1.I Need My Sons

“Before1 the passing of Rebbe [i.e., R. Yehudah HaNasi, known as Rabbeinu HaKadosh], he said: ‘I need my sons!… Let the lamp continue to burn in its usual place; let the table be set in its usual place; let the bed be made in its usual place.”2

The word used here for “passing” is petirah. This word also means “passing on” — from one place to another, from one subject to another, from one mode of avodah to another. One such use of this term is Haftorah, which signifies a passing on — from the congregational reading of the Torah, to a reading from one of the Books of the Prophets.3 Similarly, “the passing of Rebbe” signifies a passing on to a loftier place and manner of divine service. For thus the Sages have taught:4 Tzaddikim have no repose, neither in this world nor in the next, as it is written,5 ‘They shall proceed from strength to strength.’ ” They continue to ascend, elevation beyond elevation.

What is novel here is that it was at the time of his passing that Rebbe said, “I need my sons”: Since at this moment he was embarking on a mode of divine service that was infinitely superior to what had preceded it, it would have been reasonable to assume that he would no longer have any connection with us.

In order to forestall such an assumption, at the moment of his passing Rebbe said: “I need my sons.” As if to say: “Even though I am now ascending to divine service of a transcendent order, I nevertheless remember you, and I shall remember you wherever I shall be. Moreover, in whatever lofty levels of ascent I may find myself, your divine service matters to me — ‘I need my sons.’ Not only are the sons in need of him, but he, moreover, is in need of his sons.

2. Lamp, Table, Bed

In light of the above, each of the subjects concerning which it was customary to turn to the Rebbe, remains in its accustomed place — “Let the lamp continue to burn in its usual place; let the table be set in its usual place; let the bed be made in its usual place.”

Generally speaking, people used to enter the Rebbe’s study for yechidus concerning two categories of subjects: correction and sustenance in spiritual matters, and correction and sustenance in material (though not materialistic) matters. Each of these categories comprises three components — lamp, table, bed.

At yechidus, requests relating to material matters focus on three concerns: children, health (lit., “life”), and livelihood.6 These three concerns correspond to lamp, table, and bed, as follows: Chayei (health, or life) is represented by a lamp, as it is written,7 “The soul of man is a lamp of G‑d”; mezonei (livelihood) is represented by a table; banei (children) is represented by a bed.

All three elements continue to stand in their usual place. Even after his passing, Rebbe can answer; he answers as he did in the past, and directs Divine benefactions as he did in the past.

The same principle is true of requests made at yechidus relating to spiritual matters. These concerns, too, correspond to lamp, table, and bed.

The lamp (ner) signifies the mitzvos in general, as in the verse,8 “For a mitzvah is a lamp.” The table (shulchan) signifies Torah study in particular, for in addition to its serving (like all other mitzvos) as a “garment” for the soul, Torah study also serves as “food” for the soul.9 Furthermore, beyond the matters which reflect proper conduct according to the Torah (the table) and its mitzvos (the lamp), there is sometimes a need to correct the situation of a man who has fallen — who has sinned and caused a blemish and lost his way, because10 “a spirit of folly found its way into him” — so that he is now spiritually prone, his head being no higher than his feet: he is, so to speak, bed ridden. In particular, the predicament of such a man may call for the correction of the blemish caused by an imperfect guardianship of the sign of the covenant (and likewise by an imperfect guardianship of the tongue, since the two are connected11). This need applies particularly to the sins of youth, which bring about a comprehensive separation between man and G‑d.12 These sins need to be rectified in such a way that the individual’s13 “bed will be perfect.”

These concerns, too, continue to stand in their usual place. Even when he is in a blemished and fallen situation, let no man think that he is utterly cut off, and what kind of bond could he possibly have with Rebbe after his passing. Rather, let him know that now, too, the Rebbe answers requests concerning the rectification of blemishes and concerning a man’s falls, just as in the past.14

3. How Can the Rebbe Relate to Such Requests?

As is widely known, in order for a Rebbe to be able to give a response at yechidus, he must first be able to find within himself some relationship — at least a subtly spiritual equivalent — to the subject of the request. This is illustrated in a well-known episode involving the Mitteler Rebbe.15

Since in the past the Rebbe [Rayatz] was garbed in a physical body in this world, one can conceive of his finding within himself some tenuous spiritual relationship with such requests, as did the Mitteler Rebbe. Now, however, when he has no connection with physicality, how can he respond to such requests?

4. An Intermediary Who Connects

Before we answer this question, there is another question that has been asked: How is it at all appropriate to address requests to the Rebbe? Is this not putting him in the position of an intermediary?16

Some people apply this question to requests relating to the awe of heaven.17

The answer to the question regarding intermediaries is as follows.

Just as “Israel and the Torah and the Holy One, blessed be He, are all one” — i.e., not only is Israel connected to the Torah and the Torah is connected to G‑d,18 but they are all absolutely one — so, too, in the bond between chassidim and their Rebbe, these are not like two entities which unite, but they become absolutely “all one.” And the Rebbe is not an intermediary who intercepts,19 but an intermediary who connects.20 Accordingly, for the chassid, he and the Rebbe and the Holy One, blessed be He, are all one.

(I have not seen this written explicitly in the teachings of Chassidus: it is a hergesh, a matter of individual perception. Hence, whoever wants to perceive things this way, let him do so; whoever does not want to, I do not want to argue with him: let him abide by his own stance.)

Accordingly, the query regarding intermediaries ceases to be problematic, since we are speaking of the Essence and Being of G‑d Himself, as He has garbed Himself in a body.21

This accords with the statement in the Zohar,22 מאן פני דא רשב׳׳יהאדון הוי׳.23 In the same spirit, for the duration of its mission even an angel is referred to by G‑d’s Name.24 So, too, Moshe Rabbeinu said,25 “I shall grant grass.”

In the same way as the above query [about intermediaries] ceases to be problematic, the earlier query — as to how the Rebbe can respond to requests concerning the rectification of matters pertaining to the bed — likewise ceases to be problematic. For the bond between Rebbe and chassid is a bond that is rooted in the very essence of each.

And that is why Rebbe [R. Yehudah HaNasi] assured his disciples: Wherever I may be, I need my sons.

5. The Rebbe Can Hear Us

The Rebbe [Rayatz] is with us as in the past. He is present in his room and hears us farbrengen here.

If so, how is it that we are farbrengen here? — Because he wants us to.

The Rebbe [Rayatz] once switched on the speaker in his room and heard the farbrengen here. The same is true now too, but more intensely, of course.

6. Coming Home for Kiddush

Sefer Chassidim26 records that [after his passing] Rabbeinu HaKadosh used to visit his home, wearing Shabbos clothes, every Friday evening at dusk; he would recite Kiddush, and others would thereby discharge their obligation to hear Kiddush.27

Now, too, the time is dusk, after Minchah; Rabbeinu HaKadosh [lit., “our holy Rebbe”] is coming to make Kiddush, and staying, too, for the night.

7. Where the Mind Is

This winter I once entered the study of the Rebbe [Rayatz]. His head was leaning on his hand; he was deep in thought, and he said that he wanted to go to Eretz Yisrael.

I said, “How can one go? There is so much work to be done here!”

The Rebbe reflected a moment and said, Nu — a nice thought.”28

In his thoughts he was already in Eretz Yisrael. The atzmos of Yosef29 had already been brought to Eretz Yisrael.

8. Shabbos On Demand

A chassid once arrived from far away and asked the Rebbe [Rayatz] to deliver a maamar of Chassidus. The Rebbe replied that he customarily did this on Shabbos. To this the chassid replied that whenever he visited the Rebbe, for him it was Shabbos. And the Rebbe duly delivered a maamar of Chassidus.30

Now, too, through proper hiskashrus, every day and at any time, every individual can experience Shabbos. And Rebbe comes, and makes Kiddush, and enables others to discharge their obligation; i.e., he nourishes their souls as if they had recited Kiddush themselves — but with a difference: this is a Kiddush with his kavanos, and hence with his kedushah, with his holiness.