R. Berke’s stay greatly enriched chassidic life in Samarkand and contributed immeasurably to our chassidic education. As young boys, we observed R. Berke’s behavior and learned how a chassid should act, not only while praying and learning but also during the more mundane activities of day-to-day life. R. Berke was a living example of the saying: A chassid walks as a chassid, eats as a chassid, and sleeps as a chassid. In every detail of his life, his chassidic character, piety, and discipline were apparent.

R. Berke once told us that in his youth his behavior had been completely different, and that he had been absorbed with far less lofty concerns. As a young man, he had been obsessed with earning money: His very first words, he told us, were “Mama” and “money,” and as a child, he loved money so much that he used to kiss the stuff. By fourteen, he already had extensive business dealings and quickly became very successful. He would trade merchandise for such large sums that he had to wrap the money around his entire body in order to hide it as he traveled from city to city.

But when he was a little older he began to wonder about his future. He wondered whether he would always be immersed in the world of business, and so exposed to the cheating and lies that seemed to accompany it all too often. R. Berke became so moved that he decided to change his life and become a school teacher. He also worked on his personal character and in time, he transformed himself from being a penny pinching hoarder to a regular donor to charity.

When we heard this, we realized that this is what being a chassid is about. R. Berke's story was an example of true mastery of self, and a demonstration of the mind's power over the heart. This, we understood, is how we are to overcome our lesser instincts; how to break the Evil Inclination. The book of Tanya holds up as an ideal for the everyman the figure of the Benoni, the "Intermediate Man," who, through extraordinary discipline and faith, manages to rise above his nature and emulate in deed the perfectly righteous. To us, R. Berke was the embodiment of this heroic figure. He fought his lower inclination all of his days, and succeeded in ruling over it.