15. Without Kid Gloves. People often say, “Don’t ask the doctor: ask the patient.” In terms of Chassidus and chassidim, the doctor and the patient correspond to Rebbe and chassid. A patient’s illness can be serious, mild, or slight, but even a slight illness cannot be ignored. The Rebbe is the doctor. And the popular advice to ask the patient and not the doctor has been relevant – and is still relevant – in the spiritual lifestyle of chassidim.

At farbrengens, even exceptionally outstanding chassidim, both maskilim1 and baalei avodah, used to reprimand each other outspokenly, without kid gloves, to the point that the listener squirmed in pain.2 This was often the case with several celebrated chassidim – R. Aizik Homiler,3 R. Pesach Malastovker,4 R. Betzalel Ozoritcher,5 and R. Hillel Paritcher6 – and their respective Rebbeim did not tolerate that practice.

Nevertheless, though the attitude of the Rebbeim to such pungent talk was known among chassidim, they used to comment, “Don’t ask the doctor: ask the patient….”

It is no doubt superfluous to point out that the sharp words exchanged by those elder chassidim sprang from brotherly love and profound mutual respect.

16. Fruit of a Farbrengen. In days gone by, a chassidisher farbrengen was a Chassidus-chassidisher farbrengen. The discussion centered seriously on the spiritual ambiance that surrounds [the formal texts of] Chassidus.7 For example, those present would analyze a chassidisher teaching260 in search of its inner meaning, and would discuss what can be learned from a chassidisher anecdote. Such farbrengens positioned chassidim in a cleaner atmosphere and on a higher spiritual level. When people went home from a farbrengen in those days, perhaps they were not more pious, but they were wiser, more refined, and more elevated. The atmosphere itself was cleansing.

Nowadays, however, because of the state of Torah observance and education and Yiddishkeit in the last twenty-five years, chassidishe farbrengens have turned into farbrengens whose function is to fortify the simple observance of Yiddishkeit. The topics are family purity, the observance of Shabbos, the need to establish fixed study sessions, and other basic requirements of Torah and mitzvos.

This kind of talk – and action – is obviously not only permissible but essential. However, on no account must it be allowed to replace a spiritually-oriented Chassidus-chassidisher farbrengen.

Chassidim must distinguish between two different kinds of farbrengens: (a) the kind of farbrengen that furthers the practical observance of Yiddishkeit in general and the cause of education in particular; (b) a Chassidus-chassidisher farbrengen that gives full and explicit expression to the authentic chassidisher spirit.

Every endeavor in avodah – whether in the area of seichel (intellectual activity), or middos,263 or thought or speech or action – must have a bechein, a concluding resolve that will produce a tangible outcome.8 The bechein is the very essence of that endeavor, and by making a firm resolve one must give it practical expression that corresponds to the nature of the endeavor that produced it. True, becheins vary considerably. The bechein that grows out of avodah in the area of seichel is different from the bechein that grows out of avodah in the area of middos; likewise, the bechein that grows out of avodah in the area of thought is different from the bechein that grows out of avodah in the area of speech or action. That said, all becheins share one characteristic – they must result in a bepo’al, a practical reality.9

At first glance one might well ask, What is the difference between a bechein and a bepo’al?

After all, it would seem that they are one and the same: the bechein of seichel is the bepo’al of seichel, and the bepo’al of seichel is the bechein. The same would seem to apply in the areas of middos or thought or speech or action. What, then, is the difference between a bechein and a bepo’al?

Chassidus teaches that there is a substantial difference between them. A bechein is natural, for in every thing G‑d implanted a bechein, which is its offspring. A bepo’al is artificial, for G‑d endowed every created being with a potential for a po’al, a potential for practical expression, which enables that created being to transform a bechein into a po’al.

As stated above, a bechein is the offspring of that created entity. Thus, the bechein of seichel is the middah which is the offspring that is born of that seichel. The ability of seichel to produce a middah that resembles it is one of the natural attributes with which G‑d endowed it. The resultant po’al vitalizes and sustains the offspring.

The same principle applies to the bechein and the po’al in relation to the middos, and in relation to the soul’s three “garments,” that is, its three means of expression – thought, speech and action. Thus, the bechein of middos is thought, the bechein of thought is speech, and the bechein of speech is action. Thus all becheins, including action, must have a po’al.

The po’al of the middos-bechein is that one’s thought processes should be orderly, and not too wide-ranging. The po’al of the thought-bechein is that it should find expression in sensitive and animated speech; the po’al of the speech-bechein is that the resultant action should be done with vibrant devotion.

A bechein without a po’al is like sowing seed in vain, like bearing aborted children. It is one of the most harmful dangers that Chassidus is wary of, and warns chassidim to steer clear of.

There exist wrong-headed ovdim who imagine that if a middah is born as the result of their meditation on a G‑dly concept, this in itself a positive achievement. Such a person imagines that the fact that his meditation gave rise to offspring proves that his meditation was alive and that its offspring is viable. Not so, my dear brother! If there isn’t a tangible po’al in all of the above-listed stages of po’al, up to and including the exuberant enjoyment of an actual action, the seed was sown in vain and the offspring is stillborn.

True, the bechein is the very essence of the entity, but the bepoa’l is the soul of the bechein. It is the light of truth within all the becheins. To a certain extent, moreover, the exuberant delight that one experiences when finally carrying out the tangible activity confirms that the meditation that led to it rested on solid foundations.

It was stated above that the difference between bechein and bepo’al is that the bechein is natural, being the handiwork of G‑d, while thebepo’al is artificial, the work of mortals. The potential to carry out the po’al is natural, the handiwork of G‑d, but the po’al itself is the work of mortals. That has to be done by the man himself.

In both kinds of farbrengen, both the outward-oriented kind of chassidisher farbrengen and the Chassidus-chassidisher farbrengen, have abechein. Quite often, whether it has a broad spectrum or a narrow focus, it is a warm bechein. However, the exuberant delight in the resultant po’al is often missing – and that means that the birth was stillborn. And that in turn means that the seed sown at the farbrengen was sown in vain.

Chassidus therefore warns chassidim of the danger of a bechein without a po’al.

17. Antidote to Dilution. A Chassidus-chassidisher farbrengen ought to be overflowing with [the values of] the authentic, age-old, unchanging, maskil-avodah chassid – the chassid whom the Alter Rebbe created, and whom our Rebbeim, each in his generation, nourished with Torah teachings and with directives in the paths of avodah.

Chassidus hasn’t changed and chassidim haven’t changed. It’s only that over the generations, the teachings and principles of Chassidus have been enriched and clarified by explanations that have enabled even those of lesser intellectual ability to grasp them. Chassidus and chassidim haven’t changed – but in the course of time, especially in the last thirty years, for various reasons Chassidus and chassidim have become diluted. Their essence is present, but too much diluted. Nevertheless, Chassidus and chassidim haven’t changed. We still have the age-old essential chassid, albeit diluted.

In the physical realm, we know that if one wants to rid a liquid or food of its superfluous water, one can’t simply pour it out, because then part of the liquid or food will be wasted. There are two opposite techniques: either to heat it to boiling point or to freeze it.

The superfluous water in Chassidus and chassidim needs to be heated to boiling point either by means of an evocative niggun that expresses the yearning of the soul and through a dance that expresses the soul’s cleaving to its source, or by means of a coldly cerebral exposition of one of the profound concepts in the teachings of Chassidus.

This should be the solid basis of a Chassidus-chassidisher farbrengen – to serve as a fiery furnace that will boil out the dilution of Chassidus and chassidim, or as an ice-box that will freeze the dilution out of existence.

18. A central theme at aChassidus-chassidisher farbrengen should be avodah shebalev, explaining not only that it is an obligation, but explaining also how one ought to engage in it. It is true that my father, the Rebbe, published a Kuntreis HaTefillah,10 but what is written there has to be integrated into one’s life: one has to learn – and teach oneself – how to go about davenen. Elder chassidim who received traditions from earlier elder chassidim should teach younger chassidim how to daven, and they for their part should be open to learn from them.

19. Goals for a Lifetime. A Chassidus-chassidisher farbrengen is a boundless heritage. A good farbrengen brings a person sooner or later to the loftiest levels, both in his comprehension of Chassidus, and in his avodah and sensitivity to Elokus.

[To summarize: On this theme, of spiritual elevation, R. Yehoshua ben Levi teaches in Pirkei Avos:11 “Whoever engages in the study of the Torah becomes elevated, as it is written,12 ‘From Matanah they came to Nachaliel, and from Nachaliel they came to Bamos.’ “ At the level of pshat, this verse simply names three of the stations in the course of our forefathers’ wanderings in the wilderness. However, R. Yehoshua ben Levi arrives at his above teaching by understanding these names at the non-literal level of interpretation known as derush. Thus, the name Matanah (lit., “a gift”) suggests “the gift of Torah”; the name Nachaliel implies that “my heritage is G‑d”; and the name Bamos means “high places.”

[The Rebbe Rayatz now takes this teaching one step further and, at the mystical level of interpretation known as sod, perceives a further subtext in these names. In the paragraphs below that begin “Chassidus understands…,” that subtext tracks stages in a person’s avodah of beirurim, as he refines and elevates his material environment by releasing the Divine sparks hidden within it.

[The above-quoted verse is preceded by the words, “and from the midbar (‘the wilderness’) they went to Matanah.”13 In Chassidus, the term midbar is a code word for the raw energy of the unprocessed Divine “sparks” from the World of Tohu that are embedded in our material world. More broadly, the term midbar here includes various stages that are alluded to in these verses by the placenames – Bamos, Gai, and Yeshimon (lit., “the wasteland”).]

Chassidus understands the sequence, “and from the midbar (‘the wilderness’) they went to Matanah, and from Matanah they came to Nachaliel,” in its characteristic style. Chassidus teaches that even the ability to attain the highest spiritual levels (“Bamos”) is granted to a person only as a gift (“Matanah”). That gift, called “Nachaliel” (which implies that “my heritage is G‑d”), is the privilege of “beholding the pleasantness of G‑d”14 and “delighting in G‑d.”15

The phrase that follows “from Nachaliel they came to Bamos”277 is, “and from Bamos they came to the valley (Gai).”16 In the terms of Chassidus, this means that the avodah of the individual who has already reached the lofty level called “Nachaliel” comprises two sides, whose codenames are “Bamos” and “Gai.” “Bamos” stands for the Divine sparks (nitzotzos) of the World of Tohu that have fallen into material entities, and “Gai” stands for the Torah and mitzvos of the World of Tikkun that are vested in material entities. In terms of the above individual’s spiritual tasks, his combination of “Bamos” and “Gai” thus implies [the ideal balance in avodah]: oros deTohu bekeilim deTikkun – the lights of Tohu in the vessels of Tikkun.17

The phrase that follows “and from Bamos they came to the valley (Gai)” is, “which is in the field of Moav, at the peak of Pisgah.”281 [Moav is an alien region, outside the Holy Land. In the Kabbalah, “the field of Moav” is thus a codename for kelipas nogah which, being a kelipah, masks kedushah, but it is the kind of kelipah that is redeemable by virtue of the holy spark within it.] The last-quoted phrase is thus saying: Although all material entities are under the dominion of kelipas nogah, in fact they are at the peak of the summit. (As Rashi explains, the placename Pisgah means “the summit.”) Material entities are at the loftiest of all lofty levels.

[At this point, using the code language of the Kabbalah, the Rebbe goes on to say that it was G‑d’s Will, and His delight18 (“if one may express oneself in such terms”), which is hidden in His very Essence, to bring into being a material world. It is only the Divine ayin that sustains the existence of that material yesh, making it outwardly appearas the Essence of G‑d, “Whose existence stems from His Essence.”19 And by means of the beirur of the material yesh, as mandated by the Torah and its mitzvos, the lights of Tohu are brought to the rectified state of Tikkun. That ultimate stage is alluded to in the final phrase of the above-quoted verse281 which says that the peak of Pisgah “overlooks the wasteland.”

[Taming and redeeming the intense lights of Tohu, which fulfill their role by descending into the material world,]20 is the positive starting point for the realization of G‑d’s essential Will, by means of the avodah of the souls of the Jewish people in their Torah study and in their fulfillment of the mitzvos. They thereby carry out G‑d’s ultimate desire – that “the peak of Pisgah” should “overlook the wasteland.”

* * *

What sparks that positive starting point? – A Chassidus-chassidisher farbrengen that is conducted within the same framework that regulated the authentic vintage chassidim of bygone years.

20. A Paradoxical Descent.Chabad Chassidus uses clear terms to explain every subject, and that includes its explanation of a soul’s descent into a body.

A soul waits five thousand and several hundred years until it is finally privileged to be sent down to the earthly world and to be vested in a physical body.

The Zohar21 teaches that “every single soul stood in its own form before the Holy King.” The latter term (Malka Kaddisha) signifies Z’eir Anpin of the World of Atzilus, where the souls are located. As is well known, Z’eir Anpin of the World of Atzilus is still [“high” enough to be] reckoned among the infinite worlds. So since a soul is located in that infinite world of Z’eir Anpin of Atzilus, it is obvious that its avodah, in loving G‑d and standing in awe of Him, is lofty indeed. Yet even though it is in that sublime state, it waits for years on end for the privilege of being sent down to This World below and being vested in a body. From this alone we can appreciate the value of a soul’s descent into a body. We can grasp what serious weight is attached to that descent, in anticipation of the mighty ascent that will result from its attainments in the body in particular and in the lowly world at large.

21. More Fool than Chassid. At one of the cheerful farbrengens during the seven-day celebration of our engagement22 in the summer of 5656 (1896), my father said LeChaim and asked: “What’s going to be with ‘delighting in G‑d’?280 Until when is it being postponed? If someone’s a foolish [i.e., a self-deluding] chassid, he’s pushing it off until after his 120 years in This World. He’s pinning his hopes on one of two possibilities: (a) ‘At midnight the Holy One, blessed be He, comes and delights in the company of the tzaddikim in Gan Eden’;23 or (b) “[In the World to Come,] the tzaddikim will sit, with crowns on their heads, and will bask in the radiance of the Divine Presence.’24

“But he’s a foolish chassid – and a chassid and a fool just don’t make a good match.25 A fool can’t be a chassid, and a chassid most certainly can’t be a fool.26

“However, whoever pushes off ‘delighting in G‑d’ until after his 120 years is for sure a foolish chassid. He’s nevertheless a chassid, because he would like to experience ‘delighting in G‑d,’ whereas a misnaged knows nothing about that concept. What a misnaged does know about is delighting in himself: he pictures how the Holy One, blessed be He, derives delight from his chiddushei Torah, from his original contributions to Torah scholarship. As to delighting in G‑d, only chassidim know about that. But if a chassid pushes off ‘delighting in G‑d’ until after his 120 years, he’s a fool. And in a foolish chassid, a chassid shoteh, the fool is bigger than the chassid….”

22. Neither Foolish nor Wild. At the table on Shabbos Parshas Terumah in the year 5651 (1891), my father related: In the year 5550 (1790), when the Mitteler Rebbe was 16 years old, or a year later, when he was 17 years old, the [Alter] Rebbe entrusted him with the study program and guidance of the young married fulltime scholars who studied27 in the Alter Rebbe’s precincts in Liozna. At that time he said that the first step in chassidic education is to ensure that chassidim will not be fools, because foolishness (shtus) is an iron obstruction to a life of Chassidus.

To this my father added that the word shoteh has two meanings: (a) a fool, plainly and simply; (b) wild, untamed. And neither of these can partner with Chassidus and chassidim.

23. R. Aizik recalls the Alter Rebbe. My father shared the following recollection at the table on Shabbos Parshas Vayigash in the year 5655 (1894): “My father28 once told me that among chassidim, chochmah (canny perception)29 is inborn. He went on to say that R. David Tzvi Chein (the Radatz),30 who together with R. Yehoshua Dubruskin31 was visiting Lubavitch at the time, related that he had once traveled to Homil after Sukkos. He intended to spend several months in the company of the tzaddik R. Yitzchak Aizik,268 together with the fifteen or so single and married scholars who were studying there full time.

“That year Yud-Tes Kislev fell on a Friday, and in R. Aizel’s shul32 before Kabbalas Shabbos a table had been set with mashke and refreshments. After davenen, R. Aizel recited Kiddush with the festive melody of Simchas Torah over a goblet of very strong mashke and urged all those present to recite Kiddush. He then said that he was about to present us with a gift: he would tell us what the Alter Rebbe had said at the first festive meal held in thanksgiving for Yud-Tes Kislev, in the year 5562 (1801).”33

[From this point to the end of sec. 23 on p. 106 below, the speaker is R. Aizik Homiler.]

As far back as Tishrei, the inner circle of chassidim sensed that on the forthcoming Yud-Tes Kislev there would be fresh news. What the news would be, no one knew, but they felt that there was news in the air.

On Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah the [Alter] Rebbe was outstandingly joyful. In the various brief talks that he addressed to his sons and to a select group of elder chassidim, he said34 that for various spiritual reasons he had not accepted the suggestion of his chassidim that Yud-Tes Kislev, the date of his liberation, be instituted as an occasion to be publicly celebrated by a joyful festive meal. He went on to say that he himself had not yet held a thanksgiving meal which, according to the laws of the Torah, ought to be held; moreover, it is classified as a seudas mitzvah, a festive meal held in honor of a mitzvah. The mitzvah of this seudah, he added, is ahavas Yisrael, the obligation to love a fellow Jew, and “my grandfather”35 taught that for this mitzvah one must be prepared to undergo even mesirus nefesh, self-sacrifice.

At the festive meal on Simchas Torah, the Alter Rebbe shared a lengthy halachic pilpul36 with his brother, Maharil,37 as to what obligation applies to a person who belongs to one of the four specified categories of people who are commanded to express their gratitude appropriately,38 yet did not do so when the obligation first fell due.

From these discussions the elder chassidim gathered that on the approaching Yud-Tes Kislev there would be news: the Rebbe was sure to give the order for a festive thanksgiving meal, and he would no doubt participate in it personally.

Early in Kislev, we young chassidim from Homil, Bobruisk and nearby townships put together enough money to hire a wagon and buy a dozen pairs of fur-lined boots.39 We then hit the road by foot, except for an occasional brief rest on Azriel’s sleigh. On the way, especially at Rogatchov, Bichov and Shklov, we were joined by more people, who hired another two wagons. By the time we reached Liadi, on Thursday of Parshas Vayishlach, there were eighty of us.40

That Shabbos, in the course of which the Rebbe delivered three maamarim, no less, was one of the happiest Shabbosos that the chassidim had ever enjoyed.

After Minchah on Friday, before Kabbalas Shabbos, in the beis midrash that stood in the little courtyard, the Rebbe delivered the first maamar. It began with the words Vayishlach Yaakov and it appears in Torah Or. The passage beginning Vayashuvu hamalachim and the passage beginning Vayomer Yaakov are both part of the same maamar.

The Rebbe delivered the second maamar in the same beis midrash very early on Shabbos morning, about two hours before daybreak. He began it with the possuk, Vayomer Yehoshua…, be’eiver hanahar, though in Torah Or it begins with the words, Vayakam balaylah. The third maamar, which began Vayikach min haba beyado minchah l’Eisav achiv, was delivered in the same place, after Minchah on Shabbos.

The local zitzers and we guests repeated all three maamarim over and over, until we memorized them with their precise wording.

On Sunday and Monday, streams of chassidim from near and far began to converge on Liadi – from Bayev, Tatarsk, Chotemsk, Chaslavitch, Amtchislav, Klimovitch, Pahar, Potchip, Dubrovna, Orsha, Krupke, Talatshin, Borisov, Babinovitch, Dobromisl, Lubavitch, Rudnia and Liozna, as well as from a whole group of towns and townships in the Vitebsk-Polotsk Province.

On Tuesday, Yud-Tes Kislev, all those people davened in the beis midrash that stood in the little courtyard, in the beis midrash that stood in the big courtyard, and in all the local batei midrash – and all those places were packed.

The local Jewish townsfolk of Liadi announced that they would provide all of those out-of-town visitors with meals, free of charge, throughout that week and until after Shabbos. And that is exactly what they did: they lovingly demonstrated the characteristically Jewish instinct for hospitality.

It is noteworthy that their non-Jewish townsmen also took a share in the hospitality. Scores of them opened their homes for the visitors who were left without a place to sleep in the Jewish homes.

An exceptional degree of hospitality was displayed by the estate manager of Archduke Lubomirsky – the Jew-loving Yan Tchemerinsky. He notified the Jewish community of Liadi that every day they would receive from his estate 75 pud41 of rye flour from which they could bake bread, three cows and a number of calves from which they could prepare kosher meat, and a number of sleighs loaded with hay and oats for the visitors’ horses.

It was announced that after an early Minchah, everyone should assemble in the big courtyard in front of the beis midrash, and there the Rebbe would deliver a maamar of Chassidus.

The courtyard and the summer pavilion were packed tight. In the middle of the beis midrash stood the big bimah, on which there was a long table. A chassid nicknamed “the hoarse R. Shmuel Elye” on account of his lion’s voice called for quiet: the Rebbe was about to appear. When R. Shmuel Elye roared his Shaa! your knees would quake.

Immediately a band of burly and broad-shouldered young men appeared, and spearheaded their way like two threads as they burst through the huge and tightly-packed beis midrash. Within two minutes they had cleared a wide path leading from the front door to the bimah, making room for the impending entry of the Rebbe and his sons and brothers.

When the Rebbe first appeared at the entrance, we were overwhelmed by a reverent and awesome dread. In that state we heard his voice as he sang the well-known melody that accompanies the words, Tze’enah u’re’enah.

The Rebbe was accompanied by his brother the Maharil at his right and by his brother R. Mordechai42 at his left. In the second row there was his brother R. Moshe,43 accompanied by the two well-known elder chassidim. The third row comprised his sons – the Rebbe44 and R. Chaim Avraham45 to the right, and R. Moshe46 to the left. After them walked the Rebbe.47

As the [Alter] Rebbe approached the steps leading up to the bimah, he sang the familiar melody that accompanies the words, Keili Atah veodeka, Elokai, aromemeka.

The Rebbe took his seat at the table on the bimah and all those who accompanied him did likewise. As he sang, an inner fire flared, and the surrounding stillness aroused awe within us. He then delivered a maamar that began with the possuk, Padah beshalom nafshi. (It appears in Torah Or with a different opening phrase, Vayeiavek ish imo.) As soon as it ended, a chassidisher lead singer48 called R. Naftali Senner started a jolly niggun, and the “hoarse” announcer invited everyone to join in, in an orderly manner.

A table had been set in the Rebbe’s yechidus-beis-midrash, ready for a festive thanksgiving meal. There the Rebbe was joined only by his brothers and sons, as well as a select few privileged elder chassidim. After long entreaties the Rebbe’s son, R. Moshe, later agreed to share with a few of us the talks that had been delivered at the table. What we then heard we kept in utter secrecy, for that was his condition. [R. Aizil Homil added:] I will relay to you only one teaching, because it is relevant to the avodah of all chassidim.

The Rebbe had said: “I have a tradition from my zeide [that is, the Baal Shem Tov] that foolishness (not just a spirit of folly but the kind of foolishness that people describe as not clever), and sadness, and a [misplaced] feeling of self-worth are considered by chassidim as aveiros deOraysa.49 Conversely, chochmah (the acute perception that people call canny), and simchah that comes from finding whatever is good and cheerful in everything, and zerizus bimesinus (doing one’s avodah with calm swiftness) are considered by chassidim to be mitzvos deOraysa.50

24. The Source of Simchah. On Pesach in the year 5674 (1814) my parents and I were in Wiesbaden.51

At the seudah of Shvi’i shel Pesach52 my father recalled that at the seudah of Shvi’i shel Pesach in 5635 (1875), my grandfather the Rebbe Maharash had said: “The Baal Shem Tov said that Shvi’i shel Pesach is the source of simchah. Shemini Atzeres is the time of simchah and Shvi’i shel Pesach isthe source of simchah.”

25. A Pnimi and an Atzmi. There is a well-known principle that not every atzmi is a pnimi and not every pnimi is an atzmi.53 Being a pnimi enables one to become an atzmi. It is true that with a pnimi, a concept that he has meditated upon becomes part of him,54 but that does not mean that he has already become an atzmi.

26. To Mirror the Reality Above. It is completely understandable that to be described as an atzmi one does not have to mirror – in This World below – that which is Above. However, it is absolutely certain that a person who – in This World below – does mirror that which is Above is in fact an atzmi.

27. The Alter Rebbe’s Right Hand. On Yud-Tes Kislev, 5663 (1902), my father said: “In every aspect of his life, the [Alter] Rebbe – in This World below – mirrored that which is Above. When he moved his holy hand from one place to another, it certainly mirrored a revelation that was taking place Above at that moment in the attribute of Chessed, which is embodied in G‑d’s Right Hand,55 in the World of Atzilus.”

28. The Joyful Approach to Avodah. On Shvi’i shel Pesach, 5664 (1904), at 3:00 AM, my father entered my room.56 At that time I was studying the middle of chapter 50 of Shaar HaEmunah, where the Mitteler Rebbe explains that the beirur by which the G‑dly soul sifts and refines [and uncovers the good that is latent in] the animal soul is an instance of the beirur by which the Divine Name מ"ה, whose gematria is אדם (“man”), sifts and refines [and uncovers the good that is latent in] the Divine Name ב"ן, whose gematria is בהמה (“animal”). The Mitteler Rebbe describes this process by the analogy of cooking: by the heat of a fire, the good and the bad in the food are separated, and the good is revealed.

My father took a seat and asked me: “What is a chassidisher yungerman studying on Shvi’i shel Pesach?”

On my table there was also a copy of [the Mitteler Rebbe’s] Derech Chayim,57 so my father asked if I had been studying it. I answered that as part of my daily study schedule, I regularly learned a brief extract from one of its chapters in preparation for saying the Kerias Shema Before Retiring at Night.

My father commented: “It is true that the chassidic understanding of the phrase, ‘How good is a thing in its fit season!’58 includes all the classic teachings on avodah, and especially Iggeres HaTeshuvah and Derech Chayim. Nevertheless, there are times when one ought to arouse kav hasimchah, the joyful approach to avodah – especially on Shvi’i shel Pesach, which is the very source of simchah.”

29. Shemini Atzeres. [This section records a teaching which the Rebbe Rashab heard from the Rebbe Maharash at a yechidus in the year 5636 (1876). Its starting point is the Midrash that speaks of G‑d’s culminating celebration with His people alone on Shemini Atzeres, after animal sacrifices corresponding to all the seventy nations have been offered in the course of the preceding days of Sukkos. The Midrash likens that contrast to the private celebration which a mortal king, after having hosted all of his citizens for seven days, shares only with his dearest friend.59 The Rebbe Maharash then proceeds to expound that passage and relate it to the above-mentioned task of elevating one’s animal soul. He also discusses the intimate link between the yechidah, the innermost nucleus of the soul, with Atzmus, the very Essence of Elokus. The entire mystical exposition is expressed in a series of esoteric allusions to Kabbalistic code words that defy translation.]

30. Wordless Communication. Throughout that visit my father was in an elated frame of mind, and his holy joy was evident in every motion.

As he spoke, he discussed the distinctions between various modes of revelation – revelation by means of ruach hakodesh, by a revelation of Eliyahu [HaNavi], by being impregnated with the neshamah of a [departed] tzaddik, by beholding a [departed] tzaddik in a nighttime vision, and by beholding a [departed] tzaddik when awake. From that discussion I came to understand matters that I cannot speak of, even by allusion.

Now, 36 years later, as I leaf through the notes that I made soon after, I have hundreds of proofs that what I then understood was indeed exactly right.

31. Rebbe to Rebbe. [Here the Rebbe Rashab related the teaching of the Rebbe Maharash (in sec. 29 above) to sec. 50 and 51 of the Mitteler Rebbe’s Derech Chayim, which the Rebbe Rayatz had been studying at the time.]