1. (The Rebbe’s opening words were as follows:) The foremost quality of chassidim was that they had an ear that hears.

There once lived a person called R. Yitzchak of Yanovitch whose son was R. Shmaryahu of Zhukav, a little village near Dobromisl. R. Shmaryahu’s grandfather, R. Chayim Shimon, at that time in his late sixties, heard that in Vitebsk there lived a young man of sixteen whose erudition and piety were revered by all the geonim. His desire was to know the truth, and whatever was not the truth, he rejected. After visiting the young man in Vitebsk and being overawed by him, he returned home and then traveled to Dobromisl, where he told his grandson that the truth was there, in Vitebsk. Nevertheless, since the young man in Vitebsk was still so very young, R. Chayim Shimon forbade his grandson to visit him for the next ten years.

The ten years duly passed, the grandson became a chassid of the Alter Rebbe, and with G‑d’s help his business ventures in Petersburg prospered. He was in that city when the Alter Rebbe was imprisoned there [in 1798], and was in a position to help him in many ways. Thanks to a blessing of the Alter Rebbe he lived to a ripe old age, and when the Mitteler Rebbe traveled to Carlsbad in 5575 (1815) to meet the gaon, R. Akiva Eger, R. Shmaryahu accompanied him.

It was concerning this R. Shmaryahu that the Tzemach Tzedek said, “A teaching cited by him is reliable, because it has been handed down in a known line of tradition.” To this the Tzemach Tzedek added: “The distinctive quality of chassidim is that they have an ear that hears.”

“An ear that hears” means that a teaching that one hears must also be sensed.1 This recalls the phrase,2 “The ear discerns words” – to the point that even one’s heel hears. There is a hint of this in the words,3 vehayah eikev tishme’un. [The plain meaning of that phrase is, “It shall be, that if you listen (to these laws)…” However, eikev shares the same Heb. letters (עקב) as akev (“heel”).] Hence the familiar non-literal interpretation: You shall listen until even your heel becomes sensitive to ruchniyus. You shall listen until not only your head understands, and until even your heart feels, and until perhaps it will lead to practical action, but until even your heel becomes sensitive to ruchniyus. That is the meaning of the above quality – “an ear that hears.”

It days gone by, it didn’t matter to chassidim whether they heard an avodah-teaching from their Rebbe or from chassidim. In those days, there was no partition separating Rebbe and chassidim, but only a demarcation, as with the curtain in the Mishkan: “The paroches shall make a distinction for you between the holy place, and the Holy of Holies.”4 What they sought [for their avodah] was vitality, so when they heard a pregnant teaching5 from a chassid, they studied it.

2. (The Rebbe asked that a niggun be sung, and after it he said:) One should sing the kind of niggun that has some content. No matter whether it is cheerful or remorseful, so long as it has some content. If not, it’s a mere jig. How can one tell whether a particular niggun has content? If one’s davenen issues forth spontaneously6 when accompanied by that niggun, one can be certain that it has content. Sometimes, too, if a person is investing effort in ridding himself of an undesirable behavior, singing a niggun at that time helps. Regardless of whether the flow of one’s davenen varies according to the flow of the niggun, or the flow of the niggun varies according to the flow of one’s davenen, what matters isthat the niggun should have content.It should heighten one’s understanding or arouse a spiritual emotion. One should therefore sing vintage niggunim – or even new ones, provided they have some content. (With that, the Rebbe asked those present to sing “The Beinoni.”)7

3. The Tzemach Tzedek heard a remark of the Alter Rebbe during his imprisonment:8 “I’m not afraid for myself. Whether I’m on this side of the path or the other side” – that is, whether I’ll be in This World or in the World to Come – “I’ll be fine. I’m afraid for the chassidim, that 25 years of toil shouldn’t be lost. I’m afraid that chassidim shouldn’t go and do something9 – not (G‑d forbid) something that is against the laws of the Torah, but beyond that, something that is not in the spirit of Chassidus. I’m afraid lest the inborn intensity of chassidim will find expression in undesired directions.”

4. It’s hard to hear how people use the excuse of the change in place and time. That is absolute falsehood. At all times chassidim can live as they ought to live, because in fact they have this power as a heritage; it only needs to be uncovered. The same applies to musical sensitivity, which is also hereditary. The Tzemach Tzedek’s son-in-law, R. Levi Yitzchak, used to sing beautifully, and his musical talent was remarkable. One day, in Petersburg, his brother-in-law the Rebbe Maharash entered his room and found him almost in a state of faint. When he roused him and asked what had caused this, R. Levi Yitzchak explained that the music that he had heard from the violin being played by the non-Jew in the adjoining room was so sweet that it absolutely touched his soul. This musical sensitivity he had inherited from his great-grandfather, R. Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev.

However, as everyone knows, inheritances too can be lost. Just as we see that many heirs lose their inherited fortunes, so too spiritual fortunes can remain latent and untapped, and need to be revealed. Every one of Anash is capable of revealing our inherited potentials. This applies especially now, for the time has already come when soon “the glory of G‑d will be revealed, and all flesh together will see [that the Mouth of G‑d has spoken].”10 We should therefore make every effort not to lose time.

5. Chassidim like to say that three things are described as sheni (“the second”), namely: [a] nefesh hasheni,11 [b] cheder sheni,12 and [c] Pesach Sheni.13

[a] The “second soul” of which the Alter Rebbe spoke is the Word of G‑d that he revealed.

In general, if someone claims that he has innovated insights14 in the Torah, that is a lie. A Torah scholar who claims that he innovates is not a Torah scholar. His statement is falsehood, bordering on a lack of faith because, as is widely known, “whatever a veteran scholar is ever going to innovate… was spoken to Moshe at Sinai.”15 It is likewise written that “my soul has said: My portion, G‑d.”16 That scholar has merely revealed, not innovated – as with the [Talmudic] discussions of laws that were forgotten, and later, as a result of scholarly toil, they were revealed. The claim that someone has made actual innovations is simply not true. If someone comes up with an invalid argument, the scholarly convention is to dismiss it euphemistically as “not belonging here,” whereas in truth if it does not belong here, then it is falsehood. The would-be innovator likewise is merely uncovering something that was previously hidden.

Likewise, the Alter Rebbe revealed the Word of G‑d [in the Torah] that speaks of the second soul, the Divine soul.

[b] The cheder sheni:Every chassidisher shul used to be built with a little adjoining “second room,” known as a chabadnitze.17 Now, for whom was it intended? For the rabbis? – Beneath their dignity! For the shochtim? – They have no time! It’s made for the ordinary chassidisher householder who knew that he ought to drop into the local chabadnitze [for some measured meditation on Chassidus as he davens].

[c] Pesach Sheni: Its message is that there’s no such thing as “too late.” One can always rectify things. That includes someone who was ritually impure, or on a remote road – even if that handicap was voluntary, for the word lachem (“on a remote road of yours”) indicates even a remote road “of your choosing.”

[In conclusion, let us now link the three things that are described as sheni (“the second”), as follows:] If one activates his “second soul” and enters the “second room” [in order to accompany his davenen by meditation on Chassidus], he then experiences a personal “Second Pesach.” At that time everything in his spiritual life is rectified, [just as the historical Pesach Sheni enabled a person to make good a missed opportunity].

6. Chassidim have a fine sense of smell. They have always been wary of slanderous talk,18 so that if they heard someone saying something that ought not to have been said, they would turn their nose aside, as if to say, Ugh!

7. The Tzemach Tzedek quoted a statement of the Alter Rebbe concerning his “grandfather,” the Baal Shem Tov:19 “His accomplishment was – to reveal what a Jew is. After all the teachings and mystical secrets that his disciples heard from him, teachings that even the sublime emanated beings called ne’etzalim and the partzufim would wish to hear, the main point that the Baal Shem Tov revealed was – what defines a Jew. If a Jew only realized what an infinitely lofty standing he has On High, then his entire intellectual and spiritual life,20 and the way his soul expresses itself in thought and speech and action, would operate on a different plane. As far as the blessings of children, health and livelihood are concerned, they would be provided anyway, spontaneously; all one needs [to become] is a vessel for those blessings. The benevolent influence would come anyway, spontaneously – but that Jew himself would be unrecognizably upgraded.

8. In Liozna there lived a poverty-stricken sufferer who was known as “Chayim-Who-Can.” His wife was a shrew who made his life a misery, yet his heart was always smiling. Whatever challenges confronted him he would say, “I can!” He once heard the Alter Rebbe expounding the teaching of the Sages,21 that [before a Jew is born], an oath is administered to him: “Be a tzaddik!” [Now, the root (שבע) of the verb מַשְׁבִּיעִים (“an oath is administered”) is virtually identical to the root (שבע) of the verb מַשְׂבִּיעִים (“one causes him to be sated”). Hence, the Alter Rebbe taught that] every soul is invested (“sated”) with the capability to cope. Whatever obstacle blocks its way, it can cope. Even when the Evil Inclination challenged the above sufferer by saying, “In your predicament, can you possibly cope?!” – he would answer: “I can! I can cope with anything!” And that is why he was known as “Chayim-Who-Can.”

In fact, every individual can say the same, even the ordinary fellow who is so far from scholarship that he doesn’t know what the words in the Holy Tongue mean. All he knows is how to mouth the letters that make up, for example, the opening words of Tehillim: Ashrei ha’ish asher – “Fortunate is the man who [has not followed the counsel of the wicked].” He, too, can say, “I can!” – by virtue of the revealed potentials22 of his soul, and even more, by virtue of the total composition of his soul – because within every individual there also abide all the latent potentials.23 Thus we see that a plain and unlettered person, too, can have a son who is a tzaddik and a scholar, because by virtue of the essence of the soul, every single individual possesses all the potentials and sensibilities – except that they are latent and can be revealed through the self-refining labor of avodah. It follows that every Jew can do everything; he only has to want to act.

May G‑d grant that things should in fact be good, both materially and spiritually – that the Redemption should arrive, though without suffering. We are waiting for each other: we are waiting for Him, but He is waiting for us. At any rate, we must want the Redemption to happen. So let it finally come down to us in actuality!

(At this point the Rebbe delivered the maamar that begins, VeYadaata HaYom. He then added:)

For the last 175 years we are being taught24 how to divest ourselves of our “garments” and how to clothe ourselves in our “garments.”25 And may G‑d soon grant the entire Jewish people – and us, too – a plentiful flow of all good things, both material and spiritual, with the coming of the Righteous Redeemer, speedily, and in our lifetime, Amen!