11. The learned R. Aizik of Homil has left us an account of how the Alter Rebbe used to celebrate Yud-Tes Kislev. Just as on Shabbos and Yom-Tov and the Days of Awe, he would deliver a maamar, usually in two sessions – on the eve of Yud-Tes Kislev and on the eve of Chaf Kislev.2 The second session was sometimes an explanation of the first.

In the year 5550 (1790), the Alter Rebbe began to construct Tanya. Every Shabbos and Yom-Tov he would orally deliver a whole chapter, or a half or a third of a chapter. He completed this on the eve of Tes Kislev3 in 5554 (1793), when he delivered chapter 53, until “in the Second Beis HaMikdash.”

On that occasion the Mitteler Rebbe farbrenged with the chassidim through the night. [His numerous allusions to key concepts in the Kabbalah and in Chassidus are paraphrased here.] He first cited the statement of Rashbi that he could take responsibility for all the generations ever since Avraham Avinu.4 He then spoke of how Rashbi revealed the pnimiyus – the innermost, subliminal dimension of the Torah – particularly on the day of his passing, Lag BaOmer, the day characterized by the Sefirah of Hod ShebaHod. The Alter Rebbe echoed the mystical message of that Sefirah by composing his Tanya in 53 (ג"ן) chapters,5 thus recalling the verse (Shir HaShirim 4:12),.גַּן נָעוּל אֲחֹתִי כַלָּה, גַּל נָעוּל The word גַּל in this verse (which appears likewise in Tehillim 119:18 – גַּל עֵינַי וְאַבִּיטָה נִפְלָאוֹת מִתּוֹרָתֶך) also conveys a mystical allusion to Lag (לַ"ג) BaOmer, whose message was relayed by the 53 (נ"ג) chapters, the גַּן נָעוּל, of Tanya.

2. On Simchas Torah, 5554 (1793), the revered chassid R. Pinchas Reizes picked up the Tzemach Tzedek [who had just turned four] and joined the dancing with the child in his arms.

“Let him down,” said the Alter Rebbe, “he can dance by himself. In the soul in his body, the knowledge of the Torah stands revealed.”

3. My father taught me Tanya three times – after my bar-mitzvah [in 5653/1893]; in the year 5656 (1896); and in the year 5658 (1898).

The letters [of the alphabet] exist at three levels:6 (a) letters that conceal [seichel and middos] and reveal [the letters only, while obscuring the seichel and middos which are their source]; (b) letters that make one wise; and (c) letters that reveal the Etzem (the Essence) that lies beyond the reach of mortal intellect and that reveal the full depth of the Etzem.7