1. The custom in Lubavitch was that after having vigilantly observed numerous safety margins [for seven days, in order to avert the remotest possibility of contact with chametz],1 at the meal on the eve of the Last Day of Pesach chassidim no longer distanced themselves from the possibility of sheruyah.2

The term kemach shemurah means flour that is fit to bake the superior kind of matzah called matzah shemurah3 (“guarded matzah); i.e., it has been guarded against any possible leavening from the moment of reaping. The term kemach matzah (“matzah flour”) means flour that has been guarded against any possible leavening only from when it was ground.

Long ago, even matzah flour was ground by a water mill using ordinary stones, not coarse iron rollers, so such matzah used to be eaten on the Last Day of Pesach. Years later, when matzah flour was ground by roller mills, the only matzah eaten on that day was [matzah] shemurah. However, the stringencies of sheruyah were no longer observed on that day.

2. Pesach in Lubavitch in the year 5666 (1906) was an extremely cheerful Pesach. That was the first time that the students of the Tomchei Temimim Yeshivah celebrated their own Pesach in the big study hall, instead of being divided into groups to be hosted by various families. That year, for the first time, Pesach was organized by the Yeshivah’s kitchen.

The older temimim no doubt clearly recall the events of that year – their novel schedule throughout Pesach, and in particular the sequence of events at the daytime meal on the Last Day of Pesach.

3. At the seudah on the eve of that day, my father (the Rebbe Rashab) asked his brother, the Raza,4 whether he recalled what their grandfather, the Tzemach Tzedek, had told them on the Last Day of Pesach in the year 5625 (1865).5 My uncle answered that at that moment he did not recall it, but that it would possibly come to mind when he pictured that setting.

My father then described in detail how they were sitting at the Yom-Tov table of their father, the Rebbe Maharash, who had said, “Today is Acharon shel Pesach, the Last Day of Pesach.”

My father continued his description of that moment: “So I asked him, ‘Why is the Last Day of Pesach a Yom-Tov?’ In response, our father turned to you and said, ‘Zalman Aharon, perhaps you can answer his question?’ And you answered that you didn’t know, either.

“Our sister Devorah Leah, who was sitting next to our mother,6 stood up and said that she knew the answer. So our father said, ‘If you know why, tell us!’

“So she explained: ‘When Jews observe the seven days of Pesach according to the law, and are protected [from Above] from inadvertently using chametz, they make the last day of Pesach a Yom-Tov. Jews are all happy that they’ve made their way through the whole Yom-Tov and haven’t stumbled into transgressing the biggest sin – chametz on Pesach.’ “

My uncle the Raza added: “Now I recall how pleased our father was when she gave that answer. He said, ‘Devorah Leah, you’ve got a good head!’ And then our mother and the three of us accompanied our father to the apartment of our grandfather, the Tzemach Tzedek, to serve him his Yom-Tov meal, just as we always served him on Shabbos and Yom-Tov. When our father entered his father’s room, he told him that I had asked my question, that you too didn’t have an answer, and that only Devorah Leah had given her answer. Hearing it, our grandfather said, ‘That’s a fine, sensible answer.’

“He then called the three of us to come closer to him and told us: ‘That day is called Acharon shel Pesach because it is the Last Day of Pesach. That is, it brings to a conclusion that which began on the first night of Pesach. That first night is our Yom-Tov because G‑d redeemed us from Egypt. That was the first geulah, the first redemption, through Moshe Rabbeinu, who was the goel rishon, the first redeemer. That was the beginning. The Last Day of Pesach is our Yom-Tov, on which we celebrate the geulah acharonah, the final redemption, when G‑d will redeem us from this last galus through Mashiach Tzidkeinu, our Righteous Mashiach, who is the goel acharon, the final redeemer. So the First Day of Pesach is Moshe Rabbeinu’s day of celebration, and the Last Day of Pesach is Mashiach’s day of celebration.’ “

4. [At the above-mentioned seudah on the eve of the Last Day of Pesach in the year 5666 (1906),] my father (the Rebbe Rashab) also told me: “Early this evening, when I was in the library” (which was also the yechidus room), “I heard a lively argument in the dining room between your children, Chanah and Mushka. I was interested to hear what it was about. Coming closer, I heard Chanah saying that the Last Day of Pesach is a Yom-Tov just like any other Yom-Tov, whereas Mushka7 disagreed, pointing out that at candle-lighting on that day, the Shehecheyanu blessing is not said. So just now I was reminded of the events ofthe Last Day of Pesach in the year 5625 (1865).”

5. Very often, seemingly random trivialities remind a person of weighty events. Sometimes, such a reminder can result in a great spiritual benefit.

6. In fact, for a person who believes in hashgachah peratis, specific Divine Providence, and especially if he knows that concept as the Baal Shem Tov explains it,8 nothing is random and nothing is trivial. Randomness means that a thing can happen by chance, and whoever holds that something can (G‑d forbid!) happen by chance is denying a fundamental principle of the faith.9 Nothing happens by chance; everything happens by the most detailed and specific Divine Providence.

Likewise, nothing is trivial. Every triviality has significance. It is written,10 “From my flesh I behold G‑d” – nothing is mere triviality, even in the materiality of the body. The ultimate result of a blockage in a tiny blood vessel in the sole of the foot, or the inactivity of a minute nerve in the little toe, can be life-threatening. How much more so, nothing is mere triviality in the soul, and certainly with regard to Elokus.

7. The Baal Shem Tov taught11 that whatever a person sees and hears is a command and a specific directive for him in his Divine Service. However, one needs to understand what he sees and what he hears, and not (G‑d forbid!) misread its intended meaning. And the correct understanding of what one sees and hears drives from “a man’s soul that teaches him.”12

8. That phrase means that a man’s soul lights up, and various explanations fall into his head of what is implied for his avodah by that which he sees and hears. In this way he arrives at an understanding of the directive from Above for his avodah.

9. The Baal Shem Tov says that the surest way to have one’s soul teach him, as outlined above, is (a) reading a chapter of Tehillim with heartfelt fire;(b) doing a fellow Jew a favor that demands physical effort and not merely financial expense; (c) loving a fellow Jew to the extent of self-sacrifice.

10. The Baal Shem Tov perceives that “a man’s soul that teaches him” is more to be found among artless and unlettered Tehillim-sayers than among the scholars who compose original interpretations and contrived arguments13 in Torah law.

11. Moreover, the Baal Shem Tov says that the three above-mentioned measures – reading a chapter of Tehillim with ardor, doing a fellow Jew a material or a spiritual favor, and ahavas Yisrael – are the keys that fit all the locks on the doors of Heaven’s chambers of mercy, healing, salvation and livelihood.

12. My great-grandfather, the Tzemach Tzedek, and all his children had extraordinary memories, as also did my father and my uncle, the Raza, who were also remarkable narrators. Whenever they transmitted their verbal pictures, they created a pictorial narration in the minds of their listeners. The difference was that when my father recounted an incident, the spiritual soul-content of his narration was more luminous than its tangible, physical content; when my uncle recounted an incident, its physical elements produced a brighter picture than its inner content.

* * *

13. [At the above-mentioned seudah on the eve of the Last Day of Pesach in the year 5666 (1906),] my uncle, the Raza, recalled further details regarding the events of the Last Day of Pesach in the year 5625 (1865):14

(a) Our grandfather (the Tzemach Tzedek) held his glasses high up on his forehead and read the benschen15 out of the Siddur that you handed him.

(b) That Pesach we (i.e., the Rebbe Rashab and the Raza) were in his room throughout the entire time of davenen.16

(c) Our grandfather was wearing his tallis and was lying in bed.

(d) After he completed Shemoneh Esreh our father, the Rebbe Maharash, and our uncle, R. Baruch Shalom,17 entered his room. They were followed by Elye Leib and Yosef Mordechai,18 who lifted our grandfather from his bed, seated him on a couch, and carried him, seated, to the big table.

Isser the Chazzan and Nachum Bere-Leib’s carried in two sifrei Torah, which they brought in turn to the table near our grandfather, so that he could kiss them.

Our uncle, the Rabash, and our father were called up for Shlishi and Chamishi, and our grandfather was called up for Maftir, which he read while seated.

14. When my uncle, the Raza, recounted the above, the eyes of my father (the Rebbe Rashab) filled with tears, and as he concluded his recollections, tears ran down my father’s cheeks.

* * *

15. A few minutes later, my father asked my uncle, the Raza: “And do you recall the Priestly Blessing?19 And do you remember how our grandfather kissed his tzitzis?”

My uncle said that he also recalled how Yosef Mordechai took him and my father into one of the inner rooms when the time came to say Yizkor.20 He further recalled what their father (the Rebbe Maharash) explained at the time about the meaning of Hazkaras Neshamos.

My uncle resumed his recollections:

(a) As soon as our grandfather (the Tzemach Tzedek) finished reading the Maftir,21 our father motioned to Yosef Mordechai that it was time to take us by the hand to another room.

(b) When the time came for the Priestly Blessing and we both stood next to our father, our grandfather beckoned us towards himself. Seeing this, our father took us to our grandfather’s couch. He stood at our grandfather’s right hand and stood me at our grandfather’s left hand. He then covered us with the tallis of our grandfather, who followed each word of the Blessing in the Siddur with his finger, and each of the three times responded Amen aloud.

(c) When he finished davenen, he first called me to kiss the tzitzis of his tallis, and then called you to do the same.

(d) Later that day, when our father (the Rebbe Maharash) came to our room, I asked him what Hazkaras Neshamos meant. He explained to us that the souls of forebears intercede on behalf of their descendants, who therefore make mention of their souls and give tzedakah. He went on to say that great tzaddikim like our grandfather see the souls of their forebears, and that in fact on that day, at the time of Hazkaras Neshamos, he had seen the souls of his mother367 and of his father-in-law, the Mitteler Rebbe, and of his grandfather, the Alter Rebbe.

* * *

16. [The speaker is now the Rebbe Rayatz:] My uncle, the Raza, then sang the niggunim which my great-uncle, the Rabash, had sung on the Last Day of Pesach, 5625 (1865), while my great-grandfather, the Tzemach Tzedek, partook of Seudas Mashiach.

17. My father then repeated what he had heard from his father, the Rebbe Maharash, namely, that the Baal Shem Tov had given the daytime meal of the Last Day of Pesach a name – Mashiach’s Seudah.

18. My uncle, the Raza, quoted what his grandfather, the Tzemach Tzedek, had said: “When you sing the niggunim of Mashiach’s Seudah as my grandfather, the Alter Rebbe, sang them, refresh your memory and remind yourself of the holy appearance of my grandfather and of my father-in-law, the Mitteler Rebbe.”

19. My uncle, the Raza, added: “When my uncle, the Rabash, began to sing, our father, the Rebbe Maharash, helped him. Our grandfather, the Tzemach Tzedek, sang along quietly. He leaned his head on his left hand, covered his tearful eyes, and with his right hand tapped the table to the rhythm of the niggunim.”

20. My father said: [It is written, “He causes the lips of the slumberers to speak.”22 ] “The effect of this verse when it is aroused by a niggun is more elevated than the effect of the verse when it is aroused by Torah teachings, whether in the revealed levels of the Torah or in its inner, mystical levels. The Torah, whetherin its revealed aspects or in Chassidus, requires comprehension, which ought to result in the arousal of a corresponding spiritual emotion. However, the spiritual emotion that is produced by comprehension needs to undergo refinement. In contrast, the arousal that results from a niggun is in itself refined.”

21. My father went on to say: “I’m not asking myself why it was precisely today that I recalled the Last Day of Pesach, 5625 (1865), because with regard to Divine Providence, it is irrelevant to ask, Why? What I am asking myself is, For what purpose did I recall that Last Day of Pesach on this Last Day of Pesach?”

22. Chassidus is as old as the world. In the words of the Gemara (Eruvin 18b), “R. Meir used to say: ‘Adam was a great chassid.’ “ Now, a chassid has to have Chassidus; without Chassidus he can’t be a chassid. And Chassidus means two things: to rectify the past, and to monitor the present. That done, the future will automatically be as it ought to be, and the continued avodah will flow spontaneously.

Suppose that a chassidisher yungerman ponders deeply on these words. After all, that is what is meant to happen with every vort that one hears, whether in the area of haskalah or of avodah. It must first be analyzed, so that it will be understood properly, without self-delusion. Once it has been grasped with absolute clarity, one needs to meditate upon it and allow it to sink in.

Now, whoever meditates deeply on the above statement – that Chassidus means rectifying the past and ensuring that the present is good and upright – will be confronted by the question: What is the difference between Chassidus and teshuvah? After all, teshuvah too consists of rectifying the past and ensuring that the present is good and upright. So what novel contribution does Chassidus add to teshuvah?

At a superficial glance, their goals regarding the past and the present are identical. Nevertheless, their paths diverge.

The teshuvah path of correction23 seeks to extricate a person from evil, in order to wash away and clean out the filth that evil conduct has brought upon the soul’s modes of expression24 – namely, one’s conscious thought, speech, and action. As to the task of ensuring that the present is good and upright, the teshuvah path of correction leads to a sincere resolve – and its execution – that one will never again revert to folly.

The Chassidus path of correction25 consists of advice that seeks to upgrade a person to a level that is higher and more refined. As to the task of ensuring that the present is good and upright, the Chassidus path of correction seeks to elevate the faculties of his intellect and his character attributes26 and the “garments” of his soul – conscious thought, speech, and action – to a higher and more refined level.

In the realm of avodah, the main difference between teshuvah and Chassidus is that teshuvah concerns itself mainly with the person, with how the penitent27 should correct the past and conduct himself appropriately in the present. Chassidus concerns itself mainly with how to elevate him to a higher level. This, too, applies in both areas, in the correction of the past and in the proper approach to the present.

As was said above, Chassidus and chassidim are as old as the world itself. Over the years, nevertheless, the teachings of Chassidus and the spiritual lifestyle of chassidim have evolved, not only in their outward expression, but also in their inner conception.

23. Those who have some familiarity with the history of Chassidus, of its nesi’im and of chassidim, know how the nesi’im bore aloft and protected the banner of Chassidus for about three centuries, from [around] the year 5260 (1500), when the refugees expelled from Spain and Portugal settled in various countries, until 5560 (1800). By that time the two branches that evolved from the Chassidus of the Baal Shem Tov – the teachings of Chabad and the teachings of Chagas28 – had reached much of the Jewish world.

Throughout all the generations until the AriZal,29 the prevalent attitude to Kabbalah and to scholarship regarding Elokus was that it was to be revealed only to those who are exceptionally pious and humble.30 It was the disciples of the AriZal whoinitiated moves to make the study of Kabbalah widespread.

A major disruption to the development of the Kabbalah movement was the involvement of some of its adherents, albeit few in number, in practical Kabbalah.

24. The first individual who, with superhuman, self-sacrificing effort, spearheaded the Kabbalah movement and disseminated its teachings broadly, was the universally renowned gaon and tzaddik, R. Eliyahu Baal Shem of Worms.31 He founded yeshivos for gifted students whom he inspired with the teachings of Kabbalah. Indeed, some of them undertook to travel from one Polish town to another in order to recruit weighty scholars to that cause. Thus it was that within a few years there evolved a companionship of hidden tzaddikim.

Elsewhere there is a description of that period and of the successful achievements of the companionship in raising the spiritual morale of their fellow Jews, before our mentor the Baal Shem Tov became a partner in its labors, then one of its leaders, and in the course of time its nasi.

25. In the course of a few years – about fifteen to sixteen years, from 5475 to 5490 (1715-1730) – his leadership embraced thousands of ordinary, unlettered Jews, who had been demoralized by the contempt in which they had been held by their learned townsmen. Motivated by the Baal Shem Tov, most of those Jews ceased being ignoramuses. Beyond that, some of them became quite familiar with Torah literature, and even scholarly.

When the Baal Shem Tov became revealed, many tens of thousands of Jews cultivated a spiritual bond with him.32 That year, 5494 (1734), marks the beginning of the first period of Chassidus and chassidim.

26. The second period is that in which the disciples of the Baal Shem Tov and of the Maggid of Mezritch developed their teachings and brought them to hundreds of thousands of Jews, who thereby became the founding fathers of the chassidic movement.

27. Now, two hundred years after the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov were (thank G‑d!) revealed, we are able to explain clearly how two broad conceptions of his teachings evolved: (a) the general school of Chassidus33 and (b) Chabad Chassidus.

28. The general school of Chassidus includes all the nesi’im34 and propagators of Chassidus in Podolia, Volhynia, Lesser Poland and Greater Poland, Galicia and Hungary.

29. Chabad Chassidusis a world unto itself. And what a world! It is a world that has produced – and produces – the finest human fruit, both in scholarship and in refined character.

30. The founder of Chabad Chassidus is our first father, who is known as der Alter Rebbe.35 When he was still very young, in the first two or three years after his bar-mitzvah, he was already filled with Talmud Bavli and Yerushalmi, and so on and on, as well as the literature of Kabbalah and Chakirah, and the derush writings of the Rema, the Maharal of Prague, the Shelah, and the like. At that time,thought patterns began to crystallize in his mind, which were the first rays of Chabad Chassidus.

31. Until the end of the summer of 5520 (1760), the Alter Rebbe did not know of our mentor, the Baal Shem Tov.

32. Among the learned relatives and guests who attended his bar-mitzvah celebration was his uncle, R. Yosef Yitzchak, who was known as “the genius of Tcharei,” and a friendship grew between them.

The Alter Rebbe exchanged responsa correspondence with all of those towering scholars. The learned R. Aizik Baharad,36 head of the rabbinical court of Vitebsk, once told my grandfather, the Rebbe Maharash, that he had three handwritten booklets that he had personally copied from manuscripts which had been in the possession of Maharil (the Alter Rebbe’s brother, who was fondly known in the family as Uncle Leibele). Those manuscripts included answers written by the Alter Rebbe in response to queries addressed to him by the geonim who had attended his bar-mitzvah celebration.

33. Shortly after his bar-mitzvah, the Alter Rebbe traveled to Vitebsk and spent a few months in the home of his brilliant uncle, R. Yosef Yitzchak.

34. My great-grandfather, the Tzemach Tzedek, related that every day there, the Alter Rebbe experienced the delight of Yom-Tov. As the Alter Rebbe himself described that period, his uncle’s original insights37 in every realm of the Torah – nigleh, nistar, Chakirah, Kabbalah, derush – were intellectually phenomenal.

35. “In my younger years,” the Alter Rebbe once said, “I beheld the verse, ‘Tell wisdom: You are my sister,’38 in my uncle, R. Yosef Yitzchak. He was so original, so profound, so rational, and so articulate. He was able to express the most complex Talmudic subject with a precise clarity that I never encountered – until I heard novel Torah insights from the Rebbe, (the Maggid of Mezritch).”

36. “During the time I was there,” the Alter Rebbe later recalled, “from time to time my uncle would interpret a verse, or an aggadah from the Gemara, or a midrash, with an explanation based on the Kabbalah or Chakirah – an explanation that roused the soul and lit up the body. Years later I discovered that some of them were teachings of my [spiritual] grandfather, (the Baal Shem Tov,) as explained by my uncle.”

37. In the space of about five years, from 5518 to 5523 (1758-1763), the Alter Rebbe established a new approach to the service of the Creator, the nucleus of which is the following: The love of G‑d and the awe of G‑d must proceed from (a) a deep intellectual understanding of His greatness, with the explanations of the concept that “from my flesh I behold G‑d,”39 which is an area in which one can grasp something of Elokus;40 and (b) certain conceptions of the unreachable exaltedness of the infinite Ein-Sof, an area which one can begin to conceive of only by ruling out lesser definitions,41 as in the above “positive” explanationsof the concept that “from my flesh I behold G‑d.”

38. The Alter Rebbe’s mother, “Grandmother Rivkah” (as she was known in the family, even in later generations), related the following to the Alter Rebbe’s son, “our uncle R. Moshe” (as he was known in the family, even in later generations): “It had been agreed with the mechutan, R. Yehudah Leib Segal,42 that the wedding of your father (the Alter Rebbe) would take place in Elul, 5519 (1759). At the beginning of that month, however, your grandfather (i.e., her husband, R. Baruch) left town and returned at the end of Cheshvan.43 The mechutan demanded that the wedding date be set for that winter, but your grandfather did not agree. Soon after Pesach he again left town, and returned early in Tammuz.44 The date was then set for Friday, erev Shabbos Nachamu, the twelfth of Menachem Av.”

39. Rebbitzin Rivkah, the Alter Rebbe’s mother, further told her grandson, R. Moshe, son of the Alter Rebbe: “Your grandfather (R. Baruch) did everything unperceived; he kept his secrets to himself. No one apart from me knew that he was a chassid of the Baal Shem Tov,45 until two years after our marriage. At that time, your grandfather spent Elul and Tishrei with the Baal Shem Tov in Mezhibuzh, and was astonished to find there his brother-in-law, R. Yosef Yitzchak, and a melamed from Lubavitch called R. Shimshon. However, they decided to keep the secret to themselves. So for all those years, until two years after the passing of the Baal Shem Tov, no one knew that your grandfather was a chassid of his.”

40. Another recollection that she shared with her grandson: “Your grandfather (R. Baruch) yearned to take your father (the Alter Rebbe) to visit the Baal Shem Tov. However, the Baal Shem Tov instructed him not to bring him. He also emphatically directed your grandfather and his brother-in-law, R. Yosef Yitzchak, that they should tell your father nothing about himself, the Baal Shem Tov – ‘because he is not destined to be my disciple. He belongs to my successor; he is his disciple.’ “

41. When the gaon and tzaddik, R. Yissachar Dov Kobilniker, spent Shavuos with the Baal Shem Tov in Mezhibuzh in 5509 (1749), the Baal Shem Tov laid down a study schedule for him to follow when teaching the Alter Rebbe. Also, as above, he forbade him to tell the Alter Rebbe anything about himself, the Baal Shem Tov.

42. Not until Elul, 5520 (1760), did R. Yosef Yitzchak tell the Alter Rebbe about the Baal Shem Tov, and the teachings of Chassidus, and the spiritual lifestyle of chassidim.