A Threefold Union. There is a familiar expression, that the Jewish people and the Torah and the Holy One, blessed be He, are all one. This means that the Holy One, blessed be He, and the Torah and the Jewish people are all united. That union is threefold: (a) by virtue of the fact that each of them is described as “one” – Havayah echad (“one G‑d”), Torah achas (“one Torah”), goy echad (“one nation”);1 (b) by virtue of the fact that they are bound together as if they were one entity, as in the well-known teaching2 that there are three bonds bound to each other – Yisrael are bound to the Torah, and the Torah is bound to the Holy One, blessed be He; and (c) by virtue of the fact that each of them is more closely connected to each of the others than to any other entity. Moreover, all three resemble each other.

The Holy One, blessed be He, and the Torah. That bond is tighter – if one may express it thus – than the bond between Him and the world. True, nothing exists apart from Him. Nevertheless, the bond between Him and the world, both in its coming into being3 and in its ongoing vitality,4 does not equal the extent to which He is bound to the Torah and the Torah is bound to Him.

It is not easy, and sometimes quite difficult, to explain a profound teaching of Chazal to people who have not studied the basic concepts that bring the mortal mind to a stage of comprehension at which they can more or less grasp G‑dly concepts.

G‑d created the world in such a way that its materiality conceals Elokus, Divinity. That is the nature which G‑d implanted in materiality – that it appears to have self-sufficient existence. Chassidus explains why this is so, and also what it signifies. The Torah reveals Divinity. That is why G‑d says that when people study Torah, “It is Me that you are taking.”5

The Holy One, blessed be He, and the Jewish People. “Even though I am G‑d to all the mortals in the world, only upon the Jewish people have I beamed My Name.”6 That explicit teaching of the Sages confirms clearly enough the close bond between G‑d and His people. And the most powerful proof of that eternal bond is the actual self-sacrifice that Jews have had in sanctification of the Divine Name.7 As it is written,8 “because for Your sake we have been killed all day long.”

The Torah and the Jewish People. The bond between the Torah and the Jewish people and between the Jewish people and the Torah needs no explanation, because it is something that is not only felt by Jews, but is also known by all of mankind, including non-Jews. The Torah exults in Jews, and Jews proudly trace their lineage, so to speak, to the Torah.

The Jewish people and the Torah are one and the same. In a sefer Torah, even a slight gap9 in the continuity of one single letter renders the scroll invalid: it may not be read until that gap has been bridged. And to determine whether it is in fact a gap, it is shown to a child who is neither particularly bright nor underdeveloped.

As in a sefer Torah, a gap between one Jew and another is a sign of invalidity, because Jews should live in unity.

The letters of the Torah appear in three sizes – large, medium and small – and so does the level of scholarship among Jews. However, regardless of their differences, all Jews are obligated to observe the practical mitzvos, and to do so in a spirit of unity. The path one should follow is the middle path, being neither too clever10 nor too simple.11 Rather, one should follow the middle path [that is common to all Jews], both by furthering Torah study and by observing mitzvos.

* * *

Hospitality. The Gemara12 highlights the respect due to one’s host.13 The tannaim and amoraim relate many instances of how outstanding Torah personalities related to their respective hosts, and record the weighty teachings that they delivered in their honor.

One of the mitzvos that expresses positive character traits is hospitality,14 regardless of whether the guest is wealthy or not wealthy, and regardless of whether he is a famed scholar or an ordinary fellow Jew. It is one of the mitzvos in which Jews excel, and through which the Jewish people justly deserve the noble title of gomlei chassadim, people devoted to acts of kindness.

Whoever the guest may be, hospitality is in itself a lofty mitzvah; how much more so when its intent is to lighten a guest’s burden of difficult experiences.

Our host, Reb Calev,15 who is known for his charitable deeds and his hospitality, carries the name of Calev ben Yefuneh.16 The Sages link Calev’s positive report on Canaan to the name of his father, Yefuneh (יפונה), because he disjoined himself (פינה עצמו) from the other Spies and partnered with Yehoshua bin Nun, the attendant of Moshe.17 And, in fact, every Jew’s main task is to make a turn, a shift in direction, towards the Torah and its commandments and to Torah scholars. Moreover, when the Sages speak in praise of even “an hour of repentance and good deeds,”18 they use the word שעה, which in the Holy Tongue means not only “an hour” but also “a turn.”19 They are thus speaking in praise of even a turn, a mere shift in direction, towards teshuvah and good deeds.

* * *

In the year 5671 (1911), when the renowned chassid R. Yaakov Mordechai Bespalov20 spent a few weeks in a health resort, he paid me the courtesy of several visits over a cup of tea in the shade of the trees near the veranda. During one of those visits I reminded him of the notes I had taken of the events celebrating my bar-mitzvah (on Yud-Beis Tammuz, 5653/1893), and in particular of the farbrengen that was held in the home of my uncle, R. Zalman Aharon,21 on Thursday, 15 Tammuz.

The subject under discussion was: What is Chassidus, and what is a chassid?

(i) What is Chassidus? Most of those present agreed that the answer of R. Gershon Dov [Pahar]22 to that question was more valid than the other answers proposed. All agreed that Chassidus was a G‑dly philosophical discipline. The question was: What was the novel contribution of the teachings of Chassidus over and above the teachings of the Kabbalah and of Chakirah?23

At that time, R. Gershon Dov expressed his view that the Kabbalah gives a name to each Sefirah24 and partzuf;25 Chakirah introduced the concept – albeit expressed by negating its opposite – that “if I knew Him, I would be Him,”26 [meaning that it defined Elokus as that which cannot be known]; whereas Chassidus introduced an abstract conception of knowing and being, as grasped by means of the G‑dly soul’s power of comprehension. Chassidus teaches that by toiling with both the soul and the flesh in one’s “service of the heart,”27 one can arrive at a complete comprehension of this concept – a point at which one senses that “I know Him and hence am [one with] Him.”

Hearing this, R. Yaakov Mordechai Bespalov explained R. Gershon Dov’s analysis at length, and then remarked to me: “A thinker so brilliant and profound that for him a six-hour meditation on a concept in Chassidus was the mere blink of an eye; a chassid who invested decades in a genuine toil of both the soul and the flesh, toil that was embellished by the blessings of the Rebbeim; – a chassid like that can comprise both knowing and being, and can experience them both at the lofty level of gadlus hamochin.”28

At that point in our conversation, a new light arrived: my revered father joined us and asked us what we were discussing. R. Yaakov Mordechai told him that we had been speaking of avodah shebalev, the service of the heart – which means davenen not only with heart and with tears, but also davenen with heart and with meditation on concepts in Chassidus. He added that in the course of our discussion I had reminded him of the farbrengen that took place during the week of my bar-mitzvah in the home of the Raza, when the question was raised: What was the novel contribution of the teachings of Chassidus over and above the teachings of the Kabbalah and of Chakirah? R. Yaakov Mordechai also mentioned that when he was doubtful as to his recollection of parts of that discussion, I had shown him my detailed record of the various opinions, and through this he had recalled it in its entirety.

My father then asked me to show him my notes, which in fact I was reluctant to do. He flipped through them and read a few pages that recorded the sichos that had been delivered at the seudas mitzvah on the day of the bar-mitzvah. (He did not read the pages that described our visit to the resting places of our saintly forebears,29 nor my account of the sichos that he had delivered on that day when we sat down to cake and mashke after Shacharis.) He then read my account of the above-mentioned farbrengen.

R. Yaakov Mordechai now repeated his remark that R. Gershon Dov’s view of Chassidus applied only to individuals whose gifted attainments in scholarship and in avodah equaled his own – “but not to ordinary chassidim like us,” he concluded, referring to himself.

“Not so,” responded my father. “It applies to every single one of Anash who engages in the study of Chassidus and in avodah shebalev.199 For studying Chassidus and davenen30 are one and the same. If a person studies, but does not invest effort in avodah shebalev, his study can’t be called study. Likewise, if a person engages in avodah shebalev but does not study, his avodah can’t be called avodah. If, instead, there is both study and davenen, then every individual can sense and appreciate the heyisiv (i.e., ‘being [one with] Him’) that springs from the soul’s yedativ(i.e., ‘knowing Him’).”

My father proceeded to give a long and systematic explanation of this concept, and illustrated how it was applied by several of the closest chassidim of his father, my grandfather the Rebbe Maharash. They were R. Yaakov Mordechai’s peers, and some of them I too knew.

* * *

L‑rd of the Universe, how extremely profound are Your thoughts!31 Who is the man that can grasp the meaning of hashgachah peratis, Divine Providence?

In the primordial thought of the partzuf of Adam Kadmon, which includes the entire chain of hishtalshelus, from the heights of the partzufim of the emanated ne’etzalim down to the tiniest worm under the mighty arms of the earth, from all the beings that derive from the Worlds of Atzilus, Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah, together with all their thoughts, words and actions, and all the occurrences that they experienced in the course of their six thousand years in this world –

In that primordial Divine thought of Adam Kadmon, which in one glance observed and gazed upon all of those beings until the end of all the generations –

In the course of the 5699 years and seven months and eight days and two hours that have elapsed since the Creation of the world, the present scene stood in G‑d’s sight –

It was known that at three o’clock on the ninth of Nissan in the year 5700, Divine Providence would summon together a group of chassidim and they would discuss the above theme of yedativ/heyisiv.

One ought to appreciate the great spiritual benefit that is brought about when a theme from a bygone farbrengen is recounted, such as the subject of yedativ/heyisiv. How much more so when such a theme is recounted in this (just between us!) frigid and grossly unspiritual America, in which even an upstanding Torah scholar doesn’t know about – and doesn’t want to know about – the ideal that says, “This is the way to acquire a mastery of Torah.”32 In addition, when in such a time and place one discusses such a theme, and speaks about those who were involved in that farbrengen, one causes the souls of those who discussed that subject in 5653 (1893) and in 5671 (1911) to experience an ascent in the worlds above. This is an instance of the teaching of the Sages33 that echoes the verse, “He causes the sleepers’ lips to murmur.”34

Divine Providence is a subject that it is advisable to contemplate deeply. At a chassidisher farbrengen, accompanied by a deeply-meaningful vintage chassidisher niggun, and aided by the zechus of our holy Rebbeim, one can – with G‑d’s help – grasp some idea of how to grow closer to Chassidus and to the service of the heart, and in particular, how to clamber out of the sticky mire of grossly material conceptions. We must work on ourselves, and then it is certain that G‑d will make our efforts succeed.

(ii) What is a Chassid? Many answers were given to this question [by my father] at farbrengens, some of them dating back to my childhood.

In the notes I made in 5654 (1894) that recorded my earlier recollections, I wrote that as early as 5647 (1887),35 when I was in Yalta, Crimea, with my parents, my father explained to me that a chassid is not defined merely by the nussach of his Siddur.36 He often reminded me that I was born a chassid, and that I should keep this in mind when I was eating, talking, davening and learning.

One of those notes describes my parents’ stopover at Kharkov, in Iyar of that year, on the way home from Yalta to Lubavitch. In Kharkov, on Lag BaOmer, my father explained to a large gathering of chassidim what is a chassid.37 I was astonished that fully-grown Jews with white and gray beards didn’t know what a chassid is, and my father had to tell them…!

I couldn’t hold back my amazement, so when R. Yechezkel Arlozorov and R. Asher Grossman38 asked me to join them in a chassidic dance, I told them that my father had already told me last winter what a chassid is – whereas only now did my father tell these people what a chassid is…

R. Arlozorov burst out laughing and said: “What your father told you is what a sweet little chassid’l39 is, and what your father told us is what a chassid is.”

I was utterly unable to detect any difference between a chassid’l and a chassid, and took it to heart so seriously that I could find no rest until I told my father the whole story.

That was a couple of days before my parents left Kharkov, when they were very busy. My father didn’t have time until the next day, in the train leaving town, when he explained that difference to me by the analogy of a tender sapling and a mature fruit tree. This I understood perfectly well – that is, for my age.

(iii) As the years flew past, I progressed from one teacher to the next – from R. Yekusiel40 to R. Shimshon and from R. Shimshon to R. Nissan; I hung around elder chassidim such as R. Hendel [Kurnitzer] and R. Abba Tchashniker; I heard the talks of R. Aharon and R. Yekusiel, the melamdim from Dokschytz; I listened to the narratives of R. Shmuel Horowitz, who had been a zitzer41 in the time of the Tzemach Tzedek,and the narratives of R. Meir Mordechai Tchernin and of my fine melamed, R. Nissan Skobla. A frequent theme in all their discussions was the question, What is a chassid? And from those words I pictured a composite answer to that question – that a chassid is a person who thinks, who davens, who has cultivated a refined character, who fasts, who speaks sparingly.

(iv) One day late in Sivan, 5656 (1896),42 when my parents and I and my melamed, the Rashbatz, were living in the Bolivka health resort, near Krasnoya, a distinguished visitor arrived, R. Yechezkel Arlozorov, and stayed for a few days. Once, while sitting in the garden with him and with my teacher over a cup of tea, I reminded him of the chassidic dance with which he and R. Asher Grossman had honored me on Lag BaOmer nine years earlier, when my parents were in Kharkov.

Recalling my childhood notes of that occasion, I also mentioned the concepts of chassid and chassid’l, and remarked to R. Arlozorov that in the course of those nine years many explanations and distinctions between those terms had crystallized in my mind. R. Arlozorov, whose tremendous memory was proverbial, thereupon told my teacher, the Rashbatz, of the conversation on that subject that had taken place between himself, R. Asher Grossman, and me.

In the course of the lively discussion that followed, R. Arlozorov and my teacher exchanged numerous recollections of the Rebbeim and of chassidim of stature, all focusing on how the title “chassid” should be defined. It was such a pleasure to see before me two elders – perhaps not elders in age, but certainly in elders in wisdom – who had both been chassidim of the Tzemach Tzedek. And they were not merely chassidim who arrived from time to time to hear a maamar: both were chassidim who had sat and studied under him in his yeshivah. Yet it was apparent that their conceptions of the title “chassid” were decidedly different.

The Rashbatz was saturated with the chassidisher spiritual lifestyle which he had observed as a child in the elder chassidim of Shventzian; which in the course of the next few years he had absorbed as a youth under the close tutelage of the tzaddik R. Michele of Opotchk; and which he had learned from the Rebbeim and from prominent chassidim who were both ovdim and maskilim. Thus it was that he conceived of a chassid, even a quite ordinary and average chassid, as someone who in essence resembled an esrog of exquisite perfection.

By virtue of his education and his training and the way he lived his life, he was able to perceive a uniquely exalted nature within anything that was spiritually refined. And with those chassidic and microscopic spectacles he perceived and grasped even a chassid of average stature.

R. Arlozorov, by contrast, was saturated with the analytical scholarly Talmudic debates of nigleh. When that frigid logician, whose orderly mind had a broad and profound grasp, observed anything, no matter how spiritually refined, he would grasp only the body of its being. And with that mindset he perceived whatever constitutes a chassid.

Now, both the Rashbatz and R. Arlozorov were outstanding scholars, both studied Chassidus, and both engaged in a measure of the avodah of Chassidus, yet each had his own conception of what constitutes a chassid. The Rashbatz saw and spoke of a chassid’s mahus, his defining essence; R. Arlozorov saw and spoke of a chassid’s metzius, his merely tangible being.

(v) It is utterly beyond the mortal mind to grasp the concept of hashgachah peratis. By Divine Providence, as we palpably see, G‑d engineers circumstances in such a way that a seemingly insignificant event can bring about a weighty result.

In the course of the several days that R. Arlozorov spent with us, I shared with me a great number of events and narratives that were stored in his famous memory, recollections dating from the time that he studied in the yeshivah of the Tzemach Tzedek in Lubavitch. Likewise, when I mentioned our Lag BaOmer in Kharkov, he told me that his memory was fresh regarding the whole order of that day’s events. He remembered the maamar that my father had delivered (at home he still had the account of it43 that he had written after having heard it), and likewise a talk that he had heard from my father on that day. Then, by the grace of G‑d, he presented me with the most beautiful gift possible: he told me that early the next morning he would repeat for me that very talk, which dated from 5647 (1887).

R. Arlozorov used to start his day very early. Beginning at 7:00 AM, which was after his Shacharis and breakfast, and continuing until lunchtime, he kept his promise, complete in every detail. As he spoke I took brief notes, which later served me as a basis for a full hanachah of that talk.

I then asked my teacher, the Rashbatz, if he would want to spend the next few days in Lubavitch, where his wife and elder daughter lived, and in Vitebsk, where his younger daughter and her family lived, so that I would have enough time to write down everything I had heard. He understood me very well; in such matters he would always seek to oblige, so that I could fulfill my wish.

(vi) In the year 5667 (1906-1907) my parents and I lived in Wurzburg, Bavaria, and at the festive farbrengen that was held there on Yud-Tes Kislev, my father discussed the terms Chassidus and chassid. He related that in 5636 (1876), the year in which the Rebbe Maharash delivered his classic maamar that begins with the words Mayim rabim,44 he once sat with R. Yaakov Mordechai Bespalov and they discussed various aspects of avodah. When the question arose as to what constitutes a chassid, R. Yaakov Mordechai said that a chassid is someone who is devoted to his Rebbe.

“The way I saw it,” my father continued, “a person who has cultivated a spiritual bond with his Rebbe, at the highest degree of hiskashrus, is still no more than a weak chassid. A chassid is something different. As I thought over the question more deeply, I came to understand that being a chassid demands more than simply being bound to one’s Rebbe. Beyond that, a chassid must be devoted to the activities of the Rebbe.”

I explained this to myself by the analogy of body and soul. The body is bound to the soul with its very essence, but that hiskashrus is not merely a bond with the soul, but rather, devotedness to the activities of the soul.

(vii) At the above-mentioned Yud-Tes Kislev farbrengen of 5667 (1906), my father said: “In 5637 (1877), the year in which my grandfather the Rebbe Maharash delivered the classic maamar that begins VeChachah,45 the revered elder chassid, R. Ze’ev Dov Kozevnikov, came to Lubavitch for Shavuos. So when he visited me to farbreng, I asked him, What is a chassid?

“And this is what he answered: ‘A chassid is someone who is utterly devoted to seeking the welfare of his fellow. This was the education and guidance that elder chassidim used to implant in chassidishe children, and devotedness to this ideal is richly rewarded.’

“R. Ze’ev Dov went on to say that he knew this from his personal experience. He was born and bred in a little village – near Dobrianka, in the Chernigov province – among chassidim who were serious scholars in nigleh and in Chassidus. In his childhood, his mentor was one of the outstanding learned chassidim, R. Yoel Zalman, who infused within him a sensitivity to the ideal of being devoted to seeking the welfare of one’s fellow. By the time he was twelve he had already attained an impressive level of scholarship and was familiar with many of the aggados of the Sages.

“Among the villagers there were also quite a few families of simple folk who were so ignorant that they did not even know the plain meaning of the words that they davened. This young lad, Ze’ev Dov, felt so sorry for them that he set aside a regular time to teach them Siddur and to share with them ethical teachings and narratives from the Gemara and Midrash. This went on for three or four years. It was no easy task, because his speech, which had never been clear, worsened with time, and when he lost his father, it deteriorated to a stammer. Despite this, he never gave up these sessions.

“At yechidus during his first visit to Lubavitch, when he was seventeen years old, he told my grandfather the Tzemach Tzedek how his speech impediment made it very difficult for him to teach these ignorant villagers. My grandfather, after being lost in thought for a while, told him: ‘You should continue those sessions with the simple folk, and you should become a melamed, a Torah teacher.’ He then blessed him with a gift for clear explanation, and with fluent speech.

“R. Ze’ev Dov then told me: ‘From the time I left the Rebbe’s room, I didn’t recognize myself. I simply began to talk, and I myself didn’t know from where it came to me. When I came home and repeated from memory the three maamarim that I had heard from the Rebbe, the chassidim present were astonished.’ By way of explanation he told them that he was the Rebbe’s golem: the Maharal of Prague made a golem of mortar, and the Rebbe made a golem of flesh….’ ”

My father concluded his account of R. Ze’ev Dov’s story with these words: “A chassid is someone who devotes himself to seeking the welfare of his fellow.”

Those of us who remember R. Ze’ev Dov’s mouth – a fountain of eloquent pearls – can have some inkling of the rich reward that is earned by a chassid who devotes himself to seeking the welfare of his fellow.

(viii) There is a passuk that says, “The steps of man are made firm by G‑d….”46 It is certain that every individual present has come here for the purpose of something specific that he needs to accomplish. One should note, however, that the passuk continues, “…and he shall desire His way.” One should desire to fulfill that personal shlichus, and not sleep through the opportunity and miss it.

(ix) As we observe, every aspect of Yiddishkeit has activists who advance it – except for Torah study, which has few such activists. And within the realm of Torah itself, those areas in which the light of truth shines most brightly have even fewer such people. This, then, is our task – to fortify the study of Torah and the observance of Yiddishkeit according to the teachings of Chassidus.47

(x) Among chassidim, especially at farbrengens, the role of singing is more than merely respected: it is significant, because singing promotes the revelation of Chassidus in three areas – (a) in one’s comprehension of Chassidus, (b) in meditation upon its teachings, and (c) in the avodah that springs from them. And this prominent role is not merely something that can somehow be sensed: it can be plainly seen by all. However, chassidishe niggunim yield their positive effects in all those three areas only when they are sung with a hergesh pnimi, a deeply experienced spiritual sensitivity.

[One of those present asked:] How does one attain a deeply experienced spiritual sensitivity?

[The Rebbe responded:] You’re right: that’s a big question. For a systematic oved, a hergesh pnimi is the highest of the three comprehensive levels of hergesh, of spiritual sensitivity. The first level prepares one to proceed to the second level, which in turn enables one to proceed to the third, but one cannot embark on that sequence without a broad preparation.

The three comprehensive levels are (a) regesh (“spiritual emotion “), (b) hergesh (“spiritual sensitivity”), and (c) hergesh pnimi (“a deeply experienced spiritual sensitivity”).

The broad preparation comprises two prerequisites: (a) mesinus (“deliberateness”) and (b) hisrakzus (“concentration”).

At any Chassidus-chassidisher farbrengen, and how much more so at a Chassidus-chassidisher farbrengen of temimim,48 certain concepts in Chassidus need no more than a brief mention. (You no doubt appreciate why I specified a Chassidus-chassidisher farbrengen – because, regrettably, gatherings that are called “chassidisher farbrengens” are often distant, if not diametrically distant, from a genuine chassidisher farbrengen, both with regard to the participants’ level of spiritual sensitivity and with regard to the subjects discussed.) I said that certain concepts in Chassidus need no more than a brief mention because I just mentioned three levels of spiritual sensitivity and two levels of preparation, without intending to explain them now, because we are at a Chassidus-chassidisher farbrengen of temimim. And temimim certainly know not only the meanings of the five terms that were mentioned briefly, but also their inner significance.

In Lubavitch, niggunim were sung between Minchah and Maariv on any Shabbos with a hergesh, with spiritual sensitivity; how much more so, at a farbrengen; and even more so, at a farbrengen at which we were privileged to behold the luminous holy countenance of my revered father. At such times, the niggunim were sung with a hergesh pnimi, a deeply experienced spiritual sensitivity.

(xi) Our mentor, the Baal Shem Tov, used to say: “The heart of a Jew is alive.” One has to know how to rouse the innermost depths of one’s heart, to reach the pnimiyus of one’s heart. And when reaches that point, the outer levels of the heart automatically undergo a change for the better.

The way to reachthe pnimiyus of one’s heartresembles the way one reaches the wellsprings of pure, living water that are hidden in the ground.

G‑d made the earth a treasure chest for all kinds of valuables, including the most vital materials and the most precious metals. In addition, he entrusted the source of living water to the nature of the earth. Thus, the subterranean springs that well forth from the abyss of bitter and salty sea water are filtered through the earth, until they surface as sweet, life-giving water. However, in order to be able to use that sweet, life-giving water, one must first dig deep into the ground to remove the soil and stones and so on that obscure the wellsprings, until one actually strikes them.

Now, digging a well requires not only knowledge and strength, but also patience. The process must take time, perhaps an extremely long time. Big boulders and thick strata demand doubled strength and redoubled patience.

In Lubavitch there was a very old man who was known as Reb Shalom the Digger.49 He was born in Liadi, and had the good fortune to have received a berachah from the Alter Rebbe for success in his work – digging wells – and for a long life. In the summer of 5652 (1892), when he turned 97, he said that although (thank G‑d) he felt he still had the strength to work, he thought it was time to put down his shovel and to make the trip back to Liadi. There he would wait for the time ahead, when he would occupy the plot that he had bought for himself, next to his father.

I recall the time, in the summer of 5649 (1889), when Reb Shalom started digging the well in Chachloiker Street. He was approached by another aged villager, who had been a chassid of the Mitteler Rebbe. This Reb Yechezkel Ze’ev, better known by his Yiddish nickname as Chatshye Velle, asked him: “Shalom, are you undertaking to dig a well?!”

“Why not?” replied Reb Shalom. “It’s not hard work. You get up early, you go off to the beis midrash and say the whole of Tehillim together with the rest of the Chevrah Tehillim, then you daven Shacharis with the vasikin minyan, then you take a bite of breakfast, and at seven or eight you get down to work. One shovelful of dirt, another shovelful of dirt. Without rushing, just steady-steady – an arshin50 a day, sometimes another half an arshin. And in a month or two, with G‑d’s help, you strike the living waters!”

Reb Shalom was right. When saying Tehillim or davenen, one should get down to work without rushing – one shovelful, another shovelful – until one reaches the wellspring of the innermost depths, the pnimiyus, of one’s heart.

There is another way to dig a well in order to reach a wellspring: one bores a hole that penetrates even the stones that cover the wellspring, one next inserts a pipe, and then the life-giving water gushes forth.

There is a difference between these two techniques. After a well has been dug by hand, even though the water can be seen, it can’t be used until it is drawn up by bucket. When a well has been bored by a drill, the water gushes forth alone.

In terms of the avodah of reaching the innermost depths, the pnimiyus, of one’s heart, the difference between these two techniques corresponds to the difference between (a) avodah by one’s own efforts, and (b) that which is accomplished thanks to yechidus. Yet even in the latter case, the initial step must be avodah by one’s own efforts. As Reb Shalom the Digger says, one shovelful of dirt, and another shovelful – and then G‑d helps one to arrive at the innermost reaches of his heart. But this demands real work, in order to remove the covering that hides the innermost depths of one’s heart.

(xii) Whatever is gashmi, material, exists in the present and is transient; whatever is ruchni, spiritual, is everlasting. A yechidus, an encounter of chassid and Rebbe, is spiritual and everlasting.

It is certain that once a chassid met his Rebbe at yechidus decades ago, the holy teachings and the berachos not only remain exactly as luminous and as powerful as they were at the time. Beyond that, those holy words are the cord that binds the chassid to the Rebbe. And whenever the chassid recalls that yechidus intently, that recollection brings about an arousal Above: the holy soul of the Rebbe, regardless of which spiritual abode he now inhabits, focuses attention on the current affairs of the chassid – exactly as was the case long ago, when that chassid stood before the Rebbe at yechidus.

(xiii) A chassid has to have a little corner of his own where he can seclude himself and commune with his memories of long ago. Thought has the gift of temporarily transforming the past into the present. Hence, by thinking deeply, a person can have a genuine representation of a situation from the distant past, in a lifelike mental image in the present. Thus, in the present, a person can have a lifelike mental image of what he once experienced when he studied in the Tomchei Temimim Yeshivah, in the luminous days when he lived among chassidim who were maskilim and ovdim. He can summon up a clear image of what he heard from mashpi’im and elder chassidim, of what he heard and saw of the Rebbe, and of how he was at yechidus – his frame of mind before the yechidus, during the yechidus, and after the yechidus.

Bringing to mind such images from the past is a genuine form of avodah. It is a mikveh that purifies the putrid atmosphere of the present, and to some degree washes off at least one’s grossest mire. Doing so also expresses a kind of protest against a person’s present lifestyle: he realizes that he must become quite different to what he now is.

(xiv) We are living in the era that can hear the approaching footsteps of Mashiach.51 We are, so to speak, the “feet” – [our avodah is based on] staunch faith.52 What matters most is not how well developed are one’s intellectual attainments and one’s character traits.53 One must stand firmly on one’s “feet,” not retreating, and conceding nothing. For sure one should bring others near [to Yiddishkeit], but without giving ground. If you’re standing on the tenth step and the other fellow is on the first step, you shouldn’t go downstairs towards him. Rather, stretch out your hand and draw him towards yourself.