1. Our mentor the Baal Shem Tov, our Rebbe the Maggid of Mezritch, our first father the Alter Rebbe, and so too all of our revered Rebbes, carefully watched how the rabbis of the various towns performed their duties. With the approach of Pesach, they would urge the rabbis to closely monitor the preparations being made by the men and women in their communities – with regard to kashering used kitchen utensils in boiling water,1 immersing new ones in a mikveh,2 preparing the water to be used the next day for matzos,3 baking the matzos, and so on.

2. The Alter Rebbe’s father, the gaon R. Baruch, was highly regarded by the disciples of the Baal Shem Tov and of the Maggid of Mezritch. He was often visited in his township by many rabbanim and other chassidim who came to hear his discussion of Torah subjects and of the avodah of Chassidus.

One of them was R. Meir Aizik of Horka, a famed scholar who followed the paths of Chassidus. When his host’s son, the Alter Rebbe, was ten years old, R. Meir Aizik would also engage him in discussion of the most complex Talmudic subjects, and was amazed by the depth and orderliness of his knowledge.

R. Baruch vigilantly observed the directive of the Baal Shem Tov that his son should know nothing about him, so when R. Meir Aizik began to tell the boy about the Baal Shem Tov, R. Baruch asked him to refrain from doing so.

When Rosh Chodesh Nissan arrived, R. Baruch told his visitor that he should return home, and not rely on the rav who was substituting for him in his absence. And indeed, when he returned home, he found the town in turmoil. It transpired that the substitute rav had made a mistaken halachic ruling, and because R. Meir Aizik arrived just in time, he saved the townsmen from an unwitting transgression.

3. The Alter Rebbe had a chassid by the name of R. Yitzchak the Doctor, who used to make powdered remedies by pounding the shemurah-matzah that the Alter Rebbe sent him. With these prescriptions he cured patients, to whom he said that this shemurah-matzah that the Alter Rebbe sent him was not only “the food that fortifies faith”4 but also “the food that cures”5 all kinds of ailments.

4. On Seder night we are obligated tosay the blessing that includes the words, “[Who sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us] concerning the eating of the bitter herb.” The obligation is not [merely] to swallow it, but to eat it: one discharges the obligation only by chewing it.6

5. The avodah of davenen is a cornerstone of the avodah of chassidim. Those who engage in it know that matzah and maror – which in the language of avodah are code words for hisbonenus (“meditation”) and merirus (“remorse”) – play a key role in the spiritual lifestyle of chassidim. As the elder chassidim over the various generations relayed this principle, the whole aim of haskalah (“mastering the abstract teachings of Chassidus”) is to come to the realization that the main measure of whether or not one has attained blessing and success is – whether or not one’s theoretical studies have impacted one’s middos. And the true perfection of one’s middos is seen both in what is good in the eyes of Heaven and what is good in the eyes of mortals.

6. Moshe Rabbeinu is the very personification of Chochmah of the World of Atzilus vested down here in a physical body – yet after the sin of the Golden Calf, he arouses Divine mercy for the Jewish people by praising them for being stiff-necked!

Jews are described by the epithet eisan (אֵיתָן), which has three meanings – strong, unbending, and old – all of which are essential in the service of G‑d. A Jew needs to have all three qualities. They enable him to remain unfazed by the opinions of others, which don’t weaken his devotion to the Torah and its mitzvos.

7. All Jewish men and women, regardless of location or social class, have the power to sacrifice themselves in Sanctification of the Divine Name. This is what is meant by unbending – not being overwhelmed by anyone.

8. All Jews know that the Torah is unchangingly eternal in all places and at all times, and that Jews are likewise eternal. One ought to realize that everywhere and always, in whatever country one finds himself, this situation is ordained by Divine Providence, and one has to accomplish something there. Whoever draws distinctions between one country and another, and seeks out compromises and [debatably] permissive rulings,7 certainly “has a little worm burrowing inside.”8

9. Every individual should know, and should explain to others, that the soul’s descent into the body is no petty incident. One should make every effort to accomplish something tangible – in one’s service of G‑d, in Torah study, and in the performance of mitzvos.

10. It is the duty of every Torah scholar to endeavor to generate change in the people surrounding him. Insulating oneself against the influence of the environment does not suffice: one must be proactive, being especially vigilant with regard to compromises and permissive rulings.Chassidim in general, and particularly chassidishe Torah scholars, and most of all temimim,9 should make headway in their avodas HaShem.

11. [In the sustained metaphor of Shir HaShirim,10 the Bridegroom, G‑d, says to His bride, the Jewish people:] “Your temple is like the rind of a pomegranate.” On this simile the Sages teach:“Even those among you who are [seemingly] empty11 are as full of mitzvos as a pomegranate [is filled with seeds].”12

The makkif, the transcendent light, of the essence of the soul, which “cleaves and clings”13 to Atzilus above, descends and penetrates the very I of every Jew.

12. Only a chassid who engages in the avodah of tefillah can have a real sense of loving G‑d and of standing in awe of Him.

13. Forty or fifty years ago, children who were taught by chassidishe melamdim had a warm feeling for yiras Shamayim, for standing in awe of Heaven, and they respected the sound of a chapter of Tehillim that welled from someone’s heart.

14. Ah, my dear temimim! My heart is homesick for the little Jewish shtetl, for the artless and unlettered Jews, for the innocent voice of the wagon-drivers and butchers as they cried out Amen, yehei Shmei rabba and Echad, and for the typical and lovable craftsman and market stall-keeper.