1. [One of the chassidim at the table, R. David Shifrin, asked the Rebbe why1 specifically the neck bone [of a chicken] is customarily placed on the Seder dish instead of a Zeroa, which means a shank bone. The Rebbe answered:] A number of steps are taken in order to avert any resemblance between the Zeroa and an actual Korban Pesach,2 in the spirit of the law that roasted meat is not eaten on Seder night. My father used to make a point of ensuring that as little meat as possible should remain on the “Zeroa.” It was said at the time that this was intended to add a sign of mourning [over the fact that in the present era we are not able to offer that sacrifice].

2. [In the course of the Seder, the above-mentioned R. David Shifrin described how once, on the eve of Yud-Gimmel Nissan, he arrived late in night in Zhebin, his hometown. While he was still out on the road, he heard a group of chassidim singing together at a farbrengen that was held in honor of the hillula3 of the Tzemach Tzedek, and as he relived that cherished moment, he uttered a nostalgic Ah…!]

[The Rebbe remarked:] That Ah…! was superfluous.

[R. Shmuel Levitin commented: “It was just an expression of wondrous awe.”]

[The Rebbe responded:] I meant that that same awe should be felt now, too. As is well known, the Alter Rebbe once said that he was quite happy to undergo the galus of incarceration, and even more – and for that “even more,” thousands of chassidim...4 – only on condition that every chassid should find his spiritual comfort zone and his spiritual workplace5 where he is.

Concerning the six directions that are spoken of in Chassidus, the Mitteler Rebbe writes in Imrei Binah that in fact there are only four directions, and then as a matter of course there also exist an above and a below.6 Moreover, all of those six directions are really only one point, which embraces everything.

On this teaching my father commented that in terms of avodas HaShem, one’s Divine service, those four directions are:7 (a) setting aside fixed times for the study of Chassidus; (b) immersing for purity; (c) meditating before davening; and (d) davening at a measured pace. The “below” is – cultivating positive middos; the “above” is – becoming aware that whatever one knows [of Elokus], he does not yet fully know. The one point, which embraces everything is – honestly fulfilling the mission for which his soul descended into his body, because the soul came down not for the sake of worldly matters, nor [even] for the sake of revealing the Divine light in the world, but in order to honestly fulfill its mission.

3. In bygone times, a mitzvah was carried out without the body knowing about it; it was the soul that felt it. Nowadays, neither the body nor the soul feels it.

4. [R. David Shifrin narrated an episode and then R. Shmuel Levitin repeated a different version of the same narrative. On this the Rebbe commented:] As a rule, the most important element with regard to chassidic narratives is not the combinations of letters,8 because the angels look after that, in keeping with [the level of] the mystical roots of the souls involved.9 That is the function of the angels as defense advocates. [Hence,] what matters most is the letters in their raw state.

[Rashag asked: “But don’t letters belong to the realm of domem, inanimate matter?”]

[The Rebbe replied:] Inanimate matter, too, has a soul.10 Besides, that realm comprises various levels. The Even HaShesiyah,11 too, was a domem.

5. [Rashag asked: “As is well known, the Exodus from Egypt was brought about by an arousal from Above,12 so what is its meaning today?”]

[The Rebbe replied:] Today, too, one’s [personal, spiritual] Exodus from Egypt13 is likewise brought about from Above. The avodah of mortals is only to create a vessel for it – because at the Giving of the Torah every Jew was empowered to free himself from his personal Egypt, but for that to happen, he must make a vessel.14 At the time of the Exodus, some people didn’t get out of Egypt.

[Rashag then asked: “Were they sunk all the way to the Fiftieth Gate?”15 ]

[The Rebbe replied:] There were no Jews at the Fiftieth Gate, which was the dregs of the preceding 49 Gates.

6. As is well known, matzah is called both “the food of faith”16 and “the food of healing.”17 The chassidim of an earlier generation once debated the sequence of these two terms: Do they mean that faith brings about healing, or do they mean that healing brings about faith? Whenever a person, after recovering from illness, says, “I thank You, G‑d!” and the Name of G‑d is widely recalled, we observe that healing brings about faith.

Following the custom of the elder chassidim of those days, they first labored over this question among themselves, and then asked the Mitteler Rebbe, who at that time was the mentor for the married chassidim. He answered that faith comes first, as can be seen from the fact that the Alter Rebbe writes that it is the matzah of the first night of Pesach that is called “the food of faith,” and it is the matzah of the second night of Pesach that is called “the food of healing.”

The Mitteler Rebbe went on to explain the difference, as follows: When the healing brings about faith, that person was first sick and was then healed, whereas in the opposite case, he was not sick in the first place.

The chassidim asked further: Does this apply to physical healing, too? And the Mitteler Rebbe answered: “Both physically and spiritually, because with Jews, gashmiyus is not separate from ruchniyus – because their ruchniyus is drawn into gashmiyus, and they transmute gashmiyus into ruchniyus.”

7. [R. Shmuel Levitin asked: “Does ‘the food of faith’ mean that it animates one’s faith, or does it refer to attaining a higher level of faith?”]

[The Rebbe answered:] The expression that appears in Chassidus is that it fortifies faith. There is no such concept as animating faith and attaining a higher level of faith.

8. Faith, emunah, elicits spiritual energy from even higher than the Heavenly root and source [of blessings].

There is a well-known story about the author of Pri HaAretz.18 A certain childless chassid, who had a strong soul-connection with him, would constantly ask him for a blessing for children, but the blessings were of no avail. Once, when the chassid had been insistent, his Rebbe told him: “I cannot help you. However, by virtue of your trust in sages19 you deserve that the One Above should grant you your request.” And that is exactly what happened. The chassid was blessed with children.

We see, then, that even something that did not exist in the Heavenly root and source [of blessings] – as we see from the fact that a blessing was of no avail – nevertheless was drawn down, by virtue of faith.

[R. Shmuel Levitin asked: “Perhaps this happened specifically by virtue of the author of Pri HaAretz, who told him that?”]

[The Rebbe replied:] Not necessarily. It could be (a) that he only opened the conduit [for this response from Above], or (b) that [he saw to it that] it should be brought down in orderly stages, such as by securing long life for the child, though the request at hand was secured not by him [but by virtue of the chassid’s trust in sages].

9. Nowadays, things have got out of hand:20 Torah scholars are indistinguishable from unlettered people. [No record of the long continuation of this statement is extant.]

10. [At the time of the blessing21 the Rebbe said:] With what should I bless our fellow Jews? That they should be healthy? Of course! That they should be rich?! But then what will be done with the wealth? Time is short,22 but [let people have their blessings for wealth also,] just as one gives a child a toy to play with…

[Either way,] I’ll bless Jews that they should become wiser. Then, as a matter of course, they’ll become more G‑d-fearing, and then things will be better for them and for the whole world.