1. Joy Makes Blessings Materialize

One1 of the unique features of the festival of Sukkos is the recital of Hoshanos,2 in which Jews request G‑d, vigorously, that He grant them all their material and spiritual needs.

What does this mean?

The Sages state:3 מזונותיו של אדם קצובים לו מראש השנה - “A man’s provisions are determined for him from Rosh HaShanah.” My revered father-in-law explains in the maamar4 that the plural form of “provisions” refers to spiritual food and material food. True, these are already budgeted on Rosh HaShanah - but at that time they are only determined; their actual bestowal takes place on Sukkos.

The reason: Rosh HaShanah (like Yom Kippur) is a time of weeping (arising out of one’s avodah in teshuvah). Since the direction of this mode of avodah is ascent, Divine blessings cannot simultaneously be elicited downward in a tangible manner. Sukkos, by contrast, is alluded to in the phrase,5 yom chageinu - “the day of our festival,” and is also called6 zman simchaseinu - “the season of our rejoicing.” Joy engenders revelation7 (because joy annuls severe heavenly verdicts and breaks through all barriers8). Accordingly, this is the appropriate time for Divine blessings to be drawn downward in a tangible manner. And exactly that is the function of reciting Hoshanos.

2. Scholars on Guard Duty

Today, being the third day of Sukkos, corresponds to the attribute of Tiferes (lit., “beauty”),9 the attribute of truth, which is the dominant characteristic of Yaakov; as it is written,10 תתן אמת ליעקב - “You grant truth to Yaakov.” Accordingly, today’s reading of Hoshanos opens with words that speak in praise of the Jewish people: אום אני חומה - “a nation as firm [in its faith] as a city wall,”11 words which the Sages12 relate to the community of Israel.

Within the community of Israel itself, this quality of the city wall is most prominent among those who are “dwellers in the tent [of Torah study]”13 - yeshivah students, such as those now present, whose main occupation is the study of Torah. As the Sages teach, the phrase involving this wall also alludes to the Torah. In the Midrashic teachings of the Sages we likewise find that Torah scholars are referred to as14 neturei karta - “the guardians of the city”: like a stone wall manned by watchmen at the gates, they grant a city protection.

3. Border Police

By way of explanation:15 A physical city wall serves two functions: (a) it prevents enemies from infiltrating; (b) it prevents the inhabitants from leaving. Nevertheless, despite the encircling wall, the city is not (except during siege) utterly sealed - because there are gates through which people may enter and exit, by order of the watchmen who stand on guard for this purpose.

4. Monitoring Every Entry and Exit

The same principles apply to a spiritual wall, in the spirit of the above teaching that “the city wall alludes to the Torah.”

The Torah is not merely an intellectual discipline to be studied. It is a way of life to be followed; as it is written,16 ושמרו דרך ה׳ - “And they shall observe the path of G‑d.” The difference is that an intellectual discipline is studied for a certain time - one hour, two hours, or even eighteen hours a day, but after that time the student is free. By contrast, a path in life - the Torah, which is “the path of G‑d” - encompasses a man’s entire being, just as a city wall encircles the whole city.

This Torah-wall encompassing a man’s entire being serves two functions: (a) it protects him against the Evil Inclination and the animal soul; (b) it sets limits on the body (which is likened to a city17) so that even from its own perspective it will not desire the things of this world.

And even when the Torah embraces a man’s entire being (since he devotes himself to it utterly) to the point that the things of this world are irrelevant to him, G‑d in His kindness gives him all manner of good things, including the material things of this world - for G‑d is goodness itself, and18 “one who is kind acts kindly by nature.” Thanks to the gates of the city, so to speak, he is not sealed off from the world: he is provided with all his material needs.

This provision is thus included in the request of the Hoshanos that compares Israel to a city wall - a request that G‑d grant a year blessed with good, including material good, that is visible and manifest.

City gates teach another vital lesson in a man’s avodah. As my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz], taught, a man who is encompassed by Torah should not be cloistered away in hidden chambers. He should throw open his city gates and energetically influence those who are out in the surrounding fields.

Though a person might argue that he has not yet completed his own labors (“You have not yet conquered the territory adjoining your own palace!”19), he should not make his exertion on behalf of others wait until he has first completed his own labors of self-perfection.

Reaching out to the men in the fields must be monitored by the watchmen of the wall - the Divine soul - who supervise every entry and exit. As my revered father-in-law pointed out: While one should have a loving and welcoming word for every fellow Jew, one should be vigilantly wary of being adversely influenced by any individual who comes from the field to the city. Indeed, one should seek to influence him, explaining how the city is superior to the untamed field so that he himself will have no further desire to return there, preferring instead to remain in the walled city - the Torah.

5. The Halo of Scholarly Snobbery

Following the allusion to the Torah in אום אני חומה , the next phrase in today’s Hoshanos is an epithet for the Jewish people:20 ברה כחמה - “Bright as the sun.”

Unlike the sun, the moon was originally self-important and egotistic. When it was first created together with the sun (their description as21 “the two great luminaries” suggesting equality), the moon sought to illuminate the world singlehanded. Surely, it argued,22 “Two kings cannot share one crown.” Therefore, even though this was23 “a fair claim,”24 the moon was compelled - because it was conceited and self-centered - to step down and be diminished. (Only in the Time to Come will it be restored to its former glory.) As to the sun, by contrast, we find among the Midrashic teachings of the Sages25 that the sun is reddish when it first goes out to illuminate the world, because it is beaten until it is forced to do so. And why does it not want to light up the world? - So that the idolaters will not be able to worship it. This means that the sun does not seek self-aggrandizement: it displays the very opposite of self-importance and egotism.

This is why the Jewish people are praised as being “as bright as the sun”; the moon, being self-concerned and opinionated, cannot be bright and clear.

We can now understand the sequence: אום אני חומה ברה כחמה. Torah study (which the former phrase alludes to) can breed conceit. A scholar can get it into his head that since he studies Torah then surely he is the choicest of G‑d’s creatures; surely the entire world exists in his merit alone; hence whatever he is given, he is surely worthy of more….

And in truth there is some justice in his claim. After all, is he not rendering a generous favor to G‑d and to all the hosts of heaven and to all the realms from the loftiest spiritual heights all the way down to this material world…? For by virtue of his merit, Divine life-force is elicited downward into all those worlds…! Yet despite all that, conceit remains undesirable.

And that is why, after saying אום אני חומה , in praise of the study of Torah, we say ברה כחמה , in praise of the modesty of the sun. This sequence is a reminder that one’s exertions in Torah study should not be motivated by a hankering after crowns of glory or grandeur, nor by an ambition to refute the arguments of a colleague (“Two kings cannot share one crown!”). One’s study of the Torah should be inspired only by its own sublime worth, for it is G‑d’s Wisdom and Will. When thus inspired, one’s study is pursued in a spirit of self-effacement26 “as bright as the sun”.

6. Beware of Praise

This theme is relevant to the yeshivah students who are now present.

As far as they themselves are concerned, they are assuredly not opinionated. However, there are people who make much of them and sing their praises over the radio, explaining that because the whole of creation hangs on their lofty merit, they should be generously supplied with milk and meat and whatever. Those students who understand English hear this kind of talk, and this can spawn conceit. Hence the need to highlight the theme of ברה כחמה , in praise of the modesty of the sun.

7. The Message Decoded

This brings us to the next two allusions to the Jewish people in today’s Hoshanos: גולה וסורה דמתה לתמר - “exiled and banished,27 likened to a palm tree.”28

In the context of Torah study, “exiled” (golah) hints at the counsel of our Sages,29 הוי גולה למקום תורה - “Exile yourself to a place of Torah.” In the same context, “banished” (sura) hints at further counsel:30 כך היא דרכה של תורה פת במלח תאכל ומים תשתה - “This is the way [to acquire] Torah: Eat bread with salt, drink water in small measure….”

A person who acts in this manner is “likened to a palm tree” […].31

In summary, let us decode the joint message of the first three phrases of today’s Hoshanos.

When can Torah scholars constitute a stone wall (אום אני חומה) that protects a city?

If they study the Torah with the self-effacing luster exemplified by the sun (ברה כחמה), being willing even to exile themselves (גולה) to a place where it can best be studied, rationing ease in careful measure (סורה) in favor of “the way of the Torah,” - such scholars indeed constitute a stone wall that surrounds a city and protects it. They are its true guardians, the watchmen who stand on duty at the city gates to monitor every entry and exit so that no undesirable influence from the surrounding fields may penetrate. Moreover, they strive that those who live in those uncultivated fields should find their way inside and ultimately become citizens of the city which is embraced all around by its protective wall, the Torah.

8. From the Days of Joshua

Having considered what a city wall connotes in the realm of avodah, we can now proceed to understand why the concept of a city wall is related to the era of Yehoshua bin Nun. For we find that the Halachah defines a city as walled (in relation to the sale of a house, the Reading of the Megillah, and so on) only if it was walled from the days of Yehoshua bin Nun.32

One would have expected that the criterion should be one of two other alternatives: either the current state of the city, or its state at the time of Moshe Rabbeinu, when the Torah was given. The straightforward reason for the third choice is that what matters here is the state of affairs when the people entered the Land of Israel - and at that time they were led by Yehoshua bin Nun, not by Moshe Rabbeinu.

In terms of man’s avodah: Only after the passing of Moshe Rabbeinu, in the days of Yehoshua bin Nun, was there a need for “city walls.”

This may be understood by first recalling the well-known plea of R. Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev: “Master of the Universe! If You had displayed the World to Come and Gan Eden (not to speak of Gehinnom, too) right in front of a man’s eyes, and if You had stowed away all the lusts of this world between the pages of Reishis Chochmah, then surely no Jew would ever sin. But since You have laid out all the lusts of this world right in front of a man’s eyes, and You have written about Gehinnom between the pages of Reishis Chochmah, then….”33

So, too, in our context. In the days of Moshe, who personally brought34 “the tablets of stone and the Torah and the commandments,” the people manifestly saw that the Torah and its commandments were the only path through which they were blessed with every possible requisite, whether spiritual or material- bread from heaven, water from Miriam’s Well, and Clouds of Glory that cleansed and freshened their clothes (which used to even grow with them).35 At the same time, they manifestly saw the retribution visited upon those who did not follow this path. Hence, following it did not require any “city wall” to guard them or heighten their vigilance. After Moshe’s histalkus, however, when they were no longer blessed with this bread and this well and these clouds,36 they needed a “city wall” to guard them and to heighten their vigilance as they progressed along the path of the Torah.

This, then, is the inner meaning of the “city walls” that date specifically from the days of Yehoshua bin Nun.

In truth, of course,37 “Moshe did not die.” It is only that - since he38 “stands and serves in heaven” - his physical presence was missing down here (“lower than ten handbreadths from the ground”39), and hence the manna and the well and the clouds were also missing. And in such a situation, a “city wall” is needed.

As for those for whom today, too, Moshe is alive and present down here (“lower than ten handbreadths from the ground”), they experience the effect of the manna and the well and the Clouds of Glory today, too; even today they do not need a “city wall.”

9. Earning One’s Daily Bread

One of the reasons for which Moshe did not enter the Land - with the result that city walls are dated from the days of Yehoshua, who did lead the people there - is that Moshe did not want to enter the Land alone, unaccompanied by those of his closely-connected or casually-connected contemporaries who were not prepared or worthy to do so.40

Why, ultimately, did G‑d plan that specifically Yehoshua should lead the people into the Land? Reaching into pnimiyus, the Torah’s underlying mystical dimension, Chassidus explains41 that had the Jews been led into Eretz Yisrael by Moshe, avodah would not have required exertion; they were led there by Yehoshua because G‑d desires that one invest exertion in serving Him. Why so? - “It is the nature of the benevolent to do good,” and goodness is true and perfect only when it allows the recipient to earn his gift, not when it hands him42 “the bread of disgrace.”

In fact, even when the people were in the wilderness, in the time of Moshe, there was avodah that entailed effort; then, too, they were able to rise from one level to the next, even day by day. (There was once a chassid called R. Gershon Dov Pahrer,43 whose whole life-task involved demanding of himself and encouraging others to toil in Torah and avodah. At the close of every day he used to tell himself: “Tomorrow we’ve got to rise an utterly different man.”44) Nevertheless, this only concerns avodah that proceeds in measured stages.

G‑d, however, desires to be served in a rhythm that transcends measured stages.45 Reciprocally, this (so to speak) makes possible the bestowal of limitless46 benevolence without the slur of disgrace.

To explain: Suppose that one does invest effort in avodah (and thus there is no disgrace of unearned bread). Nevertheless, if this avodah does not match the benevolence which is being granted (since the avodah proceeds in measured stages whereas the blessings are boundless), this benevolence counts as “the bread of disgrace.” G‑d therefore desires to be served in a rhythm that transcends measured stages. This gives Him (so to speak) an excuse to grant the body - which is rooted in Atzmus,47 the very Essence of Divinity - goodness without measure.

This explains the link between the theme of a “walled city” and the era of Yehoshua. Since after the passing of Moshe the obscurity concealing Divinity thickened, avodah from that time must entail exertion. This in turn means that there is a heightened need for the guardianship and vigilance that are provided by a “city wall.”

10. Less Visible, More Accessible

Though these events occurred three thousand years ago, they impact our lives, too.

People have a question: Why did my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz], have to undergo histalkus? Here we had a Jew who manifestly demonstrated miracles. So couldn’t we have continued and completed together with him the few years that remain until Mashiach comes?

An answer to that question I don’t have.

Nevertheless, at least one should recognize the fact that48 “When a tzaddik departs he is to be found in all the worlds more than in his lifetime.” As is explained in Iggeres HaKodesh,49 “This means that even in this world of action… he is more to be found.” Hence now, too, we are being provided with the energy of the Rebbe [Rayatz] to enable us to reach out and draw our fellow Jews to the Torah and to the teachings of Chassidus; indeed, not only to the teachings of Chassidus at large, which focus on simple faith, but also to the teachings of Chabad Chassidus.50

It is true that there are fools who are left with questions…. Here the best thing to do is neither to listen nor to pay attention nor to be impressed.

To echo the above metaphor: In the days of Yehoshua, after the histalkus of Moshe, there is a need for a “wall” to encircle a city and guard it against the infiltration of disruptive influences. At the same time, however, one should not close oneself away within the walled city. Quite the contrary: one should go out in order to attract even the people who are out in the uncultivated fields, and to help them find their place within the city whose surrounding wall is the Torah.51

11. Every Man to his Post

As cited above,52 the Gemara first relates the phrase concerning the “city wall” to the community of Israel. For some of its members, their main tasks lie within the walls. These are the “dwellers in the tent [of Torah study],” whose chief life-task is the study of Torah - in the spirit of the above-cited teaching that the phrase concerning the “city wall” also alludes to the Torah. For others, their main tasks lie beyond the city walls. Their task is to encourage the natives of the fields to join the city of Torah.

This reflects the wider distinction within our people between the “dwellers in the tent [of Torah study]” who are personified by Yissachar,53 and the men of affairs who are personified by Zevulun. As far as their avodah in Torah and gemilus chassadim is concerned, their priorities differ. Like all other Jews, businessmen are of course obligated to set aside fixed times for the daily study of the Torah, at least54 “one chapter in the morning and one in the evening.” Like all other Jews, fulltime Torah scholars are of course obligated to engage in charity and kindly deeds. (Indeed, the Sages teach that55 “Whoever says, ‘I have nothing but Torah…,’ does not have even Torah.” Both are required, especially since56 “in these times, when the approaching footsteps of Mashiach are close upon us, the principal service of G‑d is the service of charity.”) The difference between the scholars and the businessmen dictates their priorities when allocating time.

It goes without saying that every individual ought to engage mainly in the avodah that is his, in keeping with his soul-root and the like, not in avodah that better suits another. In this connection my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz], once said that there are stray souls which do not know what mode of avodah is rightly theirs. There is a well-known story on this subject.57

12. Coupling Night and Day

Similarly with regard to the days of the week, in which58 “each day does its own work.”

When counting the days during which a nazir59 is obligated to observe the restrictions of his vow, the Gemara determines60 that an evening and a morning (a night and a day) together constitute the unit of one day.61 In view of the contrast between light and darkness, would it not be more appropriate to separate and distinguish between day and night? In support of its stance the Gemara cites the verse,62 ויהי ערב ויהי בוקר יום אחד - “And there was evening and there was morning: one day”; i.e., time was created63 in such manner that every “evening and morning” together constitute this unit of time. However, this in itself calls for explanation. Instead of coupling day and night in this way, why not follow the pattern of light and darkness, and separate and distinguish between day and night?

13. Out of Darkness Let There Be Light

Let us first examine the creation of darkness as explained in the pnimiyus of the Torah.

As is well known,64 all the laws that exist in nigleh, in the revealed plane of the Torah, ultimately derive from the pnimiyus, the Torah’s innermost dimension, for the nigleh is the outer expression - the garment - of the pnimiyus.65 A sleeve is tailored to fit an arm; garments are provided with sleeves because people have arms; not vice versa. So, too, in the Torah: because certain phenomena exist in the pnimiyus of the Torah, they then find expression in the revealed plane of the Torah.

The very existence of darkness is problematic. Since G‑d created eyes to see with, and one cannot see without light, why was a period of time created which in itself is dark, and needs to be lit up by lamps, torches, and the like?

In response, Chassidus explains66 that the reason for the creation of darkness is not that G‑d desired it as an end in itself (for67 “no evil comes forth from the mouth of the Most High”). Rather, G‑d created darkness in order to necessitate the spiritual labor of beirur, of lighting up the darkness. This ongoing work of beirurim does not cease until the materiality of the entire world has been refined, until the attainment of the ultimate goal,68 לילה כיום יאיר - “Night will shine like the day.”

The fact that darkness in itself does not constitute G‑d’s intended goal, and exists only so that it can be transformed to light, recalls an expression of our Sages:69 “First there was darkness and only thereafter was there light.” The initial darkness was created only to make possible the subsequent labor of transforming it into light. (Moreover, the resultant gift of light is then the product of effort, and not the unearned “bread of disgrace.”)

This, too, is implied in the phrase, ויהי ערב ויהי בוקר - “And there was evening and there was morning”: The Divine intent underlying the creation of evening is that from it morning should arise. Indeed, as interpreted by my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz],70 the true meaning of erev (“evening”) becomes apparent from its connection with areivus (“pleasantness, sweetness”) - because converting the darkness of night to the brightness of morning brings the individual concerned true pleasure.71

14. Play Your Own Instrument

This insight enables us to understand why days are counted as they are,72 in the revealed plane of the Torah as well.

Since darkness (evening) is not an end in itself, and is of use only to accompany light, for the sake of light, it is impossible to separate darkness (night) and light (day) into two distinct entities. Rather, darkness and light together constitute one entity. As interpreted above, “First there was darkness and only thereafter was there light”; or, as the following verse was understood above, “And there was evening and there was morning.”

Darkness is refined and illuminated in different ways. Hence the days are distinguished from each other variously: “And there was evening and there was morning: one day”; “And there was evening and there was morning: the second day”; and so on.

In plain terms: The first day of creation is called “one day” - “because G‑d was One alone in His world.”73 The refinement and illumination of darkness that took place at that time, on the day on which light was created, is quite different from the refinement and illumination of darkness that took place on the second day, when the firmament was created to make a separation and cleavage74 “between the waters and the waters.”75 This separated the upper waters from the lower waters which76 “promote the growth of all kinds of pleasure-giving things,” and which hence make it possible that77 “your heart be lured away.” (The latter phrase appears in the second paragraph of Shema, which is related to the second day.) And in turn, being lured calls forth a need for Gehinnom, which was created on the second day.78

There are parallel distinctions between all the succeeding days, “each day doing its own work.”

A similar principle applies to every man’s avodah. There are souls whose life-task is the avodah of “day One”; the life-task of other souls is the avodah of “the second day”; and so on. Every individual should therefore engage in the mode of avodah which is rightly his, in keeping with his own soul-root, instead of seeking directions in avodah that are inappropriate to him.

15. Your Traveling Companion is the Rebbe

The above principle also teaches a lesson to those whose life-task takes them outside the “city wall” in order to work with fellow Jews who are outside in the uncultivated fields.

My revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz], chose emissaries (shluchim) and dispatched them to various provincial towns, to arei hasadeh - “towns in the fields.” (A “field”, by the way, does not have to be outside Brooklyn or New York; anything that is not embraced by “the wall of the Torah” is an uncultivated field.) Nevertheless, some of them complained to him: it was difficult to be alone in an environment where there was no other Jews who observed the mitzvos; they were anxious about what would happen with the education of their own children; sometimes the lady of the house complained that the floor was too high or the ceiling was too low…, the house was lacking all the accustomed conveniences of the city, and so on. Besides, some emissaries would argue, who says that I am the one who has to set things right? This last argument, by the way, is one that has been heard both among those who were dispatched to provincial towns and among those who were instructed to undertake communal responsibilities.

The fact is that if such an emissary were a little more refined he would not have come forward with these arguments. Why?

The Rebbe [Rayatz] is a comprehensive soul,79 intrinsically comprehensive, more than simply the generality of many individual elements. Moreover, he is the intermediary between the [infinite] Ein-Sof light and the worlds.80 And since one of these worlds is the World of Atzilus, the Rebbe is higher than that level too. Nevertheless, regardless of his sublime stature, the Rebbe involves himself with this emissary and sends him out to a certain township to fulfill a mission on his behalf - thereby stepping down to a level which is incomparably distant from his own. How, then, can one dare to confront the Rebbe with complaints?

As to the actual complaints: Surely the Rebbe knows, better than the shaliach knows, the advantages of living in an environment of observant Jews (and likewise with the other complaints). Moreover, the Rebbe desires this emissary’s spiritual welfare even more than he himself does. Yet despite all that the Rebbe sent him out on this particular mission, because the Rebbe knows that this is the task which is rightly his.

Even though in fact such complaints should not have been raised, nevertheless, since the Rebbe is goodness itself (and “It is the nature of the benevolent to do good”), the Rebbe offers answers to his complaints. The Rebbe assures him that81 “he is not alone”; wherever he travels, the Rebbe accompanies him.82 Surely, then, he can and should fulfill his mission with the energy supplied by the one who sent him.83

Furthermore, the Rebbe’s reply that he accompanies the shaliach on his travels not only cancels the complaint, but increases his responsibility as an emissary. For when the Rebbe is with him at the site of his mission, fulfilling it incompletely makes him not only “one who damages himself” (who is forbidden to do so but is not penalized); it makes him “one who damages others,” an offender who is penalized.84 How much more does this rule apply in our case, where the “others” is none other than the Rebbe who sent him on his mission!

16. Fuel Awaiting a Match

A word about the actual work of shlichus. One should realize that even when one encounters a fellow Jew out on the road, outside the “wall of the Torah,” one is able - and therefore obligated - to uncover the Jewish spark within him so that it will surface and shine forth in all its strength, so brightly that he too will affect those who are still outside and will draw them near to the Torah and its mitzvos.

A simple physical analogy - of the kind frequently to be found in Chassidus, since physical analogs descend and materialize by stages from their root and source in the spiritual worlds above:

Petroleum is hidden in the depths of the earth. Though it is generally found not in the company of precious stones but in unsavory locations inhabited by reptiles and the like, people search for it, and if they hit the right spot (so that it spurts out with a vigor that may even need to be controlled), it can be transmuted into light and heat.

So, too, in the analog: Even if a shaliach encounters a fellow Jew out in the street, he should realize that this meeting was engineered by Divine Providence in order that he should work with him and bring him near to the Torah and its mitzvos. He is surely able - and therefore obligated - to exert himself until the spark within his fellow Jew is uncovered in all its intensity,85 to the point that he in turn will generate the light and heat of kedushah.

17. Plant Humbly, Plant Patiently

When one attempts to influence a fellow Jew who is out in the street, but does not succeed, one should realize that the lack is not in the listener but in oneself. The Torah declares that86 “Words that proceed from the heart enter the heart.” If one’s words are not found acceptable, it is clear that they did not proceed from the heart, but from a place of conceit and self-concern.

A related anecdote is retold by my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz].87

Once, when the Rebbe Rashab was four or five years old and his brother R. Zalman Aharon was five or six, they played Rebbe and chassid. When they were deciding who should take which part, the Rebbe Rashab said that he didn’t want to play the part of the Rebbe, “because there’s only one Rebbe.” His brother was therefore the make-believe Rebbe and he was the make-believe chassid.

To begin with, the make-believe chassid entered the study of the make-believe Rebbe for yechidus and posed a philosophical question:88 “What is a Jew?”

The little Rebbe answered: “A Jew is fire.”

“If so,” challenged the little chassid, “why isn’t my hand burnt when it touches yours?”

“Because you are fire, too,” answered the older brother, “and fire doesn’t get burnt from fire.”

The little chassid now asked a question in the realm of avodah, and the little Rebbe prescribed the appropriate tikkun for atonement.

But at this point the little chassid protested: “You’re not a Rebbe!”

“Why?” asked his older brother.

“Because before a Rebbe answers,” explained the future Rebbe Rashab, “he sighs. But you answered straight away; you didn’t sigh even once….”

Another point: One should not be unduly perturbed if one did not succeed at one’s first attempt, but should try again and again. This was one of the well-known lessons in avodah that R. Meshullam Zusya of Hanipoli learned by once observing a burglar at work.89 If a burglar does not succeed at his first attempt, he returns and tries again. Even if he is caught and imprisoned he is not overimpressed. On the contrary, while in prison he becomes more expert in the finer points of his craft, and when he is released he gets back to work….

When a chassid tries to get through to a fellow Jew again and again, almost to the point of impertinence90 (which91 “achieves results even when addressed to heaven”), he will ultimately succeed. My revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz], has given his assurance that92 “exerted endeavor [in this field] will never be futile.”

The above remains true even if one does not see immediate fruits. Indeed, they may appear after a long time, like the fruit of the date palm (for “a tzaddik shall flourish like a palm tree”93) which yields its fruit after seventy years.94

In this spirit the Gemara records95 that Choni HaMe’agel, “observing a man planting a carob tree, asked him: ‘In how many years will this tree bear fruit?’ “‘In seventy years,’ said the man. “‘And are you sure that you will live another seventy years?’ asked Choni. “The man replied: ‘…Just as my forefathers planted for me, so too am I planting for my sons.’”

So, too, in our case: What should matter to a chassid is not that he see the fruits of his work, but that he fulfill his mission.96