1. Our mentor the Baal Shem Tov was a guide and a leader for the entire People of the G‑d of Israel, in all matters of public concern and likewise in the most particular details that related in some way to the Jewish people. That statement is true of matters connected to the Torah and to Divine service, to the refinement of character and to customs. This applied to all parties, from the most prominent scholars in nigleh (the revealed levels of the Torah), in chakirah (philosophical speculation), and in derush (textual interpretation), to unlettered men and women, boys and girls, rich or poor, regardless of whether they lived in big cities or in townships, villages or tiny settlements, lone flour mills or roadside taverns.

The Baal Shem Tov used to arouse the compassion of the G‑d of Israel for His holy people, interceding on their behalf like a defense attorney, so that He should grant every man and woman abundant blessings for success in matters relating to children, health and an ample livelihood.

2. Prominent among the things I heard from my saintly grandmother, Rebbitzin Rivkah, were those that she had heard on various occasions from her father-in-law, the Tzemach Tzedek. They were recorded in my Diary in the course of over forty years.

The guidance that my father gave me in my childhood years was expressed in narratives with detailed explanations, and of those narratives my imagination created vivid mental pictures. Those live images, which were engraved in my memory, are described in my talks and in my written accounts of those talks.

3. The Baal Shem Tov implanted in his disciples three kinds of love – the love of G‑d, the love of Torah, and the love of a fellow Jew. Almost all of them, to be sure, dedicated themselves to his teaching with all their hearts. However, their love of a fellow Jew was directed only towards regular Torah scholars, including those who did not study its mystical and Kabbalistic dimension. Unlettered folk were kept at a distance, as was common among Torah leaders at that time.

4. The Baal Shem Tov revealed a crucial component in the mitzvah of ahavas Yisrael – that its observance should resemble one’s observance of the other two loves. One loves G‑d because of His Atzmus, His Essence, because of Who He essentially is, utterly beyond our comprehension. Likewise, one loves the Torah not because we understand what it has to say, but because it is G‑d’s Torah. And in the same way, the Baal Shem Tov taught, we are obligated to love a fellow Jew not because of his particular attainments of seichel or middos, his attainments of intellect or character, but simply because he is a Jew.

5. His disciples were utterly devoted to their mentor’s guidance. For them, every move of his was a directive in the relevant field of Torah study, or davenen, or practical conduct.

6. The Baal Shem Tov endowed his disciples with a deep-seated zest in their study of Torah and their observance of mitzvos. Thus, whatever they did was done with inner feeling, whether or not they were truly at the level under discussion. The lack of truth that he taught them to beware of is exemplified in the well-known story of how he once showed them an ox wearing a shtreiml – and eating “in honor of Shabbos…”

7. On the first night of Pesach, the custom of the respective Rebbeim was to make a point of eating the Afikoman before midnight, and completing the reading of the Haggadah an hour-and-a-half later. My father would begin the Second Seder at 9:30 PM. He read the Haggadah at a leisurely pace with the traditional singsong, expounded it at great length, and spoke on a variety of subjects. [Two examples of his expositions on phrases from the Haggadah follow.]

8. How many favors has G‑d granted us! Apart from the Divine Names which may not be erased,1 there are other names – descriptive epithets which do not enjoy that degree of sanctity, but which nevertheless are counted as holy Names. For example: Shechinah (“the Divine Presence”), Makom (lit, “place,” alluding to G‑d’s omnipresence), and the Yiddish phrases for “the Creator” and for “Him Who lives eternally.” The distinction between these two groups does not lie in a difference in the degree to which we understand them, for just as we have no grasp of the seven Divine Names, so too do we have no grasp of the descriptive epithets. The distinction lies in the fact that the latter names are closer to being grasped by the senses.2

The chassidic understanding-feeling3 is the experience of the time when G‑d brought us out of the dank atmosphere of Egypt to the pure air of Eretz Yisrael. In chassidishe terms, the brightness of a person’s chassidisher preparation for davenen enables him to recognize his own undesirable middos, which surface in his attraction to the material aspect of the dimension of space. This is the mystical meaning of the above-quoted phrase, “How many favors has G‑d (Makom) granted us!” The term Makom alludes to the light of G‑d which grants “many favors,” in that He chose to be present in finite space, makom – specifically, in the Beis HaMikdash. It is also called Beis HaBechirah, the House of G‑d’s Choice, on account of His choice of the Jewish people. That choice was a free choice between options. And when we came out of Egypt and arrived at the House of G‑d’s Choice, His choice of us became truly lasting.

9. Next year in Jerusalem! Every mitzvah comprises the stages of thought, speech and action. The stage of thought is the intention one has in mind when performing the mitzvah. The stage of speech is the study of the Torah’s directives as to the performance of the mitzvah. The stage of action is the actual performance, which must match the Torah’s directives, for the Torah reveals the Divine Will that underlies the mitzvos.

The mitzvos generally parallel the mitzvos as performed Above. For example, the Holy One, blessed be He, puts on tefillin,4 which Above signifies drawing down Mochin into Z’eir Anpin. Similar principles apply to every mitzvah. By the practical performance of a mitzvah down here below, one draws down its Supernal essential light5 and invests it in the mitzvah.

This, then, is our trusting request – that after we have been through the stages of thought and speech with regard to the Exodus from Egypt,6 the action will actually take place: “Next year in Jerusalem!”

10. When my father ate the Afikoman, both on the first night, when it was eaten specifically before midnight, and on the second night, when it was eaten after midnight, it was a spiritual eating. One could plainly observe how a Jew7 stood higher than any physical sensation. To express that observation more deeply and more richly: All those who watched his luminous, holy face sensed that here was someone who was occupied with sensing the G‑dliness that was present in that eating.

As my father said the Grace after Meals and filled the goblet for Eliyahu, spirituality was palpable. One’s heart was aroused by the heartfelt request in his voice as he said, “Pour out Your wrath on the nations that do not know You” – that do not want to know You. Tears sprang from one’s heart as he said, “For they have devoured Yaakov, and have destroyed His dwelling.”8 But immediately after that we heard his cry from the heart, “Next year in Jerusalem!”