1. Today marks thirty-six years1 since the tradition began in Lubavitch to make the seudah of the Last Day of Pesach a public farbrengen, in particular for the temimim.2

2. My father founded the Tomchei Temimim Yeshivah on Sunday, the fifteenth of Elul, 5657 (1897),3 at the seudah celebrating my marriage with my wife, Rebbitzin Nechamah Dinah.

3. In the course of the meal my father personally visited the various tables, accompanied by three chassidim R. Meir Mordechai Tchernin, R. Yaakov Koppel Zeligson and R. Shlomo Chayim the Shochet – to ensure that the waiters had served everyone. He said LeChayim with all his guests and offered pleasant blessings to each of them according to what he needed.

My father had an announcement made that on Wednesday, Chai Elul, he would publicly inform the community of a mission that he was obligated to relay to the chassidim in the name of our predecessors, the holy Rebbes. That mission would affect chassidim in particular and Jews in general, over the coming generations.

This announcement created a great stir, and people counted the hours until they would hear more.

At that time, an informer (who shall remain unnamed) reported me to the authorities, so on Wednesday morning I had to appear at the draft office in Orsha, in the Mohilev province. Later that day I returned to Lubavitch, accompanied by R. Meir Mordechai Tchernin, and at two o’clock there was a farbrengen of Sheva Berachos.

4. My father, in a happy and elated frame of mind, said there:

Jews all around the world know that on the fourth day [of Creation], the luminaries were suspended [in the heavens].4 On Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, there was also night and day, but the luminaries were suspended on Wednesday. Today, Chai Elul, is the luminous day on which the Alter Rebbe and the Baal Shem Tov were born. And today, on this holy day, by order of our predecessors, the Rebbes, and with their blessing, I am founding a yeshivah from which will proceed students who will manifest self-sacrifice for the Torah, and for avodah in the spirit of Chabad Chassidus.

5. To this very day, [the beginning of] the thirty-sixth year after that Last Day of Pesach in Lubavitch, I see in my mind’s eye the entire picture of that occasion. At that time, in the large study hall of the Yeshivah, my father honored us all by holding that festive seudah together with the students, the rashei yeshivah, the teachers and the administrators.

6. On the First Night of Pesach, when my father left the shul (“the little hall”), he briefly visited the big study hall of the Yeshivah to see how it had been arranged for the temimim. At that time he gladdened us all with the good news that he would join the students and participate in the Baal Shem Tov’s seudah in the big study hall on the Last Day of Pesach, together with his brothers (my uncles, the Raza and R. Menachem Mendel5 ) and his brother-in-law (my uncle and mechutan) R. Moshe [Hornstein],6 and the visiting chassidim.

After Minchah at two o’clock on Tuesday, the Last Day of Pesach, my father and my uncle and the invited guests came to the seudah. There are no doubt chassidim and students here who were privileged to be among those present, who saw and heard the events of that day. A kind Providence gave me the idea to record the events of those days, together with the teachings that were then delivered, in my diary.

7. Let me now share with you one brief teaching from the sichah that my father delivered after the maamar that began with the words, Malka u’malkesa havu yasvei.7 At that time my father said:

“The work has (thank G‑d) borne fruit. For years on end I was worried and pained by the frozen and parched spiritual state of the chassidim. My heart bled, and whenever I visited the resting places of our holy forebears, I poured out my embittered heart over the state of chassidim and of Chassidus.

“In the summer of 5656 (1896) I visited the holy resting places of the Baal Shem Tov, the Maggid of Mezritch, the Alter Rebbe and the Mitteler Rebbe, and when I returned to Lubavitch I visited the resting places of my grandfather [the Tzemach Tzedek] and of my father [the Rebbe Maharash]. With their blessing I planned the establishment of a yeshivah that would nurture chassidishe bachurim of refined character who would be devoted, to the point of mesirus nefesh, to the spiritual path of Chassidus. I felt assured by the blessing of all the above-named that the yeshivah would succeed, and that the radiance of Torah and avodah would light up Jews at large and chassidim in particular.”

Thus it was that Chai Elul, 5657 (1897), was the sunrise of the Tomchei Temimim Yeshivah in Lubavitch, the town of our holy Rebbeim.

7a.8 Thirty-six years have passed since the farbrengen at the seudah of the Last Day of Pesach. In the course of that time, thanks to the help of G‑d and the merit of our holy predecessors, the Yeshivah has raised many students who engage in avodah with self-sacrifice. They have lit up, and they continue to light up, every country with the light of the Torah and avodah. My father’s blessings have (thank G‑d!) been fulfilled: everywhere, the temimim are the pillars of the light of Torah and avodah. Even in this cold and frozen America, the temimim have erected a beacon that diffuses the bright light of the spiritual lifestyle of Chassidus.

7b.9 During my first visit here,10 my heart rejoiced at the sight of what the branches of Agudas Chassidei Chabad in American and Canadian towns had created, together with the temimim, with their fiery chassidisher tempo. At that time, the elder alumni of the Tomchei Temimim Yeshivah and I saw the self-sacrificing devotion to detail with which over the years my father had built that sanctuary of Torah and avodah.

7c.11 About ten years after its foundation, on Yud-Tes Kislev, 5667 (1906), my father said: “Our holy forefathers have fulfilled their promise to arouse the mercies of G‑d – that He should grant us success in producing students who will stand firm, on feet as strong as iron.”

My Diary of that time records in detail my father’s talks on the eve and day of Yud-Tes Kislev in Wurzburg, Bavaria. In the course of one of them he said: “The current turmoil in Russia12 will have far-reaching results. Within a very short time there will be a destruction of Torah and mitzvos. And it will be the self-sacrificing students of Tomchei Temimim who will proceed resolutely, and step by step will disseminate Torah study and the awe of Heaven.”

In the meantime, those students have (thank G‑d) raised families, and by Divine Providence, the lottery of life has brought some of them to various locations in Russia and in other countries, too, including America. And wherever they have arrived and are still arriving, the spirit of holiness that they absorbed in the Yeshivah in Lubavitch has remained a solid foundation in their own spiritual lives and in the spiritual lives of their families. Thus, when I came here in Elul, 5689 (1929), I encountered alumni and other Chabad chassidim who accomplished a great deal since their arrival here. With untiring self-sacrifice, they…13

During the twelve months I spent in America, which ended on Wednesday, 27 Tammuz, 5690 (1930) – I had left Europe [for Eretz Yisrael] on Tuesday, 22 Tammuz, 5689 (1929) – I visited various cities and towns and was amazed by the firmly-established

chassidishe conduct of alumni of the Yeshivah. It was then that I fully appreciated what a lighthouse my father had built.

8. The Chabad-chassidisher education had clearly included all social strata, regardless of wealth or worldly education. Its firm foundation left its impression even on the families that had been blessed with wealth.

Similarly: In Orsha there lived an individual called R. Shlomo Poliakov. Immediately after his wedding, his father-in-law bought him a food store so that he could support himself. And since he was the son and the son-in-law of chassidim of the Tzemach Tzedek, he paid the traditional visit to the Rebbe in Lubavitch.

Now, this R. Shlomo was utterly devoted to the task of ransoming little Jewish boys from “the snatchers” who used to kidnap them and hand them over as recruits to the czarist army. Hundreds of them used to be led off to remote corners of Russia. There they were baptized, and trained for conscription for many long years of military service. The Mitteler Rebbe and then the Tzemach Tzedek blessed him with wealth, and with children who would also prosper. And indeed, all three sons – Shmuel, Yaakov and Eliezer – became outstanding magnates. In addition, their lives showed evidence of their regular chassidisher education.

9. In the year 5659 (1899), while in Moscow on a matter of public concern, I visited R. Eliezer Poliakov, who told me that his best-loved memories were those of his childhood – his melamed R. Pesach Nota, R. Yoel Chayim the rosh yeshivah, R. Meir Nosson the shochet of Orsha, and Zalman Shmuel the shammes – or, as he was commonly called, “the cheerful beggar.”

R. Eliezer added: “In our brother Shmuel’s best and happiest and most successful years, he experienced deeply-felt pleasure as he related how our father took him to Lubavitch to see the Tzemach Tzedek. At that time the Tzemach Tzedek told him: ‘My son-in-law, R. Levi Yitzchak, told me that he wants to send you to Petersburg concerning the concession for building the highway that the government is planning. So I’m asking you to endeavor that the part between Vitebsk and Orsha should not pass through Lubavitch. The Torah desires prayer14 – and a highway full of carriages will cause distraction.’ The Rebbe then gave his blessing that he and his children and grandchildren should become exceedingly prosperous.”

R. Eliezer continued: “The Tzemach Tzedek’s blessing materialized. Shmuel’s prosperity and our prosperity grew from day to day. Even when he became a prominent figure in the financial world, he enjoyed speaking of the Tzemach Tzedek and repeating things that we had heard from our father and from his fellow chassidim.”

10. In Europe in general and in Poland in particular, [people who lived by] the Torah and the awe of Heaven were respected by Jews of all kinds. The same was true of the first emigrants who settled in America: they underwent self-sacrifice to preserve the observance of Yiddishkeit. Their children and grandchildren, however, became Americans: business stands supreme, and they were swallowed up in the pursuit of “making a living.”

The Diary of my first stay in America records visits to various towns, where I saw “light and darkness co-existing in confusion.”15 Precious Jews from the Old Country were becoming submerged – without wanting to do so – in the permissive rulings that grew out of American custom. They started becoming modernized – removing their beards, decorating their homes and themselves, and following the local norm of enrolling their children in vocational schools. At my public appearances, I spoke explicitly about the light and darkness in Jewish life at that time, and aroused public opinion concerning the dangers of the spiritual decline. It is true that American Jews excel in charity and good deeds – but that isn’t everything. One also needs to observe the Torah and its mitzvos.

11. When I was a child, R. Aharon Dokshytzer told me something that he had heard from his great-uncle, R. Yerucham the Elder, who had heard it from hoary chassidim of long ago. This is what he said:

When the Alter Rebbe came home from Mezritch, he said that the three characteristics of Jews – that they are “compassionate, bashful, and kindly”16 – all relate to the soul. Jews feel compassion for the soul that has been dispatched down to This World. They stand abashed17 before that Divine soul, which is “a part of G‑d Above.”18 And they relate in a kindly manner to their bodies, whose spiritual source is Sovev, the level of Divinity that transcends all the worlds.

It was gratifying to see that in the merit of my holy forebears, my words made a certain impact, particularly on Anash, and chassidishe life began to revive.

12. There’s a very old avodah-expression that circulates among Chabad chassidim, namely: “It’s hard to speak, but it’s bitterly hard to remain silent.”

I’m quoting that sentence with regard to the following. Chabad chassidim in America feel that considering local conditions, they have accomplished a great deal, especially in the ten or eleven years since my first visit here. However, that is not enough. America must become suffused with Torah and Chassidus. There’s no shadow of a doubt that in the merit of our holy predecessors, the Rebbes, we will succeed, and very soon see the fine fruits of our efforts – but that calls for self-sacrificing labor.

13. It is absolutely obligatory for Torah scholars in general, and yeshivah students in particular, to organize groups of young people and to speak with them about the observance of the practical mitzvos, such as the observance of family purity by immersion in a kosher mikveh, eating kosher food only, and providing kosher education.

Torah scholars must make American Jews realize that first and foremost they are born Jews; innately, they are Jews. Only thereafter are they Americans – that is, merely American residents.

14. One of the positive qualities of Jews here is that they are proud of their roots in the Old Country.19 Parents speak of this pride with their American-born children, who in turn pass it on to their children. The old home from way back – with its rabbanim, shochtim, melamdim, chazzanim, and ordinary shul-goers – is the proudest pedigree of the finest Jews here. The busiest and most overworked businessman proudly traces his lineage to his great-grandfather and his great-great-grandfather in the Old Country. That fact alone has inestimable value.

This inborn Jewish attribute, of pride in one’s lineage and respect for those who observe the Torah and the mitzvos, is a truly wholesome element in every Jew. Through it, one can (with G‑d’s help) influence – to a greater or lesser degree – every Jewish young man and young woman20 to observe mitzvos. The fact is that Jewish life here has been considerably upgraded since my first visit here. It is thus certain that if people will devote themselves to arousing others to buttress the practice of Yiddishkeit and to provide kosher education, there will be great success.

15. Once, at a gathering on a subject that affected the Jewish public, my father clearly expressed his firm and decisive conviction, which opposed a certain ideological movement. In his words: “Our approach must be strong and resolute – not to become involved in arguments and explanations, but simply to say a firm No!”

That is the true and straight approach, which will ultimately succeed. It is a bitter medicine, but a sure one.

* * *

16. The Gemara describes a certain sequence as “resembling the Creation of the world first there was darkness and then there was light.”21 This sequence, which appears in the Torah, is the sequence that should be followed in the conduct of a chassidisher farbrengen. One should first speak of the behaviors that are not appropriate and explain the remedies available, locating the trouble-spots and healing them. That done, one should then speak of the positive avodah that ought to be undertaken.

By way of example: R. Aizik Homiler once recalled that when he was still a very young man, he cherished the chassidim who sought out sources of money that they would send to the Rebbe for the ransom of captives and for the support of the chassidim who had settled in Eretz Yisrael.22

R. Aizik, who was widely gifted, had a flair for enlivening the atmosphere at public celebrations by composing ad hoc musical rhymes. He would then deposit the proceeds in the chassidic charity pool, from which they would be forwarded to the Alter Rebbe. At one such wedding, the parents of the young couple were R. Moshe, a chassid of the Alter Rebbe, and R. Meir Nosson of Slutzk,23 who on his arrival boasted of his great scholarship and great wealth. Since Pesach was already in the air, R. Aizik enriched his rhymes with explanations of what the terms chametz and matzah mean in the lexicon of Chabad Chassidus, in relation to refining the middos of one’s character.24 His words impacted R. Meir Nosson so profoundly that he soon set out to visit the Alter Rebbe in Liadi. And by the time the Mitteler Rebbe settled in Lubavitch, R. Meir Nosson was one of his foremost chassidim.

17. The Mitteler Rebbe once said to R. Aizik: “As a chassid of my father, you should learn the meaning of bittul atzmi25 – that is, a chassidisher sigh over what is lacking in one’s avodah. That sigh one can learn from a chassid called R. Yisrael Yitzchak of Dribin, who was first in Mezritch and later studied under the Alter Rebbe in Liozna.”

18. At the Purim seudah in Vienna in 5663 (1903), my father said: “I’m going to share with you a profound and basic chassidisher expression that was born of hard-earned avodah. This is the expression: ‘A chassidisher maskil understands; a chassidisher oved experiences.’ ”26

My father also related that his father, the Rebbe Maharash, once said in the name of the Alter Rebbe: Daas Elyon is reflected in Daas Tachton.” My father then explained this statement at length.

19. The elder chassid R. Eliyahu Yosef of Dribinonce told a group of chassidim that the earliest chassidim of the Alter Rebbe were bound to him to the point of self-sacrifice. They were prepared to go through fire and water in order to further the spiritual lifestyle of Chassidus, as the Alter Rebbe had directed them to do.

20. My grandfather, the Tzemach Tzedek, once said: “My uncle and father-in-law, the [Mitteler] Rebbe, couldn’t tell one coin from another.He used to say that the materiality of coins is unrefined matter. Before it is used for tzedakah or for other holy purposes, it is gross matter that is likely to entice a person to believe that “my might and the power of my hand [have made me all this prosperity],”27 and it leads to pride and conceit.

21. A dispute broke out in Vitebsk in 5569 (1809), between the rabbanim of the community and its lay leaders. Since they were unable to agree regarding halachic rulings and municipal regulations, the rabbanim asked the Alter Rebbe to settle matters according to his understanding. The Alter Rebbe agreed, and took with him his learned brother, R. Moshe, as well as his longstanding disciple, R. Pinchas [Reizes], and his beloved grandson, the Tzemach Tzedek, whom he described as “a young man in life, and an old man in his mastery of the Torah.”

On his arrival in Vitebsk, the Alter Rebbe delivered an erudite address on a subject in the revealed plane of the Torah, in the large […28 ] beis midrash. His brother was amazed by its brilliance. The Alter Rebbesaid: “Moshe, what is so remarkable? When I was with the Rebbe29 in Mezritch, he opened up for me a wide window to admit the light of the Torah.”

22. There is a well-known niggun30 whose Russian words begin, Nyeh zhuritzeh khloptzi… Their message: “Workmates, don’t worry what will come of us. When we reach [the tavern], there’ll be vodka!”

This niggun was sung by the chassidim of the Mitteler Rebbe. It reflects their deep-seated yearning to be in his presence, to hear his teachings of Chassidus, and to pour out their hearts in the avodah of davenen.

In the course of the 125 years during which this niggun has been sung, the avodah of chassidim has attained greater heights. This is seen in my father’s remark on the custom of chassidim during davenen to sing niggunim that express the arousal31 of the soul, and its desire to cleave32 to its Source. He expressed it as a [non-literal] comment on the statement in the Mishnah33 that “all the animals that wear a collar may go out [in the public domain on Shabbos] and are drawn along [by a rope that is attached to the collar].” My father said: “A chassidisher davener has a bridle, meaning that he is self-restricted with regard to material things, even those that are essential, and even more so with regard to things that people think are essential.”

23. In Riga, Latvia, there once lived an elderly scion of a fine chassidisher family. After studying medicine as a young man he became a famous physician, and for various reasons he began to eat treifah food and so on. On Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur he would daven in Berlin.

Once at a chassidisher farbrengen there was talk34 of how people can fool themselves, and the case of this physician was described (obviously without a name). And when a friend of his who was present repeated it to him he was aroused, and became an observer of the Torah and the mitzvos.