1. At the farbrengen of Shemini Atzeres in the year 5654 (1893), which took place at the home of R. Shilem Reich,1 my father said: “We ought to go and rejoice with the Torah. That is what Atzmus wants us to do. At this time, all the Heavenly gates that we enumerated in the Yehi Ratzon on Hoshana Rabbah2 are open. The gates that are opened vary,3 depending on whether the person making the choice is wise or foolish. But the ultimate goal of all the gates is – to reach Atzmus. One individual reaches that goal after having lived seventy years; another arrives there directly, from the outset.”

2. This month includes various kinds of avodah. The avodah of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur is easier to navigate than the avodah of Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah, because joy, simchah, demands a greater degree of truth. Joy is different from other modes of endeavor, even though they, too, vary. Intellectual endeavor, for example, is easier than working on one’s middos,4 even though thorough comprehension also demands solid toil. However, that is required only before one finally grasps the concept under discussion. From then on, less toil is required, because initially, the light of one’s own intellectual processes obscures the truth. (This is not the case with middos.) Joy is the ultimate test of whether one’s avodah on one’s middos is prompted by truthful motives, because if the truth is lacking, there will be no joy.

3. [One of those present asked: “How does one generate simchah?”]

[To this the Rebbe replied:] A lack of material things is no reason to make a person sad. Material things aren’t so important that a person should be saddened by their absence. Quite the contrary: if one makes a thoughtful comparison of what one deserves with what he is nevertheless receiving, he will be happy. (We are of course not speaking of the things that the Torah regards as a mortal’s necessities.) However, the happiness that results from the above thoughtful comparison is happiness that one arrives at forcibly, whether by bringing this calculation near to oneself or by bringing oneself near to this calculation.5 For real happiness, one needs to remove whatever obstructs it – and such happiness should spring from one’s innermost self.

4. A teaching was passed down forty or forty-one years ago, that had been heard from vintage chassidim. They used to say that the starting-point of Chassidus, meaning the starting-point of becoming a chassid worthy of the name, is becoming master of the ten faculties of one’s soul,6 and master of the soul’s “garments,” that is, its three modes of expression.7 These should all be mastered to the point that a person is able to relocate himself, so to speak, so that when the Evil Inclination approaches him, he finds that he is no longer at the familiar location: he is now somewhere else.

That was what vintage chassidim used to say once upon a time. Nowadays, a person attaining that level would be considered a tzaddik

The means by which one can cleave to the souls of tzaddikim who are in Gan Eden, and by which one can cleave to Supernal [spiritual] lights, is – thought,8 just as one makes contact with something from the inanimate or vegetable or animal kingdom by touching it with one’s hands. Or likewise, just as a human being can be touched by means of speech, whose sound and whose letters penetrate the listener’s ears to the point that they can cause him to turn around. Similarly, in the highest world, contact is made by means of thought, if one recalls something that he once saw. Thought is thus the highest means of contact. And just as speech activates a two-way discussion, so too, by means of thought one can spark a salvation, requesting it at least as a loan – provided that this contact is deep-seated.9 I am not speaking of lofty levels, but [the thoughts of] the individual must be here [i.e., focused on the tzaddik in Gan Eden] and not somewhere else, and the thought must be pure.

That prerequisite is essential, because in This World, a person who is muddy arrives with his mud; in the World Above, a person who is muddy is not admitted. The mud must first be washed off with cold water and with boiling-hot water. I do not mean fasts and self-mortification. Rather, cold water signifies the letters of the Torah, because intellection is cold, and boiling water signifies intense meditation that arouses a certain spiritual emotion,10 because middos are fiery.

The above will enable us to understand the well-known incident involving R. Michoel Beliner.11 Once, [when his daughter was dangerously ill,] the Tzemach Tzedek assured him: “Think good thoughts, and things will be good12 – because the accusatory voices On High13 latch on to not-good thoughts.14 They don’t begrudge a Jew good things. Thus, from the very letters of the not-good thoughts, not-good things are drawn down to This World. And the converse applies to a positive thought.”

5. Yom Kippur is the time concerning which we are told, “Before G‑d you shall purify yourselves.”15 And indeed, on Yom Kippur one is granted forgiveness – but that doesn’t mean that he is now in great shape. Soon after, however, [on Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah,] comes the time of Hakkafos. Now, the word hakkafah means [not only “circuit,” referring to the lively procession of people carrying sifrei Torah and dancing around the bimah, but also] credit – and merchandise [meaning in this case the rich blessings that are showered on us at this time] that is bought on credit must be paid for. (Moreover, a salesman doesn’t take particular notice of the identity of the customers who pay cash; he does take particular notice of the identity of those who buy on credit…) This debt can be settled by being joyful at this joyful time. The purpose of dancing on Shemini Atzeres is to energetically internalize the blessings that are then made available.16

6. A metaphor that appears in early chassidic writings describes what takes place on Yom Kippur, with its confessions: At that time a big fire is all aflame, and when people throw their bundles of sins into it, those sins are transformed into positive merits.17

7. Fifty years ago,18 my father delivered the maamar that begins, Ein HaKadosh-Baruch-Hu Ba BiTrunya,19 and on that occasion he said: “Master of the Universe!20 What a mighty King You are! The coins that You have minted are hard currency everywhere!Those coins – tefillin, shofar, Yom Kippur, sukkah, festive dancing – are eagerly snatched in every country!”

My father went on to say: “Listen, fellow Jews! By being happy at this time one can accomplish everything! This is a time to receive good things. When the Holy Ark is opened for Hakkafos, all the gates On High are thrown open, just as at the Giving of the Torah! Whoever has strong eyesight can see it. True, one would have expected Simchas Torah to be celebrated on Shavuos, when the Torah was given, but on Simchas Torah one is happy because of the lofty gift of teshuvah.”21

8. [The Rebbe Rayatz shared the following two recollections.22 ]

At a certain farbrengen, the Rebbe Rashab related that his father, the Rebbe Maharash, had once told him, “I want to take you along to hear Chassidus from the [Alter] Rebbe,” and had brought him to a certain chamber which had no windows, but was flooded with light. There the Rebbe Rashab saw a certain person whom he knew (and here the Rebbe Rayatz mentioned the name of a well-known individual who had been a chassid of the Mitteler Rebbe). Since he was not known as a man of such stature that he should be admitted to the chamber of the Alter Rebbe, the Rebbe Rashab asked his father: “What is he doing here?” And he was answered: “A man who knows Tanya by heart, or who studies a chapter of Tanya every day without fail throughout his life, is privileged to ascend to the chamber of the Alter Rebbe and to hear Chassidus from his mouth. However, such people are not enabled to see, but only to hear.”

[The second recollection that the Rebbe Rayatz shared at the above farbrengen now follows.]

After the passing23 of the Alter Rebbe, the Mitteler Rebbe moved to Lubavitch, and the Tzemach Tzedek was there too. It once happened that for a long period the Tzemach Tzedek did not have a vision of his grandfather, the Alter Rebbe, as he had been accustomed to have. Even Shabbos Shirah,24 which was usually one such occasion, came and went, leaving the Tzemach Tzedek deeply grieved.

The Tzemach Tzedek himself later related that one morning, during that period, he took his tallis and tefillin and went out to shul to daven. On the way there, a veteran Lubavitcher butcher approached him and said, “Reb Mendel, today is market day, and I haven’t got a penny to buy merchandise with. Here, lend me three rubles so that I can buy a calf and a fur. In the course of the day I’ll sell them, and then I’ll give you back your loan either tonight or tomorrow.”

“I haven’t got the money with me,” the Tzemach Tzedek explained, “but after davenen I’ll give it to you.”

A moment later he realized that perhaps after davenen would be too late to buy anything. He called the butcher back, took him to his home, lent him three rubles, and went off to shul. There, as soon as he had made a berachah over his tallis, and before he had even managed to wrap himself in it, the Alter Rebbe appeared to him.

On this incident the Rebbe Rashab commented: “Despite all the agonized efforts that the Tzemach Tzedek had made, the Alter Rebbe did not appear to him – but by virtue of the favor of having lent a fellow Jew a gemilus chessed,25 this privilege was immediately granted to him.”26

And the Rebbe Rashab concluded: “I once did a fellow Jew a favor involving [a mere] 25 rubles – and the concept of Ein aroch lecha then settled firmly in my mind.” He thereupon delivered a maamar which was based on those words (and has since been published).27

9. [Concluding28 the farbrengen of Simchas Torah, the Rebbe Rayatz said:]This year needs great mercy.

[These words understandably made a dire impact on all those present. Seeing this, the Rebbe added:] However, we should arouse mercy from Above, not by frightening ourselves nor by weeping. We should arouse Heavenly mercy in a chassidisher manner – with simchah. May G‑d Above show compassion and mercy, so that everything will be good in a visible and revealed way!