1. Elevating Sparks. The sparks that are sifted from entities undergoing beirur1 are not evident in the person who is doing that avodah.

[A question was asked:] But doesn’t the person doing the beirur have to clothe himself in the entity being refined?

[The Rebbe answered:]That is true only during the time that he is engaged in that task. Once it is done, the spark that has been elevated is not evident in him. This is also the difference between the process of haala’ah (lit., “elevation”2 ) and the process of hiskalelus (lit., “incorporation”3 ).In the case of hiskalelus, the entity which is subsumed is not apparent; this is not so with regard to haala’ah. These two terms parallel another pair of terms: beirur sheni (“the second beirur,” i.e., the final stage of beirur) corresponds to hiskalelus, and beirur rishon (“the first beirur,” i.e., the first stage of beirur) corresponds to haala’ah.

2. Packed Tight. [The sukkah was too small to accommodate all the Anash who had gathered there, and on this the Rebbe commented:] In every sukkah there radiates a light from the [space-transcending] sukkah of the Future Era. That, however, is in the spiritual realm. In the material realm, the fact is that our space here is packed really tight.

My revered grandfather, the Rebbe Maharash, writes in a maamar on a different subject: “All of the above relates to the spiritual realm; in the material realm, by contrast, one must labor and toil and make himself move.”

3. Chassidus vs. Worldliness. The world (olam) is the antithesis of the Divine Name Havayah. Although at root, all existence comes into being through that Name, in practice it comes into being through the agency of the Divine Name Elokim.4 A world is finite both in time and in space. Space is defined and limited in terms of six dimensions [and must be so] – above, below, and the four directions. This defining limitation is orderly,and it is imperative that it be so.

In some cases, orderliness5 is not imperative, and this is [even] a positive characteristic. With regard to the dimension of space, it must have defining limits, because without the limits of above and below and the four directions, there is no such concept as space.

Time is defined in terms of past, present and future. Not only is the world subject to those defining limits, but it is imperative that it be so, and that there be past, present and future, in that sequence.

The above [limits of space and time] are the very antithesis of the Divine Name Havayah. That Name, too, includes space and time: space – in its four letters; time – in the fact that it telescopes past, present and future,6 except that in the Name Havayah those three times coincide. This means that the “was” includes both the “is” and the “will be.” In the same way, the “is” and the “will be” each include the other two tenses.

[We said above that the world (olam) is the antithesis of the Divine Name Havayah.] That word, olam, has three meanings: (a) concealment (i.e., he’elem, which shares a root with olam); (b) worldly conventions;7 and (c) worldly thought-patterns.8

(a) Olam signifies concealment. This means that something is closed off, covered from observation by oneself or by another. That entity may even be blinding, or delusive. “Blinding” means that it cannot be seen; “delusive” means that what is seen appears to be something else.

[For example,] to say that an entity exists9 is a lie. A created being10 is aware that there exists an Ayin that brings it into existence, but since it is beyond its grasp, it calls that Source –Ayin (lit., “nothing”). As a result, the created entity does not experience within itself the presence of its creative Source, and thus comes to imagine that “its own existence proceeds from its own essence.”11 This is how it feels about itself, and even more so, this is how it presents itself to other beings. In truth, it is possible for a created being to believe that “its own existence proceeds from its own essence” only because it comes into being from G‑d’s very Essence.12 As the [Alter] Rebbe says in Tanya – Iggeres HaKodesh,13 “He alone has the power and ability to create something (yesh) out of absolute naught (ayin) and nothingness.”

Wherein lies the difference? With regard to G‑d Above, “His existence proceeds from His own Essence”297 in fact; in the created entity below, its seemingly self-sufficient existence is no more than a figment of its imagination. It is a lie. And that is what is meant by the statement that olam means concealment; [i.e., the seemingly self-sufficient world obscures the truth].

(b) Hanachos haolam means worldly conventions291 – aping the lifestyle of one’s environment. Such conduct is rooted in a lie, with a veneer of fakery, empty talk, guile, and every shade of falsehood. In the idiom of our Sages, “One word in the mouth, a different word in the heart.”14 For example: A asks a favor of B, who does not want to oblige, because his heart harbors hatred and ill will. So, cloaking himself in deceit, he says that in fact he would like to do the favor, but for some reason or other he cannot. He may perhaps add an element of truth to his story – or else tell an outright lie – to explain that what prevents him from doing the favor is really the fault of A, when the true reason is not that, but his own hard heart. When they next meet, A asks him, “Why did you have to say that it was because of me that you didn’t do the favor? You could have given some other reason!” In other words, A is expecting of B that he should have proposed an even bigger lie….

And so it is in every area: the more one becomes involved in lies and deceit, the more is one in tune with worldly conventions.

(c) Sevaros haolam means worldly thought-patterns.292 This phrase is cited in Chassidus in a variety of contexts. For example: “It is not as people commonly think, that the soul is intellect”; or, “It is not as people commonly think, that teshuvah is relevant [only] to sins”; or, “It is not as people commonly think, that Chassidus demands only chassidishe middos; that is only the body of a chassid, whereas in fact a chassid is something well beyond that.”

We see, then, what is meant when we say that olam – the world and worldliness – isthe antithesis of the Divine Name Havayah.

Chassidus is the antithesis of olam; it is the Divine Name Havayah. Chassidus means that one is open and revealed, to oneself and to others; Chassidus is luminous, for oneself and for others.

4. Vitality. In times gone by, you could say about a certain Yid that he was a chassid. Today you can say that a chassid is a Yid. If he’s a chassid, he’s a Yid.

We said that in times gone by, a Yid was a chassid. Being a Yid means being at a wonderful level, and this is expressed both inwardly, in pnimiyus, and outwardly, in chitzoniyus. A Yid comprises [four layers, starting from his nucleus and working “outwards”]: an atzmi [i.e., he is true to his etzem, his spiritual essence]; a pnimi [i.e., he has inner integrity]; a chitzoni [which describes the outward manifestations of his avodah]; and his levush [i.e., his clothing]. And even if his clothes are torn, what is seen is his flesh, which is something real, something true; it’s not that something unseemly is being uncovered.

At the level called chitzoni, one has a beautiful appearance.15

At this point let me digress for a moment, about an incident involving my grandfather, the Rebbe Maharash.

In the year 5618 (1858) he traveled abroad, ostensibly for his health, but in fact on matters of public concern. He was accompanied by R. Avremke, the rav of Rudnia, who served as a shochet, even though my grandfather could have managed alone. He was also accompanied by a chassid called R. Shmuel Brin.

On his return from Italy and Germany to Lubavitch, my grandfather was asked by his father, the Tzemach Tzedek: “What do you say about the German Jews?” (He himself had never met them.)

The Rebbe Maharash replied: “They are of beautiful appearance.”

Chassidus discusses the difference between yefeh to’ar (“of beautiful form”) and yefeh mar’eh (“of beautiful appearance”).16 Yefeh to’ar relates to the proper size of the various limbs in relation to the body as a whole, and also to the proportions of the limbs relative to each other. The body divides into head, torso and legs. If the head were to be as long as the legs, or the legs were to be as small as the head, the individual would be severely blemished. Appropriate proportions are particularly significant with regard to the various features of the face – the nose, mouth, eyes and ears. If they are harmonious, that face is described as being yefeh to’ar, as having a beautiful form. In the face, the quality of yefeh mar’eh, having a beautiful appearance, relates to the cheeks.17

When a German Jew wakes up in the morning, he won’t drink his coffee until he has finished davenen, and a sheet on the wall of his beis midrash regulates the times of the tefillos. For example, the minyan for a weekday Shacharis should take 18 minutes, though on Mondays and Thursdays, when there is a Torah Reading, it should take 22 minutes. A German Jew gives maaser, a tenth of his income, for tzedakah, but only when he earns. That is called yefeh mar’eh, having a beautiful appearance.

A Russian Jew, and so too a Jew in other countries, is neither a yefeh to’ar nor a yefeh mar’eh – but he is a Yid with chayus. He is alive. When he starts davenen in the morning he doesn’t know whether it will take him half an hour, or an hour, or an hour and a quarter. And he gives tzedakah, whether he is currently earning or not.

As we were saying: Once upon a time, a chassid was like a well-to-do householder, a well-established baalabos. He had his own house, his own garden, his own potatoes, his own onions – and his own chayus, his own vitality. A richer householder had a cow, a poorer one had a lamb or a goat. When he got up in the morning he drank his tea with boiled milk from his own back yard, and ate his own potatoes and his own onions. A person in that class was called a well-to-do, well-established baalebos.

Once upon a time, a chassid was just like that. Whatever he needed was his own. He never needed to go to someone else to borrow a bit of love of G‑d, or fear of Heaven, or ahavas Yisrael, or love of the Torah, or observance of the mitzvos. He may have been richer, he may have been poorer, but whatever he had was his own. In the chassidishe shuls today, if people learn half a chapter of Tanya, or a whole chapter, once a week, that’s already called a chassidisher shul. Sure, that routine should take place – but is that how Chassidus should look?! True, during a famine even chaff passes for food, but….

5. A Luminous Room with a Leaking Roof. We should take stock of what a pitiful situation we are in.18 What a contrast between where we came from – and where we have come! When we observe the chassidim who were born here, or who have been here for twenty or thirty years, we can only say, “What concern of yours are the mysteries of G‑d?”19 But as to us oldtimers, what a pitiful situation we are in! No doubt whatever happens results from a Divine intent – but nevertheless…!

Yosef’s brothers said, “We have indeed come down to buy food”20 – but with us, we have come down to shatter food.21 Considering where we came from and where we have come, this has indeed been a mighty descent. Chassidic life here is in such a sorry state. In the Old Country,22 when you walked into the dilapidated beis midrash in townships23 such as Horoditch or Liepli, the roof was leaking, but the place glowed. People davened there at length. Not all of them necessarily had an abundance of concepts on which to meditate, but the fact is that they davened as chassidim ought to daven.24 The atmosphere was luminous. You would see a fellow Jew with a torn tallis and ragged high boots and a tattered coat, but when he said, Baruch she’amar vehayah haolam – “Blessed be He Who spoke, and the world came into being,”25 the meaning of those words sprang to life.

But today, where do people’s interests lie? True, they give tzedakah for a yeshivah or some other charitable cause – but one doesn’t hear people, even those who are meant to be men of stature, davening or studying Chassidus as they should.

Our status is pitiable, having come from where we have come, and being where we are. True, the work that we are doing here is vital, and for this we need dependable people, people who are honest about themselves, without self-delusion, and who are honest about their work.

In Warsaw a craftsman would ask, “Do you want a jerry-built job, or a craftsmanlike job?” What we need is craftsmanlike work that is carried out not with potential self-sacrifice, but with actual self-sacrifice.26 On all sides, hurdles and obstacles abound like demons.27 True, we must exert ourselves to remove those obstacles – but that is not what our task was meant to be.

6. The Plaint of the Pauper. In the year 5629 (1869), my revered grandfather, the Rebbe Maharash, spent Rosh HaShanah in Kishinev.28 During the previous summer, at the time of the fire in Lubavitch, he was in Marienbad, and on his way home he passed through Kiev and then stayed in Kishinev until after Rosh HaShanah.

I heard from my father-in-law,29 who heard it from R. Hillel Farhalber, that when my grandfather arrived there, the townsmen offered him accommodations in a private dwelling. He asked instead for a bigger house, where such a large crowd gathered that he delivered a maamar for them in the adjoining courtyard. It began with the verse, “The prayer of a lowly man when he grows faint and pours out his plea before G‑d.”30 My grandfather explained there that a basic theme in Seder Hishtalshelus is the sequence of mashpia and mekabel, a giver and a recipient; hence, correspondingly, in this world below there are rich men and poor men. However, he added, the poor man has a plaint: True, there have to be rich men and poor men, a giver and a recipient – but why was he destined to be poor and the other man, rich?

[To resume the above mention of mesirus nefesh:] The Chassidus of the Mitteler Rebbe distinguishes between mesiras haratzon (lit., “surrendering one’s will”) and the higher level that is called mesiras hanefesh (lit., “surrendering one’s soul”). This distinction is elaborated upon by the Tzemach Tzedek and his successors. If we would only consider how far we are from that level of avodah, we would realize what a pitiful state we are in.

Also discussed in the Chassidus of the Mitteler Rebbe is the meaning, in terms of avodah, of the phrase, “One man gives generously and ends with more.”31 The “giving generously” I can see, but in order to “end with more,” we need more help from Above.

7. Chassidim as Coalminers. Pearls are to be found in the seabed. Coal, which brings light and warmth, is in the depths of the earth, but the miners need a project manager to show them where to dig and how to find it. They can rely on his expertise and they must obey him exactly – but when it comes to the spirit of life that each of them deep down must receive from the fresh air outside, they can’t depend on the spirit of life that he has, up there. Each miner has to be connected to his own lifeline. Without it he collapses: he lacks vitality. The same applies to the deep sea diver. He, too, needs a conduit of fresh air from the world above.

The moral of the above is obvious. Like coal, Chassidus brings light and warmth, but first one has to lower himself into the depths of the earth, to make his choices and to bring what he has found to the surface. Only then can it radiate light and warmth, like the coal with which the miner heats the oven – provided that when he lowered himself into the depths of the earth, he remained connected, for that was what ensured his vitality.