Day 37 of the Omer

פַּעַם אַחַת הִתְוַעֲדוּ חֲסִידִים הָרִאשׁוֹנִים — בִּשְׁנַת תּקמ"ד-ז — וְתוֹכֶן שִׂיחָתָם הָיָה: דעֶר רֶבִּי — רַבֵּנוּ הַזָּקֵן — האָט אוֹיפגעֶטאָן וואָס מעֶן אִיז נִיט עֶלעֶנט. אַמאָל, אִיז דעֶר רֶבִּי — דעֶר רָאשׁ מְתִיבְתָּא אוּן גָּאוֹן — געֶוועֶן עֶלעֶנט, אוּן דִי תַּלְמִידִים זַיינעֶן געֶוועֶן עֶלעֶנט. דעֶר דֶּרֶךְ הַחֲסִידוּת וואָס דעֶר רֶבִּי האָט מְיַיסֵּד געֶוועֶן אִיז דעֶר גְרוֹיסעֶר גֶ-טלִיכעֶר אוֹיפְטוּ, וואָס דעֶר רֶבִּי אִיז נִיט עֶלעֶנט אוּן חֲסִידִים זַיינעֶן נִיט עֶלעֶנט.

Once, at some time in the years 5544-5547 (1784-1787), a group of early chassidim who were farbrengen together spoke of how their Rebbe, the Alter Rebbe, had done away with solitude. In previous eras, a Rebbe — a rosh yeshivah or a gaon — was alone, and his disciples were alone. The path of Chassidus blazed by the Alter Rebbe brought about an awesome G‑dly innovation: the Rebbe is not alone and the chassidim are not alone.1

A Faithful Shepherd

Why, in earlier generations, did a Rebbe — even a Rebbe who taught his disciples Torah — feel alone? Because most people did not share his outlook on the world. They were preoccupied with their own lives — their families, jobs, and mundane concerns, or even with a desire for holiness that led them to invest their time in prayer and Torah study. In many cases, however, these people suffered from a kind of myopia that did not let them see beyond their own little world.

A true Rebbe, rosh yeshivah, or gaon, sees a much larger picture. His involvement in the Torah allows him to view the world from G‑d’s perspective. But because most people cannot see things that way, he has no one to share his vision with. He remains alone.

In earlier generations the chassidim, too, were alone. Though they too were busy with their own private lives, they yearned — then as now — for something higher. They realized no doubt that their Rebbecould lead them to it, but they did not see how they could communicate with him. After all, he was on such a different level.

The Alter Rebbe “brought about an awesome G‑dly innovation.” He tapped the level of yechidah, the fundamental core of the G‑dly soul that is to be found within all Jews, great and small, thereby linking these two extremes.2