at the table about the study of the Torah lishmah, for its own sake. In such a case, he explained, the student becomes unified with the Torah to the point that he and the Torah become one; his style of speech becomes a Torah style, and his intellect becomes a Torah intellect.

My father continued as follows.

My grandfather (the Tzemach Tzedek) once told my father (the Rebbe Maharash) that with the approach of his bar-mitzvah his grandfather (the Alter Rebbe) had said that one ought to study Torah for its own sake, and that the preparation for this consisted of being utterly familiar with the Talmud Bavli and Yerushalmi, the Tosefta, Sifra and Sifri, just as Rambam was familiar with them.

The Gaon of Lublin18 once told me that when he visited my grandfather (the Tzemach Tzedek) in Lubavitch in 5614 (1854), he brought along — as always — a profound pilpul and quite a number of novel scholastic insights, in readiness for a learned debate with my grandfather.

Arriving in Lubavitch, he mentally reviewed his subject. He was most satisfied, because he knew that through his pilpul he would make my grandfather happy — and for a chassid, making his Rebbe happy is one of his most cherished attainments. For a chassid knows that “the world above parallels the world below.”19 He who is bound with his Rebbe in the world below is privileged to be bound with his Rebbe in the world above — and to be near one’s Rebbe in the world above is something sublime.

“I entered the Rebbe’s study,” recalled the Gaon of Lublin, “and we began our learned discussion. When I had propounded my pilpul the Rebbe smiled, and told me to deliver my chiddushim. Seeing that the Rebbe was listening to my Torah thoughts, I was most gratified.

“When I had finished my piece the Rebbe said: ‘Those were fine teachings, very fine arguments — but the point is missing.’ In other words, the foundation which underlay the premise which I had pioneered was not true. And the Rebbe went on to tell me that there was a mishnah which explicitly contradicted my premise.

“I was so shaken that I asked: ‘Rebbe, in which Seder?’

“‘In Kodashim,’ said the Rebbe.

“I considered that for a moment and said: ‘Rebbe, I don’t know. Perhaps you could tell me in which tractate?’

“‘In Bechoros,’ answered the Rebbe.

“I reviewed the whole of Maseches Bechoros from memory, but could not find that mishnah. Eventually the Rebbe quoted it verbatim and began to explain it — and then my mistake dawned upon me.

“It was then that I saw and felt the meaning of studying Torah lishmah, for its own sake.”

4. Levels of truth

My father proceeded to address those present, many of whom were Polish and Hungarian Jews.

You do not know who the Gaon of Lublin was. He was a scholar who generations ago would also have been reckoned a gaon. Yet this gaon established a logical premise in the course of a Torah argument, and made a mistake.

His mistake lay in the underlying point. His arguments were fine, but in the point underlying his premise he made a mistake. And though that point was mistaken, his arguments were fine and rational.

My grandfather’s testimony that the arguments were fine suffices. He was the expert as to what constitutes rational arguments — as may be seen from his responsa, from his addenda and glosses to the maamarim in Torah Or and Likkutei Torah,20 and from his hundreds of maamarim that are still in manuscript.

Once when I was at yechidus with my father (the Rebbe Maharash), he mentioned the [Alter] Rebbe, and said that he was an atzmi. He explained: An atzmi is a man of intellect (a sichli) whose intellect is a seichel atzmi. Within G‑dly intellect there are different levels. For example: In the wisdom of the Torah, which is G‑dly intellect, different levels exist. Apart from differences in stature between lesser and greater understanding, or between a clever conception and a foolish conception, there are different levels of baalei haskalah and baalei hassagah in the wisdom of the Torah, which is G‑dly intellect.

On that occasion my father explained to me the existence of varying levels within G‑dly intellect, by comparison with the three comprehensive levels of truth: “the lip of truth,”21 truth22 and absolute truth.23 All three levels, to be sure, are truth — yet the truth of the first level is not that of the second, and the truth of the second level is not that of the third.

These three levels of truth, my father explained, correspond to three Worlds, each of which comprises a considerable number of distinct grades. In sum: in terms of the Sefiros, these three levels of truth correspond to חב״ד, חג״ת, נה״י; in terms of the Worlds24 above, they correspond to Atzilus, Beriah and Yetzirah.

5. Making Chassidus accessible

My father (the Rebbe Rashab) continued his exposition25 as follows.

For those who study our Chassidus,26 there is no need to explain the relation between these two sets of terms — that (speaking in terms of Worlds) the World of Atzilus, and (speaking of Sefiros) the three Sefiros of חב״ד, correspond to the level of absolute truth; that the World of Beriah and the three Sefiros of חג״ת correspond to the level of truth; and that the World of Yetzirah and the three Sefiros of נה״י correspond to the level of “the lip of truth.”

For other chassidim, however, one really ought to explain this. And the same applies to those among our chassidim who do not study Chassidus. (Now if they do not study Chassidus, what makes them our chassidim? That is a subject all of its own — but the fact is that there are such people who do not study Chassidus, and they too are ours, which means that we have to see to their needs especially. It is true that distinctions should not be made among Jews, and one ought to see to the needs of all Jews, but I nevertheless say “especially” because there exist differences that the Torah recognizes.)

With Chassidus one should not impose one’s initiatives on another. The [Alter] Rebbe once said that there are three things in which one should not take the initiative: in proposing a match to someone, in volunteering advice, and in offering a loan — but in fulfillment of the commandment of ahavas Yisrael one should exert oneself to the utmost in all matters, so that things should go well for one’s fellow.

True enough, with Chassidus one should not offer one’s initiative; one should, however, hang out a sign. The other fellow needs to be able to see what kind of merchandise is available, and when he sees it, he may develop an appetite. However, since the value of some kinds of merchandise is not apparent to every observer, it needs to be explained.

As we were saying, then, there are three levels of truth: absolute truth, truth and “the lip of truth.” Everyone understands that the highest of these is absolute truth, and that the lowest is “the lip of truth,” but not everyone understands how truth can be divided, and what distinguishes one of its levels from another.

The lowest level of truth, namely, “the lip of truth,” is higher than the highest and most refined level of metzius, of existence. No metzius, of whatever kind, exists in its own right, whereas the lowest level of truth — namely, “the lip of truth” — does exist in its own right; as it is written: sfas emes tikon laad — “The lip of truth shall be established forever.” And on this verb Rashi comments: tisbases vetiskayem, which implies that as time goes on, truth is enhanced and strengthened.

6. What caused Moshe to make haste?

The level called “truth” is higher than the level called “the lip of truth.” Truth is the attribute before which Moshe Rabbeinu was overawed.

It is written, Vaymaher Moshe, vayikod artzah, vayishtachu — “And Moshe made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and prostrated himself.”27 On this the Gemara asks, “What did Moshe see?”28

Now this is somewhat problematic. What is the point of the question, “What did Moshe see?” More specifically: Why does the Gemara ask this question just here? When G‑d records [in the Torah] how Moshe Rabbeinu was amazed at the sight of the bush that was all ablaze but was not consumed, the Gemara does not ask, “What did Moshe see?” Nor does the Gemara ask its question concerning times such as the Splitting of the Red Sea, the Giving of the Torah, or the erection of the Mishkan. Yet here, concerning the revelation of the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy, the Gemara asks, “What did Moshe see?”

I know that I will be answered that the question is prompted by the plain meaning of the text. Since the verse tells us that “Moshe made haste,” the Gemara inquires what was it that he saw that caused him to make haste, bow his head, and prostrate himself. But the pshat itself, the plain meaning of the verse, needs to be understood — and Chassidus indeed explains it.

The level of Moshe Rabbeinu is the Chochmah of the World of Atzilus. On the verse, “And there was light,”29 the Zohar comments: “This is Chochmah.” Chochmah is light, and when there is light, things are seen with utter clarity. When one sees something clearly — that is to say, when one knows and understands what one sees — one is in a state of repose and deliberateness. When instead one is in a state of haste, this shows that one is emotionally excited.

Through all the most momentous occurrences Moshe Rabbeinu remained calm; when the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy were revealed he became hasty. Hence the wonderment of the Gemara: What was it that Moshe saw that caused him to make haste, bow his head, and prostrate himself?

7. Degrees of self-effacement

As everyone knows, there is a great difference between bowing one’s head,30 and prostrating oneself. In fact there are three actions — bowing one’s head, kneeling31 and prostrating oneself32 — that are all alike in that they indicate bittul, self-effacement. In bittul itself, however, there are various definable levels.

It should be pointed out that a man’s every action is the result of a rational imperative; that is to say, there is a reason that explains why any action is as it is. It follows that each level of bittul has a particular reason which is its rational imperative.

The first of the three expressions of bittul is bowing one’s head. In this action all the various levels of bittul are evident. Bittul signifies surrender, and in a human being this is apparent only in his head: here lie the distinctions between the various levels of bittul.

In the first of the three expressions of bittul, the body retains its posture, and only the head is inclined. In the second expression of bittul, kneeling, though the individual remains erect, his entire stature is lowered. Nevertheless, though kneeling indicates a greater level of self-effacement than does the former stance, the distinction between head and foot is still apparent. In the third and highest expression of bittul, where the worshiper prostrates himself with arms and legs outstretched, head and foot are of equal standing.

When Moshe Rabbeinu witnessed the revelation of the Thirteen Divine Attributes of Mercy his self-effacement assumed the highest of its three above-mentioned expressions, namely, prostration. And this is why the Gemara queries, “What did Moshe Rabbeinu see?”

The two answers that the Gemara gives to this question reflect two opinions. R. Chanina ben Gamla says, “He saw the attribute of Divine long-suffering”; the Sages say, “He saw truth.” It was when Moshe Rabbeinu saw the attribute of truth, then, that his self-effacement assumed its highest expression — prostration.

8. Make demands of yourself!

Thus far concerns emes, the second level of truth. However, the concept of emes laamito, the third level of truth, is one of those things that defy verbal expression, and must remain in the thoughts of one’s heart.

However, Chassidus wants a person to have an intellectual grasp even of those concepts that cannot be expressed in words. Thus it was that my father (the Rebbe Maharash) told me briefly that in terms of the Sefiros, these three levels of truth correspond to חב״ד, חג״ת, נה״י; in terms of the Worlds above, they correspond to Atzilus, Beriah and Yetzirah.

This explanation in terms of the Sefiros was to have enabled me to understand the three levels of truth. It certainly cost me a good deal of toil, but eventually I arrived at some kind of knowledge of the terms sfas emes and emes. But when it came to understanding the third level, emes laamito, even my toil was of no avail.

This disturbed me so much that I decided to enter my father’s study for yechidus, and prepared my questions accordingly. Late that evening R. Yaakov Mordechai [Bespalov] of Poltava called on me. I could see that something was on his mind. When we got talking he said that he had told my father at yechidus that day that he had no more desire to study nor to exert himself in avodah, because of his limited understanding.

To this my father had countered: “Why do you make demands of me? Make demands of yourself! When you do that, then you’ll begin to understand.”

Hearing this reply impelled me afresh to resume my laborious task — of understanding the meaning of emes laamito. And after some really arduous toil the Almighty gave me a goodly gift in this direction. My grasp of the concept drew its life-source from the [Kabbalistic] principle of nekudah beheichla — lit., “the point within the palace.” The “palace” refers to Binah, which corresponds to hassagah; the “point” refers to Chochmah, which corresponds to haskalah.

9. Original thinking vs. understanding

Haskalah and hassagah are each true in themselves, but are distinct from each other. For example, a person may be a baal haskalah but not a baal hassagah. Hence we may encounter an individual who is able to initiate an idea whose depth and breadth he himself is unable to plumb. Conversely, we may encounter someone who is a baal hassagah but is not an original thinker. The reason: haskalah and hassagah are two distinct manifestations of two distinct faculties, each of which has its own source.

Haskalah is a manifestation of the faculty of Chochmah, and hassagah is a manifestation of the faculty of Binah. And though Chochmah and Binah are both rooted in ko’ach hamaskil, they have two separate sources within it.

From the fact that we may find a baal haskalah who is not necessarily a baal hassagah, and a baal hassagah who is not an original thinker, we may draw two conclusions: (a) the same principle applies to the two faculties [of haskalah and hassagah] themselves: each of them is complete in itself and does not need to be complemented by the other; (b) each of these two faculties must include an element which is similar to the other, thereby enabling each of them to substitute for the other.

These two conclusions explain why it is possible for a person’s underlying premise to be false, while his hassagah may [simultaneously] be broad and rich and profoundly reasoned — because the haskalah does not belong to the hassagah: in his case, they happen to have met by mistake. This mistake has various causes, but the result is, that the haskalah — i.e., the underlying premise — is false, while the hassagah is fully and logically amplified.

All the various kinds of mistake in the encounter between haskalah and hassagah can take place only at the [two lower] levels of “the lip of truth” and “truth.” At the level of “absolute truth,” however, which is seichel atzmi (quintessential intellect), there are no mistakes. In seichel atzmi it may well happen that because of the extreme subtlety of the haskalah, the hassagah is often unable to explain the point of the haskalah — but it is impossible that there should be a mistake in the connection between the haskalah and the hassagah.

From the whole of the above discussion it transpires that the level of emes laamito (“absolute truth”) is the highest level within the seichel atzmi of Divine intellect. However, even though it is an intellectual edifice, it does not at all resemble the edifice of mortal intellect. Indeed, even the lowest level of Divine intellect — i.e., “the lip of truth” — is in essence utterly different to mortal intellect.

10. Thank G‑d for the gift of Chassidus!

It often happened that in the course of my father’s talks33 I heard him speak in praise of the teachings of Chassidus. His face beaming, he would express his gratification explicitly: “Our Chassidus — the Chassidus in which haskalah is avodah and avodah is haskalah.”

His spirits exultant, he would extol the Almighty for the revelation of the teachings of Chassidus in general, and Chabad Chassidus in particular.

In the winter of 5667 (1907), my father was in Wurzburg. That year, 24 Teves34 fell on Thursday of the week of Parshas Vaeira. R. Zvi Gourary visited my father for that occasion, and my father delivered a chassidic discourse.

Following this, my father said: “When people mention someone who is now in the World of Truth, they often say, ‘May he be blessed with a luminous Garden of Eden.’ May the [Alter] Rebbe be blessed with a luminous Garden of Eden, for he opened people’s eyes, and illuminated our heads and our hearts through the revelation of the teachings of Chassidus.”

Hearing these few deeply-felt words that my father uttered with such holy exuberance, I recalled the teaching35 in the fifth chapter of the Midrash36 on the verse, Basi legani— “I have come into My garden.”37 The Midrash there discusses the revelation of the Divine Presence in this world below through seven tzaddikim who span seven generations — Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Levi, Kehas, Amram and Moshe.

We are fortunate, thank G‑d. Over these seven generations, the seven nesi’im of the world — from the Baal Shem Tov, and up to and including my father — have opened for us the gates of the palaces of Chabad.38 All the Rebbeim in their respective generations, and my father with his forty-five years of toil in the teachings of Chassidus, have given us the best expositions imaginable of the profoundest of its theoretical concepts.

When my father was barely nineteen years old, he toiled with blood and sweat (those were his words to me) in order to master the concept of seichel atzmi at the third of the three above-mentioned levels, “absolute truth.” His exertion, however, bore the desired fruit some thirty years later, for as we were strolling together in Marienbad in the summer of 5668 (1908), he discussed and amplified the very same concept as if it were some quite tangible topic. Indeed, in the course of those years every subject raised in the teachings of Chassidus was explained and clarified in all its length and breadth.

Over fifty years have passed since the years 5639-564039 (1879-1880), and in the course of this period, thank G‑d, Chassidus has been expounded and amplified to the point that it enables us too to understand it.

11. Long hours of thought

The forty years from 5640 (1880) to 5680 (1920)40 have become immortalized in the chassidic world as one of the most prosperous periods in the amplification of the teachings of Chassidus.

There is a great deal to discuss about this period, which is one of the most essential eras in the history of Chassidus, but here is not the place to do this in detail. Moreover, it includes particularly significant moments which warrant individual attention in the chronicles of Chassidus, but for the purposes of our present subject we will only touch on some of its details in brief.

In the winter of 5672 (1912) my father was in Menton.41 He rested well during his first few weeks there, and his health improved significantly. As I accompanied him on the journey from Lubavitch to Warsaw he said that he hoped he would have enough time in Menton to think out a certain new and profound subject in Chassidus.

The whole of the learned chassidic world esteemed my father as the gaon of the scholastic dimension of Chassidus. My teacher the Rashbatz used to refer to him as the Rambam of Chassidus, for with my father each of its topics was a fixed and well-ordered halachah with a comprehensive and systematic explanation. And indeed, each individual maamar of my father’s is a wellspring from the sea of wisdom, an entire tractate.

When we were at the resort in Bolivka in the summer of 5658 (1898), I used to be overawed by the way my father was wrapped in thought. He would sit thus in the garden for hours on end. As he later told me, it was during those hours in the garden that he thought out the maamar beginning Yom-Tov shel Rosh HaShanah, as well as all the series of maamarim42 that he later delivered from Rosh HaShanah 5659 (1898) until Parshas Vayeira.

With my father, every maamar that he delivered or wrote was something that he had experienced.

In my childhood, in the years 5649-5651 (1889-1891), I used to love observing him as he sat in deep reflection in his study, or at the resting-place of my grandfather.43 His absorbed thoughtfulness fascinated me.

12. A focus on study

During the first semester that my teacher the Rashbatz44 spent in Lubavitch, in the winter of 5654 (1893-1894), my revered uncles — R. Menachem Mendel45 and my mechutan R. Moshe46 — arranged to study Chassidus with him several times a week. That year was richly blessed in Chassidus. My father delivered a maamar almost every Shabbos throughout the year, that is, every week from Rosh HaShanah until the Shabbos of Parshas Behaalosecha, after which he set out for a health resort at Liman, near Odessa.

The maamar that my father would deliver on Friday evening before Kabbalas Shabbos would not only be repeated by the chozer, the late R. Aharon, for the benefit of the visitors who had come to town for Shabbos, but would also be discussed by the numerous yoshvim who were then studying in Lubavitch.

The text47 used to be available by Monday, and the yoshvim would study it in depth. As for the elder chassidim who were in Lubavitch at the time — such as my teacher the Rashbatz, R. Chanoch Hendel, R. Shmuel Baruch from Warsaw, R. Abba from Tchashnik, and R. Nissan — the content of the maamar of the previous Shabbos was the subject of their conversation throughout the week.

During that winter, both my above-mentioned uncles devoted themselves earnestly to the study of Chassidus. This had a profound influence on several gifted young men who had become highly educated in worldly matters, and who had grown somewhat distant from Chassidus. Through the above study schedule they now renewed their ties with it.

My teacher the Rashbatz had a particular talent for clarifying and explaining a chassidic concept. For every subject he had a parable, and everything he uttered reflected a quick and clever mind.

13. The key to fruitful intellection is truth

From time to time my two uncles would call on my father in order to ask and talk about the subject of their current studies. Such conversations would often last quite a few hours. They would usually take place in the evening, after my lessons with the Rashbatz were over, so I was often present.

On one such occasion my father explained the concepts of haskalah (“abstract intellection”), hassagah (“comprehension”), hargashah (“feeling”) and hakarah (“perception”).

Even now, over forty years later, when these concepts have been discussed extensively in numerous maamarim, they still retain a place of importance in the teachings of Chassidus. How much more in those days, when they were seldom discussed even in Chassidus (and even less so in ordinary conversations), were these discussions in the nature of a privilege.

My uncles clearly understood my father’s explanation of haskalah and hassagah, on which he elaborated with reference to the terms baal hamtza’ah (“an original thinker”) and baal hasbarah (“an explanatory thinker”). It took a longer explanation, however, until they were able to fully appreciate the meaning of hargashah and hakarah.

Ultimately my father explained how proper hassagah is attained through profound concentration48 on the quintessence of the concept at hand,49 to the point that one arrives at the true goal of hassagah, namely (in the words of the familiar saying): “The ultimate goal of knowledge is that we should know that we do not know.”50 When one arrives at this level of hassagah — even though one’s hassagah becomes nullified, because this level of hassagah essentially transcends hassagah — nevertheless, after one applies oneself in profound concentration, the Almighty at a certain moment grants His help and enables one to feel the concept at hand, and one comes to perceive it.51

In a long talk my father distinguished between nekudas hahaskalah, which is the starting point of a concept, and nekudas hatamtzis, which is its ultimate quintessence. My father coneluded by saying that Chassidus has opened the gates of understanding,52 so that it is within man’s capacity to attain the loftiest and the profoundest levels of hassagah, literally to the point of sense perception.

One only has to desire this truthfully and to exert oneself truthfully. Truth is the key that opens all the locks of haskalah.

14. Maamarim of varying focus

In the course of the eighteen years from the winter of 5654 (1894) to the winter of 5672 (1912), the teachings of Chassidus expanded considerably, and a great number of concepts were clarified at length.

The yoshvim of the first four years of this period were intellectually talented, and quite assiduous in their studies. Most of them studied Chassidus diligently. However, with the foundation of the Tomchei Temimim Yeshivah on 15 Elul 5657 (1897), a new era opened up in the study of Chassidus. It was now organized along the same lines as the study of nigleh, the revealed levels of the Torah, and as time went on the change for the better became more visible.

Those who study Chassidus and have an appreciation of it, detect a certain difference from year to year in my father’s maamarim over the period 5658-5660 (1898-1900), both as regards their subject matter and their mode of explanation. The maamarim of the year 5658 (1898) as far as those of Shavuos are individual discourses, and their themes are within the grasp of beginners in the field. The maamar of Shavuos is more abstruse, though still within the reach of the students of that time. The maamarim of the following year are geared to those who can cope with more profound concepts, and the maamarim of the year 5660 (1900) are even more so.

In that year a number of the students of the Yeshivah invested sustained effort in the maamarim which my father then delivered, and one earnest student by the name of R. Avraham David Pevsner of Klimovitch drew up draft texts53 of them. The regard in which my father held these drafts may be gauged from the fact that he used to read them, and indicate at various points how they should be corrected. This explains why my father seldom wrote out the texts of the maamarim which he had delivered that year.54

15. How should I equip myself before davenen?

After Sukkos in the year 5660 (1899) my father set out for Kharkov, where he underwent a certain course of medical treatment under the supervision of specialists. Before leaving, he issued the first of his kuntreisim for the students of the Tomchei Temimim Yeshivah.

Kuntreis HaTefillah (“A Treatise on Prayer”), as my father states briefly, supplies an answer for those who ask how one should pray (daven), and with what one should pray.55 It is a deep and ample answer to the questions that a chassid should ask his Rebbe at yechidus — as to how he ought to serve the Almighty through “the service of the heart,” which is prayer. It gives directives as to the ideal nature of the avodah of preparation for prayer, and indicates the effects of the avodah of prayer, both in the upgrading and refinement of one’s character, and in the conduct of one’s daily life.

It should be mentioned that in that year the chassidic world was already feeling the effects of my father’s comprehensive Simchas Torah talk, and of his well-known maamar entitled Heichaltzu.56

In that talk, delivered on Simchas Torah 5659 (1898), my father described the Alter Rebbe’s image of what a chassid should be; the self-sacrifice that the Rebbe of each generation underwent for the sake of Chassidus and chassidim; and the state of chassidim in the past and in the present. This talk, and following it the maamar entitled Heichaltzu, permeated the entire chassidic camp, and certainly left its mark.

As for Kuntreis HaTefillah, it was gladly received by the chassidim in general and by the students of the Yeshivah in particular as a guidepost toward Divine service through “the avodah of the heart.”

16. The delights of “the service of the heart”

Kuntreis HaTefillah is a tangible witness of the spiritual condition of the Tomchei Temimim Yeshivah students and of the standard of avodah among the chassidim at that time. A new period had begun in the amplification of the teachings of Chassidus. For the many students who now studied in the Yeshivah, and whose influence reverberated throughout the chassidic community at large, the year 5661 (1901) was a year of exceptionally diligent avodah.

Though my father spent most of that year abroad,57 he wrote me about the conduct of the Yeshivah. The content of a few of his letters was made known to the students, and this charged them with fresh energy and zeal in their study of Chassidus.

The maamarim which my father delivered in the years 5662-5665 (1902-1905), both the individual discourses and those that were part of a series; the talks that he gave on festive occasions — Simchas Torah and Yud-Tes Kislev; the two kuntreisim that were issued in the years 5663 (1903) and 5664 (1904); — all these bear witness to the state of the chassidim and the students of the Tomchei Temimim Yeshivah at that time.

By noting the various maamarim that my father delivered in the course of the twelve years from 5654 (1894) to 5665 (1905), anyone can observe the substantial change that that period saw in the expansion of Chassidus and of the avodah undertaken by chassidim.

Those twelve years prepared the ground for the raising of a generation of mellow understanding, of men who would study Chassidus intently, and who would deeply savor the delights of “the service of the heart.”

17. Turning paper Chassidus into live Chassidus

The maamar entitled Yom-Tov shel Rosh HaShanah, which my father began to deliver on Rosh HaShanah 5666 (1905), is likewise substantial testimony to the growth of the teachings of Chassidus, and to the status of its students at that time. Of its sixty component maamarim, forty-one (with few exceptions) were delivered in that year, fifteen (with few exceptions) the following year, and four the following year.

Those who are familiar with the subject matter and the explicit and detailed manner of discussion in the maamarim of the years 5666-5669 (1906-1909); in the well-known series of maamarim of the years 5670 (1910) and 5671 (1911); in the eleven maamarim that constitute the series entitled Yom-Tov shel Rosh HaShanah of the year 5672 (1912); — those people can see that a new stage in the progress of Chassidus arises in the year 5666 (1906).

The six years from then until 5672 (1912) enriched Chassidus with intellectually able scholars and with men who devoted themselves to avodah.

In the notes of the Mitteler Rebbe, evidently written in his younger years, one encounters the phrase, “In lighter vein it might be suggested...”58

Considering the growth of Chassidus and the increase in the avodah of chassidim during those six years, one might in lighter vein apply to it the Talmudic expression, “More than what the householder does for the pauper, the pauper does for the householder.”59

Chassidus turned born chassidim into genuine chassidim, and chassidim turned paper Chassidus into live Chassidus.

In the course of the eighteen years from 5654 (1894) to 5672 (1912), both the study and the avodah of Chassidus became established on the level at which they rightfully belong.

The purpose of the above brief summary of the stages by which the study and avodah of the chassidim and the Yeshivah students developed until the year 5672 (1912) is to enable one to clearly understand my father’s remark60 — that he hoped that in Menton he would have enough time to think out and organize a certain new subject in Chassidus.

18. How a concept crystallizes in the mind

Those who were privileged to know my father, and to hear a chassidic discourse from his mouth, or a talk delivered on Simchas Torah or Yud-Tes Kislev, — they know what a limitless love he had for those who study Chassidus and engage in the avodah of the heart, and how eager he was to help them advance in their comprehension and in their avodah.

In one of my father’s letters61 at that time from Menton, he wrote that he was happy that the Almighty had granted his wish; his hope (which he had mentioned to me on the way from Lubavitch to Warsaw, and which one of my letters had asked him about) was being realized. He went on to write that this was only the edifice of the idea, and even that was scant, but it was (thank G‑d) a complete and organized idea. He explained me “by the way” — and the “by the way” itself was a treasure to cherish — the stages by which an idea becomes revealed in the mind, as it proceeds from the potential essence of the intellectual faculty which is rooted in the soul. [There follows a brief and abstruse summary of the subject.]

Needless to say, I had a burning desire to know what was the new concept in Chassidus which my father was engaged in, but then I decided that in fact one ought not want to know such things.

Arriving in Menton for Shabbos Parshas Vaeira, which fell on Rosh Chodesh Shvat, I found my father in a bright and cheerful mood. I felt that it was prompted by a piece of work in Chassidus that he must have found particularly pleasurable.