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Publisher's Foreword

"Fathers Of Chassidus"
The First Three Generations

   The First Generation: The Baal Shem Tov

Second Generation: The Maggid Of Mezritch

Third Generation: The Alter Rebbe

Torah Scholarship In Reissin

Reb Yitzchak Aizik Of Vitebsk

The Debate In Minsk

Letter By The Previous Rebbe

The Rebbe's Response To The Previous Rebbe's Letter

On The Subject Of Miracles

The Alter Rebbe's Later Years

The Previous Rebbe's Ancestral Tree

Founders Of Chassidism & Leaders Of Chabad-Lubavitch

Glossary

Geographic Terms

Branches Of The Chassidic Menorah - Volume One
Biographical Stories Based On The Essay
Fathers Of Chassidus
By The Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn
First published in the classical columns of HaTamim


Third Generation: The Alter Rebbe

Translated by Shimon Neubort

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  Second Generation: The Maggid Of MezritchTorah Scholarship In Reissin  

[1]

8.

During the twelve years of the Maggid's leadership Toras HaChassidus expanded and reached a very high crest, spreading throughout a vast territory. But after he passed away in the year 5533 [1773], the situation deteriorated rapidly. Grave danger now threatened the structure that the Baal Shem Tov had founded and built, and that his disciple the Maggid had enlarged. All the disciples went into deep mourning over the passing of their master and Rebbe, and they held many deliberations and consultations over who should be crowned Nasi, as his successor.

The Alter Rebbe -Baal HaTanya - divulged discreetly to the more important disciples, some of what the holy Maggid had said to him on 18 Kislev 5533 [December 14, 1772], the day before he passed away. He had instructed [the Alter Rebbe] to use his utmost influence to arrange that his son, Reb Avraham, should accept the position of Nasi. If he were unwilling to accept, then the holy Reb Menachem Mendel Litvak[2] was to be appointed.

During Chanukah, a committee of three disciples was appointed: i) the holy Reb Yehudah Leib HaKohen, author of Or HaGanuz; ii) the Alter Rebbe, Baal HaTanya; iii) the holy Reb Meshulem Zusia of Anipolia. [These three] were empowered to approach the tzaddik Reb Avraham - son of the Maggid - and present to him a document, signed by all of his father's disciples, certifying that they had become Reb Avraham's adherents.

From the first day that the Alter Rebbe arrived in Mezritch, he met with the Maggid's favor, and was granted all sorts of privileges. My saintly father told me the following, which he heard from his father, my saintly grandfather the Rebbe Maharash, who heard it from his own father, the Tzemach Tzedek:

"My grandfather [the Alter Rebbe] told me that when he first came to Mezritch, he learned more from what was not said or done, than from what was said or done." He then explained what he meant by that.

The Alter Rebbe's narrative:

Each of the veteran disciples had a certain day of the month when it would be his turn to act as our master's personal attendant, following the sequence that our master himself had established. When I arrived in Mezritch, G-d granted me the privilege of being included in this list of attendants.

After a few weeks, I already felt at home, and my master and Rebbe bestowed upon me the privilege of studying with his holy son [Reb Avraham].

I noticed that on Thursday and Friday our master and Rebbe's butler was busy with the housekeeping chores in preparation for Shabbos. Therefore, I stationed myself in our master and Rebbe's main room, so that I could act as his valet and provide any personal service he might need.

The first time this happened, my master hesitated to use me in a servile position. But when he saw how greatly I desired this, he permitted me to serve him. From that time on, I was always stationed in my master and Rebbe's main room on Thursday and Friday.

Once, my master called me into his private room and asked me what sort of guests had come for Shabbos, and on what level he should deliver his Torah discourse before them, so that it would be appropriate for their abilities. He then recited a Torah discourse to me. I remarked that a discourse on that level would be too difficult for the guests to assimilate; he then recited a second, and then a third and a fourth discourse to me. It was not until the fifth discourse that I deemed it appropriate for the guests who had come for that particular Shabbos. The same thing happened to me several times more while I remained in Mezritch.

9.

By the time my master and Rebbe instructed me to compose the Shulchan Aruch, most of the chassidim who used to come to my master and Rebbe were already aware of the great favor bestowed upon me by my master and Rebbe. Therefore, I was afraid of the evil eye (G-d forbid), and I disclosed this to my master and Rebbe.

When my master heard what was worrying me, he stood up, placed his holy hands upon my head, and blessed me with the blessing of the Kohanim.[3] After he had blessed me, he spoke to me at length about composing the Shulchan Aruch. From that time on, the entire Holy Society treated me with love and brotherhood.

When my master and Rebbe passed away, the disciples held a lottery to determine who would be privileged to participate in the taharah. Later, a second lottery was held to determine who would have the privilege of washing each of his individual holy limbs. It fell to my lot to wash his holy head.

I was petrified by this awesome privilege; and at the same time, I was terrified with fear of possible judgement and condemnation[4] (G-d forbid). I felt unworthy, apprehensive, and afraid in the presence of my colleagues and associates. After all, they were my seniors both in age and in length of service to my holy master and Rebbe.

As I stood there in confusion and worry, I recalled that my holy master had sent for me and my associates, the holy Reb Leib HaKohen and the holy Reb Zusia of Anipolia. He had then said to me, "Tell me exactly what happened while I was asleep." The event he referred to was the following:

The holy Reb Pinchas[5] opposed our master and Rebbe's practice of delivering [chassidic] Torah lectures before the multitudes. He maintained that one had to be wary of disseminating such high and lofty subjects. On that very day, the holy Reb Pinchas had discovered two handwritten sheets of paper,[6] and he was quite annoyed by this. When I saw Reb Pinchas' annoyance, I told him the well-known parable about the prince who became seriously ill:

The physicians stated that no medicine would cure his illness, but there was a magical remedy help: they must grind certain jewels into a powder [and dissolve this in water]. They should then give [the prince] some of this water to drink. The king commanded that this should be done.

They searched the palace for that wonderful magical jewel, but were unable to find it. Meanwhile, the prince's illness grew worse. Wise men were consulted, and it was discovered that the king's crown contained a jewel unlike any jewel found in the crowns of other kings. This jewel possessed the magical power to cure the prince's illness. The wise men's discovery was reported to the king.

Meanwhile the prince's illness had become very grave. The physicians said that even were they to pour the potion down the prince's throat, it remained doubtful that he would be able to ingest it. Thus, the precious jewel from the king's crown would go to waste, without a cure. The king then replied:

"The royal crown is indeed precious, for it symbolizes the splendor and majesty of its owner, and the magnificence of its wearer. This precious jewel is the glory of the whole crown, conferring royalty upon it. But all this is nothing compared with the life and the being of the prince. It is worthwhile to grind up the precious stone, even if the outcome is in doubt. For just possibly, a drop may enter the prince's throat and cure him of his illness."

When I finished telling Reb Pinchas this parable, he began to smile, saying, "You are right! This parable does justify the approach of delivering chassidic Torah lectures before the multitudes. Fortunate is the Rebbe who has such disciples!"

When my master and Rebbe later asked me what had happened in the beis hamedrash while he was asleep, I told him the whole story in brief. My master and Rebbe then replied:

You have saved my life! While I slept, I saw a great Heavenly accusation (may G-d have mercy) against me and against the teachings of my master the Baal Shem Tov. But just then, I saw you standing there and arguing in our defense. Your arguments were accepted. I, my teachings, and the teachings of my master the Baal Shem Tov were then acquitted.[7]

10.

The situation then was such that the top leadership required a person of prophetic spirit, who would be able to debate the misnagdim and state his case clearly. He would also have to be capable of ignoring the charomim and other proclamations that were being issued by the misnagdim against the chassidim.

For this purpose, they decided to appoint an Executive Committee and a General Coordinator. He would be empowered to speak in the name of the holy Reb Avraham and the entire Holy Society, and to act on his own when issuing - to the various centers - any instructions he deemed advisable.

At its next general meeting, the Holy Society elected the Alter Rebbe as their General Coordinator and spokesman. He was empowered to set the general agenda for the work of the various centers, and for the campaign throughout the country. From time to time, he was also to visit the places where the Maggid's disciples lived.

For about three years - from 5533 to 5536 [1773-76] - the Alter Rebbe was busy traveling to various places to investigate the condition of the Maggid's disciples, and the work they were doing in the various centers, to insure that it followed the agenda set by the Executive Committee. Some of these trips were made openly, and some were in secret.

At that time, he secretly visited Shklov, Minsk, and Vilna.[8] The Alter Rebbe spent six weeks in Vilna during that secret mission. He would wander from one beis hamedrash to another, disguised as a visiting traveler. Even on Shabbos, he would eat nothing but bread and water.

The gaon Reb Yehudah Leib, the Alter Rebbe's brother, told my great-grandfather the Tzemach Tzedek that while the Alter Rebbe was in Vilna, he discussed pilpul with all the great Torah scholars. But he refrained from engaging the Gaon Rav Eliyahu in discussion, for fear that he would be recognized. He did, however, submit several questions to him through two of his adherents. "I soon learned whom I was dealing with, and just how great his knowledge of the Torah was," said the Alter Rebbe to his brother.

During these travels, the Alter Rebbe acquired numerous disciples. It was his custom to seek out outstanding Torah scholars and discuss pilpul with them, until they begged him to arrange a program of study for them. A few years later, some of them came to him in Liozna. Therefore, we find that among his later disciples, some came from very distant places. These were the disciples he had acquired during the aforementioned journeys.

The Alter Rebbe's main concern was, however, the young Torah scholars of Lita. During the three to five years that he spent in these travels, he acquired students who came to him in Liozna - after they had completed the course of study he had arranged for them in their own hometowns. It was with these students that he established the first and second chadorim, to be described later.[9]

11.

In the year 5536 [1776] all of the Maggid's disciples met at a general convention. It was then decided that:

  1. Reb Menachem Mendel of Horodok would move to the Holy Land;

  2. the Alter Rebbe would be the leader of all the chassidim in Lita;

  3. the Alter Rebbe would be the General Coordinator.

In the same year, the Alter Rebbe established the first center - in his hometown of Liozna. A proclamation went out that young scholars who were being supported by their parents or their parents-in-law, were invited to visit Liozna for two or three months and receive a program of study. By order of the rav, their room and board would be provided at communal expense.

In those days, Liozna was one of the towns where people made a prosperous living, for its citizens carried on trade with the cities of Russia proper. Although Liozna itself was still part of the Polish Empire, it was very close to the Russian border,[10] and traded with the cities of the Russian interior. The residents were mostly very simple folk, whose main occupation was commercial enterprise.

12.

The Alter Rebbe's proclamation spread like wildfire, and within a short time about four minyonim of young scholars gathered in Liozna; they came from the nearby cities and towns of Vitebsk, Beshenkovitch, Horodok, Yanovitch, Rudnia, Kalisk, Lubavitch, Nevel, and the like.

The young scholars were all under the impression that in Liozna they would find the same system that had prevailed in the previous centers of Lubavitch and Horodok. There each of the young students had been permitted to study independently, whatever Torah subject he chose. Group study was, for the most part, reserved for learning the chassidic teachings of our master the Baal Shem Tov and his disciple the Maggid.

To their surprise, they soon discovered that the Alter Rebbe had instituted a new system:

  1. they were now required to study Gemara in depth, whole groups studying a single subject. The groups were organized according to their abilities, and they were required to study together for no less than four hours a day;

  2. sometime during the week they were required to study a predetermined curriculum, which they were to know thoroughly;

  3. a more cursory study of Gemara was also required - not less than one page per day;

  4. twice a week - the days and times to be determined - they must discuss their studies amongst themselves; each would present the difficulties that had arisen during his study, and suggest possible solutions. The administrator of this program was the Alter Rebbe's brother, the gaon and tzaddik Reb Mordechai;

  5. they were required to study Halachah in depth, following the above schedule, for no less than two hours per day. Shulchan Aruch was to be studied no less than one chapter per day (a very long chapter could be divided and studied over two days), completing the four sections of the Shulchan Aruch in order. The administrator of this program was the Alter Rebbe's brother, the gaon and tzaddik Reb Yehudah Leib.

Each week at a specified time, these two brothers would report to the Alter Rebbe about the young scholars' progress in their studies, and whether each one's conduct followed the individual program that the Alter Rebbe himself had assigned him.

My great-grandfather the Tzemach Tzedek told his son, my grandfather the Maharash, all about the abilities and proficiencies of the Alter Rebbe's brothers, Reb Yehudah Leib, Reb Mordechai, and Reb Moshe. They all possessed wonderful talents, and displayed amazing diligence in their studies. Each one had some special ability.

The gaon Reb Yehudah Leib[11] was outstanding at issuing halachic rulings. Whenever he studied a topic, no matter how complex it was, he managed to derive some practical application in Halachah from each logical point of the discussion. He had a marvelous knowledge of the detailed laws found in all four sections of Shulchan Aruch, and their sources in the Talmud Bavli, Yerushalmi, and Rishonim. But beyond all this, he was adept at discovering novel rules of law by means of his ingenious logical deductions.

The gaon Reb Mordechai[12] had a wonderfully incisive mind, employing straightforward, yet very profound, logic. When he studied some topic, he would progress from the simpler to the more complicated aspects of the problem. He would review each topic five or six times. Each time, he would discover ever more penetrating novel ideas, as though ascending a ladder rung by rung. When he discussed pilpul, it was a pleasure to listen.

The gaon Reb Moshe[13] had a wonderful talent for explaining things. [When he spoke, it was as if] his mouth spouted precious jewels. When he lectured on a Torah topic - regardless of whether it was revealed Torah or Chassidus - he would give the most wonderful and elevated interpretations.

Reb Yehudah Leib and Reb Moshe concentrated mainly on the study of Chassidus. Reb Mordechai, on the other hand, concentrated mainly on the Talmud and Poskim. Reb Yehudah Leib told my great-grandfather the Tzemach Tzedek that all three brothers had a regularly-scheduled study session together, three times a week: Sunday, Tuesday, and Friday. [Each session lasted] five or six hours, continuously.

The above-mentioned five years lasted from 5529 to 5534 [1769-1774]. Somewhere in my diary I have written at great length about the excellence of those study sessions, as related by Reb Yehudah Leib to my great-grandfather the Tzemach Tzedek.

The Alter Rebbe created two special classes, called "the first cheder" and "the second cheder." These chadorim were exclusively for the most outstanding students, and the first cheder was higher than the second cheder. The young scholars in the two chadorim studied individually, each according to the program that the Alter Rebbe had set for him. The Alter Rebbe would deliver private chassidic discourses especially for the two chadorim. These teachings that he delivered before them were called by chassidim "private teachings."

In those days, there were three types of lecture on Chassidus:

  1. community teachings - delivered mainly on Shabbos and Yom Tov;

  2. public teachings - delivered once or twice a month before an assembly of the students of the two chadorim, and the other young scholars who sat there studying;

  3. private teachings - delivered twice a month (generally on weekdays) before the two chadorim.[14]

13.

During the year 5537 [1777], the schedule was interrupted, because the Alter Rebbe desired to join those members of the Holy Society - headed by the holy Reb Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk - who were departing for the Holy Land.

My uncle, the chassid Reb Zalman Aharon,[15] related to me what he had heard from his great-uncle, the tzaddik Reb [Menachem] Nachum,[16] in the name of his great-uncle, the tzaddik Reb Yehudah Leib: "The Alter Rebbe was greatly tormented over his decision whether to make the journey to the Holy Land. Several times he saw a vision of his master and Rebbe, the Mezritcher Maggid (while awake - not in a dream), pleading with him not to leave the country. Nevertheless, he decided to depart. During Chol HaMoed Pesach, he announced that immediately after Pesach he would begin his journey. His conduct on that Acharon Shel Pesach was different from that of other years."[17]

At the beginning of Iyar, the Alter Rebbe departed from Liozna, along with his entire family, and his brothers Reb Yehudah Leib, Reb Mordechai, and Reb Moshe - and their families. Accompanied by many students of the two chadorim, they made their way to the city of Mohilev on the Dnester.

During this journey, several students of the chadorim - who had already studied in Liozna for a year - remained in the villages through which they passed. Each of them set himself up in a place where he could make his living. The chassid Reb Zalman Zezmer[18] told the chassid Reb Hillel of Paritch that several of the elder chassidim of his day were the very ones who had been students in the chadorim that the Alter Rebbe had established in 5536.

The students of the chadorim were greatly saddened by the news that the Alter Rebbe was departing for the Holy Land. They wept bitter tears before him and begged him not to abandon them. But the Alter Rebbe replied that, according to the Talmud, one must give priority to his own needs.[19] When the students saw that the Alter Rebbe and his family were determined to leave, they decided to accompany them on his way.

In every place through which they passed, the Alter Rebbe delivered a pilpul in public. Each ended with words of mussar and instructions for their program of avodah in worshiping G-d. In certain places (according to Reb Zalman Zezmer), the Alter Rebbe delivered separate lectures on pilpul and mussar. These lectures made a mighty impression on the local Torah scholars. Events then evolved so that several students of the chadorim remained in those places.

My holy grandfather Reb Yosef Yitzchak repeated to [his son-in-law], my saintly father, what he had heard from Chernobyler chassidim in the name of their elders. They spoke about the young scholars, students of the Liozna chadorim, who accompanied the Alter Rebbe on his way to the Holy Land.

14.

Reb Zalman Zezmer told Reb Hillel [Paritcher] the details of an event that was well known among chassidim, concerning a famous Halachic inquiry [dealing with the laws of niddah] in the city of Mohilev on the Dnester. He himself had heard the following details, from the students who had been present at the time:

The inquiry was well known throughout the vicinity, because of the many responsa sent back and forth among the rabbonim concerning the matter. A woman had been unable to purify herself for over two years. All had declared that the woman in question was unclean. But when the inquiry was presented to the Alter Rebbe, he declared that - in spite of the general rule that in the present time, we are not qualified to distinguish one type of blood from another[20] - in this particular case he was certain that the blood was pigeon's blood.

The Alter Rebbe advised her father that when the next opportunity came for her to purify herself, she should go to live somewhere far from her own home and her family's home. She should remain confined to her room, and no one - except her father and mother - should know her whereabouts, nor should anyone come to visit her. When she went to immerse herself, no one but her mother was to accompany her, and no other women were to be present at the mikveh.

The woman's father followed all of the Alter Rebbe's instructions. To the amazement of the woman and her mother, when the time for her purification arrived, everything proceeded normally and she was able to immerse herself at the proper time. Her husband, however, was an outstanding, G-d-fearing Torah scholar. He was afraid to rely on this, and so he decided to wait until the following month.

During that summer, there was an epidemic of cholera (may we all be spared) in the vicinity of Mohilev. The rabbis decreed that everyone must observe precautions against becoming infected. They also took the opportunity to arouse the populace to teshuvah and repentance for sins committed against G-d, and those against their fellow Jews. Many residents of the city became very frightened by this.

A certain woman then came to the Chief Rabbi of the city in tears. As part of her teshuvah, she confessed to him that she had committed a grave offence against the aforementioned woman. In order to cause that woman suffering, she had arranged it so that the woman was unable to purify herself for the past two years.

When the woman making the confession was a young girl, a match had been proposed between herself and the man who was now the other woman's husband. For various reasons the match did not work out, and the man had eventually married the other woman. She herself had been compelled to marry a simple man.

Since then, she had borne a grudge against the other woman, and had decided to avenge herself. Therefore, she had pretended to be her good friend. But whenever her time to purify herself would arrive, she would slaughter some bird or pigeon, and stain the other woman's garments with the blood.

15.

The Alter Rebbe also visited the Podolia-Vohlynia region during that same year, 5537, remaining there the entire summer.[21] The chassid Reb Zalman Zezmer told Reb Hillel [Paritcher] - in the name of the elder chassidim - that our masters Reb Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk and Reb Avraham of Kalisk were greatly saddened by the fact that the Alter Rebbe and his family had come to Mohilev. They attempted to persuade him not to leave the country.

The Alter Rebbe remained in Mohilev together with Reb Menachem Mendel and Reb Avraham for about three weeks. During this time several young scholars, who were the Alter Rebbe's disciples, arrived. Reb Menachem Mendel and Reb Avraham were quite pleased with them. When they heard the young scholars begging the Alter Rebbe not to abandon them, they forbade the Alter Rebbe to leave the country. They reminded him of what he had said to the Maggid, and they promised him that he would have success [if he remained].

The elder chassidim related that for a full week before Reb Menachem Mendel and Reb Avraham left Mohilev for the Holy Land, the Alter Rebbe met with them privately, for many hours each day. After Reb Menachem Mendel and Reb Avraham and their entourage actually departed for the Holy Land, the Alter Rebbe went into seclusion for two weeks.

After that, word went out that the Alter Rebbe was returning to Lita. The geonim and tzaddikim - the Alter Rebbe's brothers - returned to Liozna with their families as soon as they heard that the Alter Rebbe was returning to Lita. There was as yet no definite word about exactly where the Alter Rebbe would be living, but there were various theories:

  1. he would return to Liozna. [The basis for this rumor was that the Alter Rebbe] had often praised that town, saying that from the day he had first settled there, the residents had obeyed all his instructions concerning charitable donations and proper conduct;

  2. Reb Menachem Mendel had asked the Alter Rebbe to settle in Horodok and become his successor;

  3. the holy Reb Avraham had asked the Alter Rebbe to settle in Kalisk and become his successor. [The basis for this rumor was that Reb Avraham] had spoken in praise of the local residents;

  4. because of the work needed in the campaign to disseminate the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov and his disciple the Maggid, it would be better if the Alter Rebbe settled in one of the large cities such as Minsk or Shklov, or in one of their nearby suburbs.

16.

The residents of Liozna were very simple folk, as already mentioned. Nevertheless, they were G-d-fearing people and deferential to Torah scholars. They appreciated the benefits they had gained on account of the young scholars who had moved to their community to be with the Alter Rebbe. They were very worried that the Torah institutions of their town would cease to exist [if the Alter Rebbe moved elsewhere].

When they first heard that the Alter Rebbe, his three brothers with their families, and a large number of the Torah scholars and students of the chadorim were [planning] to leave for Eretz Yisrael, the seven members of the Liozna City Council convened a mass meeting. The agenda of the meeting was to formulate plans for strengthening the Torah institutions in their city. After much discussion, the assembly passed the following resolutions:

  1. all the houses in which the Alter Rebbe, his brothers, and their families resided, were to revert to community ownership. They would be held in escrow, until it became known whether they would be returning to their homes;

  2. the community undertook to provide a full year's room and board for any young scholars and students of the chadorim who chose to remain in Liozna;

  3. the residents of the town undertook the support of an additional fifty bochurim who might come to Liozna, to study under the guidance of the young scholars and students of the chadorim.

The Alter Rebbe saw the lengths to which the citizens of Liozna were prepared to go in order to keep the Torah scholars in their midst, and their heartfelt and inspired attempts to obtain G-d-fearing, scholarly, and chassidic bochurim as husbands for their daughters. Consequently, he instructed the students of the chadorim and the young scholars to fulfill the request of the local residents, and to study with the new bochurim who would now arrive. He also prepared the curriculum for their study.

The chassid Reb Mendel Yitzchak, the shochet of Vitebsk, repeated to me what he heard from his grandfather (a follower of the Alter Rebbe) who had been present when the Alter Rebbe, his three brothers, and their families, departed from Liozna along with about thirty students of the chadorim:

All inhabitants of the city assembled in the courtyard of the large beis hamedrash. They set up a platform in the courtyard, and awaited the arrival of the Alter Rebbe, who wished to bid the townspeople farewell and to bless them before they parted.

The Alter Rebbe ascended the platform and spoke a few words. He then blessed the entire community of Liozna, and instructed them to continue to support Torah scholars and to treat them with kindness. [He then blessed them] that they might deserve sons and sons-in-law who were rabbinic scholars.

17.

The decision of the Liozna community to provide room and board for an additional fifty bochurim to study Torah was quickly publicized. Within a short time, a large number of bochurim from the surrounding regions arrived in Liozna. The students of the chadorim who had remained in Liozna obeyed the Alter Rebbe's instructions, dedicating their efforts to caring for the scholarly bochurim and monitoring their progress. The residents of Liozna thus found (at least a partial) consolation for the departure of the Alter Rebbe and his family from the city.

When the Alter Rebbe's brothers returned to Liozna [after the Alter Rebbe decided not to go to Eretz Yisrael], they found the group of young scholars and students of the chadorim busy studying with diligence, and pursuing their avodah according to the program that their brother, the Alter Rebbe, had set out for them. The great diligence with which the bochurim pursued their studies - and the extent to which they yielded to the authority of their teachers and mentors - made a powerful impression upon them.

The inhabitants of Liozna had learned that the Alter Rebbe was about to return to Lita. The rumor spread that Reb Menachem Mendel had requested him to settle in Horodok, while the holy Reb Avraham had suggested that he settle in Kalisk. Therefore, they convened another mass meeting.

The seven members of the City Council decreed that all members of the community were to participate in this meeting: rich and poor, men and women. Even the poor folk had contributed toward the support of the Torah scholars, and even the women had labored in caring for the scholarly visitors. Thus, everyone was to attend this mass meeting. The men assembled in the large beis hamedrash, while the women assembled in the women's gallery.

The Alter Rebbe's three brothers also attended the meeting. They confirmed that when they had left Mohilev, their brother the Alter Rebbe had already decided to return to Lita. But he had not yet decided which city he would settle in. Since he would be returning in wintertime, he would first come to Liozna, where he had a house. Afterwards, he would decide where he would finally settle.

18.

The assembly reacted with gladness and rejoicing to the good news that the Alter Rebbe was coming to Liozna. But at the same time, they were very disturbed by the possibility that the Rebbe might choose some other place for his permanent residence. Therefore, the assembly adopted the following resolutions:

  1. to send a committee to welcome the Rebbe and beg him to settle once again in Liozna. They also undertook:

  2. to support an additional hundred young scholars, with room and board for a full year;

  3. to host thirty-five guests - who would come for Shabbos - for three days each week: Friday, Shabbos, and Sunday;

  4. to host fifty guests who would come for Shabbos Mevorchim;

  5. to host the same number for each festival of the year;

  6. to host five hundred people during the whole month of Tishrei.

The seven members of the City Council, and the prominent members of the congregation, approached the Alter Rebbe's brothers and begged them to join the committee who would be sent to welcome the Rebbe, and to present the above resolutions to him.

The brothers saw how eager the citizens of Liozna were, and how much trouble they were prepared to go to, to persuade the Alter Rebbe to settle in their town. They therefore agreed to join the committee. They chose their brother Reb Yehudah Leib to travel with the committee and welcome the Alter Rebbe.

The Alter Rebbe accepted the invitation of the people of Liozna, and the committee returned with great joy to inform the citizens that their mission had been successfully accomplished. The Alter Rebbe and his entourage (they occupied several dozen wagons, for during this trip he had acquired additional students with outstanding abilities and broad knowledge of the Torah) traveled very slowly, going from town to town. Wherever they went, they stopped over for a day or two.

The Alter Rebbe left Mohilev on the Dnester at the beginning of Elul 5537 [1777], and was still en route during Rosh HaShanah and the other festivals of 5538. He did not arrive in Liozna until the middle of Shvat 5538. [When he arrived,] a proclamation went forth to all nearby and far-away places in the province, stating that:

  1. no guests were to come to town before the festival of Shavuos;

  2. young scholars who wished to come and receive a program of study must first be examined in locations to be designated for that purpose;

  3. the places where the young scholars could be examined would be made known within a month's time.[22]

   

Notes:

  1. (Back to text) From the Previous Rebbe's essay, "Fathers of Chassidus," HaTamim, Vol. 2, pp. 142-149.

  2. (Back to text) This was the name by which the holy Reb Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk, author of P'ri HaAretz, was known in Mezritch. [Translator's note: Litvak is a Yiddish familiar form of "Lithuanian." In Poland and the Ukraine, someone from Reissin and other nearby territories (as well as from Lithuania proper) was often called a Litvisher, or Litvak in the familiar form. By the same token, in Lita, someone from the Ukraine (as well as from Poland proper) was often called a Poilisher, or Polak in the familiar form. Common people occasionally used the terms Litvak and Polak in a derogatory sense, but this was certainly not true of the disciples of the Maggid, who used these terms as tokens of affection.]

  3. (Back to text) [Cf., Bamidbar, 6: 22-27; Siddur, pp. 268, 269.]

  4. (Back to text) [Which would result if he were inadvertently to commit some improper act that would affront his master's dignity during the taharah.]

  5. (Back to text) [Reb Pinchas of Koretz, a disciple of the Baal Shem Tov and colleague of the Maggid.]

  6. (Back to text) Containing transcriptions of our master and Rebbe's lectures on Chassidus. These sheets were being blown about in the courtyard, by the wind.

  7. (Back to text) The Alter Rebbe's brother, the gaon Reb Yehudah Leib, told my great-grandfather the Tzemach Tzedek that this reply of the Maggid might not be an exact quote. The present wording differs somewhat from the way he heard it quoted in Mohilev by the holy Reb Menachem Mendel of Horodok, who repeated it in the name of Reb Yehudah Leib Kohen, who had been personally present at the time.

  8. (Back to text) It was with special delight that the Alter Rebbe related the details of these trips to his son, the Mitteler Rebbe.

  9. (Back to text) There were two separate periods when the chadorim were established. The earlier chadorim were established in 5536 [1776], when the Alter Rebbe was appointed the head of the chassidim in Lita. The later ones were established in 5538, when the Alter Rebbe returned from his journey accompanying the holy Reb Mendel on his way to the Holy Land.

  10. (Back to text) Near what is now Smolensk County.

  11. (Back to text) He was a rav in Yanovitch, (White Russia). One of his seforim has been printed, She'aris Yehudah.

  12. (Back to text) He was a rav in Orsha (Mohilev County). His family surname was Posner. He passed away on 1 Adar 5583 [February 12, 1823] and was buried in Kapust.

  13. (Back to text) He was a rav in Bayev (Mohilev County), in Liepli (Vitebsk County), and in Rudnia (near Liozna). He [passed away and] was buried in Rudnia, while the Alter Rebbe was still living.

  14. (Back to text) This schedule lasted only about one year, from mid-5536 [1776] to mid-5537.

  15. (Back to text) The eldest son of the Rebbe Maharash.

  16. (Back to text) Son of the Mitteler Rebbe.

  17. (Back to text) Somewhere in my diary I described in detail the Alter Rebbe's usual conduct on Acharon Shel Pesach.

  18. (Back to text) One of the foremost disciples of the Alter Rebbe.

  19. (Back to text) [Bava Metzia 62a.]

  20. (Back to text) [See commentary of Rosh, Niddah, end of ch. 2; Beis Yosef, Yoreh De'ah, ch. 188.]

  21. (Back to text) The reason for his prolonged visit to that region is not known.

  22. (Back to text) [See the chapter "The Alter Rebbe's Adherents, and His Opponents" in Supplement A of this volume. That text appears to be a direct continuation of the present text, though it was not printed at this place in HaTamim.]


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