1 [From the Previous Rebbe’s Diary]:

This past Rosh HaShanah marked sixty years since Reb Gershon Dov’s uncle, Reb Azriel Yaakov Melamed, first brought him to Lubavitch to be blessed by the Rebbe [the Tzemach Tzedek] before his bar mitzvah.

Reb Gershon Dov never knew his father, for he passed away before he was born. Indeed, Reb Gershon Dov was named after his father. When he was a year old, his mother also passed away. He was raised and educated by his grandmother and his relatives in Klimovitch2 until the age of ten.

At the age of ten, his uncle ( the widower of his mother’s sister, who was also no longer living) adopted him. This uncle, the chassid Reb Azriel Yaakov, had always been a melamed. At that time, he was serving as melamed in a hamlet near Dubranka.3 He adopted Gershon Dov and gave him private lessons, as well as teaching him together with a class of three other boys of the same age.

It was his uncle Reb Azriel Yaakov Melamed’s habit to spend the entire month of Tishrei each year in Liozna (later, in Liadi) with the Alter Rebbe, and still later in Lubavitch with the Mitteler Rebbe and the Tzemach Tzedek. But when he reached his seventies, walking became difficult for him, and he began to go only once every two years.

His routine was to prepare for his trip to Lubavitch at the beginning of Elul. The trip would take him about two weeks, and he arranged it so that he would be in Lubavitch for Shabbos Selichos. He would remain in Lubavitch during all the festivals, until after Shabbos Bereishis, and would arrive back home in the middle of MarCheshvan.

This is Reb Gershon Dov’s story, as he himself told it:

During the month of Elul 5597 [1837], when I had been studying with my uncle, the chassid Reb Azriel Yaakov Melamed for two years, he said to me, “Since you are going to become bar mitzvah during the coming year, I will take you with me to the holy Lubavitcher Rebbe so that he may bless you before your bar mitzvah. I have no doubt that his holy blessings will be fulfilled, and that your trip to Lubavitch and your visit to the holy Rebbe will be a source of satisfaction to the soul of your father in Gan Eden.”

On Tuesday, 8 Elul, after the earliest Shacharis prayer, we departed on our journey to the holy Rebbe: my uncle Reb Azriel Yaakov Melamed, Reb Moshe Dov the Miller, his son Reb Ephraim Zev who owned the inn on the highway, his son, the bochur Yaakov, and I. Two hours later, we arrived in Dubranka, where we stopped for two hours. At noon, we resumed our journey, joined by several more travelers.

In each village and settlement through which we passed, we were greeted with great love and friendship. In the places where we davened Shacharis, they omitted Tachanun, for we all felt the joy derived from the mitzvah of making the pilgrimage to the holy Rebbe.

In nearly every town and village, one or two additional travelers joined us, going to Lubavitch to the holy Rebbe. When we neared Lubavitch, our group numbered about seventy people. As we approached the inn near Lubavitch, we met numerous companies of people traveling on foot.

Having been raised in the country, where few people lived, I was very impressed by the sight of so many groups of people, all of different types. I especially noted the love and affection evident among them, and their mutual joy. I was so excited by this that I was unable to think clearly.

I was exhausted from the rigors of the journey and the sights I had seen. Sitting on a clump of grass, I fell fast asleep and knew nothing of what was happening. Suddenly, I was disturbed by the sound of music ringing in my ear, and I awoke fully.

With great difficulty, I removed the traces of sleep from my eyes, and discovered that — on the stretch of lawn near the pile of hay on which I had slept — a group of elderly bearded men had begun to dance. Surrounding them in a circle, several hundred people were pressed together, singing in loud voices. Some were clapping their hands, some snapping their fingers, and some dancing in their places with great fervor.

Each of the elders in the middle of the circle had his right hand on the shoulder of another. They all danced in a circle with their eyes closed, their faces pale, making gestures of joy with their left hands. The intensity of their dance increased from minute to minute. From the expression on their faces, it was obvious that they were remembering something from the distant past.

Raising my eyes, I saw that another group stood not far from the first one. Hurrying over to them, I discovered that there too, several minyonim of people were pressed together in a circle. A group of elders danced in the middle, like the first ones. It appeared, however, that these were younger than those in the first group, and so I returned to the first group.

Never in my life had I seen such a sight. Standing there in amazement, I noticed that my uncle Reb Azriel Yaakov Melamed was one of the elders dancing in the first circle. As I stood there enjoying the scene, I suddenly heard loud voices calling, “Make way! Let us through! Please make a wide path.”

I then saw that the elders of the second group were approaching the circle of the first group of elders, dancing all the while. In a moment the two groups came together, and they hugged one another with heartfelt love and affection. They then quickened the pace of their dancing.

A resonant sound of great joy issued from the mouths of the men surrounding the two circles. Within a few moments those who had been standing outside the circles were swept into the dance. I stood there hesitating for a minute, but then I too seized the hand of one of the chassidim and joined the circle.

The bochur Yaakov told me that his father, Reb Ephraim Zev, had explained [this whole ceremony] to him: His own father, Reb Moshe David, had been in the second circle of dancers. In it, were the chassidim who had visited the Mitteler Rebbe.

On the other hand, the chassid Reb Azriel Yaakov Melamed had been in the first circle of dancers, with the chassidim who had visited the Alter Rebbe. Now, I understood the reason for the two circles, and why they had subsequently blended into one. They were now joined into a single group, going to the present Rebbe.4

On Wednesday, 20 Elul [September 20, 1837], we arrived in Lubavitch. When we arrived, my uncle Reb Azriel Yaakov Melamed met several of his friends and close comrades. Upon seeing one another, they kissed repeatedly. Some recited the blessing of Shehechiyanu aloud, while those who stood by answered Amein! All this was done in the spirit of the greatest friendship and brotherhood.

In Lubavitch too, my uncle was addressed by his surname: “Reb Azriel Yaakov Melamed.” If anyone addressed him simply as Reb Azriel Yaakov, he would neither respond, nor even turn to look at whoever had called him. Only if they called him with the name “Melamed” would he turn toward them. In fact, even when he received an aliyah to the Torah, he was called up as “Reb Azriel Yaakov ben Reb Yerocham Melamed.”

He had made his fourth visit to the Alter Rebbe as a young married scholar, upon expiration of the time his father-in-law had agreed to support him. The Alter Rebbe had advised him to become a melamed; he then gave him the name Azriel Yaakov Melamed, and blessed him with success in his holy occupation of producing G‑d-fearing pupils.

When my uncle, the chassid Reb Azriel Yaakov, emerged from the [Alter] Rebbe’s presence, he told the chassidim what the Rebbe had said to him. From then on, he had always been addressed as Reb Azriel Yaakov Melamed.

My uncle met many of his contemporaries in Lubavitch, and these meetings were a source of mutual delight.

During this visit, I was privileged to see the Rebbe’s holy face for the first time. After Sukkos, on Wednesday, 26 Tishrei [October 25], I had the privilege of receiving the Rebbe’s blessing while he placed his holy hand upon my head. His holy words remain with me today, as fresh as if I had heard them from his holy mouth this very day.

After my return from Lubavitch, I continued studying with great diligence. When I was fourteen, my uncle, Reb Azriel Yaakov Melamed, passed away. During the next year, I took my uncle’s place in teaching three of the five pupils he had instructed.

After that, I left the village and traveled to the town of Klimovitch, where my parents’ relatives lived. I continued studying Torah constantly until the age of nineteen. Then, I married the daughter of a prominent resident of a rural settlement near Klimovitch. He undertook to support me for many years.

This past Rosh HaShanah — 5658 [1897] — marked the fiftieth anniversary of my first visit to the holy Rebbe, on Rosh HaShanah 5608. During that visit, I remained in Lubavitch for three months: Tishrei, MarCheshvan, and Kislev.

During that year, Likkutei Torah was printed. Even before the printing was finished, several unbound folios were already in the possession of the chassidim. When I went in for yechidus, the saintly Rebbe the Tzemach Tzedek instructed me to study the discourses printed in Likkutei Torah superficially, and repeat them until I knew them well, by heart. Only then, should I study them in depth.

The Rebbe the Tzemach Tzedek treated me with great favor, in the merit of my father, the chassid Reb Gershon Dov [the elder]. My father, who was known as the “Illuy of Kruce,” had been a descendant of the greatest opponents of Chassidus and chassidim. But at the age of nineteen, he arrived in Shklov, where he became acquainted with the mighty gaon Reb Yosef Kalbo, who told him of the Alter Rebbe’s great genius.

After my father — the illuy — heard from Reb Yosef Kalbo what a great and glorious gaon the Alter Rebbe was (he had also repeated to him some novel insights on several profound Torah subjects), he decided to travel to the Alter Rebbe in Liozna. Arriving in Liozna in the year 5558 [1798], he presented several of his questions and uncertainties on various Torah topics. The Alter Rebbe answered them all lucidly, and also explained to him several profound subjects that had previously been beyond his comprehension. He remained in Liozna for several months, during which he also showed interest in Toras HaChassidus.

At that time, one of the Alter Rebbe’s close adherents from Klimovitch was staying in Liozna. He was a patron and friend of Torah scholars, and offered to take the Illuy of Kruce as a bridegroom for his daughter, and to support him for the rest of his life.

The Illuy of Kruce became one of the Alter Rebbe’s most fervent adherents. He was one of the five young scholars who accompanied the Rebbe on his journey to Berditchev in 5568. He was much loved by the Alter Rebbe, and by the Mitteler Rebbe.

The Rebbe [the Tzemach Tzedek] once told me that he had often engaged my father in discussions of novel insights to the Torah. Besides his very broad knowledge and marvelous memory, he also possessed much common sense, and an amazing ability to develop novel insights.

When I came to Lubavitch the following year — 5609 — I remained there for the whole month of Tishrei. Then, the Rebbe the Tzemach Tzedek sent me to the famous tzaddik and chassid, Reb Hillel HaLevi of Paritch5 to become one of his “sitters.”

Whenever a fresh young scholar came to him, my master and mentor Reb Hillel would entrust him to two of the senior students. They would look after his welfare, teach him the way of life of the chassidim, and tell him stories about the Rebbeim and the elder chassidim. These young men, who served as the new scholar’s guides, would pay careful attention to the new young scholar’s needs. They would arrange a place for him to live, and see to all his requirements. They were responsible for both his physical and spiritual needs.

My master Reb Hillel was characterized by discipline and order to an amazing degree. He instilled this quality in his disciples, and demanded that they follow it. They had to be extremely methodical in their studies, their prayers, their speech, and the way they conducted themselves.

A favorite expression of his was, “Besides preventing mistakes, order brings many positive benefits. When a skilled repairman wishes to restore some object, he must first examine its defects carefully, according to a set plan. Then, he proceeds to repair it, again following the plan.”

Each story told to the new young scholar would be repeated several times, until the new student had absorbed it thoroughly, and could repeat it verbatim, in all its details. Then, when the new scholar was thoroughly versed in the story, the senior scholars who were his guides would ask him: “What lesson in refining one’s character attributes, or in fear of Heaven, can we derive from this story?”

The young scholars whom Reb Hillel assigned to the new student would instruct him to expend the same intellectual effort over these stories that he would over a scholarly dissertation. He should be sure to stress the minute details of the stories (my master Reb Hillel was very particular with the minute details, insisting that they be repeated exactly) and their meaning, as well as the moral lesson to be derived from the stories. The scholars would assist him in this regard, and then they would relate to him what their mentor Reb Hillel had said about the subject.

Whenever the Rebbe the Tzemach Tzedek sent a fresh young scholar to my master and mentor Reb Hillel, he followed this practice: each Shabbos during the first three weeks, Reb Hillel would tell a story. This was besides his discourses on Chassidus that he delivered each Shabbos. After the story, they would sing a niggun, and then Reb Hillel would teach the story again, pointing out what lesson one could derive from the story, regarding prayer and intellectual pursuits.

The first story told by Reb Hillel, on my first Shabbos, concerned Reb Baruch ben Yosef from the town of Slutzk.

The story had three parts: i) about Reb Baruch ben Yosef himself;6 ii) about Reb Meir Shabsi and his father Reb Zevulun Shimon; iii) about the two brothers — Reb Yosef and Reb Avraham, sons of Reb Baruch — who brought the Baal Shem Tov to Slutzk. My master and mentor Reb Hillel told these three parts of the story during the first three Shabbasos after I came to him.

(This was Reb Gershon Dov’s way of telling a story: first, he would give a general outline; then, he would fill in all the details, as precisely as if he were reading the text from a scroll. Reb Gershon Dov then began telling the story, repeating it as he had heard it from his master and mentor, Reb Hillel.)

“My father7 was a chassid of the holy Maggid of Mezritch. Having an exceedingly weak and sickly constitution, he spent most of his years studying at his home, which adjoined the shul and beis hamedrash. Besides being a gaon and a holy master of avodah, he had much to relate. Therefore, the great rabbonim and Torah scholars of the city — as well as guests who passed through Brohyn — were constantly visiting him.

“Father repeated to me what he had heard from the elders of his generation, who had seen the Baal Shem Tov sometime during the years 5496, 5497, or 5498 [1736-1738]. That year, the Baal Shem Tov paid a visit to the city of Slutzk, at the request of the wealthy brothers Yosef and Avraham, sons of his disciple, the famous scholar and wealthy philanthropist Reb Baruch ‘the Silent.’”

My master and Rebbe, the chassid Reb Hillel, divided the story of Reb Baruch ben Yosef into three parts. He related these during the three meals of the first Shabbos after my arrival.

He related the story up to a certain point during the evening meal. Then, the young scholars who were sitters in his yeshivah sang several niggunim in the customary order: there were three niggunim, each containing three stanzas. They sang each niggun together, in perfect harmony, repeating it three times in succession, slowly and patiently. Each successive repetition was louder than the previous one.

Reb Hillel explained to us the moral lesson that could be derived from this story: one must strive to support himself exclusively by the labor of his own hands, but at the same time he must study Torah with great diligence.

He also explained how great one’s longing should be to achieve perfection in serving the Creator. After all, it was for this purpose alone that Reb Baruch had wandered from city to city, searching carefully for a master and mentor who would teach him the proper avodah in serving G‑d (blessed be He). Other lessons to be learned are Baruch’s great mesirus nefesh in serving his master and Rebbe, and the way he fled as if his life were in danger, to avoid any chance of becoming haughty in spirit.

“However, said my master and Rebbe Reb Hillel, “all this took place before Moreinu the Baal Shem Tov revealed the “light that is good,”8 namely, Toras HaChassidus, and before our master and Rebbe the Maggid of Mezritch and his holy disciples set forth a path for living in this world, according to the ways of Chassidus.”

Reb Hillel then explained at length the novel, wondrous, and great accomplishments of the Alter Rebbe, later succeeded by the Mitteler Rebbe, and finally succeeded by the Rebbe the Tzemach Tzedek.

(Reb Gershon Dov finished the part of the story told by his master and Rebbe — the chassid Reb Hillel of Paritch — at the Friday night meal. Then, he stopped speaking and meditated for a while. Finally, Reb Gershon Dov broke his silence, saying:)

I ought to tell you everything that happened to me since the day that I first came to my master and Rebbe Reb Hillel (of blessed memory).

As you know, I was brought up by my uncle, Reb Azriel Yaakov Melamed. He was a follower of the holy Alter Rebbe, and later a follower of his son, the Mitteler Rebbe. In his old age he became an adherent of the holy Rebbe the Tzemach Tzedek. During the year 5597 [1837], when I was twelve years old, he took me with him to see the Lubavitcher Rebbe [the Tzemach Tzedek].

There are two days during the year that I observe as personal holidays. They are 26 Tishrei and 25 Elul. On 26 Tishrei 5598 [October 25, 1837] I was privileged for the first time to enter the holy Rebbe’s holy chamber, together with my uncle and master, the chassid Reb Azriel Yaakov Melamed. The Rebbe then blessed me, while placing his holy hands upon my head. On 25 Elul 5608 [August 25, 1848],9 I was privileged for the first time in my life to enter the Rebbe’s holy chamber privately, for yechidus.

I have taken these two days — 26 Tishrei and 25 Elul — upon myself (without obligating myself with a vow) as days for seclusion and soul-searching, and as days of teshuvah, involving complete repentance for my past, and good resolutions for the future.

(Reb Gershon Dov then emitted a sigh that came from the depths of his heart. All this made a mighty impression upon me.)

Since my early youth, I loved to think deep thoughts. Even while I was still a little boy, I would repeatedly review in my mind everything I heard or learned. With each review, I would derive some new pleasure, as my mind penetrated the subject more deeply.

When I reached the age of six or seven, I was already studying Chumash and the Early and Late Prophets. Each story penetrated my heart deeply, and fixed itself in my brain. In fact, I contemplated the stories so thoroughly and so profoundly, that I often ended up seeing them in my dreams!

The older I grew, the stronger became my tendency to think deeply. At the age of eleven or twelve, when I was already studying under my uncle, the chassid Reb Azriel Yaakov Melamed, I would review each lesson and each point of logic in my mind several times. With each repetition, my understanding became more profound.

By nature, I spoke very little. During the lessons, while my classmates debated the nuances of the subject matter, I would sit quietly and listen to the discussions. Even during the review sessions, my classmates would speak, but I would only listen silently.

At first, my uncle and teacher Reb Azriel Yaakov Melamed admonished me for this, reminding me of the Sages’ commentary [on the verse],10 “They11 are life to the one who finds them.” [The Sages explain that “the one who finds them” refers to] those who cause them to emerge from their mouths.12 [This means that] whenever someone reads from the Torah, the Holy One (blessed be He) reads along with him.”13

Then, [my uncle] would tell me what he himself had heard from the mouth of the Holy of Holies, the Alter Rebbe: “What is the meaning of the verse,14 ‘Let my tongue answer Your sayings’? [It means that] when one is studying Torah, it must be studied vocally, as if he were repeating it after the reader; then, the Holy One reads along with him.”

Unfortunately, I was unable to overcome these natural tendencies. I found it easier to think for two hours than to speak for a half hour. During my free time, I would leave the house in stealth, and sit in the back yard among the stalks of the seed-bearing plants. There, I would sit immersed in my thoughts about what I had learned.

The result of this habit was that whenever my uncle and master tested me on my studies, I could repeat each lesson and point of logic. I did this with few words, which nevertheless conveyed the full depth of the subject. He was very pleased with this, for he disliked long-winded speeches, especially when they involved repetitive oratorical style.

I was privileged to receive the blessing of the saintly Rebbe the Tzemach Tzedek during my first visit (26 Tishrei 5598, as mentioned previously). In his blessing, the Rebbe also discussed the subject of my deep thinking. This was in reply to my teacher and uncle Reb Azriel Yaakov Melamed’s complaints against me.

At the age of fifteen I was already studying by myself in the beis hamedrash. Occasionally, I became so immersed in my thoughts that I was completely oblivious to anything happening in my vicinity, and I heard nothing. Sometimes, I would maintain a single thought for several hours. When the elderly chassid Reb Baruch Shimon the Batlan15 began to study the Tanya with me, my ability for profound thinking grew even stronger. Eventually, I was forced to find ways of interrupting my thoughts. Thus, more than a year passed.

Once, however, something happened that embittered my life. Whenever I remember it, my whole body quivers. I mentioned it two or three times to the Rebbe the Tzemach Tzedek in yechidus, and I also mentioned it to the Rebbe Maharash during a yechidus. Even now, the bitter memory of that event remains before my eyes, and I constantly implore G‑d to forgive me. But since then, the above tendency has become more limited.

One day during summer, I sat in the shul diligently reviewing one of my favorite subjects in the tractate Bava Basra.16 I had already studied this subject several times, and with each repetition I discovered deeper insights. In this shul there were people who followed the custom of davening Minchah early. The elderly chassid Reb Baruch Shimon, who generally sat in the shul’s side-room, also followed this custom, and I too joined them.

Twice a week after Minchah, the chassid Reb Baruch Shimon would study Chassidus with me — on one of these days we studied discourses that had already appeared in print, and on the other day we studied discourses that were still in manuscript form. Occasionally, he would repeat a discourse to me from memory.

This Reb Baruch Shimon had a phenomenal memory; he had forgotten virtually nothing of what he had seen or heard since his early youth. Whenever he told a story or repeated a Torah teaching that he had heard even several decades earlier, he would do so with such clarity that it seemed as if he had heard them just yesterday or the day before.

On that particular day, Reb Baruch Shimon repeated to me a chassidic discourse he had heard from the saintly Alter Rebbe more than sixty years earlier, when he had been in Liozna in the year 5540 [1780]. Said Reb Baruch Shimon: “On Sunday, the day after Shavuos, before Minchah, the Rebbe delivered the following teaching”:

[It is written]:17 “Great is our Master and abundant in might, there is no reckoning of His understanding.” The end of this verse is inconsistent with the beginning — at the beginning, it says “great ... abundant in might”; these terms imply finite [albeit very large] quantities, as the Sages say,18 “the measure of the Creator’s height is ....”19 But at the end, it says, “there is no reckoning.”20

Furthermore, “understanding” is a spiritual entity, while “reckoning” can refer only to physical entities, which are separable into parts. Spiritual things are not separable; they are not subject to reckoning, but only to analysis, as it is written,21 “There can be no analysis of His understanding.”

The matter can be explained as follows: It is written,22 “In the beginning G‑d created ...,” and this creation of the world was for the sake of Torah and mitzvos.23 The Torah descended through the downward progression of the Four Worlds — Atzilus, Beriah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah, and arrived in each world according to that world’s nature.

This is explained in the writings of the AriZal24 [commenting on the passage in the Grace after Meals],25 “for Your Torah which You have taught us....” The AriZal explains that “Your Torah” is in the world of Atzilus, and “You have taught us” is in the world of Beriah.26

Nevertheless, the downward progression of the Torah is different from the descent of the worlds. The Torah is the revelation of G‑d’s very essence, while the worlds descend in a cause-and-effect manner.27 Thus, “Great is our Master” refers to the creation of the worlds, which demonstrates His “abundant might,” which is subject to reckoning.

On the other hand, “of His understanding,” which refers to the descent of the Torah, “there is no reckoning.” It is manifest in each world according to [that world’s] level. For “wherever we find His greatness, there too, we find His humility,28 as it were, the revelation of His essence in an inward manner.29

Reb Baruch Shimon related to me: “I first traveled from Kalisk to Liozna in the year 5535 [1775], and I remained there three months. Later, I was there a second time in the year 5538, after the Alter Rebbe returned from his journey accompanying Reb Menachem Mendel of Horodok on his way to the Holy Land.30 Sixty-six years have passed since then, yet everything I heard and saw there remains fixed before my eyes, as if I were still living it.”

His voice quivered as he told me this, and tears ran down his cheeks. Then, in a lengthy commentary — appropriate to my understanding (which was limited in those days), Reb Baruch Shimon explained to me the difference between downward progression by means of cause-and-effect, and the downward progression of G‑d’s essence:

In cause-and-effect evolution, the effect is physical when compared to its cause [which is spiritual]. For example, the sweet taste of a fruit is physical when compared to the heavenly source of sweetness. In a similar vein, the emotional attributes are physical when compared to the spiritual nature of the intellect;31 the same applies to speech when it is compared to thought.

However, [there is a difference] with regard to the downward progression of the Torah. The Torah becomes encompassed within the [physical] human intellect, and bears no resemblance to the Halachos as they exist in Gan Eden (for in the Heavenly Yeshivah these Halachos are studied too). Certainly, this applies with regard to study in the world of Atzilus. Nevertheless, even as these Halachos concern physical objects, they actually enclothe supernal wisdom of Atzilus within them.

A year had gone by since Reb Baruch Shimon had begun studying with me, and I had already acquired substantial knowledge of several topics in Chassidus. Thus, Reb Baruch Shimon’s explanation of the difference between cause-and-effect and the evolution of G‑d’s essence opened up a new world for me. I found myself in a very cheerful mood, and so I went out into the back yard, where I sat down among the stalks of seed-bearing plants. There, I reviewed the teachings I had heard from Reb Baruch Shimon, and I delved ever deeper into his explanations.

The sun set, and the moon rose in the sky, but I still remained immersed in my thoughts. At daybreak, however, I suddenly sprang up from my place with a heartfelt cry, as if stung by a scorpion: “Woe and alas! I have not yet davened Maariv!

Without giving much thought to whether the prayer was still permissible or whether the time had already passed, I hurried to daven Maariv. Just as I reached Shemoneh Esrei, the sun rose.

This event caused me much pain and suffering for a full year afterward, because of the self-torments to which I subjected myself. But after that time, my propensity for deep thought grew weaker. In its place, a new talent appeared: whenever I succeeded in understanding a subject, whether in the revealed Torah or in Chassidus, my mind would picture an analogy for the subject.

As a corollary to this talent, I also developed a talent for comparing things — one logical argument would suggest an application to a second argument, and one subject would suggest an application to a second subject (as a word might suggest another word that sounds the same, or that rhymes with it). This talent reinforced the earlier talents of deep thinking and of comparing (and contrasting) arguments and subjects, to discover their differences and their unique points.

During the years just before 5608, when I first came to the Rebbe in Lubavitch, I studied many printed and handwritten chassidic discourses. I also learned much from elder chassidim such as: Reb Yitzchak Shaul, Reb Shaul Leib, and Reb Yosef Shalom. They were middle-aged, and had served most of their apprenticeship under the Mitteler Rebbe and the Tzemach Tzedek. There were also the melamdim, Reb Yeshayah and Reb Zelig; the storekeepers, Reb Chayim Eliyah, Reb Yehoshua, and Reb Zev Baruch; and the shochtim, Reb Yekusiel and Reb Peretz. In addition, my own abilities grew stronger and more refined (thank G‑d).

Under the guidance of the elder chassidim, I spent a full year preparing myself for my trip to Lubavitch. On Wednesday, 14 Elul 5607 [August 26, 1847],32 I arrived in Lubavitch, and on the Monday of Selichos I was privileged to enter for yechidus.33 Standing in his holy chamber, I unburdened myself to the Rebbe, revealing to him everything that had happened to me since my earliest memories.

The Previous Rebbe’s diary continues:

Reb Gershon Dov was about seventy-two years old. He was of average height, and very thin. His cheeks were hollow, and his face and brow were very wrinkled. His eyes were black, but his hair and beard were milky white. He wore dark clothes, with a velvet hat on his head and winter boots on his feet. His gartel was of silk.

Once he told me of his first yechidus with my great-grandfather, the Tzemach Tzedek. First, he described the scene to me: the Rebbe’s face as he looked in those days; how he sat at a long table, on which lay several large and small seforim. The Rebbe sat in an armchair, dressed in white silk, with a sable hat on his holy head, and a white cap under the hat. On the table were two lit candles, and a volume of the Zohar lay open before him. Reb Gershon Dov said:

As I entered the Rebbe’s holy chamber, a stream of tears suddenly flowed from my eyes. My legs became paralyzed, as if immersed in cement. Then, when the gabbai Reb Chayim Dov34 instructed me to approach the holy table at which the Rebbe sat, my whole body began to shiver, and my knees beat against each other.

When I finally approached the table, and the Rebbe asked me, “What have you been doing these past ten years, since you were last here with your uncle, the chassid Reb Azriel Yaakov Melamed?” my voice broke down in weeping. I told everything, omitting not even the smallest detail.

Reb Gershon Dov proceeded to repeat to me in detail everything he had told the Tzemach Tzedek, and everything that my saintly great-grandfather had answered him. As I observed his face during this recital, I noticed his great excitement while he reminisced about those holy memories. These feelings of holiness filled the entire world of this chassid, who was both a master of wisdom, and a master of avodah. [Reb Gershon then continued]:

The year 5608 was a blessed year for me. I was in Lubavitch during the three months of Tishrei, Cheshvan, and Kislev. During the festival of Sukkos, I was among those who had the privilege of entering the Rebbe’s sukkah for Kiddush on Shemini Atzeres. I also was present in the small minyan room for Kiddush on Simchas Torah, and I attended the farbrengen of the first evening of the festival of 19 Kislev (which was postponed to Motzoei Shabbos). After all this, I returned home in very joyful spirits.