At a later point, when R. Berke was able to appear in public, Lubavitch men and boys in Samarkand would enjoy his hearty farbrengens. I remember how on one Shabbos Mevorchim—the last Shabbos of the month—the yeshiva boys sat down after the prayers to farbreng. They made Kiddush, said l’chaim and waited for R. Berke, who was still in the middle of reviewing the weekly Torah reading,and whom they were reluctant to interrupt.

I was seventeen at the time and was the cheekiest of the group. I entered R. Berke’s room and said, “These young men are busy throughout the week and now they're sitting here to farbreng for Shabbos Mevorchim. You haven't finish reviewing the weekly portion, so now we have to sit and do nothing? Soon everyone will leave and go home!”

Had I said that to someone else, I would have surely been tossed out of the room, but R. Berke, with his refined, gentle character, indicated with a movement of his head and a wordless, “Uh uh,” that I was right and that he would try to finish up quickly. Still, he didn’t want to stop in the middle because he was accustomed to reciting the entire portion without interruption, and wouldn’t do otherwise.

Every year, on his birthday, he committed to enhancing his religious observance in some way, a custom he said the great R. Hillel of Paritch used to do. He related that once on his birthday R. Hillel resolved to begin sweeping the floor of his house from the door inwards, as opposed to the common fashion of sweeping directly out of the house, out of respect for the mezuzah fixed to the door.

During farbrengens, R. Berke would often speak of R. Itche der Masmid, one of the most revered chassidim of the day. He said that R. Itche would always speak about R. Hillel of Paritch and R. Isaac of Homil, and then proceeded to explain that when a chassid speaks often about a certain chassid, it’s a sign that he is close to his level. I thought to myself, R. Berke often speaks about R. Itche der Masmid, so they must be similar as well.

Farbrengens would often turn to discussions of various famed chassidim, to which R. Berke would add, “The Rebbe Rashab described R. Itche as being a Beinoni spoken of in Tanya. And," he continued, "the Rebbe Rashab once gave R. Chonye Morosov a slap on the shoulder and exclaimed, “Chonye, na dir ahava un na dir yira” (take for yourself love of G‑d, take for yourself fear of G‑d), which chassidim took to mean that R. Chonye was also on the level of the Beinoni, who possesses a proper love and fear of G‑d.”

After hearing this from R. Berke, we once sat together and mused: Both of these great men had achieved a similar spiritual state, but in different ways. Whose then, is greater—R. Itche’s or R. Chonye's? We decided that R. Itche’s was higher since the Rebbe Rashab had given R. Chonye his love and fear while R. Itche had toiled to attain it himself.

Still, R. Chonye's divine service certainly had its own intensity. It is related that R. Chonye would cry so often that the Rebbe Rashab once asked him, “Chonye, why are you always crying?”

R. Chonye replied, “What do you mean? For the sins of my youth.”

The Rebbe asked, “If you knew that you've already washed them away with your tears, would you stop crying?”

R. Chonye replied: “Certainly!”

Said the Rebbe, Nu, if so, you can stop crying.”

But they say that R. Chonye continued to cry.

R. Berke once spoke at length about the value of the yeshiva of Tomchei Tmimim in general and that of a tamima graduate from that yeshivah—in particular. He said that at the time of the Russian Revolution, his grandfather R. Meir Simcha Chein had seven daughters. Many people were veering off the path of Judaism to join the Communist Party, and he was worried that his daughters might do the same. The spirit of Tomchei Tmimim, R. Meir Simcha felt, would ensure that his daughters would stay true to the chassidic way of life, so he would host young men from the yeshiva in his home when he could. He told his daughters all the wonderful qualities these boys possessed, and in the Chein household, the tamim became a beloved figure: A tamim is a diamond, he would say. That was how he educated his daughters from a young age.

One of his daughters related the time that a yeshiva boy came to their home with torn sleeves and a running nose. The yeshiva educated its students with a total disdain for pretense, and left them with little regard for proper household etiquette. But despite his lack of basic manners, she recalled, she still looked at him with admiration, because that is what her father had taught her; since he was a tamim, he was a diamond!