(When a number of chassidim were in the midst of escorting the Rebbe from New York to the sanatorium in Morristown, he motioned that they should halt, then turned to them and said:)

Usually, according to the familiar custom, a traveler does not tell his escorts that it is time for them to return to their homes, but since, as was discussed, this was intended to be an unaccompanied journey…

[The Rebbe went on recount:] R. Aizik of Vitebsk was the rav of that town for 60 years, after having served for 15 years as the rav of the nearby township of Ostrovna. His uncle, R. Zemil, was one of the outspoken opponents of the Alter Rebbe, and initially, R. Aizik too was an opponent. Later, however, having been present at the major disputation in Minsk between the Alter Rebbe and the leading misnagdim, he came to know the Alter Rebbe and eventually became a close follower of his.

R. Aizik of Vitebsk was one of those who accompanied the Alter Rebbe on his homeward journey from Minsk, and so was R. Yitzchak Aizik (R. Aizel) of Homil. A halachic debate arose as to whether the Prayer for Travelers1 can be recited as an independent blessing, or whether it must be appended to another blessing. Their conclusion was that it is a blessing in its own right.

On this discussion the Alter Rebbe then commented: Tefillas HaDerech [lit., ‘a prayer for the road’] is a prayer for the entire lifespan of a man on earth, and each single day is a segment of that road.”

From that teaching, R. Aizik Vitebsker became a devoted chassid2 of the Alter Rebbe. Indeed, it is told that from that day on, he used to say the prayer for the road, asking only that he should live his life as he ought to. He wasn’t thinking of his physical life, as a cause of worry or fear. He lived to an unusually old age, reaching over 97. That was no reason to be afraid; in fact he was always free of fear and worry, and lived a life of tranquility. That explains why the Tzemach Tzedek said of him that “his teachings are unambiguous and his halachic rulings are authoritative3 – because he lived a life of unworried tranquility.”

At his first yechidus, the Alter Rebbe told him, “One shouldn’t worry.” From that day on, throughout his life, whenever something undesirable happened to him, he would immediately remind himself, “But the Rebbe told me not to worry at all.”

From this it is clear that when he repeated Tefillas HaDerech every day, he did not request physical life: it was a prayer for his spiritual road. That is where prayers are needed. We are not talking here about the advice in Tanya to refrain from [the Kabbalistic exercise called] “the elevation of one’s middos.”4 Even though one’s intentions were for the sake of Heaven,5 it is possible that due to a mistake, the result can be a lowering of one’s middos. Thatis what calls for prayer.

(The Rebbe then addressed the directors of the yeshivah and urged them to increase their intake of students. To some of them he added that the regular study schedule should not be interrupted for the conventional break between semesters, and then wished them all a good night.)