1 1. The Alter Rebbe remarked once concerning his three sons: “With two of them I am not satisfied; only with one. Berl2 has middos she’al-pi haseichel,3 which means that they are merely a by-product of his mochin, of his intellect. The positive middos of Moshe’le,4 in contrast, are innate. Chaim Avraham,5 however, has both mochin and middos [in full].”

[Rashag6 asked the Rebbe as to the meaning of this statement, proposed an interpretation, and asked whether it was correct. The Rebbe replied:] “An interpretation needs to be thought about; I’m simply relaying to you the master’s words.”

2. [The Rebbe then spoke of the time when] R. Shlomo of Karlin visited the Alter Rebbe, seeking his consent that … should be excommunicated.7 It was specifically the Alter Rebbe that he approached, because when the Holy Brotherhood8 had sought an answer to their query in the Heavenly realms, it became known to them that in order for such a ban to be issued, those who did so must include one individual who was equal to the illustrious subject of the ban in his command of nigleh, the revealed dimension of the Torah. Their choice was the Alter Rebbe.

However, the Alter Rebbe declined, explaining that if such a ban were to be issued in This World below, the subject of the ban would thereby be disjoined in the World Above from the root of his soul. This could result in a desecration of the Divine Name,9 because the faith of the subject of the ban could possibly be compromised thereby.

In response to the Alter Rebbe’s refusal, R. Shlomo of Karlin cursed ….10 The Mitteler Rebbe, thinking that the curse was aimed at him, fainted and was unwell. The Alter Rebbe reassured him: “He didn’t mean you,” because as R. Shlomo uttered those words he had pointed at R. Moshe’le.

It was that incident that gave rise to the popular misconception [regarding R. Moshe’le].

[At this point, the Rebbe related that] R. Moshe’le was remarkably gifted, and among other things, he had mastered ten languages. He left a legacy of eleven manuscript books11 recording the Alter Rebbe’s teachings, which included two maamarim. The Tzemach Tzedek relied on those writings, because the Alter Rebbe’s maamarim were burnt in the fire.12

3. Once, before engaging in a certain disputation with the highest-ranking ecclesiastics, the parties agreed that the losing side would have to adopt the teachings of the victor. When they realized that they had been vanquished, three of them swore on their intersected symbol that they had won, and they had R. Moshe’le imprisoned. He, however, escaped through a window and undertook a period of self-imposed exile.13

[Rashag remarked: “But he had nothing to repent for!”]

[To this the Rebbe replied:] True, he had nothing to repent for, but nevertheless he conducted himself in the manner of a penitent.

The official investigators who visited the Alter Rebbe’s household were told that they knew nothing of his whereabouts, because in fact he had made no contact whatever with them, out of fear. He lived long enough to visit the Rebbe Maharash once. He had been admitted to the house by Rebbitzin Rivkah incognito, as a poor man with a knapsack on his back. He was five years old when the Tzemach Tzedek was born, and survived him by ten years.