1. Log Out before Logging In. On the first night of Sukkos in the year 5654 (1893), my father farbrenged at length in the sukkah. On that occasion he said: “The makkif of the sukkah1 derives from the cloud of ketores from Yom Kippur2 – and everyone can sense it.”3

So Rashbatz, my mentor, remarked: “But for that you need ears….”

To this my father responded: “ ‘The ear can discern words.’4 The only trouble is that it may be blocked up with cotton wool, which has to be removed. A metal staple can be felt and can be taken out, but something soft5 is not sensed and cannot [readily] be taken out.”

[A question was asked:] But how does one come within reach of the above-described perception?

[The Rebbe answered:] One has to harness his will. That cannot be done in two places. Only after one has unchained himself from one place, can he be subordinate to another place.

2. Seeing and Hearing. Seeing is not like hearing: one sees things from nearby, and hears things from a distance. If a person only hears about something, then even if he understands it to the point that he can picture it in his mind, he will still be struck by its novelty when he eventually sees it. Another difference: something heard can be forgotten, but not something seen. Once a person sees something without understanding it and it is later explained to him, he will not be struck by its novelty when he sees it again, even though he previously did not understand it and now he does. Why? Because a person becomes fused with the thing that he sees.

On that Sukkos evening, my father explained that tvias ayin, a person’s ability to recognize something at a glance, really means that his eye loses itself (so to speak) in the object being observed. That is why when he is later shown the object he recognizes it, even though he cannot supply any identifying sign, and will not mistake it for a similar object. With this my father explained the term tvias ayin. The root of its first word (טבע) means “submerging,” which suggests that the eye becomes submerged – loses itself – in the object being observed.

3. Vintage Chassidim. On that same occasion my father characterized the Alter Rebbe’s chassidim, the Mitteler Rebbe’s chassidim, and the chassidim of the Tzemach Tzedek.

Rashbatz, my mentor, had known chassidim of the Alter Rebbe,6 and in fact had been taught by one of them, R. Michl. He was struck by the precision of my father’s description, which related not to individuals, but to the kinds of people that typified those generations.

4. An Ownerless Cow. A chassid can be a chassid at any of three levels – an intellectual chassid,7 or a chassid whose avodah centers on his heart,8 or a navatner chassid.9 A navatner chassid is like a cow without a master. A cow that does have a master has regular times at which it is milked, fed, taken out to pasture, and so on, whereas a cow without a master pastures and so on, alone. Now, you can’t say that a navatner chassid isn’t a chassid, just as you can’t say that a navatner cow isn’t a cow. You can’t say that….

As to the other kinds of avodah: there is avodas halev, for “the heart distributes [blood] to all the organs,”10 and there is avodas hamo’ach, that is, avodah that centers on a person’s mind, and the mind impacts all of his organs (including even the sole of his foot), though not via his heart. When there’s no heart, that’s a frigid mode of avodah.

5. Cultivating a Good Middah. [A question was asked:] But how can there be avodas halev without the mind?

[The Rebbe replied:] The individual who has avodah of the mind also activates his heart, just as the individual who has avodah of the heart also activates his mind, because if the heart is not engaged, one’s haskalah – one’s intellectual activity – can’t really be called haskalah. It’s only a question of which is his main focus.

At the above-mentioned farbrengen, my father said: “I am the son of a father who was a Rebbe, the son of a Rebbe. Ignore the fact that I’m a young man11 – but I’ve toiled a lot, and [I can assure you that] it’s far more difficult to straighten out a middah than to fully grasp a concept in Elokus. True, when a person meditates upon a subject of Chochmah Ila’ah for twenty-four hours, the ne’etzalim – the spiritual beings that are emanated in the World of Atzilus are enriched.12 However, when one cultivates a good middah, he calls forth Divine energy into all the worlds, from the lowest to the highest.13 To this endeavor one may apply the words that the Sages put (so to speak) into the Mouth of G‑d: ‘It brings Me pleasure that I spoke, and My Will was fulfilled.’ ”14

6. Solid Currency. On Rosh HaShanah, one draws down upon himself an acceptance of the Sovereignty of Heaven;15 on Yom Kippur, one acquiresthe Sovereignty of Heaven; and on Sukkos, one should earnestly ask for [success in cultivating] good middos.

A person who is collecting money for tzedakah ought to contribute the first coin himself. That coin must not be an invalid coin, a coin whose imprint has been battered. And in the same way that a person himself gives, others give likewise.16

7. Infinite Light in a Finite Mind. “A person knows that he is living in a sukkah.”17 [Now, the verb meaning “knows” is yodeia, from the root ידע, and the intellectual activity called daas derives from the same root. Moreover, as in footnote 184 above, a sukkah is a tangible manifestation of the transcendent, superrational light called makkif. Hence, on the non-literal level of derush, the above-quoted Talmudic teaching may be understood to mean:]

One should bring one’s daas into the makkif, and the makkif into one’s daas. By bringing[the finite rational endeavors of] one’s daas into the [superrational] makkif, one is enabled to bring the [infinite intensity of] makkif into one’s [finite] daas.

8. Or Makkif and Or Pnimi. [The subtleties in the terminology of the Rebbe’s brief teaching on this subject do not lend themselves to translation.]

9. Shefa and Or. [As above.]

10. Still Resonating. In bygone days, once words had been said, there was no need to repeat them: the mere fact of saying them spoke for itself.All that was left to do was to discuss them.

Thus, at the Giving of the Torah, everyone knew about it. The Sages teach18 that when the nations of the world approached Bil’am and asked him: “What’s this tempest all about?” – he answered, “G‑d is giving the Torah to the Jews.”

G‑d’s speech alone spoke volumes. Furthermore, the Jewish people saw that which is normally heard.19

11. Celebrating Yom-Tov. Usually there was a maamar on the first night of Sukkos, but that year no maamar was delivered, because my father was not feeling well. However, in the course of Sukkos there was a lot of farbrenging. On the first day of Chol HaMoed my father had to go off to the court in Rudnia, but he came home towards evening and there was another farbrengen.20

In those days my father was not accustomed to sleep in the sukkah, though he did spend the night in the sukkah, seated.

12. Guests in the Sukkah. [After benschen over a cup of wine and with a minyan, the Rebbe said:] It was once customary21 to mention in the sukkah the Baal Shem Tov, the Maggid, the Alter Rebbe, the Mitteler Rebbe and the Tzemach Tzedek.