1. When Souls Embrace. The fast of Yom Kippur lasts 26 hours, and the reason for this is well known.1 My father (the Rebbe Rashab) used to add another 13 hours as a preparation for Yom Kippur, for a total of 39 hours.

[In response to a question on the significance of that number, the Rebbe said:] When my father was in Menton2 he discussed the significance of the 39 lashes [of erev Yom Kippur],3 which is three times the number of words in the pasuk that begins, VeHu Rachum.4 He concluded: “This is the underlying meaning of the 39 hours of Yom Kippur – except that with malkos, the body is lashed, whereas in the case of the 39 hours, chayah and yechidah embrace and kiss naran.”5

In Lubavitch, the time by which the last meal before the fast6 had to be completed was usually about 4:30 p.m.; 13 hours earlier was thus 3:30 a.m.. That morning, the eve of Yom Kippur, my father used to rise at 1:30 a.m. and would study Pri Etz Chayim and Etz Chayim until 5:15, when it was time for kapparos.7 A few minutes before 6:00, R. Shlomo Chayim the shochet would arrive in order to shecht the fowl. After kapparos, during which my father was in a cheerful frame of mind, he would resume his studies for a while and then go off to immerse in the mikveh. On erev Yom Kippur he would go to the mikveh once, before the morning davenen. Once he told me to do so three times.

2. Sweet Cake for a Sweet Year. In my first year of marriage I used to daven at length. During that time, on erev Yom Kippur 5658 (1897), I entered my father’s study at 11:30 a.m. and, according to custom, asked him for a slice of lekach.8

My father replied: “You don’t really deserve a big slice, because on erev Yom Kippur one should make haste.9 ” He then gave me lekach, accompanied by the traditional blessing: “I’m giving you lekach, [and may G‑d give you a good, sweet year]!”

To this he added: “And may He grant His blessing that you become a pnimi.”

3. Sleep and Study, Study and Sleep. The first half of that day, erev Yom Kippur, my father would be in high spirits and in a festive mood.10 The late-morning meal was also festive, complete with meat and vegetable stew. It began at about 11:30, lasted 20 or 30 minutes, and always began before noon. My father would then walk back and forth in the room for 15 or 20 minutes, after which he would begin to say Tehillim. At midday he would already start preparing for Minchah, which began soon after, and took him two or two-and-a-half hours. (Before Minchah there was malkos.)

After the confessional of Al Chet in the late afternoon he was in buoyant spirits, and so too during Kol Nidrei. After Maariv, which was over by about 8:00 or 8:15, before going home, my father would remain in shul for a while, saying Tehillim together with all the others who were present. His Maariv and nighttime Kerias Shema were not accompanied by any weeping – utterly unlike the first night of Rosh HaShanah. He would lie down to sleep for a couple of hours, rise and study, then lie down again, then rise again, throughout the night. On Yom Kippur his bed stood in his study.

4. Whom do Tzaddikim Envy? The Alter Rebbe had a chassid called R. Avraham Shlomo Uller. He was indirectly related to him, being a relative of a mechutan of the Alter Rebbe, since the latter’s son, Moshe, had married into a family that lived in Ulle. R. Avraham Shlomo was older than the Alter Rebbe, and in the past had traveled to visit the Maggid of Mezritch. He was a heavyweight scholar in nigleh, Kabbalah and Chassidus, and was also wealthy. By nature he was self-assured and outspoken.11

One Yom Kippur, when my great-grandfather, the Tzemach Tzedek, was ten or eleven years old, he stepped out of shul for a little while, but when he came back inside, he found that someone had borrowed his machzor. Seeing this, R. Avraham Shlomo said, “Come, let’s say Al Chet together out of my machzor.” The future Tzemach Tzedek declined, saying: “Our Al Chets aren’t the same.”

This retort left R. Avraham Shlomo so sore at heart that after Yom Kippur he entered the Alter Rebbe’s study (we’ve already mentioned that he was outspoken) and said, “How pleased are you with today’s little boys?” – and he reported the incident.

“He’s already no little boy,” the Alter Rebbe answered. “He is one of the real elders.”

Then, after leaning his head on his hands in a rapt state of dveikus, he added: “True, the Al Chets are not the same. His Al Chet is more like vechiteisa….”12

When my father told me of this episode, he explained that there exists the Al Chet of penitents,13 and there exists a mode of Al Chet that relates to tzaddikim. [How can the term chet (“sin”) apply to tzaddikim?] The mode of Al Chet that relates to tzaddikim expresses their envious regret that their avodah is not at the same level as the avodah of penitents, even though it is not relevant to them, and is at a lower level than their own level. And this lack that they experience is called chet.14

[At this point our text makes a passing mention of two modes of avodahtenuah diteshuvah and geder diteshuvah.]

At a farbrengen that was held when we were in Menton,my father discussed – even though those present were intellectually unsophisticated – the terms chochmah and geder chochmah, and added that these concepts can be understood in the context of[another pair of terms related to the above modes of avodah].

When we later went for a stroll, I began to pose queries and asking for an explanation of this subject, until my father said, “What is it that you are asking? Study Imrei Binah15 and then you’ll understand it all.”

[The Rebbe Rayatz here summarizes the abstruse concepts alluded to above.]

5. Whispers between Worlds. On Rosh HaShanah 5663 (1902) my father delivered a maamar. [It defined five levels in the life-giving creative energy that comes down to this world.]

It was the custom of my teacher, the Rashbatz, to spend the whole of Yom Kippur at the Ohel in Lubavitch.16 Before he set out on erev Yom Kippur, he would exchange farewells with everyone. First he would visit my grandmother, Rebbitzin Rivkah, to say goodbye and to ask her for lekach.138 He would then enter the study of my father, who would entrust him with a few words – orally, not in writing – to relay at the Ohel. There used to be a minyan there every Shabbos and Yom-Tov, and in the time of the Rebbe Maharash, on weekdays as well.

On erev Yom Kippur of that year, the Rashbatz followed his regular custom and went off to the Ohel. Soon after, at the table in our sukkah, he quoted a teaching from the Gemara to my father: “[The mature judgment of a young heir to independently] sell his father’s property [needs to be monitored] only until he is twenty years old.”17 When my father heard these words his face visibly changed, but he made no comment.

Later, after my teacher had left the sukkah, I asked him what he intended with those [cryptic] words.

“You don’t understand?!” he replied. “Isn’t it now twenty years since the histalkus of your grandfather, the Rebbe Maharash?”18

Some time later, in the same year, my father told me: “For a long time I had a complaint – until erev Rosh HaShanah this year, when I was at the Ohel of my father, [the Rebbe Maharash,] and I said: ‘Father, I’m missing the farbrengens of chassidim! I haven’t been present when chassidim farbreng, and you know that it’s not out of haughtiness, but simply because I didn’t grudge the time, which I devoted only to Chassidus, and you also know what tough toil I invested in integrating its teachings within myself. That’s why I didn’t have time to participate in chassidishe farbrengens. And that’s the gift I’m asking you to give me.’

“So my father compensated that lack – and from that time on, in nighttime visions, I heard things that he recounted.”

And indeed, from the time that my father shared this with me, I heard various episodes from him, but never asked him where he had heard them or when he had heard them. In particular, when we were in Vienna that year, my father showed me many marks of closeness and recounted a great number of things. The fact is that I had earned that closeness, by virtue of the well-known episode that had caused me so much anguish.

Until that time my father used to allow me to enter his study after knocking, even if he did not answer, such as when he could not interrupt his davenen or the like. At that time, however, he instructed me not to enter in future until he answered.

So I put two and two together and worked out the connection between all of the above….

6. Spiritual Sensitivity. At a certain farbrengen of my father’s at Menton, the chassidim around the table included R. Yeshaya Berlin, R. Avraham Hornstein and R. Yaakov Horovitz. On that occasion my father defined the differences between kochos (“faculties”) and chushim (“sensibilities”), even though those present didn’t necessarily understand them.

[At this point, the Rebbe Rayatz summarizes the complex subtleties of that talk, and concludes:] What characterizes chassidim is their chush, their spiritual sensitivity. And an example of that chush is the above remark of the Rashbatz to my father in the sukkah, about [how a bereaved son is expected to advance after] the passage of twenty years.

7. Staying Focused. The baalei tefillah19 in Lubavitch were: Isser the chazzan, who already led the davenen20 in the days of my grandfather, the Rebbe Maharash; Reuven Vorobaitchik; and then, in the later years, R. Yechiel Halperin. R. Isser21 used to intone the Avodah22 of Yom Kippur sweetly and in a state of rapture.23 Whenever he arrived at the passage that begins VehaKohanim,24 his face streamed with tears and perspiration. One Yom Kippur, in the middle of the davenen, Lubavitch was suddenly struck by a thunderstorm. From the lightning, several houses burned down. Many of the daveners, terror-stricken, ran outside. (My father and my uncle, the Raza, stood still, but my other uncle, R. Menachem Mendel, did go outside.) And while all this was going on, R. Isser the chazzan was so rapt in his davenen that he continued at the amud as usual, oblivious to the tumult around him.

8. Recalling the Beis HaMikdash. Whenever the chazzan reached VehaKohanim,154 my grandfather, the Rebbe Maharash, would leave his private room and enter the adjoining beis midrash,151 where he would [stand and] join in the singing of the traditional melody that accompanies those words. When the time came for kor’im,25 he would retire to his private room.

My father, too, would stand throughout the Avodah, and sing together with the chazzan. In the passage that begins VehaKohanim, we could hear him say each word distinctly. Sometimes he would pause briefly after the word meforash, and sometimes he would read it together with the following word, yotzei. And throughout the Avodah, his tears would fall to the floor.

9. From the Kharkov Theater to Lubavitch. The grandfather of R. Yechiel the chazzan was a chassid of the Alter Rebbe. In fact he was one of the first chassidim to go out and work the land in the agricultural settlements26 in the Yekaterinoslav region, where he settled in Gulai Pal. The Mitteler Rebbe later established similar “colonies” in the Kherson region.

In the course of time, due to the conditions in which those remote settlers lived, the early schooling of R. Yechiel the chazzan was far from what it should have been. One of the local householders helped him to cultivate his beautiful voice, and at a later stage he became the Deputy Producer at the Little Theater in Kharkov. There, one day, he encountered the itinerant emissary, R. Bere Wolff Kozevnikov, from whom he heard all about chassidic life. He was so inspired by what he heard that he set out at once for Lubavitch, where he arrived after the passing of the Rebbe Maharash in 5643 (1882). Since he remained there for most of that year, he is our source for a number of customs related to the period of mourning (May we not know of such things!).

Eventually he settled in Moscow, where he served as a chazzan in a big shul for many years. In 5644 (1884), when my father traveled to Moscow27 and stayed at the home of R. Bere Monye’s, R. Yechiel the chazzan gave my father every possible assistance. It was at that time that my father taught him the classic, time-honored melodies for various passages in the davenen of the Days of Awe: Aleinu, VehaKohanim, Atah konanta, Slach lanu, Ki anu amecha, and the appropriate pauses in the passage that begins, VeChach hayah moneh.