1. A Craftsman’s Tools. A craftsman has to have his tools and he has to know his craft. There’s no such thing as a craftsman without his tools. [No clear record is extant of the continuation of this metaphor or of its presumed explanation. However, see sec. 10 below.]

2. Low Spirits: Handle with Care. Some people think that being morose counts as avodah. In fact it’s not a complete avodah, even though low spirits do call for avodah. Low spirits are not very fertile, and even when they do give birth to something, the result is stillborn. After all, the distinguishing sign of a living organism is its ability to reproduce, because in created beings, the infinite potential of Ein Sof is expressed in generation after generation of seed, until the end of all generations. Low spirits may well produce quantity, but not a wholesome quantity. The option of lighthearted complacency is certainly undesirable, since it ruins everything,1 but nevertheless….2

Speaking of the distinctive qualities of Chassidus, one of the Rebbeim of Chabad once said that the deepest feelings of contrite humility3 should arouse the greatest joy, and the greatest joy should bring a person to the deepest feelings of contrite humility. That does not mean that the result in each case should follow only after the cause, because philosophical reasoning and the teachings of Mussar would equally lead to that conclusion.4

Another one of our Rebbeim once said that it is a unique contribution of Chabad Chassidus that every Jew has this [potential for the above instantaneous interaction].

Chassidus, it was sometimes said, advises one how to actualize this potential, and sometimes the point was made that it empowers one to do so.

3. Awe and Love. It has been said that nothing is as high as yirah, the awe or fear of G‑d, and nothing is as deep as ahavah, the love of G‑d. This is so because even the highest level of yirah, which is known as yirah ilaah, has a base, a finite limit, whereas even an ordinary level of ahavah has no base, no finite limit.

4. Chiseling a Young Chassid. Chassidim have always had a little world of their own.

The large population of Shventzian [near Vilna] included many wealthy individuals, but only a minyan of chassidim, and they were all poor. One of them was known as R. Itchele der Schneider (“the Tailor”), one was a potter, another made lined winter boots, and so on. For a long time [the local chassidic mentors] worked with the Rashbatz,5 and then finally they sent him off to R. Michele Opotzker6 to receive guidance in his further development as a chassid.

When he arrived, that venerable chassid told him, “I love you with all your faults, but you have to tidy yourself up.”

The young man asked, “How does one do that?”

“I can’t help you,” replied the sage. “I can only chisel you into a chunk of raw material, and he will turn that raw material into a mensch.”7

(“He” meant my great-grandfather, the Tzemach Tzedek, whom R. Michele did not refer to as “the Rebbe.”)

That chiseling job took two-and-a-half years.

5. Likkutei Torah. In the year 5663 (1903) my father said: “When one sits in his room and opens up Likkutei Torah, one senses Atzmus Ein Sof, the Essence of the Infinite One.”

That statement ignited such an exuberance in the chassidic community that it flared for months.

[After quoting it, the Rebbe Rayatz turned to R. Sh[muel] L[evitin]8 and said:] “Your father (R. Z[e’ev Volf] the Mashgiach)9 was by nature measured and temperate, and nevertheless [even] he allowed his unruffled façade to show a wrinkle.”

Now that we have grown older, my father’s statement is no longer wondrous. One doesn’t sense it, but one understands it.

6. A Kiss from the Baal Shem Tov. [This section opens with a brief discussion of a teaching from the Zohar that does not lend itself to translation.]

When the Baal Shem Tov was ten years old he was accepted into the circle of hidden tzaddikim.10 He went from village to village and from township to township to hear how men, women and children expressed the gratitude that he encouraged them to express: “Praised be the One on High,” or Baruch HaShem!” Every such phrase gladdened his heart. Whenever he encountered a fellow Jew he would ask him, “How are you doing?” And the other fellow would answer with something such as, Baruch HaShem: I’ve got a father, a mother, a brother, a sister!”

If the Baal Shem Tov were here to see the present little group of fellow Jews,11 he would no doubt kiss each one of you. And not only the Baal Shem Tov. The same would no doubt be true of the Rebbeim of Chabad. True, they sought to express all spiritual endeavors in intellectual terms, so that a person should know what Atik desires and what Arich yearns for,12 even though he can’t point to a boundary that separates them – but this he knows, that Atik represents Ratzon, the Divine Will, and Arich represents yearning. Yet with all that, even the [cerebral] Rebbeim of Chabad would no doubt kiss every individual in the little group of fellow Jews who are sharing the present ambiance.

7. To Do a Favor. My father once relayed to me his father’s description of how his father, the Tzemach Tzedek, even at the most intense times, when he was engrossed in the profoundest issues in Chassidus or in writing halachic responsa, would pause to think about how to do a favor to a fellow Jew in some remote corner of the world.

8. Subtler Demands. [The Sages teach that one is not guilty of forgetting his Torah studies] “unless he sits [idly] and [thereby] removes them from his heart.”13 Likewise, Chassidus demands that one should sit down and take [certain spiritual concepts] to heart. To deal with gross levels of misconduct,14 there’s a Kitzur Shulchan Aruch;15 here we are talking about subtler faults. The [Alter] Rebbe wished that all Jews become chassidim, meaning that when one does something, even a material activity, he should be aware of who is doing it, and what he is doing, and why he is doing it.

9. Time to Unpack. May all Jews be blessed and may all chassidim be well. May all Jews be blessed and be well, and may all chassidim be blessed and be well.

Chassidim have rich baggage – but it must be unpacked!

10. Brass Tacks. Chassidim have the tools and the requisite knowledge of their craft – but all of that must be realized in actual practice.16

11. Whose Slice of Bread? Many of the letters in Tanya – Iggeres HaKodesh speak about tzedakah, but in fact they are only a fraction of the hundreds of similar letters that were addressed to individuals.

As a result of those letters, an adage was born among chassidim: “My slice of bread includes your share.”

It should be clear that in these letters, [which urge their recipients to give tzedakah beyond their meager means,] the Alter Rebbe was addressing ordinary, physical people, though they were not the kind of person who holds that “apart from me, nothing exists”17 and who “exults in his evil.”18 They were [poor] people who knew that help comes from G‑d, Who helps them when the time comes to marry off a daughter and the like.

Chassidus thus taught a new lesson – how to replace “I” by “he.”