Take for yourself wise, understanding and knowledgeable men... and I will place them at your head (1:13)

The word va'asimaim ('and I will place them') is written in the Torah lacking the letter Yud so that the word can also be read as va'ashomom, 'and their guilt.' This comes to teach us that the faults of a generation rest with its heads and leaders…

- Rashi's Commentary

When someone comes to a Rebbe and seeks his counsel and assistance in dealing with a spiritual malady, the Rebbe must first find the same blemish, if only in the most subtle of forms, in his own soul; only then can the Rebbe help him to refine and perfect his self and character. This is the deeper significance of that which our sages have said, "the faults of a generation rest with its heads and leaders".

- Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok of Lubavitch

During one of his journeys, Rabbi DovBer of Lubavitch stopped at an inn near the city of Samargon. It was summer, the weather was pleasant, and the Rebbe decided to stay for a week.

When Rabbi DovBer's decision became known, many people from the Samargon area converged at the inn, wishing to be received by the Rebbe and to consult with him. The Rebbe began to receive each one in turn, in a private audience known as yechidus.

A few days later, while hundreds of people still crowded the courtyard waiting to be received, the Rebbe suddenly stopped the yechidus and locked his door.

His chassidim assumed that the many visitors of the past few days had tired the Rebbe and that he had taken a short break to recoup his strength. But after half an hour the Rebbe's secretary, Reb Zalman, emerged from the Rebbe's room extremely distressed, his eyes red from weeping, and whispered a few words into the ears of the leading chassidim who had accompanied the Rebbe on his journey. These chassidim became greatly alarmed, their faces turning red and white and red again, and a wave of horror spread through the crowd. All were at loss as to what had happened.

An hour or two later several of the elder chassidim entered the house and listened at the Rebbe's door. They heard the Rebbe pouring out his soul, weeping and saying chapters of Psalms from the depths of his holy heart. Some of them fainted in distress. No one had any inkling as to what may have caused the Rebbe, in the middle of an ordinary weekday, to interrupt the yechidus and to be moved to such heart-wrenching prayers. Soon the distressing news seeped out to the anxious crowd, which broke up into groups and began to tearfully recite Psalms.

When the Rebbe finished reciting Psalms, he began to prepare for the afternoon mincha prayers. But he was so weakened from his earlier efforts that he was forced to first rest in bed for over an hour to recover his strength. Then he prayed mincha in the manner that is customary during the Ten Days of Repentance.1

After mincha the Rebbe came out to the courtyard, seated himself on the platform which had been prepared for him, and delivered a lengthy discourse on the verse "Wall of the daughter of Zion, let flow a tear as a stream."2The Rebbe spoke of how tears cleanse the soul of harmful words and thoughts, and expounded on the merit of saying words of Torah and Psalms. The discourse greatly moved the audience, and reverberated throughout the Chabad-chassidic community. Years later, chassidim remembered that day.

The next day the Rebbe was very weak and confined to his bed, but on the day after he resumed the yechidus. Still, no one knew what had so greatly distressed the Rebbe and caused his fervent prayer and address.

Rabbi Pinchas of Shklov, who had accompanied the Rebbe on this journey, was among the distinguished chassidim yet in the time of the Rebbe's father, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi. A few days later, Rabbi Pinchas asked the Rebbe what it had all been about.

A great sadness descended upon the Rebbe. Then he said: "When a chassid enters into yechidus, he reveals to me the inner maladies of his soul, each on his own level, and seeks my assistance to cure his spiritual ills. To help him, I must first find the same failing - even in the most subtle of forms - within my own self, and strive to correct it. For it is not possible to direct someone else in cleansing and perfecting his character unless I myself have already experienced the same problem and undergone the same process of self-refinement.

"On that day," continued the Rebbe, "someone came to me with a problem. I was horrified to hear to what depths he had fallen, G‑d forbid. Try as I might, I could not find within myself anything even remotely resembling what he told me. But this man had come to me, so I knew that somewhere, somehow, there was something in me that could relate to his situation.

"And then it occurred to me that it must be something imbedded so deep within me that it was way beyond my conscious reach. The thought shook me to the very core of my soul and moved me to repent and return to G‑d from the depths of my heart."