1. Until the year 5600 (1840), my great-grandfather, the Tzemach Tzedek, had 45 tranquil years. To those years he applied the phrase, ונחנו מה,1 as follows: “Our nachnu, our very being, is an avodah of Ma”h that is carried out like avodas eved, the kind of Divine service that characterizes a submissive and self-effacing servant. During those years, the role of haskalah, [my] study of the abstract teachings of Chassidus, was to teach [me] how to become an utterly devoted servant in the task of beirurim, elevating material entities to their source and root in the supernal Sefiros.

The Tzemach Tzedek went on to say that for twenty years he had toiled with mesirus nefesh in public activity, with extreme effort of mind and heart, for the sake of the Chabad chassidic community. To this end, he added, “The Rebbe, my grandfather, and the Rebbe, my father-in-law,2 aroused an intense revelation of Divine mercy to enable the path of Chabad Chassidus to succeed and reach ever-growing heights until the Coming of our Righteous Mashiach.”

In the year 5621 (1860), on the eve of Friday, the eighth of Teves, the saintly Rebbitzin Chayah Moussia, daughter of the Mitteler Rebbe and wife of the Tzemach Tzedek, passed away. At that time the Tzemach Tzedek remarked that for him the world had grown dark.

On Sunday, the twenty-fourth of Teves, the Rebbe Maharash and his family moved in and joined him in his apartment.

2. On Chai Elul of the year 5573 (1813), which was Monday of the week of Nitzavim-Vayeilech, the Mitteler Rebbe, having left Kremenchug, arrived in Lubavitch and settled there.3

My father heard the details of that long-extended journey from his father, the Rebbe Maharash. At every station on the way, the Mitteler Rebbe received chassidim at yechidus and delivered maamarim, which were also heard and reviewed by a group of chassidim who accompanied the Rebbe and his retinue by foot. The stations were planned in advance, and the Ministry of the Interior in Petersburg directed the provincial governors of Poltava, Minsk and Mohilev to arrange for fine carriages and inns for Ravin Shneuri and his family and retinue, all the way to Lubavitch. There they arrived – the Mitteler Rebbe, part of his family, and a couple of thousand chassidim – on Monday, Chai Elul.

My memoirs record information that I gleaned, in many places and at various times – from my grandmother, Rebbitzin Rivkah;4 from my revered father; from the notes that my uncle the Raza made of what he heard from my [great-]uncles, Admur R. Baruch Shalom5 and Admur R. Yisrael Noach [of Niezhin]; and from the notes in which I recorded whatever I heard from my teacher, R. Nissan Skoblo.

My grandfather the Rebbe Maharash once told my father: “When the Mitteler Rebbe arrived in Lubavitch on that Monday, Chai Elul, he directed the carriage to the vacant plot in which some houses had burned down two years earlier, and said: ‘Fifty-eight years ago, when the Alter Rebbe was ten years old, he studied under the tzaddik and eminent chassid, R. Yissachar Dov [Kobilniker], in the shul that used to stand on this spot. When I was preparing myself for this journey, my father told me that when I came to Lubavitch I should make my home on this spot. And he blessed the township, the home of the nesi’im of Chabad, with long life.’ ”6

3. On Sunday, the sixteenth of MarCheshvan, 5676 (1915), my father and the family left Lubavitch. As we sat in the railway carriage he told me: “It has been handed down to us that the wording of the Alter Rebbe’s above blessing means a hundred years. Chai Elul, 5675 (1915) marked 102 years511 since the [Mitteler Rebbe’s] arrival in Lubavitch. The Alter Rebbe’s blessing for a hundred years in Lubavitch relates to the dimension of place. With regard to the dimension of time, however, Chabad Chassidus will continue, unlimited, until the coming of our Righteous Mashiach.”

4. When my great-grandfather, the Tzemach Tzedek, came to Lubavitch, his home stood where the post office later stood. In 5592 (1832), after a fire burned down all the houses in which the Mitteler Rebbe and all the families had lived, the Tzemach Tzedek bought up the site of our courtyard and our houses and there, in the following year, he built the frame of his new home.

At that time a number of chassidim who had walked all the way from Bessarabia arrived in Lubavitch approached the Rebbe with a request: Since the Giving of the Torah preceded the construction of the Mishkan, they would like the Rebbe to deliver now a maamar of Chassidus in honor of the new building.

The Rebbe asked them: “Which would you prefer – a maamar or a story?”

In light of that question, they said that they would prefer a story, and he recounted the well-known story about R. Yaakov Meshullam.7

5. My great-grandfather, the Tzemach Tzedek, and [his brother-in-law] Admur R. Nachum, the son of the Mitteler Rebbe, were in the village of Piena with the Alter Rebbe after his passing. On Sunday, Chaf-Daled Teves, they traveled behind the carriage that bore the Alter Rebbe’s holy ark. The wondrous things that occurred with that ark in the course of that journey I copied from the manuscript entitled Niflaos Rabbeinu (“The Wonders of our Rebbe”),8 where in the course of almost 70 years the Tzemach Tzedek recorded remarkable things concerning the Alter Rebbe and the Mitteler Rebbe. What I want to tell you now concerns the Tzemach Tzedek after the passing of the Alter Rebbe.

6. At that time, Tzemach Tzedek settled in Haditch,9 until he moved to Lubavitch.

His original manuscripts record subjects in nigleh and Chassidus and narratives that he had heard from the Alter Rebbe concerning ruach hakodesh and future events. His manuscripts dating from 5573 (1812-1813) describe everything that took place from erev Shabbos Mevarchim Elul, 5572 (1812), when the Alter Rebbe with all of his children (excepting R. Moshe) left Liadi, until their arrival in Haditch. The notes made during the months that the Tzemach Tzedek spent in Haditch record the time and place of all the occasions on which the Alter Rebbe appeared to him, either when awake or in a dream, and the Torah teachings in nigleh and in Chassidus that he revealed to him.

7. As directed by the Alter Rebbe, the Tzemach Tzedek visited the place where the Alter Rebbe was born and the place where he lived after his marriage. He likewise traveled to Liozna to visit the estate of his great-grandfather, the tzaddik R. Baruch, where the Alter Rebbe grew up.

8. When the Tzemach Tzedek arrived in Lubavitch he was in a cheerful frame of mind, on account of his almost daily encounters with the Alter Rebbe – as if the Alter Rebbe was continuing his routine from his time in This World.

The notes of the Tzemach Tzedek also record what was then transmitted to him about the kind of avodah that takes place in the eternal life of the souls in the Lower Garden of Eden and in the Higher Garden of Eden, together with Kabbalistic explanations as taught in Chabad Chassidus.

The Alter Rebbe shared a particularly intense and deep-seated revelation with the Tzemach Tzedek during the latter’s visit to the places where the Alter Rebbe had spent his childhood years on the estate of his father, R. Baruch, near Liozna.

The Tzemach Tzedek delighted the Alter Rebbe in particular by visiting the township of Dobromisl. That was where the holy scholar R. Baruch, in his youth, used to visit10 R. Eliezer Reuven the blacksmith, teaching him how to practice the attribute of ahavas Yisrael – how to love a fellow Jew. He also befriended the blacksmith’s youngest son-in-law, introducing him to the Torah’s mystical paths and to the chassidic conduct of the Baal Shem Tov.

While in Dobromisl, the Tzemach Tzedek met a few very old men who remembered how R. Baruch used to come and speak with that young son-in-law, a hidden tzaddik called R. Yitzchak Shaul, who in turn befriended his unlettered townsmen. And it was in Dobromisl that the Tzemach Tzedek experienced a heightened spiritual pleasure from the closeness which the Alter Rebbe shared with him there.

9. At their daily study sessions in nigleh, Kabbalah and Chassidus, the Tzemach Tzedek used to relay to his son, the Rebbe Maharash, teachings that he had heard from the Alter Rebbe. The times and program of those sessions and the details of those teachings are recorded in my diary.

At one such session, the Tzemach Tzedek extolled the virtue of tzedakah, explaining what a great thing it is to help a fellow Jew earn his livelihood. In addition, he pointed out, it helps a person in his avodah of making his mind and his heart fit receptors for revelations from Above. To illustrate this point, he shared the following personal experience: “Traveling home from Dobromisl to Lubavitch, I was in an elated frame of mind in view of the closeness that my grandfather had continued to show me, and looked forward to the privilege of beholding his luminous face on my arrival in Lubavitch. While traveling, I mentally organized several questions in nigleh and Chassidus that had recently arisen

“Arriving in Lubavitch, I immediately went to the spot that my grandfather had once told us about on our way to Liadi – the vacant and burned-out site of the shul in which he used to study. Concerning this place, my father-in-law the Mitteler Rebbe had said that 57 years earlier the Alter Rebbe had made of Lubavitch a fit place in which Chabad chassidim could be guided throughout many long days and years, lasting forever until the coming of our Righteous Mashiach.11

“From what then transpired” – the fact that from the Tzemach Tzedek’s arrival in Lubavitch the Alter Rebbe did not appear to him – “my spirits were crushed. I felt as if had fallen from atop a high roof into a deep pit. I had anticipated a warm welcome, but was made to feel distant. In my anguish I searched my soul to uncover the cause, so that I could do teshuvah and again behold my grandfather’s holy face and hear his words on Torah and avodah.”

10. On Wednesday, the twentieth of Elul, theTzemach Tzedek, on his way to shul to daven, he met a local householder called Pinchas, who asked him for a loan of three silver rubles. He would then be able to buy something at the market and sell it at a profit, to cover his expenses for Shabbos. The Tzemach Tzedek asked him to visit him at home after davenen and then he would give him the loan.

In shul, as he prepared himself mentally for Shacharis with his tallis on his shoulder, the Tzemach Tzedek recalled that request and remembered that this was market day. Business there started early in the morning, and Pinchas no doubt needed the money immediately. He put down his tallis, went straight home, and brought Pinchas five silver rubles.

As soon as he returned to shul and washed his hands in preparation for davenen, the Alter Rebbe, his face luminous, appeared to him and resolved all of his queries.

11. In the year 5588 (1828), my great-grandfather the Tzemach Tzedek accepted the yoke of the leadership12 of Chabad chassidim. His home stood on the site that was later occupied by “the little minyan.”

12. [Question:] Did the Rebbe [Rashab] know the Tzemach Tzedek?13

[Answer:] My great-grandfather the Tzemach Tzedek knew who my revered father [the Rebbe Rashab] was, and what he would be, and my father knew who his grandfather the Tzemach Tzedek was.

In Teves, 5676 (1915), a guest at the Shabbos table asked my father whether he knew his grandfather, the Tzemach Tzedek.

To this my father answered: “When I was four, I used to go into my grandfather’s room every day and he would tell me a story from the Torah. On one occasion he sat me on his knee, took my hand in his, and with it combed his beard. In later years that helped me to work my way through his maamarim; I took them apart thoroughly and combed them well...”

13. My father once told me that his elder brother, the gaon and tzaddik, R. Avraham Sender, was extraordinarily gifted – in his spiritual sensitivity, in his mind, and in his middos. He passed away at the age of eight.

Among the letters of our forebears there is a note that my grandfather, the Rebbe Maharash, addressed to his father, the Tzemach Tzedek. In it, he attributed the passing of his young son to a certain cause. The Tzemach Tzedek disagreed, and added that the soul of the child-tzaddik Avraham Sender was the soul of the Alter Rebbe.

When that child was four years old and the Tzemach Tzedek used to learnMishnayos with him, he would himself observe in the Mishnahevery point that is debated in the Gemara [which he had not yet begun to learn]. He was artless and did not know what playing games meant; he was constantly occupied with studying or davenen.

His grandfather the Tzemach Tzedek, his father the Rebbe Maharash, and his brothers, who were present at the time of his passing, were overawed by what they witnessed – in particular, his mellow presence of mind. On that day he said that the Alter Rebbe had told him that he should come to him, so he now asked to be dressed in his Shabbos clothes. He davened Minchah joyfully and after Aleinu he said Shema Yisrael. His soul departed as he said HaShem echad.

14. The above-mentioned metaphor of the seal [whose imprint is the reverse of itself]14 is a concept discussed in the scholarly writings of Chassidus.

[One of those present commented: “I don’t understand that concept in depth.” The Rebbe responded:] My father once remarked that “in not understanding, we are rich…”

[After a niggun was sung, the Rebbe explained:] Hashpaah, the transmission of enlightening teachings, can take place in either of two modes. When there is a measurable ratio between the giver and the recipient,15 such as between a mentor and his student,16 in the course of time the mentor’s potentials for spiritual sensitivity17 become engraved in the student in the same direction in which the mentor excels – whether in intellectual profundity, in clarity of comprehension, or in exposition. However, when there is no measurable ratio between the giver and the recipient,18 such as between a father and his son, the resultant imprint can be the reverse of what was transmitted. (This recalls the teaching of the Sages19 that “if the male is the first to give seed, [his wife gives birth to a female child]”.) This is not necessarily so, but since the distance between them is beyond measurement,526 the transmission can produce a result that is the reverse of itself. That is the case with the relationship between Rebbe and chassid.

That is the nucleus of the concept; it still calls for a penetrating clarification.

15. Just as the teachings of Chassidus comprise a range of levels, so too is there a range of levels among chassidim. The chassidim of the past generation stood at a higher level than the chassidim of today. I don’t recall anyone of the old chassidim who was no more than a chassid by birth. It was not only the chassidishe Torah scholars and businessmen who invested effort in the study of Chassidus and the avodah of davenen. Even the plain, ordinary Yidn had the characteristically chassidishe kabbalas ol – to listen to amaamar of Chassidus and to participate in a farbrengen.

As I sift through my memories of chassidim that I knew, I bring to mind an inward-looking picture of each of them. I recall them as they were before davenen, and while they were davenen, and while they were studying Torah, and while they were eating, and before they ate and after they ate, and how they lived their whole day.

Whatever each of them was, he was part of the community of chassidim. With all his qualities and all his failings, he was part of the community of chassidim. He didn’t have to force himself to be part of it: it was his essence. Nowadays some people have to force themselves to rub shoulders with chassidim.

16. ChabadChassidus includes [the intellective middos known as] חב"ד (Chabad: Chochmah, Binah, Daas), as well as [the emotive middos known as] חג"ת (Chagas: Chessed, Gevurah, Tiferes) and נה"י (Nehi: Netzach, Hod, Yesod).20 Yet although Chabad Chassidus focuses on the intellectual apprehension of Elokus, it also has its own Chagas and Nehi.

The same range of levels is present among Chabad chassidim, though even those who are less intellectual differ from other chassidim.

The main avodah of the plain, unscholarly folk among Chabad chassidim may be simply reciting Torah words – they are Tehillim-sayers and Zohar-sayers who possibly do not know the meaning of the words they read21 – but their very recitation is distinctive. That was also true of those who read Tehillim without shedding tears. That is because those ordinary, unscholarly Chabad chassidim had a pnimiyus, an inner depth. Today, even when Tehillim is accompanied by tears and sighs, it’s not the same.

Among the chassidim of those days there was no such concept as secluding oneself from their environment.22 They were in the world, and being there they were above the world, just as a thinker [is in this world, even though] his intellect may be engrossed in some abstract concept – and intellectuality sets one apart.

In this connection my father once quoted a wise man: “Praiseworthy is isolation among people, and solitude in the midst of one’s fellows.”23

17. The Mitteler Rebbe’s chassidim were unique. They were utterly above having to concern themselves with [the refinement of their] middos. If a maamar raised such a subject, they were embarrassed by it. On one occasion, when the Mitteler Rebbe discussed the situation of a hypothetical individual who externally is good but externally is bad, a few dozen chassidim fainted.

18. I once heard from the aged chassid, R. Abba Tchashniker, that he knew the chassidim who were present when the Mitteler Rebbe delivered that well-known maamar which begins with the word Yonasi – and a few dozen chassidim fainted.

19. The Mitteler Rebbe used to discuss [the need for] avodah only a few times a year. After each such occasion he was unwell for a few weeks: the agitation strained his heart. [Hence,] his Derech HaChayim was never transmitted orally, only in writing, [whereas] Ateres Rosh and Shaarei Orah were heard in public.24

20. Sometimes, in the midst of delivering a maamar, the Mitteler Rebbe would stroke his shtreiml and say, Sha, sha! – in order to calm the surging wellsprings of his mind.

21. By nature, R. Nahum the Chozer was not cut out to be a chozer,25 but the Mitteler Rebbe told him to be a chozer, so he became a chozer. In fact, he would repeat a maamar exactly as the Mitteler Rebbe had delivered it, including the cough and the Sha, sha…!

22. One day, on his way to visit the astronomer who lived on an estate near Lubavitch, Prof. Heibenthal, the famed medical specialist, passed by the big beis midrash. He looked inside and observed the profound concentration of the chassidim who were listening in utter silence as the Mitteler Rebbe delivered a maamar. If someone’s eyes were open, they remained open; if someone’s mouth was open, it remained open. He commented that such a situation could happen only by virtue of the soul.

Heibenthal was far removed from such matters, but this he understood.

23. With the devoted chassidim of the Mitteler Rebbe, the whole essence of their personality was Torah and avodah. For them all worldly matters were secondary – maybe quite sizeable, but nevertheless secondary.

24. As a rule, the chassidim of once upon a time had a different head, different feet and different hands. Everything was different.

There were once two brothers, a penniless chassid and a wealthy misnaged. Came a time when the chassid had to marry off a daughter, so he visited his brother. The rich brother received him with kisses and embraces, told him all about his great wealth, and showed him through his spacious home – a room for dining, a room for drinking, a room for sleeping, a room for guests, and so on.

The poor brother first told him that he didn’t understand: how in one’s own home could a person have his mind scattered in so many directions? He then asked him for 50 rubles toward his wedding expenses, and concluded: “Do you want to give it to me now? – because I want to go straight back to my shtetl. There’s no point in my staying here with you. I can’t eat here, because what on earth do we have in common?26 It’s only that the same father and mother brought us into this world. So are you giving it? If not, G‑d will find some other way to send it to me.”

His rich brother begged him not to leave so soon, so he stayed the night. In the morning, however, when his host once again began to pride himself about his wealth, the chassid cut him short: “The Sages say that in the future time a certain animal27 will be kosher. Right now, it’s gleefully wallowing in filth...”

That story illustrates one of the ordinary and not necessarily intellectual chassidim of those times.

25. The Mitteler Rebbe’s chassidim included melamdim and also yishuvnikess, unlettered villagers. Those of his chassidim who were men of spiritual stature stood on a rung of their own.

26. What is deplorable about the world’s falsehood is not so much that it is false, but that it appears in a guise of truth. Falsehood is presented as truth. The avodah of Chassidus sifts out the falsehood from the truth, so that what remains is pure truth.