1 1. (The Rebbe said the following over a LeChaim:) When one says a berachah over a glass of mashke one says LeChaim, while mentally directing that blessing toward one’s family, too. [In this spirit,] the Alter Rebbe taught chassidim that when they come together and wish the blessing of LeChaim, a blessing for life, upon the extended family of chassidim and their families, they should also beam that blessing toward all Jews, in whatever land they may be. In this era in particular, we should bring to mind our brothers abroad, who are drowning in an ocean of woes.

All Jews collectively constitute one heart. In the image of the Sages, “Just as a date palm has only one heart, so too Israel has only one heart.”2 The Jewish people are referred to here in the singular, Israel, as also in the verse, “Israel will be given by G‑d an everlasting salvation.”3 [Since we are one heart,] we must constantly keep in mind and remember the mass of Jewry who are overseas. All of us, those who are there and we who are here, are one unit, and let everyone remember that the other half of our heart, which is overseas, stands in mortal danger. Every individual has a critical obligation to make every effort to save them.

Some public figures – for personal reasons – are cooling the ardor of those who are making such efforts, and in order that these efforts should not disturb their own activities, they argue that the current claims about the danger of the situation are exaggerated. The truth, however, is that Jewry overseas stands in actual life-threatening peril.

LeChaim! May the One Above fortify the hearts of our brothers and sisters so that they will be able to withstand that mortal danger. May He have mercy on the entire House of Israel and send the true Redemption. We will then be privileged to go, together with our Righteous Mashiach, to the Holy City of Yerushalayim where, in accordance with the will of our sweet Father, we will build the Beis HaMikdash speedily, in our days, Amen.

2. In the year 5640 (1880), the day I was born – Yud-Beis Tammuz– fell on a Monday, as also was the day of my bar-mitzvah, in 5653 (1893). On that day my father began to deliver the composite maamar that opens with the words, Tefillin deMarei Alma – “The Tefillin of the Master of the Universe.”4 Its delivery continued until Shabbos Parshas Balak, when its last installment began with the words, VeHayah She’eris Yaakov – “The remnant of Yaakov will be…”5 Each day’s maamar was delivered at a festive meal that extended into a long chassidisher farbrengen. These celebrations actually began on the previous Thursday, the eighth of Tammuz, and for Shabbos Parshas Chukas many chassidim arrived in Lubavitch, even from the Ukraine. The main talks were heard from the day of the bar-mitzvah onward.

This is not the place to repeat what my father related at the time. I have it all recorded in detail in my diary, and I hope one day to allow certain passages there to be copied and published, for the benefit of the public. As for now, let me relay just one episode.

3. Every individual’s reminiscences of what he has lived through constitute an entire book. When my father said that to me, he connected it to the verse, Zeh sefer toldos adam – “This is the book of the chronicles of a man,” implying that a man’s chronicles are a self-contained book.6

4. On Monday, Yud-Beis Tammuz, the day of my bar-mitzvah, after we returned from the Ohalim7 and after the maamar had been delivered, there was an intense farbrengen that lasted a few hours. At about 6 o’clock my father washed his hands for the seudas mitzvah. His cheerful spirits were apparent as he said: “There is a firm tradition in the families of our Rebbeim that the Alter Rebbe told his son, the Mitteler Rebbe, at the seudah celebrating his bar-mitzvah: ‘Ask something!’ ”

The Alter Rebbe said the same to his grandson, my great-grandfather the Tzemach Tzedek, at the seudah celebrating his bar-mitzvah on erev Rosh HaShanah. In the same style the Tzemach Tzedek addressed my grandfather the Rebbe Maharash at the seudah celebrating his bar-mitzvah, who in turn said the same to my father at the seudah of his bar-mitzvah.

And now, at the seudah celebrating my bar-mitzvah, my father called me by name and said, “Yosef Yitzchak: Ask something!”

This is what I asked my father:

“It is written in the Siddur that it is proper to say before Shacharis: ‘I hereby undertake to fulfill the positive commandment, Love your fellow as yourself.’ Why does this instruction appear specifically before davenen? And if one must love one’s fellow as soon as it is morning, shouldn’t it have been placed together with the Morning Blessings?”8

My father answered: “If a father has many children, his greatest pleasure comes from observing their togetherness and seeing how they all love each other. Davenen is a request for one’s needs, both material and spiritual, and before making a request, we ought to grant our Father in Heaven pleasurable satisfaction. That is why the instruction to undertake the positive commandment of ahavas Yisrael appears specifically right before davenen.”

I am telling you about this so that you will understand how a father should give – and gives – his child guidance for his conduct, on the day of his bar-mitzvah.

To “love your fellow as yourself” does not mean that you merely give him a meal or a loan or let him sleep over. It means loving him with your entire being, to the point that his needs matter more to you than your own. In fact the chassidim of earlier years used to say, “One ought to love oneself as much as one loves the other fellow.”

6. I would like to be able to wish that in the pidyonos9 that I write to my holy forebears, the Rebbeim, I should be able to give them glad tidings – that the principle of brotherly love which our Rebbeim laid down for chassidim has become deeply engraved within Anash. When that takes place, Anash and their families will be found worthy of all the blessings, both material and spiritual, that our Rebbeim have given.

7. I would like to give a comprehensive blessing to the entire community of Israel, and let all the souls respond Amen. But let me introduce that by sharing an anecdote.

In 5640 (1880), the year I was born, Yud-Beis Tammuz fell on a Monday, so the following Shabbos was the Seventeenth of Tammuz.10 On Friday evening at the Shalom Zachar,11 and on Shabbos by day at the Ben Zachar,12 my grandfather the Rebbe Maharash was particularly happy. The numerous traditions and anecdotes that he relayed are recorded in my father’s handwriting. My grandfather mentioned several times that in such a case, [the fast] is referred to as “deferred” – a nidcheh – because it is superseded by Shabbos. He then added: “If only it would be deferred utterly!”

[Having shared the above anecdote, the Rebbe Rayatz concluded:] A blessing given by a tzaddik will be fulfilled! May it in fact materialize, so that the fast will be deferred forever, and be transformed to a day of gladness and joy!13

[All those present responded in exhilaration, Amen! Amen!]

8. [At this point the Rebbe delivered the maamar that begins with the words, Kol HaMaarich BeEchad – “Whoever says the word Echad at length….”14 He then said:]

Whoever has come here from overseas has brought his idioms with him. In Lubavitch there used to be an idiom, “the ice of Tambov,” or “the ice of Vitebsk.” (The latter kind is real ice.) There is also underwater ice, which means Lithuanian ice. Likewise, every country has its kind of ice. Ice has three main characteristics: it is cold, hard and tough – and only warm weather can transform the hardness of ice into the productiveness of water.

9. With the help of G‑d, we must fan the warmth of chassidim so that it will melt the ice of America. After all, melted ice is valid for use as water to fill a mikveh...

10. Spiritual ice must be broken not with axes or clubs – that is, by stern remorse – but by the G‑dly fire of Torah and of cheerful avodah.

11. May G‑d grant us success in our difficult task – that we should be privileged to see how the American chassidic ice has budged. And may the Association of Chabad Chassidim be blessed with material and spiritual success.