1 1. At every opportunity, whenever my father showed me marks of closeness that sprang from deep within, revealing to me the innermost aspects of Chabad Chassidus, he would emphasize that every one of its details plays a specified and fundamental role in that entire structured school of thought.

Likewise, in the course of a sichahin the year 5657 (1897), my father said:

When my father (the Rebbe Maharash) began to teach me Tanya, he told me that when his father (the Tzemach Tzedek) began to teach him Tanya, he said: “My grandfather (the Alter Rebbe) opened his holy work with the word Tanya (תַּנְיָא),which has the same lettersas the word eisan (אֵיתָן). That word means ‘might,’ alluding to the soul’s inbuilt might. This word also appears in the phrase, וְהָאֵתָנִים מֹסְדֵי אָרֶץ – ‘The mighty ones, the foundations of the world.’2 And the word אֵתָנִים has the same letters as תַּנָּאִים – tannaim,3 the Sages of the Mishnah who are the mighty foundations of the world of the Oral Law.’ ”

[The Tzemach Tzedek added:] “The four parts of Tanya4 parallel the four parts of the Shulchan Aruch.”

2. In the summer of 5673 (1913), my father told me: “Chabad Chassidus has a Shulchan Aruch – the code of chassidishe conduct that constitutes the inner soul of the performance of the laws of the Shulchan Aruch.”

After the Compiler’s Foreword, which the Alter Rebbe opens with the words, “To you, worthy men, do I call,” the work begins with the word Tanya (תניא),which has the same lettersas the word eisan (איתן), meaning “might,” and ends by quoting, “For the L‑rd your G‑d is a consuming fire.”5 The 53 chapters of Tanya [which end there] are the Orach Chayim6 of Chabad Chassidus.

The passage that begins Chanoch LaNaar7 is the introduction to the second part of Tanya, namely, Shaar HaYichud VehaEmunah, which is the Yoreh Deah8 of Chabad Chassidus. In Shaar HaYichud VehaEmunah the Alter Rebbe explains the two levels of belief in the Unity of G‑d.

The third part, Iggeres HaTeshuvah, is the Even HaEzer9 of the teachings of Chabad. It begins by stating that “there are three types of atonement, and repentance [necessarily] accompanies each of them.” In this part, the Alter Rebbe explains all the levels of teshuvah as it relates to the various faculties of a person’s soul, and it ends with the words, “and those with intelligence in this matter will discover good.”

The fourth part discusses avodah in the areas of Torah, davenen, tzedakah, and the refinement of one’s character. Its opening maamar begins, “We begin with a blessing,” and its conclusion defines the approach of Chabad Chassidus to one’s internal avodah as it relates to the observance of Shabbos – and Shabbos is the culmination of one’s six days of work in avodas HaShem.

3. For us, Chabad chassidim, Yud-Beis Tammuz is a Yom-Tov of our own. It celebrates the revelation of the innermost light of Chabad Chassidus, a light that overcame the darkness of those of its opponents who descended from chassidic lineage.10 Along these lines, the Sages say that a Jewish heretic is more intense in his heresy than others.11 Those opponents darkened the eyes of chassidim by issuing decrees against Torah and tefillah. For me, Yud-Beis Tammuz is the day on which my soul came down into my body in this world,12 in order to fulfill the Divine intention underlying its descent. And for Jews in general who observe the Torah and its mitzvos, Yud-Beis Tammuz is the day of victory on which the light of work for the dissemination of the Torah13 overcame the darkness of those who actively opposed the Torah and the Jewish faith.

4. Every individual Jew is a multitude, in the sense that “for [him] the world was created.”14 This teaching is linked to the verse, “In the beginning (Bereishis), G‑d created heaven and earth,”15 for the word בְּרֵאשִׁית is made up of the letter beis (ב), whose numerical value is two, and the word רֵאשִׁית, meaning “the first.” It thus alludes to two creations that are described as “first,” namely [the Torah, and] the Jewish people. For them the world was created.

The avodah that needs to be done relates to the words bara Elokim, which mean, Elokim created.” The difference between this Divine Name and the Four-Letter Divine Name, is that the Name Elokim denotes self-concealment, Divinity as vested and hidden in the laws of nature. The Name Havayah, by contrast, denotes revelation, Divinity that transcends nature.

Now, Jews are a G‑dly nation, am Eloki. Any thinking mortal who is familiar with the history of humanity knows as an obvious fact that the Jewish people are the nation that was chosen to materialize the Divine intention that underlies the creation of the world. Moreover, every individual Jew and Jewess is an emissary to carry out the tasks required by the Torah and the mitzvos in this material world. And Divine Providence leads the Chosen People from country to country and from place to place in order to fulfill the Divine purpose for which G‑d created the world.

However, the tumult of the American business world and the pursuit of pleasure make local Jews forget the reason for which they were born. It makes them forget the holy work that has been entrusted to them by Divine Providence, work that they are expected to do during their lifetime in this world.

5. Self-sacrifice for the Sanctification of the Divine Name16 exists at various levels. There is potential mesirus nefesh and there is literal mesirus nefesh. Chassidus explains the avodah of mesirus nefesh in terms of the rhetorical question of the Sages,17 “What difference does it make if someone is half killed or totally killed?” It has fallen to the lot of our generation to undergo mesirus nefesh for the Sanctification of the Divine Name, at all of its levels. May G‑d have compassion on His people wherever they may be, and enliven them and their families materially and spiritually.

6. At a farbrengen on Simchas Torah, 5654 (1893), my father said: “One day in Elul, 5638 (1878), when I was in the presence of my father, [the Rebbe Maharash,] he said: ‘When my father, [the Tzemach Tzedek,] was a child, he heard aged chassidim recalling brief maamarim (which were then known as verter18 ) that the Alter Rebbe had shared when he returned from his first visit to Mezritch. The following teaching was heard at a public talk in which he pointed out the distinctive contribution of the path of Chassidus:

The Sages teach: “All Jews are areivim for each other.”19 [The word areivim commonly means ‘guarantors,’ but here the Alter Rebbe points out that in fact its root has three distinct meanings:] mixture, guarantee, sweetness. Every Jew should find every fellow Jew sweet; every Jew should be involved with every fellow Jew; every Jew is a guarantor for every fellow Jew.

Every Jew, regardless of whether he is an erudite scholar,20 or a scholar who is at home in the Shas,21 or an unscholarly reader of Tehillim,22 ought to feel his responsibility to observe mitzvos, and not only with regard to the descent of his own soul to this world. He should also feel a collective responsibility for Jews at large. No individual passenger has the right to endanger his fellow voyagers by drilling a hole under his own seat!

The Alter Rebbe shared the above teaching when he returned to […23 ] after his stay with the Maggid of Mezritch. It shook up Jews of all kinds, whether they were prominent geonim or ordinary folk, and the community of Chabad chassidim grew in leaps and bounds.

7. My father once told me: “On the first day of Selichos, 5641 (1881), when I was at yechidus with my father, [the Rebbe Maharash,] for a certain reason, he said: ‘From everything that a Jew – and certainly a chassid – sees or hears, he should derive a directive for his conduct in his Divine service, his avodas HaShem. That includes the avodah of davenen, and the refinement and rectification of his middos. And avodah begins with harnessing the so-called garments of the soul, that is, its means of expression – thought, speech and action.’ ”

8. A chassid who was one of the refugees from Vienna24 once repeated something that one of the Rebbes there had said publicly:

The founders of the Rothschild family of Vienna were G‑d-fearing Torah scholars, but the later generations were not observant. One of them had a huge castle there with very many rooms, but no fully-observant Jew was able to cross its threshold. His visitors were ministers of state, dukes and noblewomen. His generosity in matters of tzedakah was quite exceptional. Even the American Jews, who are so proud of their level of tzedakah, cannot be compared to Rothschild. However, even such exemplary generosity is no substitute for the other two pillars “on which the world stands,” [namely, Torah and the avodah of prayer].25 And this is equally true of American Jews. The high level at which they give tzedakah should serve to indicate the level to which their endeavors in Torah and avodah should aspire.

When the recent decrees against Jews came into effect (May G‑d have mercy on us!), and “He raised up against them a king like Haman,”26 the castle was requisitioned by the invading regime for various offices, including the office that issued permits to leave the country. Thus it was that the above-mentioned Rebbe found himself waiting there for hours on end. While there, he met Jews of all descriptions, including such as were not recognizable as Jews, all seeking to flee the country. And as he moved in turn from one room to another, he observed very many Jews who, while waiting for their turn, were reading Tehillim, or davening Minchah, and shedding a tear.

The Tehillim, the Minchah and the tears of those unfortunate Jews paid up the debt of hundreds of years during which those walls had never heard words of Torah or prayer. Rothschild himself did not daven. He forgot completely that a house exists for the sake of the mezuzah on its doors and the mitzvah of building a fence around its flat roof, and a garment exists for the sake of the mitzvah of tzitzis. Now, in the Holy Tongue, the word meaning “for the sake of” is bishvil (בִּשְׁבִיל) – and shvil means a path, a conduit through which material and spiritual blessings are drawn downward.

9. “Wash yourselves! Purify yourselves!” That is, every individual according to his standing, according to his own mud. In such matters, not all people are equal. Thus, in the course of a Talmudic discussion of what is considered a desecration of the Divine Name,27 the saintly sage known as Rav said that in his case, he would be guilty of this if he did not pay the butcher in cash.28 What constitutes a desecration of the Divine Name is thus very different for a prominent Torah scholar as against an unlettered individual. In the same way, within the scholarly community itself, every Torah scholar must assess where he personally stands.

There must be teshuvah. Every individual ought to recognize where he really stands, without self-delusion, and apply all the remedies that Chassidus prescribes, and then he’ll be a healthy Jew.

10. My great-grandfather, the Tzemach Tzedek, lost his mother – Rebbitzin Devorah Leah, daughter of the Alter Rebbe – when he was three years old (May no one know of such woes!), and the Alter Rebbe took him into his room. This is how it came about:29

On erev Rosh HaShanah 5552 (1791), when insistent accusatory voices30 were heard in the Heavenly Court against the teachings of Chassidus, the Alter Rebbe sent a pidyon nefesh to R. Nachum of Chernobyl. R. Nachum was already at the mikveh in honor of erev Yom-Tov, but did not yet immerse; he explained that someone was bringing him a pidyon from Liozna. After sending the pidyon, the Alter Rebbe summoned a minyan of eminent chassidim who were members of the study circle of advanced scholars that was called cheder alef, and told them: “This Rosh HaShanah, an unusual degree of help is called for, because he too (referring to R. Nachum Chernobyler) can do nothing, and he is the elder of our brotherhood.”

On Motzaei Rosh HaShanah, his daughter Devorah Leah called together the same minyan of elder chassidim to whom her father had revealed what was transpiring in the Heavenly Court. She then told them that she wanted to redirect the accusation that was threatening her father, and was taking his punishment on herself. The next day, the Fast of Gedaliah, she passed away. She had first asked her father to bring up her son, and from that time on, the Alter Rebbe brought him up in his own room.

When the Tzemach Tzedek was still a little boy who watched his grandfather davening in his tallis and tefillin, he used to carve himself toy tefillin out of potatoes, and bind their retzuos of string on his own arm and head. He would then play with them when the Alter Rebbe took off his own tefillin of Rashi and put on his tefillin of Rabbeinu Tam.

The door of the Alter Rebbe’s study was covered with scars and peek holes that his eager chassidim had made, but Zalman the attendant sometimes forgot to draw the curtain that was intended to cover it. They were thus able to watch the Alter Rebbe davening, with the little boy swaying next to him. One day, when the Alter Rebbe took off his tefillin of Rashi and proceeded to put on the tefillin of Shimusha Rabbah and then Rabbeinu Tam, the strings of the toy tefillin became knotted up. The Alter Rebbe, still wearing his own tefillin, bent down and unknotted the strings for his grandson. The watching chassidim were touched by the fondness he showed.

One day in the year 5553 (1793),31 the Alter Rebbe delivered a maamar based on the words, Al shloshah devarim haolam omed. It was so profound that the chassidim did not fully grasp it, so they induced the Alter Rebbe to allow them to reenter his study to hear it again. Among them was R Aizel Homiler, even though at the time he was still a young man. While they were there, where they found the Alter Rebbe still wearing his tefillin of Rabbeinu Tam, the little boy pushed his way in, too. R. Aizel assumed that those string-retzuos must have caused problems again, but when he saw that this was not the case, he told him, “Reb Mendele, don’t push!”

As usual, the Alter Rebbe was delivering the maamar with his eyes closed, but when he heard R. Aizel’s remark, he said in his accustomed singsong, “Let him be. He’s listening. You will yet know that he is listening...”

Decades passed. The Mitteler Rebbe passed away [in 5588/1827], and the Tzemach Tzedek at first declined to accept the nesius, that is, to succeed him as Rebbe. He proposed instead either R. Aharon of Kremenchug, or R. Nachum.32 Soon after, the revered elder chassid R. Peretz Chein of Chernigov persuaded him by means of a Torah teaching. He said: “It is written, ‘If a woman gives seed and gives birth to a male child…’33 On this the Sages say, ‘If a man is the first to give seed, his wife gives birth to a female child.’34 Thus your mother was born. They say further that ‘if a woman is the first to give seed, she gives birth to a male child.’ Thus you were born. Clearly, then, in your very essence you are the grandchild in the true line of lineage!”

Hearing this, the Tzemach Tzedek accepted the mantle of leadership.35

The first maamar that he delivered was the maamar based on the words, Al shloshah devarim haolam omed. And as R. Aizel listened to it, he recalled that he had heard it from the Alter Rebbe, and also recalled his words at the time: “Let him be. He’s listening. You will yet know that he is listening...”

At that moment the thought flitted through his mind that the Tzemach Tzedek was trying his hand at doing miracles. Sensing this immediately, the Tzemach Tzedek told him: “You’re suspecting me without cause. What can I do if my grandfather (the Alter Rebbe) stands next to me and tells me to repeat this maamar…?”