1. On the first night of Rosh HaShanah, the Alter Rebbe did not speak. He only repeated teachings of the Baal Shem Tov that he had heard from the Maggid [of Mezritch]. Before the observer stood a man deep in thought, with the dread and awe of G‑d apparent on his face. The Mitteler Rebbe did speak on the first night of Rosh HaShanah, but only about the Sefirah of Malchus in the World of Atzilus. The Tzemach Tzedek used to discuss the subject of earthly kingship,1 and by doing so he would deploy his “subcontractors” in Petersburg.2

The Rebbe Maharash never spoke on the first night of Rosh HaShanah except for once, when he said: “Thinking is effective and speaking is certainly effective, so today, when both are present, he can already perish.” He was referring to a certain anti-Semitic governor, who in fact immediately fell ill.

My revered father never spoke at all on the first night of Rosh HaShanah.

2. A significant part of my Diary is devoted to descriptions of my father’s conduct throughout the year, and especially during the months of Elul and Tishrei.

3. From the time when he was conscious of his thoughts, from when he was a young child, my father was methodical. Whatever he did was done according to a precise order.

4. My grandfather, the Rebbe Maharash, used to say: “My Rashab was never a child. When he was still in his childhood years, he was already a well-ordered Fearer of Heaven. He toiled to regulate his conduct according to the ways of Chassidus, and by the time of his bar-mitzvah he was already a chassid with an orderly regimen of avodah.”3

5. On various occasions I have remarked that my father’s customs provide a solid foundation that can greatly upgrade one’s avodah. From the day that I was orphaned, which was Beis Nissan, 5680 (1920),4 the various times of the year – whether weekdays or Shabbos or Yom-Tov or the Days of Awe – have been painful experiences. I find consolation by reminding myself of how I used to experience each particular time during my father’s lifetime in This World.

6. From my childhood years I remember how he conducted himself during the lengthy avodah of his Maariv on Rosh HaShanah. As he sang, I remember how his heartrending voice expressed the yearning and trusting tone of the Alter Rebbe’s niggun. I remember his holy, tear-stained face, all aflame. I remember the ahavas Yisrael with which he used to express his blessing, “May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year!” And I remember his holy, pensive face during the first twenty-four hours of Rosh HaShanah.

7. Only after the maamar of Chassidus that he used to deliver on the second night of Rosh HaShanah did my father begin to speak. He told me that the first words that one utters after accepting the Yoke of Heaven on Rosh HaShanah should be words of Torah and avodah. That, after all, is the intended goal of Chassidus. As in the folk expression, “Let it be said, but also done” – in the avodah of refining and upgrading one’s middos. When one has done that, he is worthy of being called a chassid who is connected to the light of Chassidus: he is connected to luminous Chassidus.

8. The Raza5 once related that when the Alter Rebbe was incarcerated the first time, the future Czar Nicholas I, who was then a toddler, saw him,6 and flicked his little whip in his direction. When the Alter Rebbe responded with a stern look, he was so terrified that he burst into tears. That look, my father said, played its part in modifying Nicholas’ later decrees imposing apostasy.7

Nicholas was a Jew-hater who thought up ways and means of coercing Jews to baptize (G‑d forbid). An aged Jew once described [to me] the severe torture to which Jewish children were subjected to this end.

9. My father once consulted a certain medical specialist regarding the weakness from which that he had suffered for many years. The physician told him that this was a deep-seated, inner suffering that affected only profoundly dedicated thinkers. In his words, the heart desires more than the head can accommodate, and the head understands more than the heart can grasp.8

10. When my grandfather, the Rebbe Maharash, used to sound the Shofar, each teruah comprised 42 brief staccato blasts, and the tekiah following the shevarim-teruah lasted as long as the shevarim-teruah and the tekiah that preceded them.

The rav of Kremenchug, R. Yitzchak Yoel Rafaelovitch, was once present when a teruah comprising 42 brief blasts was being sounded in the beis midrash of the Rebbe Maharash. Curious as to the explanation for this, he decided to ask the Rebbe at his next yechidus, but did not breathe a word of his intention to anyone. When that moment arrived, the Rebbe said: “Do you really think that ‘alien thoughts’9 means only foolish trivia?! If a person thinks about things that he shouldn’t be thinking about, even in the realm of holiness,10 that, too, is called ‘alien thoughts…’ ”

11. The revered elder chassid, R. Chanoch Hendel,11 once related that on Motzaei Yom Kippur, 5644 (1883), my uncle, the Raza, asked my father why his davening that day was so prolonged.12

My father replied: “Every year, when I used to daven together with our father out of the same Siddur, it was easy, but this year I had to go and look for him – and that takes time.”

12. The Alter Rebbe taught my great-uncle, R. Baruch Shalom,13 the nussach – the musical modes – for the reading of the Kesuvim, and he in turn taught it to [his youngest brother], the Rebbe Maharash. Whenever the Rebbe Maharash finished reading a chapter of Kesuvim, he would clutch his heart for breath, despite his capacious lungs. The Raza would have to pause even in the middle of a verse. My father would derive real pleasure from hearing him reading the Torah or the Megillah. His musical style resembled the tradition that had been handed down from the Alter Rebbe.