During the year 5607 — [the Rebbe Maharash] became engaged to his niece Sterna, the daughter of his brother Reb Chayim Schneur Zalman. The tenaim was celebrated with great festivity, and the wedding date was set for the Shabbos following Shavuos.1During that winter, the Tzemach Tzedek gave him as a gift the copy of his Sefer HaMitzvos, handwritten by the copyist Reb Moshe Frummas. From time to time he would study with him chassidic maamarim from the Alter Rebbe's Siddur.

Thousands of chassidim came to attend the wedding, which was celebrated with great fanfare. But the kallah fell ill during the week of sheva berachos.2Her illness lasted about three months, after which she passed away.

In order to assuage his grief, his father the Tzemach Tzedek ordered that a room be set aside for him, adjoining the Tze­mach Tzedek's own chamber, so that he could go in to visit his father at any time. He would also show him his handwritten manuscripts — even those he did not show to his other sons.

During Elul [5607] and Tishrei 5608 he secluded himself and studied with exceedingly great diligence. In the winter of 5608 he traveled to Vitebsk to attend a conference of people involved in public affairs, which was also attended by repre­sentatives of Shklov, Vilna, and Petersburg. He remained there about two weeks, during which he reviewed chassidic maamarim in public.

56093— his marriage to Rebbetzin Rivkah,4daughter of Rebbetzin Chayah Sarah and the gaon and chassid Reb Aharon ben Moshe Alexandrov of Shklov.

When he was seventeen years old, entering his eighteenth year, his father the Tzemach Tzedek instructed him to take the examinations for semichah. At various times he received semichah from the geonim Rav Yitzchak Aizik Epstein of Homel, Rav Schneur Zalman of Polotzk (author of Responsa Toras Chessed), Rav Hillel of Paritch, and Rav Yitzchak Aizik Baharad of Vitebsk.

5613 — During the month of Cheshvan, the Tzemach Tzedek established a daily session to study with him pri­vately. In wintertime: from 10 P.M. until 12:30 A.M.; in summertime: from 4 A.M. until 6:30 A.M. This study session continued for two months short of four years, lasting until Elul 5616. During the first two years they studied works of Kabbalah with biurim based on Chassidus. During the next eighteen months they studied works of Jewish Philosophy: works of Rav Saadiah Gaon, Moreh Nevuchim, Ikkarim, Kuzari, etc., all of which were studied in the light of Toras HaChassidus.5

In addition to the above, the Tzemach Tzedek would repeat for him chassidic maamarim he had heard from the Alter Rebbe; this was three times a week, on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday. The maamarim were among those the Alter Rebbe had heard in Mezritch in the name of the Baal Shem Tov, those that he heard from the Maggid's own mouth, and those that he himself had recited during the days of his reign, up to the year 5564.

5615 — Following his father's instructions, he began to engage in works of public service. Reb Shmuel Brin6served as his secretary. During the month of Kislev a directive arrived from the Governor of Vitebsk County, stating that within six weeks an advisory council chaired by the Vice-Minister of the Interior would assemble in Petersburg to discuss the printing of seforim in Yiddish translation for the use of Jewish children. The Tzemach Tzedek was summoned to come and participate in this council. The Tzemach Tzedek declined to make the trip, and instead he sent as his representatives his son the Maharash and Rav Aharon of Belinitch.

5617 — He traveled to Kiev and afterwards to Petersburg on matters of public affairs.

56187— He traveled to Kiev, to Petersburg, and to foreign countries (Italy and Germany). Because of fear (of the authorities), the stated reason for these trips was for the improvement of his health. But in truth, this travel was also on matters of public affairs. Similar travels were undertaken in the years 5619, 5621, and 5622.

5620 — Upon his return from Germany, he convened an assembly of people involved in public affairs who were Cha­bad Chassidim, [chassidim of] Vohlynia, the faction of the maskilim,8and businessmen. He reported details of his en­counters abroad and proposed an agenda for their future work. A short time afterward Rav Aharon [of Belinitch] was denounced9because of jealousy and similar motives. He was arrested and transported (mostly on foot) to Mohilev under armed escort. In his place the Tzemach Tzedek appointed Reb Yitzchak Rubashov and Reb Nassan ben Shlomo Monnes­sohn. All their work was done in secret, for fear of being denounced by informers.

5625 — He traveled to Petersburg where he averted the decrees that had been introduced in the Senate to impose restrictions on the Jews of Lita and Zamut.

Early 5626 — Following the instructions of his father the Tzemach Tzedek, he began reciting chassidic maamarim in pub­lic. My father-in-law the Rebbe related that at that time the Tzemach Tzedek issued a note to the public stating: "Listen to him (the Rebbe Maharash) as you have listened to me."10Though the following letter is undated, it was apparently also written at that time. The letter states:

To my beloved and adored son Rav Shmuel:

I have seen your chassidic writings, and I highly approve. May G‑d (blessed be He) strengthen your heart and your intel­lect to persevere even more in His Torah and avodah; "be strong, and become a man."11 Merely open your mouth, and your words will shine forth. I hereby confirm what I told you orally, as I quoted to you what I heard from the gaon my grand­father [the Alter Rebbe] of blessed memory. Be strong and fortified in both writing and speech. I hereby bestow upon you a high degree of semichah. Fear no person. May G‑d (blessed be He) grant you success in both spiritual and material concerns, "to learn and to teach, to observe, and to practice."12

(signed) Your father, who seeks your welfare and the wel­fare of Anash, Menachem Mendel ben Devorah Leah.13

Late 5626 — After the passing of his father the Tzemach Tzedek (on the eve of Thursday, 13 Nissan, in Lubavitch) he accepted the position of Nasi, and continued to reside in Lubavitch.

5627 — On 3 Cheshvan his brother, the Rebbe Reb Yehu­dah Leib, passed away in Kapust. To his son — the Rebbe Reb Schneur Zalman and family — he sent the following letter of condolence:

I received your letter last Friday upon my return in peace from Vitebsk. What can I possibly say to you? How can I console you after such terrible misfortunes? Your loss is as great as the sea; who shall heal you? May He who gives strength to those who are exhausted send you comfort from His holy abode, as the Sages say in Midrash Rabbah (end of the first chapter of Eichah): "She has suffered in double measure, may she be com­forted in double measure ... Be con­soled, be consoled My people, so says your G‑d."14 May He be the one "Who shall heal you...."

Regarding my proposed journey to your community: In truth, it is my desire to be there. However, we have heard rumors of the epidemic in Mohilev (may G‑d save us); moreover, I see no necessity for it, nor anything definite that might be gained from my making the journey. Besides, I have heard that it is certain that you will be coming to visit us immediately after the thirty days of mourning. At that time we can confer properly about where you should settle and how to avoid the problem of conflicts (G‑d forbid), so that in our camp only true love may dwell. May the good L‑rd "lead you in paths of righteousness for the sake of His Name,"15 to bring our hearts truly closer. May He bless us, among all of His people Israel, with peace. As you desire it, and as I — your uncle — desire it, from the depths of my heart and soul.

(signed) Shmuel.

5628 — He traveled to France and elsewhere to meet with people involved in public service abroad.16During the return trip he stopped for several days in Odessa, and he spent the entire month of Tishrei 5629 in Kishinev.

In one of his letters, my saintly father-in-law
related the following:

During the summer of 5628 my saintly grandfather the Rebbe Maharash was abroad visiting a health resort. A few days before his return, during the second half of the month of Elul, there was a fire in Lubavitch and all the structures in the Rebbe's courtyard burned down. He was informed by tele­gram of this fire in Lubavitch.

During that trip the Rebbe happened to be traveling by way of Bucharest and Yasi. This was his usual habit — when­ever he made one of his frequent trips, he would choose an itinerary that included a visit (unheralded by public fan­fare) to a different country, to investigate the situation of the Jews of that country — both their material and economic status, and their spiritual status. On this trip it was his desire to visit that country,17and it was there that the above telegram was sent to him. From Yasi, the Rebbe traveled to Odessa,18for the Rebbe had promised the Jews of "Little Russia" that he would spend several days or a week in Odessa during his return from the health resort. Many of Anash, with the rab­bonim foremost among them, had already come there.

When the Rebbe arrived in Odessa, he revealed nothing of what had occurred in Lubavitch. On the third day after his arrival19he sent Reb Pinchas Leib to Lubavitch with a letter. His close followers in general, and the gabbai Reb Leivik in particular, were surprised by this. But no one dared to ask for an explanation.

In the letter that my grandfather sent he wrote that he was sending them plans for rebuilding his house, and that they should begin construction immediately upon receiving the letter. The building contractor Naftali Chayim was to hire many workers and skilled craftsmen. They were to build only on weekdays.20He should see to it that on each day the labor­ers and craftsmen would do the amount of work that would usually require twenty or thirty days to do. In this manner the building of his residence and the shul would be completed by the middle of MarCheshvan. He had consulted with his father,21who had told him to spend Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkos in Kishinev. And so he would (with G‑d's help), but for reasons best known to himself he had not yet revealed this to anyone.

Within a few days the news spread that there had been a fire in Lubavitch and that all the buildings in the courtyard had burned down. The close followers, led by the first gabbai Reb Leivik, cautioned the chassidim not to speak of it, so that the Rebbe would not hear of it and be distressed. At the same time, they consulted amongst themselves to find a suitable place for [the Rebbe to spend] the Days of Awe and the fol­lowing festival [of Sukkos].

While they were still busy with their consultation, the Rebbe summoned Reb Leivik the gabbai and instructed him to draw up a detailed list of all rabbonim and esteemed members of Anash who were present in Odessa at the time, and to deliver it to him within an hour. Reb Leivik drew up the list and brought it to the Rebbe at the required time. After study­ing it carefully, the Rebbe said to Reb Leivik, "All those who are on this list are summoned to come to see me — all at the same time — one hour from now."22

None of the rabbonim or other honored people23who had been summoned to this meeting had any idea what its subject or agenda might be. Because time was short they did not even have a chance to think about it or to make any guess as to why and for what purpose they had been summoned to a meeting. At the designated time all those who had been summoned entered the Rebbe's large chamber. The Rebbe then began speaking:

While I was in Yasi I was informed by telegraph that there was a fire in Lubavitch, and that the buildings in my courtyard were also consumed by it. Upon my arrival here I sent my attendant Reb Pinchas Leib with a letter and plans for rebuilding the housing needed for the shul and for myself. Since I require a place to stay during the approaching Rosh Ha­Shanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkos, I hereby appoint three people24to travel to the city of Kishinev and find a place for me to dwell — a spacious house in a location with good air, appropriate in all respects. Now, hurry to make the trip, and may G‑d grant you success.

The fear of their Rebbe fell upon all those who were summoned, and not one of them would dare to suggest that the Rebbe might choose one of the cities of Little Russia instead.25The chassid Reb Zalman Zlatopolski was privileged to be present during the entire time, from the middle of Elul 5628 until the middle of MarCheshvan 5629. Whenever he related the story of the events of that time he would be com­pletely overcome with holy fervor.

Reb Zalman Zlatopolski related:

On Tuesday, 6 Tishrei many of the wealthy and important citizens of Kishinev came to the Rebbe saying that the city was very large (may it increase even more) and many elderly and sickly people had been unable to come on Rosh HaSha­nah to hear the Torah teachings that the Rebbe had delivered. Therefore, they now requested that the Rebbe deliver a Torah teaching on that day, at whatever hour he wished. The Rebbe agreed to their request, and set the time for four o'clock.

There was a very large room in the courtyard where the Rebbe was living,26but within an hour it was filled to capac­ity. Since the weather was good, they took the podium out into the courtyard (with the Rebbe's permission). At the stated time the Rebbe emerged from his quarters, ascended the podium, and sat in the chair that had been prepared for him. The courtyard was filled from one end to the other. Out of respect for the holiness of the occasion, complete silence reigned among all who stood in the courtyard, on the roofs of the buildings, and in the tall trees of the courtyard.

The Rebbe began reciting the maamar: Tefillah LeAni Ki Ya'atof veLifnei Havayah Yishpoch Sicho. The sweet sound of his holy voice could be heard even from afar; everyone could see the face of the holy of holies, and could hear every utterance that emerged from the Rebbe's holy heart, arousing them to avodah.

The subject of the maamar Tefillah LeAni... is well known.27It explains the concepts of mashpia and mekabel on all levels, partzufim28and sefiros. The practical lesson of this is that even here below there must be such things as poor people and wealthy people, who personify the mashpia and the mekabel: the poor person is the mekabel and the wealthy person is the mashpia. But...

(at this point the Rebbe raised his holy voice, and spoke as if presenting a legal claim)

... it may be true that in the Worlds as a whole, and in each of the individual Worlds of B'ya, there must be things that are mashpia and mekabel. And so, here below in the ranks of the souls of the Jewish people, there must also be mashpia and mekabel. But the poor person questions: why does he have to be the mekabel? And this question of the poor man is in fact a valid legal claim!

Hearing these holy words emerging from the mouth of the saintly Rebbe, the audience broke out weeping. I wish29that I might have the merit to cry with such innocence on the last day of my life. On that occasion we saw what the Rebbe can accomplish, even with "mameliga-and-vahn[-Jews]"30— even they became greatly aroused.

[End of Reb Zalman Zlatopolski's account.]

My saintly father the Rebbe [Rashab] said to me: "Even the vernacular Yiddish expressions that Father used while reciting Chassidus need to remain engraved upon us forever."

My grandfather's saying, "But the poor person ques­tions: why does he have to be the mekabel?" along with Grand­father's assertion that it is in fact a valid legal claim, should remain constantly before our eyes. It should give us the strength and fortitude to do — and repeatedly do — only good; in general, to anyone possible, and in particular to Torah scholars and those who keep the mitzvos.

5629 — He established a permanent committee in Peters­burg to investigate matters of public concern, and to remain on the alert to defend the rights of the Jews.

5630-5640 — He made numerous journeys both in his own country and abroad, attending to matters of public affairs.31

5640 — Risking his life, he interceded in government cir­cles to suppress the pogroms against the Jews.