Chassidic Discourse
on the Subject of “Shining”1

Story told by Reb Avraham Abba Persan

I was in Lubavitch visiting the Rebbe the Tzemach Tzedek during the festival of Shavuos 5621, which fell on Wednesday and Thursday [May 15 and 16, 1861]. During the festive meal on the second day of Yom Tov, which was held in the small shul, I was privileged to stand next to the Tzemach Tzedek’s son, Reb Chayim Schneur Zalman.2

The order of seating was as follows: The Rebbe sat at the head of the table. The Rebbe’s brother-in-law Reb Menachem Nachum, who was a son of the Mitteler Rebbe,3 had come for Shavuos, and he sat at the Rebbe’s right; continuing down the right side, sat in order: the Rebbe’s second son, the tzaddik Reb Yehudah Leib;4 his brother, the tzaddik Reb Yisrael Noach;5 his brother, Reb Shmuel.6 At the Rebbe’s left sat in order: the Rebbe’s eldest son, the tzaddik Reb Baruch Shalom; his brother, the tzaddik Reb Chayim Schneur Zalman; his brother, the tzaddik Reb Yosef Yitzchak.7 The Rebbe’s sons-in-law were not present on that occasion; therefore, the Rebbe’s grandchildren sat further down the table, after his sons; further still, sat elder chassidim and prominent rabbis.

Since I had the good fortune to stand next to the chair of Reb Chayim Schneur Zalman, I was positioned only two chairs distant from the Rebbe’s holy seat. Thus, I was able to hear every word that issued from his holy mouth. The things I saw and heard during that Shavuos festival make a story of their own, and this is not the appropriate place to tell it. Here, I will only relate what pertains to our story about Reb Gavriel.

The Rebbe began his remarks by saying: “During the festive meal of the second day of Shavuos 5555 [Monday, May 25, 1795], when I was six years old, my saintly grandfather8 remarked that during the festive meal of the second day of Shavuos 5528 [Monday, May 23, 1768], his holy Rebbe9 said: ‘[It is written], “You shall count for yourselves…” the term “you shall count” also shares a connection to the concepts of shining and brilliance.10 “You shall count for yourselves” thus can be interpreted as: See to it that your “self” is shining.’

“My saintly grandfather then leaned upon his elbows and sang the ‘Niggun of the Four Stanzas’11 with great deveikus. Afterwards, he raised his holy head and said, in the traditional melody of a [Talmudic] query: ‘And with what does one make his “self” shine?’ He then immediately continued, in the traditional melody of a [Talmudic] reply: ‘This is with what one makes his “self” shine: with “seven complete weeks” by refining his seven attributes so that each attribute itself will consist of seven; thus, the seven attributes themselves will constitute seven Shabbasos, for Shabbos itself needs no refinement.’

“When I grew older, and I became acquainted with my grandfather’s chassidim,” continued the Tzemach Tzedek, “I observed that they fulfilled the commandment of ‘You shall count for yourselves’; they truly made their ‘self’ shine brilliantly.

“Our Rabbis of blessed memory tell us,” concluded the Tzemach Tzedek, “that the Early Sages were called sofrim [literally ‘scribes’ or ‘counters’] because they used to count all the letters of the Torah.12 And my saintly grandfather’s chassidim used to count the all the letters of what he said to them in yechidus.”