Day 43 of the Omer

בְּאַחַד הַחֶזְיוֹנוֹת לַיְלָה שֶׁרָאָה הַצֶּמַח צֶדֶק אֶת רַבֵּנוּ הַזָּקֵן, בְּתוֹךְ שְׁלֹשִׁים לְהִסְתַּלְּקוּתוֹ, אָמַר לְפָנָיו הַמַּאֲמָר עַל שְׁלֹשָׁה דְבָרִים הָעוֹלָם עוֹמֵד. אַחֲרֵי הַמַּאֲמָר אָמַר לוֹ: אִישׁ מַזְרִיעַ תְּחִלָּה יוֹלֶדֶת נְקֵבָה — זֶהוּ אִמְךָ. אִשָּׁה מַזְרַעַת תְּחִלָּה יוֹלֶדֶת זָכָר — זֶהוּ אַתָּה.

In one of the nighttime visions in which the Tzemach Tzedek saw [his maternal grandfather,] the Alter Rebbe, within thirty days of the latter’s passing, [the Alter Rebbe] delivered a maamar [based on the teaching of the mishnah],1 “The world stands on three things….” After delivering the maamar, the Alter Rebbe [quoted and interpreted a Talmudic teaching]: “‘When a man gives seed first, a female is conceived.’2 This alludes to your mother.3 ‘When a woman gives seed first, a male is conceived.’ This refers to you.”4

A Story with an Echo

The Mitteler Rebbe, the eldest son and successor of the Alter Rebbe, passed away on 9 Kislev, 5588 (1827). Before the following Shavuos, the elder chassidim gathered in Lubavitch. Their goal was to persuade the Mitteler Rebbe’s nephew and son-in-law, the Tzemach Tzedek, who was then 38 years old, to accept the mantle of leadership. Among them was R. Peretz Chein, who declared that he could prove from a teaching of the Sages that the Tzemach Tzedek should become the next Rebbe. He thereupon repeated the above teaching. Hearing it, the Tzemach Tzedek became very serious and replied, “I accept.”

The esteemed R. Hillel of Paritch then spoke up: “The chassidim want to hear Chassidus!”5

The Tzemach Tzedek withdrew to his room. He soon reappeared, wearing the white robe that he had inherited from his grandfather, the Alter Rebbe, and delivered the above maamar, beginning with the words,Al Sheloshah Devarim HaOlam Omed — “The world stands on three things.”

These words suddenly reminded some of the prominent elder chassidim of what had seemed to be a mere passing comment of the Alter Rebbe a few decades earlier. They recalled that in 5553 (1793), they had been invited to his study to hear him deliver a maamar. At that time they noticed that his three-year-old grandson was running around the room and playing with toy tefillin that he had made out of potatoes. Whenever the cords that served for toy straps got caught in the legs of the table and chairs of the Alter Rebbe, he would unscramble them for him. One of the elder chassidim, seeing that the toddler was edging towards the Alter Rebbe while he was in the midst of delivering his discourse, intended to help the little fellow untie his straps.

Catching sight of the elder chassid, the Alter Rebbe said, “Let him be: he’s listening. You will yet know that he’s listening.”

That comment was completely forgotten. But the maamar that the Tzemach Tzedek was now repeating some 35 years later was the very maamar that they had heard long ago from the lips of the Alter Rebbe — together with a little boy of three….