I. Once, in connection with his arrest and liberation, the Previous Rebbe explained1 that the maamarim he delivered on Rosh HaShanah of that year, 5687, mentioned the Baal Shem Tov’s approach to Hashgachah Peratis, and the conception that it encompasses every particular even inanimate objects, plants, and animals.2 Although this concept did not have any [apparent] connection to the maamar ,3 [the Previous Rebbe] said that if he had not mentioned these points: “I do not know whether I would have been able to endure to bear and survive the torment of that imprisonment.”

This statement requires explanation: As mentioned, the Baal Shem Tov’s conception of Hashgachah Peratis is that even the particular events that occur to inanimate objects, plants, and animals are controlled by His providence.4 That G‑d’s providence encompasses the particular events which occur to humans is, however, a principle accepted by all authorities (even without the contribution of the Baal Shem Tov).5 Certainly, with regard to the Jewish people, the nation close to Him, how much more so, with regard to Jews who observe the Torah and its mitzvos , and unquestionably, with regard to Jewish leaders whose concerns affect the Jewish people as a whole, it is beyond all doubt that their concerns are controlled by Hashgachah Peratis. Why then, was it necessary to mention the Baal Shem Tov’s6 approach to Hashgachah Peratis with regard to the Previous Rebbe’s imprisonment? 7

The question is even greater: On the surface, why is it necessary to emphasize the concept of Hashgachah Peratis with regard to the imprisonment of the Previous Rebbe? The Previous Rebbe was imprisoned because of the observance of the Torah and its mitzvos , because he spread that observance and strengthened Yiddishkeit, carrying out G‑d’s mission. It is plainly obvious that everything involved in this saga including the treatment which the Previous Rebbe had to endure was connected with G‑d’s will, intent, and providence.

II. It is possible to explain that this was the Previous Rebbe’s intent. This is reflected in his words: “to endure to bear and survive the torment of that imprisonment.” Because he mentioned the concept of Hashgachah Peratis in the maamar, he was able to appreciate that all the suffering he endured during the imprisonment came through Divine providence, i.e., it was ordained by G‑d. Hence, he was able to bear it.

This, however, does not appear entirely sufficient. For according to this explanation, the emphasis is (not primarily on the concept of Hashgachah Peratis , but rather) on concepts like “Evil does not descend from above”8 and the like. As we find in Tanya,9 there is detailed counsel how to endure suffering and indeed, how to accept it willingly and with joy. As our Sages teach:10 “Just as a person must bless [G‑d] for the good, so too, he must bless Him for the bad,” which is interpreted11 to mean that [the suffering] must be accepted with happiness.12

III. The reason why the Previous Rebbe did not mention the above concept as a means of enduring the suffering experienced in his imprisonment can be appreciated [as will be explained].

The Previous Rebbe was totally immersed in his devotion to G‑d and His Torah and mitzvos ; his personal identity was of no importance to him at all. Therefore it was not possible for his physical suffering to create difficulties which he could not endure13 He was not concerned with this at all.14 Therefore, he did not have to meditate that “Evil does not descend.”15

If so, the question arises: Why then did the Previous Rebbe emphasize the difficulty in bearing the suffering he endured in prison?16 On the contrary, his imprisonment and the suffering it brought about came as a result of his work in spreading the Torah and strengthening Yiddishkeit throughout Russia as is well known from the history of those days. Accordingly, this suffering should have called forth great feelings of satisfaction and happiness. For through his Divine service, he had merited17 mesirus nefesh,18 to the point of experiencing suffering (and the fear) of death for so many days.

We see a similar concept with regard to Rabbi Akiva.19 When he merited to die for the sanctification of G‑d’s name and sacrificed his life while enduring tremendous suffering, he experienced great pleasure. As he said: “Throughout my entire life, I was aggrieved,20 … ‘When will I have the opportunity….’”

IV. It is possible to explain the concept as follows: In one of his maamarim,21 the Previous Rebbe explains the difference between the mesirus nefesh of Rabbi Akiva and the mesirus nefesh of Avraham, our Patriarch. Rabbi Akiva sought mesirus nefesh, as he said:22 “Throughout my entire life, I was aggrieved,… ‘When will I have the opportunity to fulfill [the command to love G‑d with all your soul].’” He sought and strove for mesirus nefesh because of its own virtue, because of its great preciousness. [He appreciated that mesirus nefesh] enables a person to reach the highest levels of connection and unity with G‑d.23

Our Patriarch Avraham, by contrast, did not seek mesirus nefesh (as an independent objective). His purpose was to publicize G‑d’s existence to the world at large, as it is written:24 “And he called there on the name of the L-rd, the eternal G‑d.” Our Sages explain:25 “Do not read trehu , ‘And he called,’ read threhu , ‘And he made others call.’”

Avraham was totally involved with the task of spreading the awareness of G‑d. Even when mesirus nefesh was necessary to accomplish that task, he would not abate and he would be willing to sacrifice his life. [He did not, however, see mesirus nefesh as an independent goal.]

Therefore Rabbi Akiva took pleasure in the suffering and mesirus nefesh he endured; it enabled him to achieve his desire to sacrifice his life for G‑d. Avraham, however, viewed things differently. When he was imprisoned,26 he suffered, because while jailed he was unable to continue his Divine service of spreading G‑dliness throughout the world.

V. Similar concepts apply to the Previous Rebbe. From the perspective of his own fulfillment and personal welfare, his circumstance that he had reached the pinnacle of the Divine service of mesirus nefesh, and was forced to suffer physical torment should have brought him great joy.27

Nevertheless, his service was not intended (to attain the advantage of) mesirus nefesh as an independent virtue, but rather to carry out his mission in this world to spread Torah and mitzvos and [more particularly], P’nimiyus HaTorah.28 He was devoted to this mission to the extent that nothing would prevent him from fulfilling it. Even when mesirus nefesh was necessary, as was the case during every moment and every step of his work (as could actually be seen throughout the time he served as Rebbe, particularly in Russia before his imprisonment), [he carried out his mission without any thought of himself]. Therefore we can appreciate why staying in prison caused him pain.

Unquestionably, he personally attained a higher level [while in prison]. Nevertheless, he felt pain and suffering, because being in prison and enduring suffering prevented him from fulfilling his mission of drawing Jews closer to G‑d and His Torah.29

VI. Clarification is still necessary: The “great work which [the Previous Rebbe] carried out in spreading the Torah and strengthening the faith,”30 was performed not only because it was his personal mission, but because this was G‑d’s intent. His imprisonment was not his “fault,” but came entirely as a consequence of his efforts to spread Yiddishkeit with mesirus nefesh. Hence, it is obvious that it was G‑d’s will that the Previous Rebbe would be jailed and would undergo all the suffering experienced during his imprisonment, heaven forbid. Hence, the original question returns: Why did he feel anguish because of the imprisonment?

That question can be resolved as follows: There are two ways in which a soul can carry out the mission with which it was charged by G‑d. To cite a parallel in the mortal sphere, a person can carry out his work in two ways:

a) He is an employee. He is faithfully devoted to fulfilling his responsibilities, even to the extent that he will work without thinking of the profit he will receive. Nevertheless, [ultimately,] he is merely an employee whom someone else has hired; it’s not his business.

b) He owns the business. In such an instance, his approach is entirely different. Everything touches him [to the core]; it’s his business.

The difference between the owner and the faithful employee is not that obvious when they are both at work, because both exert themselves with commitment and diligence. The difference is noticeable primarily afterwards, when the work is finished or at night between one day of work and the next.

At this time when there is no work to do and the business is closed, the employee sleeps comfortably. He knows that he has faithfully done everything that he could do. If there is a problem and the business is not working out as it should, he does not feel [responsible]; he doesn’t know what he can do to help; he [sleeps] with a clear conscious.

The owner, by contrast, can’t sleep. As long as the business is not working out, he cannot find any rest.

VII. Similarly, there are two levels of souls and two approaches in carrying out G‑d’s intent in [fulfilling our] mission in this world. A person who follows the first approach is entirely devoted to carrying out his mission. He is not concerned with his personal fulfillment and benefit. G‑d’s intent alone is what motivates his conduct and he is willing to make a commitment to the point of and including mesirus nefesh. When, however, he knows that he has done everything that he can and he does not have the potential to do more, he will not indeed, it is not even within the realm of thinking that he feel anguish.

“A person who is held back by forces beyond his control is not liable.”31 He has no further obligation in his Divine service. Moreover, he realizes that everything is controlled by Divine providence, and according to His providence both his own potential for achievement and the extent that potential will have been expressed has already been determined. Therefore, there is no reason why he should feel any anguish.

When, however, a person has become identified with G‑d32 to the extent that the Creator’s will and intent becomes his own will and intent,33 the [manner in which he carries out his] Divine service [changes]. He does not feel merely as if he is carrying out G‑d’s mission, he feels that he is involved in his own concern. Indeed, his entire existence [focuses on this purpose].

Therefore even when he has done everything which he can, when the objective has not been accomplished or has not been consummated, as an “owner,” he feels anguish indeed, great anguish over this.

VIII. To illustrate through a story: Once during the nesius of the Rebbe Rashab, the Previous Rebbe’s father, a Rabbinical assembly was held in Petersburg. The assembly focused on the Russian government’s demands that the Rabbis and teachers receive a modicum of secular education.34

All of the Rabbinical leaders of that time campaigned forcefully against the decree. The government ministers, however, warned that if the Rabbis did not concede and accept the decree, they would organize pogroms against the Jews, heaven forbid.

The Rebbe Rashab delivered a very pointed address at the assembly and at the end of his address, he fainted. Afterwards, because of his pointed remarks (and because he had protested the government’s threats of pogroms), he was placed under (house) arrest.

When he was freed, one of the other leading Rabbis came to visit him. When he entered, he saw the Rebbe sitting and crying. [Surprised,] he exclaimed: “Lubavitcher Rebbe, why are you crying? We did everything that we could.”

The Rebbe answered him: “But the objective has not been accomplished.”

IX. We see a similar approach on the part of the Previous Rebbe. He was permeated with G‑d’s will and intent to spread the Torah and its mitzvos and to make the world a dwelling for G‑d. Hence, the interruption of that task, because of his imprisonment (and moreover, the fact that the continuation of his efforts was also jeopardized), caused the Previous Rebbe great anguish.

There is an additional point. As is well known, Chassidus interprets35 the verse:36 “And Moshe was more humble than any person on the face of the earth,” to mean that Moshe was aware of his positive qualities, ([the attributes for which he was chosen to] receive the Torah on Mount Sinai and redeem the Jewish people from Egypt). Nevertheless, his humility stemmed from his appreciation of the great potentials which he possessed. [He was humble, however, because he felt that if] another person would have been given these same potentials, he would have accomplished a lot more.

Similarly, the Previous Rebbe had assessed the powers which he possessed such a reckoning was essential for him to carry out his task effectively and he realized that for the task of spreading the Torah and its mitzvos to be performed successfully, he, the Rebbe, would have to perform it himself. No one else could accomplish this mission. Thus we can appreciate how much anguish the imprisonment caused him. [For the mission which only he could accomplish was languishing unattended.]

We see a similar concept with regard to Moshe our teacher. When G‑d told him:37 “You will not bring this congregation to the land which I have given to them,” he was disturbed and continuously prayed,38 begging G‑d to enable him to lead the Jews into Eretz Yisrael , to the extent that it is said:39 “See how unrelenting the student is.”

It is obvious that Moshe’s intent was not for his own personal benefit. Instead, his “desire”40 to enter Eretz Yisrael was (that of a “faithful servant41) who intended to fulfill the mission which his Master (G‑d) charged him, for the welfare of the Jewish people.

Moshe realized that the potential for the eventual destruction of the Beis HaMikdash and the exile of the Jewish people would come as a result of the fact that Yehoshua would bring the Jews into Eretz Yisrael.

This was the reason Moshe prayed so fervently to enter Eretz Yisrael. For if he had led the Jewish people into Eretz Yisrael , they would have been established permanently in the land, the Beis HaMikdash would never have been destroyed, and there would not have been another exile.42

X. Explanation is still necessary: Everything occurs because of a Divine intent and providence. G‑d’s ultimate intent is that the spreading of the Torah and the strengthening of Yiddishkeit lead to the revelation of G‑dliness within the world, to the extent that the world itself will become a dwelling for Him. Ultimately, this intent will certainly be fulfilled. [Moreover, every particular event in history leads to that fulfillment.]

Accordingly, it is apparent that the Previous Rebbe’s imprisonment was not intended to lessen this endeavor, but rather that it too was meant to lead to an increase in the spread of Yiddishkeit.43 Indeed, precisely this is what happened. Through the Previous Rebbe’s liberation, the efforts to reinforce Jewish observance were reinforced and ultimately, the Previous Rebbe was able to leave Russia. This generated the potential for his endeavors to spread the Torah and strengthen Yiddishkeit to be intensified and expanded several fold, until ultimately they could reach every corner of the world.

{Similar concepts apply with regard to the entry of the Jewish people into Eretz Yisrael. It was Yehoshua and not Moshe who led the Jews into Eretz Yisrael , and hence, the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash and the exile were possible. Nevertheless, ultimately, this will lead to a benefit for the Jewish people. For [this sequence] made it necessary that all of the revelations will be drawn down through the Divine service of the Jewish people. Thus as a result, the revelations of the Era of the Redemption will be manifest in a more elevated manner.44 }

And so, the question again arises: Why did the imprisonment cause [the Previous Rebbe] anguish and suffering?

It is possible to offer the following explanation: The imprisonment itself brought about a situation of hiddenness and concealment with regard to the endeavors to spread Torah observance. [At that time,] those endeavors could not be carried out even in the manner in which they were carried out before the imprisonment. This itself was a cause of pain and anguish. It brings pain and anguish, not only to the Jewish soul as it exists in this material plane, but it (also) brings pain and anguish to G‑d, as it were, because it leads to the opposite of Divine revelation.

To cite a parallel: As is well known (and explained by the Previous Rebbe in a maamar from Yud-Beis Tammuz45), the tzimtzum is intended for the sake of the revelation which follows afterwards. (Moreover,) the intent of revelation is the entire reason for the tzimtzum. Nevertheless, the actual tzimtzum is in essence the opposite of G‑d’s will, for G‑d’s will is that there be a revelation of light.

XI. Based on the above, we can appreciate the connection between the Baal Shem Tov’s conception of Hashgachah Peratis (that it encompasses inanimate matter, plants, and animals, involving all the individual dimensions of every particular of the species) and the ability “to endure to bear and survive the torment of that imprisonment.”

It is possible to explain that the intent is (not only that Hashgachah Peratis encompasses also inanimate matter, plants, and animals, but) the new insight that concept endows us with regard to the manner in which Hashgachah Peratis encompasses humans.

As the Previous Rebbe explains in another maamar associated with Yud-Beis Tammuz,46 the concept of Hashgachah Peratis explained by the Baal Shem Tov is that, not only is every particular movement of each individual created being controlled by G‑d through Hashgachah Peratis, but that, moreover, the particular movements of these individual created beings “share an encompassing relationship with the intent of creation as a whole…. Even one movement of a single blade of grass fulfills G‑d’s intent for the creation [as a whole].”47 This approach also grants us a new [and deeper] conception of the Hashgachah Peratis that controls man.

[To explain:] The opinions which maintain that Hashgachah Peratis controls only humans, [explain that] inanimate matter, plants, and animals are controlled by Hashgachah Klallis. (“[G‑d’s] providence encompasses the species as a whole, but not every individual member.”48) Nevertheless, this involves only those matters that concern inanimate objects, plants, and animals themselves. When, however, a particular event concerning (inanimate matter, plants, and animals) will affect man, these opinions also agree that the particular event is controlled by Hashgachah Peratis. [They differ concerning the following point.] According to their conception:49

G‑d will not decree that these particular fish will die or live. Instead, He will decree that this person’s concerns and livelihood…. Thus Divine providence does encompass a person with regard to his livestock, e.g., will his ox fatten?… Will his jug break?….

According to their conception, Hashgachah Peratis is focused on man, because he is the ultimate purpose of the creation (which was brought into being “for the sake of the Jewish people”). As a consequence, Hashgachah Peratis encompasses all of man’s concerns (including the inanimate matter, plants, and animals [which affect him]).

From this, we can appreciate that there is a difference between these two approaches with regard to the Hashgachah Peratis which encompasses man. [According to the other approaches,] Hashgachah Peratis is expressed in a revealed manner with regard to the matters where man’s unique positive qualities are expressed. When, by contrast, a matter concerns a person in a secondary manner and does not express man’s unique positive qualities, Hashgachah Peratis does not encompass the matter as it exists in its own right, but only to the extent the matter affects man.50

The Baal Shem Tov’s approach, by contrast, [expands the scope of Hashgachah Peratis.] This approach teaches that every particular element of the creation, on its own accord,51 “shares an encompassing relationship with the intent of creation as a whole,” and “fulfills G‑d’s intent for the creation [as a whole].” [Similar concepts] certainly hold true for the particular matters that affect man. Every individual element on its own accord [plays a part in] fulfilling G‑d’s intent for the creation as a whole.

XII. On this basis, we can explain the Previous Rebbe’s statements quoted at the outset:

The new contribution made by the Baal Shem Tov with regard to Hashgachah Peratis brought [the Previous Rebbe to a unique] understanding.52 Since the imprisonment and the suffering which accompanied it is controlled by Hashgachah Peratis, [it itself possesses a positive virtue]. Not only would it ultimately lead to the fulfillment of G‑d’s intent through the increase and reinforcement of Yiddishkeit53 that would follow his liberation from prison, but the imprisonment and the suffering it involved fulfills G‑d’s intent for the creation, [which is] to reveal G‑dliness in the world.

This new development and advantage was overtly expressed by the fact that the imprisonment itself at that very time evoked a new incentive and mesirus nefesh among Jews and in particular among the Previous Rebbe’s chassidim and those who were connected to him to strengthen their commitment to the Previous Rebbe’s endeavor to reinforce Jewish observance.54

Moreover, in the Previous Rebbe’s imprisonment itself, the firm stance which he adopted there [was itself a positive act of great significance. He resolved] not to be swayed by the enemies and opponents of holiness, and indeed, to consider them as if they did not exist at all. Throughout the entire time which he was in prison,55 he considered [his jailers] as if they were “absolutely nothingness and void.” Thus in prison itself, he revealed that “there is nothing else but Him.”56

This brought about bittul within them; they themselves acknowledged that they must free the Previous Rebbe as explained at length on several occasions.

XIII. “These days are remembered and carried out”;57 and “the head follows the body.”58 The conduct of the Previous Rebbe which he described to us is a lesson and it generates power for every Jew in his Divine service.

First and foremost, we must realize that there is nothing which can hinder and prevent the fulfillment of the mission with which we were charged by the Rebbe to spread the Torah and strengthen Jewish observance. Indeed, it is possible that the fact that this mission is not being carried out with the desired eagerness causes the coming of Mashiach to be temporarily delayed and keeps the Divine presence in exile.

Conversely, we have to appreciate that regardless of the situation in which a Jew finds himself, even when it appears that there is no possibility for him to spread Yiddishkeit and the wellsprings of Chassidus, he should not despair, heaven forbid. He must realize that everything is controlled by Hashgachah Peratis, and when one labors, one will ultimately discover.59 It will become apparent how even in such a situation one will be able to bring about the overt revelation of G‑dliness.

Through such efforts, we will ultimately bring about a situation in which our Divine service can be carried out in a setting of revealed [G‑dliness]. This will spur the coming of Mashiach and [the era when] “the glory of G‑d will be revealed and all flesh will see together that the mouth of G‑d has spoken.”60

(Adapted from Sichos Yud-Beis Tammuz, 5711)

Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXIII, p. 157ff.