1. [Rashag asked: “When did the Alter Rebbe introduce the practice of pronouncing the berachah on an esrog that grew specifically in Calabria?1 It is certain that the Maggid did not make this stipulation, as is evidenced by the fact that his other disciples did not follow this practice.”]

[The Rebbe answered:] It was certainly during the period of his nesius,2 because only at such a time is a custom initiated.

[Rashag asked again: “Is the statement that Moshe Rabbeinu dispatched a shaliach {on a cloud} to Calabria to bring an esrog3 a reliable tradition?”]

[Again the Rebbe answered:] We heard it from my father!

[Rashag asked further: “If so, this mission took place when one of the Clouds of Glory was still present.”]

[The Rebbe answered:] True, for Aharon would not have died before the mitzvah had been fulfilled (and when he died, the Clouds of Glory departed4 ). In any event, Moshe dispatched an emissary because what is universally required is actual, palpable avodah. However, it is possible that the shaliach was enabled to cover that distance at supernatural speed.5 It is also possible that the shaliach himself did not know of it. Thus it is written in Tanna dvei Eliyahu6 that servants and maidservants can possibly have ruach hakodesh7 without being aware of it, and it could be that the same applies to kefitzas haderech.

[The Rebbe Rayatz added:] Once, while the Tzemach Tzedek was teaching his youngest son, the Rebbe Maharash, in the middle of the night, he said: “Avraham Zalman8 is in a state of distress!”

Said the Rebbe Maharash: Nu, so he should be informed!”

The Tzemach Tzedek promptly called for the attendant known as Hirshl the Blackbeard9 and asked him: “Would you like a drop of mashke?”

“Sure,” he said, so the Tzemach Tzedek poured him some, and reminded him to say the blessing of Shehakol. He then handed him a note and said: “Off you go, and whoever wants to take this note from you, give it to him!”

Hirshl set out, and within one hour he had been in Vitebsk and had come home. He went to sleep, and the next day knew nothing of what had happened.

2. [The next question was asked by R. Dov Chaskin,10 from Eretz Yisrael: “The reason that Chassidus gives for the fact that Yom-Tov in Eretz Yisrael is celebrated for one day, whereas Yom-Tov lasts for two days in the Diaspora, is that it is impossible in the Diaspora to absorb all of the festival’s revelations of Divine light in one day. Now if so, how is a visitor to the Diaspora from Eretz Yisrael able to absorb the festival’s revelations in one day, and is required by law to observe only one day?”]

[The Rebbe answered by relaying the following non-literal interpretation of a Talmudic statement,11 which the Rebbe Maharash had told the Rebbe Rashab.]

We learn there that in such circumstances, “a person is obligated to observe the stringencies of the place,” that is, the superior quality of the place [from which he came] – for even when he is in the Diaspora, the Torah regards him as still being within the four cubits12 of Eretz Yisrael. Essentially, then, he is still in Eretz Yisrael. Nevertheless, his everyday, non-festive conduct must not be in public view.

[To illustrate the point that one’s personal avodah must be pursued privately, the Rebbe Rayatz now cited two classic cases. The first is an incident that does not lend itself to translation. The second illustration, which follows, describes an exemplary chassid known as R. Berl Kalisker.13 ]

The Rebbe Maharash held R. Berl Kalisker in high esteem, and utterly relied on the notes he had made of the maamarim of theTzemach Tzedek, which had been burnt. In fact, when the Tzemach Tzedek himself checked those notes, he made only slight emendations, such as in the order of certain words.

This chassid exemplified the above ideal of keeping one’s personal avodah discreet. Thus, when he visited the Tzemach Tzedek14 from Eretz Yisrael, he conducted himself so privately that whenever he put on his tefillin he closed himself off in an inner room after having risen at an extremely early hour, and davened in only half an hour instead of his accustomed few hours. And when the neighborhood children knocked on his shutters [which they may have tried to open], he covered them with metal screens.

3. [On this section, see below.]15