1. Pesach Etiquette. On Pesach one does not offer a guest refreshments,1 but he should be made to feel welcome to help himself.

2. Sweet Simplicity. [After the older students had been offered wine over which to say LeChaim, the Rebbe said:] Among chassidim, there are no distinctions between great and small: all are equal. As the Alter Rebbe says in Tanya,2 “They are all equal, and they all have one Father.” Differences exist, such as between fulltime scholars in the tent of Torah and businessmen, but those differences relate only to the revealed plane, whereas as far as their neshamos are concerned, they are all equal.

The Baal Shem Tov teaches that the greatest of the great should learn from the simplest of the simple,3 because in them one finds etzem hatemimus, untainted artlessness. The Chassidus of the Alter Rebbe4 defines a variety of levels within temimus, and points out that its ultimate manifestation is to be found in simple folk.

3. That’s You in the Mirror! We have often repeated the teaching of the Alter Rebbe that ahavas Yisrael, loving one’s fellow Jew, is a means5 by which one can attain ahavas HaShem, a love of G‑d.6 With regard to the mitzvah of loving G‑d, the Sages interpret the command that “you shall love the L‑rd your G‑d” to mean not only that you should love Him, but that your conduct should be such that it will cause the Name of Heaven to be loved as well by the people around you.7

The same may be said with regard to the mitzvah of loving one’s fellow Jew: by speaking favorably about another’s positive qualities, one causes that person to be loved by the people around him. Speaking in this way does not merely mean ignoring that person’s faults because, after all, whoever sees a fault in another has that same fault himself (and that won’t require an extensive search…). When one sees a fault in another, he is being shown from Heaven, “Take a look at your own fault!”

The Mitteler Rebbe saw a hint of this in the verse,8 “It is because G‑d is not within me that all these evils have come my way” (literally, “…have found me”). In a non-literal interpretation of those words, the Mitteler Rebbe heard them suggesting the following message: “It is because G‑d is not within me that I have found all these evils [in the people around me].”

As we were saying: If, beyond merely ignoring another’s faults, one highlights his positive qualities – for example, by pointing out that even in such an environment he has attained his present level – one causes him to be loved by others.

4. Love your Fellow, Love your G‑d. The above fundamental principle is absolutely sacred – that ahavas Yisrael, loving a fellow Jew, is a conduit to attaining ahavas HaShem, a love of G‑d. It follows that all the particular levels within the love of G‑d, and all the factors that generate it, have their counterpart in the love of a fellow Jew.

Basically, one can love G‑d in three modes. These are alluded to in the above-quoted verse which begins with the command that “you shall love the L‑rd your G‑d” – in the original, Ve’ahavta es Havayah Elokecha.

The first of these two Names, Havayah, signifies the level of Divinity that transcends Seder Hishtalshelus. [The Name Havayah transcends the finite dimensions of time and space, for Seder Hishtalshelus is the chainlike scheme whereby the Divine light progressively screens itself on its way “down” from infinite spirituality to the creation of finite materiality.] The second Name, Elokecha (“your Elokim), signifies the level of Divinity that is present within Seder Hishtalshelus. When appearing in this verse together, these two Names thus convey a directive: let the transcendence of time that characterizes the Name Havayah light up your time-framed existence, and let the transcendence of space that characterizes the Name Havayah light up your space-framed existence.

The above verse goes on to say that “you shall love the L‑rd your G‑d with all your heart (bechol levavcha), with all your soul (bechol nafsh’cha), and with all your might (uvechol meodecha).”

[The three modes of love, in ascending order:] [a] Loving G‑d “with all your heart” means loving Him in a way that accords with one’s reason.9 [b] Loving G‑d “with all your soul” means loving Him in a way that transcends one’s reason.10 And [c] loving G‑d “with all your might” means loving Him in a way that breaks free of all finite bounds.11 At this level, a person’s ko’ach hamaskil12 bends over to hear what the essence of the soul13 has to say.

[Here follow several subtle distinctions between various pairs of untranslatable mystical terms.]

The material world can be understood intellectually; the spiritual realm cannot. Angels are known as sechalim nifradim, “separate intellects” that we cannot grasp, and in the same way we cannot grasp the soul intellectually. We only know that it exists; we do not know what it is.14 And this is what we meant when we said that a person’s ko’ach hamaskil bends over to hear what the essence of the soul has to say.

This level of spiritual sensitivity can be attained specifically by means of simple, down-to-earth things, such as by exuding perspiration while exerting oneself in the fulfillment of a mitzvah.15 For example: We are not speaking about dutifully fulfilling the halachic obligation to be happy on Yom-Tov as defined in the Shulchan Aruch;16 we are speaking of the kind of Yom-Tov joy that breaks out in an exuberant dance. In this spirit, R. Aizel17 of Homil once remarked: “I lived my life most fully when comprehending a concept; R. Hillel [of Paritch] lived his life most fully through singing a niggun and dancing.”18

As is widely known, R. Hillel composed a number of [meditative and soul-stirring] niggunim, and these used to be sung three to five times before a maamar was delivered. In his old age, when he no longer had the strength to dance, he told his grandson, “Pinye, please dance on my behalf!”

There’s a difference between living – and living fully.19

* * *

As we said above, just as ahavas HaShem, loving G‑d, comprises three kinds of love, so too ahavas Yisrael, loving one’s fellow Jew, comprises three kinds of love. It’s hard to speak about this at length at this time, both for the speaker and for his listeners, so we’ll just make some brief points.

We said earlier that loving G‑d “with all your heart” means loving Him in a way that accords with one’s reason.562 [To relate this now to the mitzvah of loving a fellow Jew:] When two people meet and exchange Shalom aleichem, they should realize that it’s not only their bodies that are meeting: this is also an encounter of the entire gamut of their naran chai – their nefesh-ruach-neshamah and their chayah-yechidah – as well as the soul-levels that remain Above. Those two people should therefore visualize a meeting of two souls, and then their Shalom Aleichem will be vibrant, not the Shalom Aleichem of someone who is not among the living.20 Loving a fellow Jew “with all your heart” is to love with a motive – just as the Sages21 interpreted the seemingly dual form of levavecha to mean that one ought to love G‑d with both inclinations, the good and the evil, by training his evil inclination, too, to come close to G‑d [by become subservient to Him]. So, too, each of the two individuals who meet seeks to have a positive effect on the other.

We will not discuss now the interpersonal counterpart to the next level, loving G‑d “with all your soul.”

The counterpart in ahavas Yisrael to the third level, loving G‑d “with all your might,” is the self-sacrifice22 that one Jew has for another.

5. Missing Only One Detail… A chassid called R. Yisrael Ber Kabikov, while telling the Rebbe Rashab about the virtues of a fellow chassid, R. Yehoshua of Kherson, commented: “But he’s lacking a pitom….”23 He meant to imply that in the area of interpersonal relationships, R. Yehoshua’s middos were not as they should have been.

The speaker, tough by nature, lacked the ability to fully appreciate another’s positive side.

6. Ready for Takeoff? When the Mitteler Rebbe arrived in Lubavitch,24 he wanted to reinvigorate the charitable funds and the institutions which the Alter Rebbe had established and which had lately grown weaker.

At that time he told the chassidim: “When one studies the Chassidus of the [Alter] Rebbe, ‘his lips murmur [in the grave]’25 and one connects with him; when one does a fellow Jew a favor, one not only connects with the Rebbe but also elevates his neshamah.”

It’s the soldiers who do the work; it’s the generals who get the medals.

My father once had to persuade a certain individual to contribute a large sum of money in order to save someone’s livelihood. When the prospective donor tried to bargain about the amount, my father quoted the teaching of the Mitteler Rebbe – that when one studies Chassidus, one connects with the Rebbe, and when one does a fellow Jew a favor, one elevates the Rebbe’s neshamah to new heights. My father then added: “Consider. When your neshamah causes the Rebbe’s neshamah to ascend,you become linked to the level of ascent that he has now attained!”

7. Responsibility. The Alter Rebbe made of his chassidim people who took their responsibilities seriously. He also gave them – and their succeeding generations – the power needed to fulfill those responsibilities.

8. Nowhere in the World. Once, in the year 5658 (1898), my father remarked: “Even if you were to travel through every country in the world, you would never find an ahavas Yisrael that could compare with the ahavas Yisrael that the Rebbeim have for their fellow Jews, nor a mesirus nefesh that could compare with the mesirus nefesh that the Rebbeim have for chassidim.”

9. Do Another’s Woes Bring You to Tears? My grandfather, the Rebbe Maharash, once told my father: “Today I had two visitors. One gave me pleasure; the other, deep pain.”

A chassid by the name of R. Elye, from a nearby village called Abele, was then visiting Lubavitch. (The Rebbeim of that era made every effort to have the local villages recognized as towns, because a czarist decree had been issued forbidding Jews to live in villages.) The other visitor whom my grandfather had in mind was a rav from Polotzk called R. Eliezer, author of Mishnas Eliezer.

When R. Elye Abeler, an unscholarly businessman, was received for yechidus, my grandfather asked him, “How are things with you?”

Baruch HaShem,” said R. Elye.

“And how’s you business getting on?”

Baruch HaShem,” said R. Elye. “But Rebbe, my heart aches for Yosef – Yosef who lives in our village. He seems to have no success in anything he does. (May no one know from such woes!) We all got together and bought him a horse and wagon so that he could peddle his wares from one town to the next, so the axle breaks, and then his horse breaks a leg, and then someone steals his meager merchandise. Every kind of misfortune seems to strike him. Rebbe, how can I help him?”

With a deep sigh, R. Elye broke into tears and pleaded: “Rebbe, give him a berachah!”

Hearing this, my grandfather assured him: “You can help him a great deal. When a Jew is distressed by another’s distress, and pleads on his behalf, he silences all the accusatory voices26 and shatters all stern decrees.”

My grandfather then handed R. Elye a coin from his pocket and said: “I want to be your partner. May G‑d enable you to do favors to fellow Jews, and may He bless your efforts with success.”

R. Elye was overwhelmed. Shuddering, he said: “Rebbe! You want to be a partner with me?! Don’t you know who I am? I’m the coarse material that Tanya talks about, that can be fixed up only by being shattered, and all that.”

Now’s not the time to relate the response of the Rebbe Maharash – but it was this visit that gave him pleasure.

When it was the turn of the rav, R. Eliezer, to be received at yechidus, the Rebbe Maharash asked him, “How are things with you?”

He answered that he delivered a regular learned shiur to a group of adult scholars who took their studies seriously, Baruch HaShem, and who also davened at meditative length on Shabbos, and studied Chassidus, and so on.

The Rebbe Maharash asked further: “And what about middos?”27

R. Eliezer replied, “Like well-to-do adult scholars….”28

To this the Rebbe Maharash responded: “The guilt is their mentor’s, not theirs. First and foremost in educating and guiding is positive middos. The object of study should not be merely to master a book, but to master and teach oneself.29 When you go home, you should establish a free loan30 fund, by seeing to it that each of these young men contributes half of his dowry.”

R. Eliezer protested: “But I won’t manage to convince them to do that!”

“If I say so, it will work,” the Rebbe Maharash reassured him. “Tell them that when they give, they’re not giving anything that is theirs, and if they don’t give, they won’t have it. And at your next visit here, bring me better news!”

When my grandfather finished telling my father of these two visits, he added: “If I’d wanted to give in to my G‑dly soul, I would have given R. Elye Abeler a hearty kiss.”31