1. In the year 5625 (1865), my revered father was present at the Seder of my great-grandfather, the Tzemach Tzedek.1 My father observed that when they arrived at the stage of Yachatz, one of those present visually measured the two halves of his matzah in order to determine which was the bigger half. (It would then be set aside for Afikoman.)The Tzemach Tzedek commented: “If a godl needs to be measured, then even an ordinary little guy is bigger than him…”2

My father once told me that from that time – when he was four years and a few months old – he felt a distaste for that kind of godl.

2. The3 state in which kulanu mesubin (“we all recline”) alludes to the World of Atzilus. The state in which “on all nights we eat while either sitting” alludes to the Worlds of Beriah-Yetzirah-Asiyah. The state in which we sometimes recline (bein mesubin) alludes to the World of Atzilus, implying that [at other times] that ascent is proportionate to one’s avodah. However, “on this night, kulanu mesubin” (“we all recline”), meaning that the World of Atzilus [irradiates] all souls.

3. R. Nachman Mariashin4 was one of the chassidim who spent Pesach in the company of our Rebbes, and hence was [jocularly labeled] “a Pesachdiker.”5 He used to keep notes of various things that he saw and heard there.

He once related that the chassidim who were invited to the Seder of the Rebbe Maharash used to sit at the table in soundless reverence. On one occasion they read the Haggadah so quietly that he instructed them to read it loudly.

At his Seder table, people sometimes saw otherworldly conduct that recalled the spiritual lifestyle of the Baal Shem Tov.6 It once happened that at a certain point he asked all those present to leave the room, while he remained alone at the table for quite some time.

4. My grandfather, the Rebbe Maharash, had two gabbaim – one attendant called R. Ben-Tziyon and one called R. Yosef Mordechai. He once said that R. Yosef Mordechai would live long,7 and so it was: he lived to 103. When he was 98 years old, he used to dance on the roof of the big study hall – the beis midrash in the Rebbe’s courtyard – just like a young man. Concerning R. Ben-Tziyon he said that he would be [bent over?] like an animal.8 So it was, and not because of old age. He lived only into his sixties.

5. With my father, everything was duly measured. Biur chametz, for example, burning the last remaining chametz on erev Pesach, was done from 10:30 a.m. to 10:40. Twice a year,9 on erev Yom Kippur and on erev Pesach, he would rise two-and-a-half hours after midnight and would study the appropriate passages of Etz Chayim and Pri Etz Chayim.10 He explained those early times in various ways. The reasons he gave for the early hour and the haste on erev Pesach related to (a) the forthcoming biur chametz; (b) the Paschal sacrifice of erev Pesach; and (c) [the need for vigilance for] fear of any trace of chametz [in one’s soul].

6. In the year 5658 (1897) – in the times when it was customary to immerse in a mikveh a few times on erev Yom Kippur – I went off to immerse about half an hour after midnight, because I then had to go and study with my father. A few such hours set things in motion within me, so that I then davened at meditative length until about ten. My father was critical: “A new routine of avodah! To daven at length on erev Yom Kippur?! On erev Yom Kippur one should daven fast.”

7. My father’s measurement of time was intrinsic.11 Measurement can take place in two ways – either one measures something, or that something spontaneously measures itself.12

8. The Rebbe Maharash was once asked: “When the Kohen Gadol entered the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur” – we’re talking about a Kohen Gadol who was a tzaddik gamur, a consummate tzaddik, not one of those of whom it is written that before they entered they were connected by chains to those outside13 – “how did he know how to monitor his time, so that he would not remain there longer than necessary?”14

The Rebbe Maharash answered: “The Kohen Gadol sensed the Infinite Ein-Sof’s potential for finitude”– and15 I explain to myself that something similar was the case with my father.

9. “Nothing additional (i.e., Afikoman) may be eaten after the Paschal sacrifice.”16 This command is a chukah, a statute for which no reason or explanation is given, and indeed, the question of the Wise Son17 should be answered with a chukah. When my father reached that paragraph in the Haggadah,18 he would use sharp language about the maskilim. Once he quoted the phrase, “G‑d will not want to forgive him,”19 and once the phrase, “May sinners cease from the earth.”20

On one such occasion, my mentor, the Rashbatz, said to my father: “Do you know who you are?21 Surely you should be careful with every word!”

My father answered: “That’s why I say it…”

Now, that was an earnest exchange, not mere wordplay. Although those present always yearned to hear whatever my father might have to add while reading the Haggadah, when the time came to read that paragraph, people were eager to have it already behind them and to read ahead.

10. While speaking of the Wise Son, my father once quoted the phrase, “Woe to the wicked man, woe to his neighbor,”22 because [in the sequence of the Four Sons in the Haggadah] the Wise Son is placed next to the Wicked Son.

Someone asked: “But isn’t the Simple Son also a neighbor?”

My father answered: “True. The Simple Son should indeed beware of engaging in debates with the Wicked Son.”

11. [At the Seder table, when the time came to eat the egg, the Rebbe Rayatz said:] The egg is only a reminder of the Korban Chagigah, the festive sacrifice. May G‑d grant that we be privileged to offer that sacrifice23 in the near future.

12. We are seated here at the Seder table, while the situation of many hundreds of thousands of fellow Jews overseas is known only to the One Above.

In 5664-5665 (1904-1905), during the Russo-Japanese War, my father organized the dispatch of matzos to the Jewish soldiers serving on the [Far East] battlefronts in Shanghai, Harbin and Deiren. Now, Baron Ginzburg, who had significant contacts in high government circles, was in Paris at the same time that my father was there. So, even though there was no particular closeness between them because of my father’s opposition to secular studies,24 my father traveled to speak to him about securing an official permit for the dispatch of matzos.

The Baron’s response: “But Jews have a way out: there’s always a Pesach Sheni…”25

My father answered: “On the battlefront there aren’t any barons. The soldiers are plain, ordinary Jews; they don’t know of tricks. They need matzah for Pesach!”

Instead, contact was made with the Figaro and Echo de Paris newspapers. They cooperated and supported the lobbyists in Petersburg, to the point that the czarist regime ultimately provided a place in which the matzos could be baked, and so forth.

In the midst of the Seder soon after, my father was brought a telegram that had just arrived in Lubavitch via Petersburg, notifying him that everything had proceeded as planned. He rose to his feet and said: “Praised be the One Above!”

13. [When the Alter Rebbe’s silver soup-bowl was brought to the table, one of those present asked the Rebbe where it had been the previous Pesach. The Rebbe answered:] It was brought [from overseas] just now together with the books.

There were few expensive silver items in the Alter Rebbe’s household. After he had been Rebbe for many years, his chassidim put together a certain sum. No family was allowed to contribute more than a certain Polish coin that was worth about three grains of silver, and with that sum they bought this bowl and also a candlestick.

There was also a spice-box that the Maggid of Mezritch had given him. It had been “a gift from the Rebbe – the Baal Shem Tov – ‘with the fragrance of the Lebanon.’ “26

Another heirloom we had in our family was the Alter Rebbe’s silver goblet, which still had a little dried wine in it, and was always placed on the Seder table. It was once rinsed by mistake, and some time later, for a certain reason, it was lost.

14. The Alter Rebbe also had a silver snuffbox that a certain penitent had given him. He later commented: “A person has one organ that is not driven by desire – and it, too, people want to stuff with desire?!”

With that, he removed its shiny lid and used it as a mirror to check if his head-tefillin were exactly in place.

15. On Pesach, 5674 (1914), after the passing of my saintly grandmother, Rebbitzin Rivkah,27 my father was in Kissingen, Germany. Seated at the table were my father, R. Avraham Gorelik the attendant, and me.

In the middle of the Seder, the wealthy chassid R. Shmuel Gourary arrived. He took a seat behind the door of the adjoining room, and listened in as my father expounded the meaning of the Seder in Gan Eden. At that time my father explained the Kabbalistic significance of each of the five species of Maror in the Lower Gan Eden and in the Higher Gan Eden, and also in each of the Four Worlds. By the time R. Shmuel left the Seder, his frockcoat was soaked with perspiration, and he remarked that he had never heard such words.

On erev Pesach of that year, when my father asked R. Avraham the meshares if he had checked for chametz thoroughly, he added that R. Avraham was responsible for this with his soul. Hearing this, R. Avraham literally felt heartache and had to see a doctor.

16. In Lubavitch, too, the search for chametz and the elimination of chametz28 were carried out with the utmost strictness.29 On the morning of erev Pesach, my father would customarily go out to the courtyard and shake out the pockets of his clothes, and then Mendel the meshares would stand there with a little brush and clean out those empty pockets. Now, what chametz could there possibly have ever been in my father’s pockets…?

My father once asked Mendel the meshares on erev Pesach whether he had cleared all the chametz out of the chicken coop and the stable and he answered, Yes. My father then said: “You should know that you are responsible for this with your soul.”

Overcome by dread, Mendel fainted, even though by nature he was not an emotional person.

17. [One of the paragraphs in the Haggadah begins with the words,] וְהִיא שֶׁעָמְדָה – Vehi she’amdah.30 The word וְהִיא signifies emunah, faith. My father once said, citing […],31 that the Baal Shem Tov drew down emunah, faith, and embodied it in bitachon, trust. To trust is to be certain that what one believes as a matter of faith will certainly find expression in practice.32

[One of those present asked:] So is trust similar to tikvah, hope?

[The Rebbe answered:] Trust is more than hope. A person with trust believes that things will certainly eventuate as he believes they will. He believes that what he seeks is already present; he alone is the obstacle to its appearance.33

18. The Alter Rebbe’s chassidim included three doctors. One of them lived in Riga,34 and they used to send him the remnants of the Alter Rebbe’s Third Matzah, and likewise the remnants of his Karpas and Maror, which he would grind into powder and include in his remedies.

There was once a patient whose survival all the doctors had despaired of. The above doctor/chassid was then summoned, he administered the above remedy, and the patient was cured. An expert medical specialist asked how it had happened; after all, the patient had been virtually without a functional heart or lungs. Since the questioner was a respectable man of integrity, the chassidisher doctor told him what remedy had healed the patient, and from whom he had received it.

Some time later, that medical specialist testified in court that the Alter Rebbe was an upright person. That testimony proved to be significant at the time of the slander against the Alter Rebbe and his incarceration, when certain documents were dispatched to the censor in Riga.

19. [The Haggadah ends with the plea,] LeShanah HaBaah BiYerushalayim! – “Next year in Jerusalem!”

That’s not just talk: we’re heading there!