In1 the realm of thought, distance of time and distance of place are of no account.2 Knowledge and imagination can raise a person to a truly high level – provided that the knowledge is inward, knowledge as understood in Chassidus, and is followed by imagination.3

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A4 chassidisher narrative energizes one’s Torah study and mitzvah-observance.

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An ordinary, unscholarly chassidisher person expresses himself with warmth. He suddenly recalls, for example: “Oy! I haven’t yet davened Minchah (or Maariv, or whatever)!” His artlessness vitalizes his Torah and his mitzvos.

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A chassid by the name of R. Aharon Levin, the rav of Liozna, reached the age of 112. In Kislev, 5659 (1898), my father visited him while in Liozna for the wedding of R. Shneur Zalman, son of R. Leib Schneersohn of Velizh, who in turn was the son of Rebbitzin Golda, daughter of my great-uncle, the holy R. Baruch Shalom.5 On that occasion, the rav of Liozna told my father the following:

(a) The [Alter] Rebbe was awesome to behold. When you looked at him, you could see that he was somehow different from everyone else.6

(b) R. Aharon had heard from his father that R. Baruch-R. Moshe’s had been a disciple of the Baal Shem Tov.7 [How did this come about?] R. Baruch’s father-in-law, R. Avraham the Yishuvnik,8 a scholar of repute, knew that there existed hidden tzaddikim9 who [in the course of their personal avodah] wandered throughout periods of self-imposed exile.10 He knew further that they could be distinguished by four characteristics: they were serious scholars; they were of exceptionally refined character; they supported themselves by the toil of their hands; and they related with comradely warmth to ordinary, unlettered fellow Jews – craftsmen, market stall-keepers, and itinerant village peddlers.

The Alter Rebbe’s paternal [great-]grandfather, a gaon who was also expert in various languages and scholarly disciplines, was R. Moshe the son of R. Yehudah Leib, who in turn was a [great-]grandson of the eminent Maharal of Prague. (R. Yehudah Leib’s father was R. Shmuel, son of R. Betzalel, son of the Maharal.) This Moshe was a magnate who used to travel abroad to buy merchandise. Leipzig, which was one of his destinations, was also a center for scholars in many fields, and whenever he visited that city, he also proceeded to Prague in order to spend a few weeks in the company of its learned men and intellectuals.

During one of his visits to Leipzig, R. Moshe was told by his non-Jewish fellow merchants that he was about to be offered an appointment as a senior teacher of languages – an inspector of instruction in French and Polish. Hearing this, he immediately left for Poland.

His son, R. Shneur Zalman, who studied Torah unceasingly, chose him to be the husband of his daughter, Rebbitzin Rivkah, a learned lady whose study partner was her sister-in-law, Rachel. And when R. Moshe left Prague, his sons and his son-in-law R. Kaddish moved to Vitebsk, which was then on the border between Poland and Russia, and was also known as Moskvitan.

It was at that time that R. Yisrael, the Baal Shem Tov, until then a hidden tzaddik, became widely known, and R. Shneur Zalman passed away. His son R. Baruch and his daughter, Rebbitzin Rivkah, were then left in Liozna. The fatherless R. Baruch became a disciple of the Baal Shem Tov, and his sister, on the latter’s instruction, married the saintly R. Yosef Yitzchak.

In his old age, R. Baruch used to relate: “When I was a young boy, my father used to tell us that he recalled the arrival in Vitebsk of wealthy and scholarly Jews who had fled from Posna.11 I remember how the [Alter] Rebbe used to daven and how he used to read the Torah. That was a fearful experience, and the listeners found themselves crying.”

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My father, [the Rebbe Rashab,] told me that the Rebbe Maharash had said that the Baal Shem Tov and the Maggid are the Kesser of Chassidus – Atik and Arich, respectively;the Alter Rebbe is Chochmah; the Mitteler Rebbe is Binah; the Tzemach Tzedek is Daas.12

My father concluded: “In my father, [the Rebbe Maharash,] the quintessential Chabad13 lit up all the ten faculties of his soul – Chabad, Chagas, Nehim.”14