Day 42 of the Omer

אַאַמוּ"ר סִפֵּר שֶׁשָּׁמַע מֵאָבִיו בְּשֵׁם הַצֶּמַח צֶדֶק שֶׁשָּׁמַע מֵרַבֵּנוּ הַזָּקֵן שֶׁהָיָה קוֹרֵא אֶת עַצְמוֹ בְּשֵׁם בֵּן לְהָרַב הַמַּגִּיד וּבְשֵׁם נֶכֶד לְהַבַּעַל שֵׁם טוֹב.

My revered father, the Rebbe [Rashab], related that he heard from his father, [the Rebbe Maharash,] that the Tzemach Tzedek heard the Alter Rebbe referring to himself as the son of the Maggid of Mezritch and the grandson of the Baal Shem Tov.1

To Fill In the Background

The Rebbe explains2 that there are two sides to the relationship of grandparents and grandchildren: (a) Grandchildren can be considered a continuation of their grandparents’ personalities, and (b) grandchildren extend their grandparents’ influence further, bringing them to greater completion.

The Rebbe drew this distinction in order to resolve an apparent contradiction between the chassidic teachings of the Baal Shem Tov and of the Alter Rebbe. The Baal Shem Tov emphasized a superrational commitment to G‑d that reveals the infinite Divine potential within the soul. The Alter Rebbe, by contrast, initiated the Chabad approach, which stresses the positive role of the intellect: “Wisdom, Understanding, and Knowledge.”

Yet, lest one think that his approach departed from the path of the Baal Shem Tov, the Alter Rebbe emphasized that he was “a grandson.” That is, his approach is an extension of the Baal Shem Tov’s teaching. For the boundless G‑dly power that the Baal Shem Tov revealed can also be expressed through the intellect.3

Thus, the Alter Rebbe brought the Baal Shem Tov’s approach to fuller expression by extending its scope.