1. [Rashag asked: “Until what year did the Rebbe {Rashab} customarily hold a farbrengen in honor of Simchas Beis HaShoeivah?”]

[The Rebbe Rayatz answered:] Until 5654 (1893). My father had not intended to hold that farbrengen, but it came about.

On that occasion he said to Avremke Rudnier:1 “Let’s do a dance, because by this time next year you’ll already be in a different world. An… an elderly Jew who doesn’t know three chapters of Tanya by heart, letter by letter?!”

Avremke Rudnier protested: “But Rebbe! I can make an effort and memorize them!”

My father answered: “I’m not your Rebbe.” And as to Avremke’s response that he could still memorize those chapters, my father said: “It’s too late.”

In the middle of their dance my father said: “Resha’im2 are sentenced to Gehinnom for twelve months.3 For a chassidisher rasha, the sentence is twenty-four months.”

After having said that, my father was severely pained by regret. During that same Chol HaMoed, he set out to see a certain gentile interrogator,4 [whose office was apparently in Vitebsk, the hub of that region. Passing through tiny Rudnia on the way there,] he called on R. Avremke Rudnier. He spent some time in his company and drank tea with him – not for the tea, but in order to appease him. Four years later my father mentioned him and then, too, he reproached himself for having said those words, quoting the phrase,5 גַּם עֲנוֹשׁ לַצַּדִּיק לֹא טוֹב. [Its plain meaning is, “It is also not good to punish the righteous.” However, on the non-literal level of derush,] he interpreted those words to mean: “If a tzaddik punishes, this stems from the not-good within himself.” [My father continued:] “True, I was coerced to tell him what I said, because it came in the manner of a prophecy, in which the words come spontaneously.”6 (Indeed, the very word for נָבִיא, meaning ‘prophet,’ comes from the word נִיב, which [translates as ‘speech,’7 but] literally means ‘fruit,’ thus suggesting speech that sprouts spontaneously.) “Nevertheless,” my father concluded, “I could have said it in different words.”

[The Rebbe Rayatz concluded:] That could only have been before 5654 (1894).8

There was once a similar incident involving two shochtim who made life a misery for another shochet. My father warned them, and later sent them on their way.

2. Until the beginning of the year 5654 (1893), my father’s place in shul was one space removed from the Aron Kodesh, plus one further space from the spot at which the Rebbe Maharash used to daven. On that Rosh HaShanah, as soon as he entered, he went straight to the south-eastern corner and remarked: “It’s time to do teshuvah!” These words surprised everyone who knew him. Then the next day, before tekios, he lifted the tallis that had covered his face, and said: “One must arouse oneself with teshuvah from within.”

And in fact, throughout the year 5654, a certain exaltedness became evident, and by the following year this had settled into a standard frame of mind. Thus, on Shabbos Teshuvah that year, my father delivered the maamar that opens with the phrase, VaYehi BiYeshurun Melech (“There was a king in Yeshurun”, i.e., in Israel).9 Those words were said by Moshe Rabbeinu.10 Even though “the man Moshe was exceedingly humble,”11 the ultimate degree of humility finds expression in the ultimate degree of exaltedness.12

3. Until 5654 (1893-1894), my father’s avodah was visibly heartfelt, leaning in the direction of exuberance13 – though not actual exuberance, which was out of character for the Rebbe [Rashab]. From that time on, he could not tolerate exuberant conduct; he held it in disdain. At certain times he would say that the intellectual grasp of spiritual concepts14 is a mitzvah that one can fulfill by proxy, whereas the practice of positive middos, such as doing a favor for a fellow Jew, is a mitzvah that cannot be fulfilled by proxy. At other times he would say that the intellectual grasp of spiritual concepts is a mitzvah that one cannot fulfill by proxy, whereas the practice of positive middos [such as doing a favor for a fellow Jew, is a mitzvah that one can fulfill by proxy]. It all varied according to his frame of mind at a particular time.

4. Broadly speaking, the difference between my father’s avodah before 5654 and after 5654 parallels the difference between [the avodah and teachings of] the Alter Rebbe before [his arrest and liberation in] Petersburg and after [his arrest and liberation in] Petersburg.15

[R. DovBer Haskind, visiting from Eretz Yisrael, now asked: “Was there a parallel progression in all the Rebbeim?” – and the Rebbe nodded in assent.]