1. Long Days. The erudite chassid, R. Aizik of Homil, was shown marks of closeness by the Alter Rebbe, who once said to him: “You must live long, because you’ve still got a lot of issues to deal with. To have ‘a life of long days’1 means that one’s days shouldn’t be wasted on trivial things or painful things.”

2. A Task of Sixty Years. R. Aizik had a good heart and a strong mind. (In fact, chassidim used to say that the Berelach of Krementchug2 were worth a mere fraction of R. Aizik.) Nevertheless, he had no patience for unrefined, homespun people. Once, while he was speaking with someone, a wagon driver who used to take chassidim to the Alter Rebbe approached him and made some remark. R. Aizik shouted at him and called him a bedeyuk.3

When this was reported to the Alter Rebbe, he summoned R. Aizik and told him: “In the mysteries of the soul you are an utter ignoramus. he is superior to you in the overt faculties of the soul, and for sure in the latent faculties. When he says Shema Yisrael, the angels fall silent. If someone wants to know how to hide something, he should learn from a thief. A thief doesn’t hide things in an open and obvious place, nor behind locks. He hides it in a pile of soil and eventually it sprouts.”

R. Aizik later said that the notion of disdaining anyone vanished immediately, but to deal with it thoroughly took him sixty years.

3. Bull’s Eye. The Mitteler Rebbe once said about the Alter Rebbe: “My father used to put his finger on someone’s spiritual flaw4 immediately.We have to search, but in the end we find it.”

4. A Teacher of the Alter Rebbe. R. Shimon Elye of Chaslavitch was a chassid of the Alter Rebbe, who once said of him: “[I have learned] from my disciples more than from them all.”5 How did this come about?

This chassid loved his fellow man. Whenever he visited the court of the Alter Rebbe he would take hold of a few chassidim and get them dancing. He couldn’t stand hearing slanderous talk, and when he did hear it, he would challenge the speaker: “Why do you start with the left side? Start with the right side! What’s it that man’s fault that you’re being shown the evil in yourself?”6

Anyway, one day the Alter Rebbe was sitting in his little upstairs study and trying hard to get to the bottom of a certain problematic passage in his studies. Suddenly, hearing a rollicking dance downstairs, he looked out of the window and saw R. Shimon Elye down there leaping in joy with his fellow chassidim. This made the Alter Rebbe so happy that he quoted the Gemara: “Much have I learned from my teachers; from my colleagues, more than from my teachers; and from my disciples, more than from them all.”699

5. The Other Side. During the first three years after the birth of the Alter Rebbe, the disciples of the Baal Shem Tov often observed that he was weeping bitterly, even at his tish7 on Rosh HaShanah and so on. This was a departure from custom, because he had always been in a cheerful frame of mind.

At a later time he explained to them that he was fearful for the welfare of the new soul that had come down, because the Other Side8 knew what this meant, and it had been granted the ability to raise obstacles.

6. A New Soul. On one occasion the Baal Shem Tov spoke at his table about a new soul – he had in mind the neshamah of the Alter Rebbe – that had just then descended to This World. No one at the table, including even R. Baruch, knew whom he had in mind.

7. Pity the Opponent. The opinion of an opponent doesn’t have to count. But what a pity on the poor fellow! [To him one should say:] “Let your evil chastise you!9 What’s it the other party’s fault that your evil has attached itself to him?”

8. Real Torah. The Tzemach Tzedek heard the following from his great-grandmother, Rebbitzin Rivkah, mother of the Alter Rebbe:

The Alter Rebbe was a Rebbe even before he arrived at Mezritch. It was by a stroke of Divine Providence that he went there and not to Vilna, for then a part of the Jewish people would have been left without real Torah.

9. Three Loves. There is a love of G‑d, a love of the Torah, and a love of a fellow Jew. Each of them exists at all three levels of love – “with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might”10 – and the love of a fellow Jew outshines them all, because it comprises them all. If a person loves his fellow Jew, then as a matter of course he also has a love of the Torah and a love of G‑d. If one has a love of G‑d, it is possible that he can lack a love of the Torah, just as it is possible that a person who has a love of the Torah can be lacking in his love of his fellow Jew.

10. Climbing a Ladder. The Baal Shem Tov set up the ladder and the Alter Rebbe empowered people to climb it, so that every individual can reach the top.

11. Face the Facts. In earlier times, too,11 people were able to shatter the evil within themselves. There were great men with a great Evil Inclination and they shattered it. That can be done by every Jew who is empowered by the Torah. For that you don’t have to have a new soul. The Alter Rebbe’s innovation was to light up the darkness that had prevailed, when a person would (Pardon me!) pointlessly scratch a mosquito bite or pour hot water on it, without even seeing it.

The Alter Rebbe’s innovation was that people should see [whatever calls for correction]. One has to go in and ask how the problem should be removed. One must not hide it from himself. This applies even to a person who is seriously ill (May no one know of such things! May no Jew know of such things!): if he is treated and G‑d gives His help, that patient can be healed. If, however, his ailment is brushed away out of sight, even a slight problem can grow (G‑d forbid!) into a severe one.

12. It’s Not the Quantity. In earlier days, people used to toil in order to implement the Chassidus they had studied. Today, people just study it. Once, people would toil. Even if they studied only a paragraph of Likkutei Torah, that was regarded as a lot, and a whole maamar was regarded as really generous.

(That said, when a child is still learning to walk, he’s not yet walking.)

It’s enough to study half an hour, or a quarter of an hour, or shaah. True, in the Holy Tongue that word usually means an hour, but I don’t mean shaah in the sense of an hour of sixty minutes; I mean shaah in the sense of switching directions.12 For that, one moment suffices. What matters is to do it.

13. Following the Path. If chassidim faithfully followed the path of the Alter Rebbe and of his successors, the Rebbeim, things would be far better in material matters, and of course spiritually.

14. We are Not Alone. As is widely known, the Alter Rebbe used to say:13 “I don’t desire Your Higher Gan Eden; I don’t desire Your Lower Gan Eden…; I want nothing but You alone.” That was in his earlier years.

A few days before his passing he said: “I don’t desire Your Higher Gan Eden; I know the revelations of the Lower Gan Eden; I know the revelations of the Higher Gan Eden; I know the revelations of Chochmah in the World of Atzilus; I know the giluyim atzmi’im, relative to which even Chochmah is reckoned as mere Asiyah. YetI am giving away my entire mesirus nefesh so that wherever a Jew asks You for something, at any time until Mashiach comes, You should listen to him just as you listen to a consummate tzaddik on Rosh HaShanah. I swear by the life of my soul (which the Tzemach Tzedek explained to mean oros atzmi’im14 ) that wherever a Jew does something with mesirus nefesh (and says ‘To You, G‑d, I raise my soul’), I will be there with him and I will help him.”

We can understand in which heavenly chambers the soul of the Alter Rebbe now abides, after all the successive ascents of all these Chai Eluls. Yet regardless of what he may be doing, he comes down and helps that Jew.

If he were to come down physically, [words are missing here in the transcript] in his soul. We cannot say that we are alone. We are not alone, but that is not necessarily felt.

15. Speak to the Heart. One should study texts that relate to avodah – brief texts, so that their listeners will absorb them. The maamarim that are repeated orally in public should speak to the heart and not to the brain, and their lessons should be implemented.

16. Partial Success. It’s a mistake to think that everything must be done all at once and if not, one despairs. Take, for example, a person who desecrates Shabbos. I don’t want to use that word, because this individual doesn’t know the meaning of Shabbos; his father never taught him; and he lives in a certain environment. The same applies to kashrus, and who knows what the situation is in other domestic areas. However, as much as one can accomplish, even if it is only half of what is needed, is good.

17. Don’t Oversleep. [After benschen, the Rebbe said:] May G‑d grant that chassidim won’t oversleep and miss their opportunities! To oversleep means to let the days pass by with trivialities.

During these days of Chai Elul15 one can accomplish a great deal in the direction pointed out by the Alter Rebbe and his successors, the Rebbeim – but for that a special blessing is needed.

Let us be hopeful.