After the sunrise minyan ended, for the first time, Reb Mordechai informed everyone that it is proper to go to the mikveh before davening. Being reluctant to begin a lengthy explanation before davening, he invited all the Jews and the young folk who were his close adherents to come to him in the beis hamedrash that afternoon before Minchah. He promised that then he would explain to them about the subject of immersion in the mikveh in general, and especially the importance of going to the mikveh before prayer.

When hearing these few words from Reb Mordechai about going to the mikveh before davening, many decided to do so right away, without waiting to learn the reasons for it. They accompanied Reb Mordechai and Reb Chayim to the mikveh, and this procession caused much wonder among the townsfolk who were making their way to the study houses to daven. Just what were the maggid and Reb Chayim Porush doing, marching up River Street toward the bathhouse, with several minyonim of people following them?

Reb Berel Ivansker quoted Reb Hirsh ben Sholom’s description of the scene: “On the day of G‑d’s Name (the day after Yom Kippur is called ‘G‑d’s Name’) the Dubravner Jews, not suspecting that Reb Mordechai was in the process of converting them to Chassidus, went to the mikveh for the first time in preparation for davening.”

On his way back from the mikveh, Reb Chayim began to think about his dead Gemara pages, his mitzvos performed without inner intent, and his prayers without soul, to which Reb Mordechai had referred. He grew very frightened as he contemplated these things, until he finally decided to discuss the whole matter with Reb Mordechai. That was why he started davening late that day.

Reb Mordechai had spent several hours discussing with him the topic of the “ladder” [of Yaakov’s dream], which represents prayer. Our avodah of prayer controls the ascending and descending of the angels that are created by the words of our davening and study. This, Reb Mordechai told Reb Chayim, is the meaning of Yaakov’s dream. Yaakov was on his way to Charan to achieve a new sort of avodah in serving G‑d, and Heaven was hinting to him what his program of avodah should be: it all depended on the “ladder” of his prayer.

That day of G‑d’s Name was the first time that Reb Chayim’s davening followed the new (as far as he was concerned) path of Chassidus. He began his preparations for davening, having taken to heart Reb Mordechai’s lecture about the “ladder” of prayer.

Since the previous day, when he had received the message that the holy Baal Shem Tov had sent to him through Reb Mordechai, Reb Chayim had known no peace. He could not stop thinking about the expanded emotional capacities he would achieve through the program of study of Zohar and Medrash that the Baal Shem Tov would teach him.

Reb Chayim’s mind worked feverishly, and ideas raced through his head. One moment he felt himself longing for the time when he could finally go to see the Baal Shem Tov and obtain this program of study of Zohar and Medrash that would expand his emotional capacities to serve the Creator. The next moment he questioned how he could undertake a journey to such a distant place, a journey that would certainly take at least several months. What about the burning coals with which he would be punished for the sin of neglecting his Torah study?

But then Reb Chayim reminded himself about the many years he had yearned for [an open heart and] expanded emotional capacities to serve the Creator. The Creator, blessed be He, was certainly aware of this; He had therefore commanded the tzaddik to send the message inviting Reb Chayim to come to him. When he came, the tzaddik would teach him a program of study of Zohar and Medrash, and he would thereby expand his emotional capacities to serve the Creator. After all, it was G‑d Himself, who knows all hidden things, who had informed the tzaddik that Reb Chayim needed expanded emotional capacities to serve Him. Thus, Reb Chayim’s journey to the tzaddik to obtain the program of study would be perfectly legitimate; he would not be guilty of the sin of neglecting Torah study.

By the time Reb Chayim actually began to daven, it was past eight-thirty in the morning; this was the first time in his life that he davened so late. Reb Mordechai, by contrast, would frequently daven at even a later hour. It often happened that he would pace back and forth, or sit deep in thought and immersed in his meditations with his tallis over his shoulders, before he even examined the tzitzis and wrapped himself in the tallis. Only then would he inspect the tzitzis, unfold the tallis, and wrap it around himself. Then he would remain seated for some time before he proceeded to put on the tefillin.

Reb Mordechai did not do anything without an enormous amount of prior reflection; he might spend several hours meditating in preparation before he began to daven. Reb Chayim, on the other hand, always davened with the sunrise minyan, even after he began studying Kabbalah.

It is true that studying Kabbalah had a great effect on Reb Chayim’s davening, lifting its quality and causing him to daven much more slowly than before. But the time at which Reb Chayim started his prayers remained unchanged: he still began davening with the sunrise minyan.

When the Jews assembled for Chatzos in the grave diggers’ beis hamedrash on the night after Yom Kippur and found that Reb Chayim Porush was absent, they thought it very strange. Every Shabbos and Yom Tov after nightfall, as soon as Havdalah was recited in the beis hamedrash, Reb Chayim would remove his Shabbos and Yom Tov clothes, and remain in the beis hamedrash. Even after Yom Kippur, Reb Chayim would break his fast in the beis hamedrash; but today, he was not there for Chatzos!

When the chevrah Tehillim members discovered that Reb Chayim Porush was still not present in the grave diggers’ beis hamedrash, they became worried. For the first time in many years, the sunrise minyan began to daven without Reb Chayim Porush.

Everyone was indeed aware that Reb Chayim Porush had undergone a radical change since the Shabbos following the Ninth of Av. Not only had he changed his eccentric manners — he now walked by himself without someone leading him, and even in the daytime he now went around without a blindfold over his eyes — but he had undergone a major revolution in everything he did. His davening was different, his study was different, he finished davening very late, and spent much more time davening than he had previously. But he still started his davening with the sunrise minyan. And today, he was not there!

When Reb Chayim finally arrived at the beis hamedrash, he found that none of the worshipers remained. The only person present was the old, blind shammes, who sat behind the bimah saying Tehillim.

As for Reb Mordechai, he proceeded according to his usual schedule. He made his preparations in solitary seclusion, and then he davened slowly, humming various niggunim from time to time. He completely ignored the fact that he had not slept for even a short while during the previous two nights. He had not so much as nodded from midnight before Yom Kippur until that moment, and had been hard at work during all of those three nights and two days. Nevertheless, Reb Mordechai davened with such enthusiasm that his whole being seemed to boil over. Somehow, that day’s davening was special, and it took longer than usual.

Reb Mordechai’s conduct of the previous night — his lecture, the singing, and the dancing — all made a profound impression on the older scholarly Jews. It also caused a full-fledged revolution among the younger scholars. Somehow the idea had firmly implanted itself in everyone’s mind — there existed a far higher intellectual plane of Torah study than they had been aware of previously.

Reb Mordechai’s metaphor, “A vast cemetery filled with the corpses of your dead pages of Gemara is what you’ve built up in the World of Truth,” penetrated into the minds of all the scholars, young and old, and had a profound effect upon all of them. Every one of the genuine scholars took it personally and was deeply moved, for in fact Reb Mordechai was right! He had hit the mark, and was telling the truth. Everyone was prompted to take action and do better in the future, and to find ways of atoning for the past. For this purpose, many of the young folk decided that they should discuss the matter with Reb Mordechai.

The entire town was astir with rumors of what had transpired with the maggid the previous evening in the large beis hamedrash. Everyone spoke about it and repeated the story. Everywhere in town — in the houses, on the sidewalk in front of the stores, on the balconies, and on the porches — people could not stop talking about it. Each person had his own interpretation of the events, and described the previous night’s incidents according to his own inclination and imagination. The stories grew to such an extent that they astonished all who heard them.

One person related that the maggid had davened extensively on Yom Kippur, his prayers extending far into the night. As a result, Eliyahu Hanavi had come to visit the maggid. Reb Chayim Porush, by means of ruach hakodesh, had seen Eliyahu Hanavi going to the maggid in the large beis hamedrash, so he himself had also gone to visit Reb Mordechai. All three of them — Eliyahu Hanavi, the maggid, and Reb Chayim — had danced together, so vigorously that the wall of the maggid’s room had collapsed!

Another person related that while davening on Yom Kippur, the maggid had visited the cemetery in the World of Truth. There, he had clearly seen the Talmudic sages sitting in chains, while angels of terror buried the dead Gemara pages. As a result, the maggid had cried so much during the davening, and had davened until so late at night, that the Master of the Universe had released the tzaddikim from their chains. This caused the maggid so much joy that he had danced with Reb Chayim Porush.

The Jews who frequented the beis hamedrash and the young scholars began to assemble for the study session. But they too could speak only about the dead Gemara pages and the chains of vanity and arrogance. A few of the young folk and bochurim who had heard the “Search and Find” niggun, sang it repeatedly and practiced it.

Eventually, Yisrael Nachman Mariasha’s (the great-grandfather of Reb Nachman the Butler1) arrived. This young Yisrael Nachman was a great scholar, and very G‑d-fearing. Upon hearing the maggid’s Ein Yaakov lesson for the first time he had immediately become the maggid’s devoted follower.

Reb Yisrael Nachman was one of the most influential people in the city, especially among the prominent citizens. As the only son-in-law of the wealthy widow Mariasha, he did many philanthropic acts and contributed generously to all charities.

Yisrael Nachman led the prayers in the Kalten Beis HaMedrash, having inherited this position from his father-in-law, a tzaddik and martyr who had been drowned (may we be spared). [Yisrael Nachman] had a very delicate constitution, and he had to lie down to rest for a while immediately after the fast ended. Later, he had an irresistible urge to go and see what the maggid was doing. When he arrived, he discovered that the maggid had just started davening Maariv, while Reb Chayim Porush sat among the men telling wonderful stories that he had heard from the maggid about the great tzaddik of Vohlynia-Podolia.

Yisrael Nachman had always had the greatest respect for Reb Chayim Porush, and held him in high esteem. He was, however, by nature a cheerful and lively individual, and he could not put up with Reb Chayim Porush’s ways: his perpetually sad and melancholy disposition, his drooping eyebrows, his silence, and the way he always sat in the dark with his eyes blindfolded; all this angered Yisrael Nachman.

But now, seeing Reb Chayim Porush engaged in casual conversation with other people, Yisrael Nachman was very impressed. He was, however, still exhausted from the fast, and was simply unable to remain even long enough for the maggid to finish Maariv; he was forced to go home and rest. When he got home, he sent his butler to find out what was happening in the large beis hamedrash.

When the butler returned with the news that the maggid and Reb Chayim Porush were dancing in the maggid’s room, Yisrael Nachman was unable to restrain himself, and went to the large beis hamedrash together with the butler. He arrived while they were still dancing, the crowd still pressing its way into the maggid’s chamber. The heavy pushing and the intense heat, however, had proved too much for him, and Yisrael Nachman had begun to feel quite ill and felt the need to return home.

Yisrael Nachman was greatly distressed at having to return home. He was unable to rest and kept sending the butler to find out what was happening; but the butler was not the brightest person, and was unable to give Yisrael Nachman any clear account. Apparently Yisrael Nachman had caught a very bad cold — his throat was sore, and his sides ached. It was long past midnight when he sent for Dr. Lipa, requesting him to come and bring his medicines.2

Dr. Lipa examined Yisrael Nachman thoroughly, and found that his illness was not really serious. Nevertheless, to speed his recovery — especially in view of the fact that Sukkos was approaching — Dr. Lipa took extreme measures. A kettle of water was still boiling, and he brewed some raspberry tea, and also prepared a purge of warm water and soap. He smeared some melted tallow on the patient’s throat, wrapping a woolen cloth around it. He applied a preparation of cantharides3 to both flanks, six dry cups4 on the back, and three wet cups over the spine. A solution of mustard and vinegar was smeared below the pelvis, and some dry mustard was sprinkled inside the socks. He then ordered Yisrael Nachman to drink three glasses of raspberry tea, and to gargle every hour with a mixture of pepper and salt: one spoonful of this mixture to a glass of water.

The next afternoon, Dr. Lipa came to examine Yisrael Nachman again, and was very satisfied with the progress he had made, thanks to the medications. He gave Yisrael Nachman permission to go to the beis hamedrash for a few hours, on condition that he return home before sunset. When Yisrael Nachman arrived at the beis hamedrash he found a few young folk present. From them he heard an accurate account of what had occurred in the large beis hamedrash, and the maggid’s lecture comparing mitzvos performed without their inner intent to a body without a soul. The young men repeated to Yisrael Nachman everything the maggid had said and they sang the niggun the maggid had taught them. Yisrael Nachman was beside himself for not having heard and seen all this from the maggid himself.

They sang the niggun repeatedly, but Yisrael Nachman could not get enough of it; however, after they had been at it for several hours, he knew it well and could sing it by himself.

In the Kalten Beis HaMedrash there were ten scholars who had sat there studying day and night for many years. They were supported at public expense, and most of the money came from Yisrael Nachman’s mother-in-law. When the young folk began singing, these ten scholars were greatly angered by the young men’s foolishness, their waste of time that should have been spent studying Torah, and by the disturbance they were causing. Since Yisrael Nachman was together with these young folk, the elders had to remain silent. [Inside, however,] they were very angry.

These young folk who frequented the Kalten Beis HaMedrash remembered that Reb Mordechai had invited them to visit him in the large beis hamedrash before Minchah, when he would lecture on the topic of the pre-davening immersion; they prepared to go now, though it was only a little after three o’clock in the afternoon.

When he heard that the young men were planning to visit the maggid and learn the inner meaning of a religious practice dictated by Kabbalah, Reb Yisrael Nachman was unable to restrain himself. He decided to accompany them in spite of the inclement weather; he would put on his best jacket, his warm underwear5 and a pair of fancy felt boots, and would run to the beis hamedrash with a scarf around his head. No harm could possibly come of this; once he got there, he would see how he felt.

Just then, one of the young folk who learned in the large beis hamedrash came running in, all out of breath. This young man was called Yussik (he was the father of the chossid Reb Meir, who was a close adherent of the Alter Rebbe and played a major role in the debate with the misnagdim).

“I hurried over here,” said Yussik to the young men, “to invite you to come [to the large beis hamedrash] to hear and see the maggid davening — in all our days we’ve never heard or seen such davening!”

Upon hearing this information, the young folk began to run. The ten elderly scholars, seeing the young man come running in all out of breath, the tumult that ensued as soon as he said a few words, and a few of the young folk running out in haste while those who remained also appeared quite preoccupied, came to the conclusion that a fire must have broken out (may G‑d prevent it). With a shout, they ran to the Holy Ark to rescue the Torah scrolls.

Reb Yisrael Nachman and Reb Yussik saw the elders shouting and running toward the Holy Ark; at first, they could not guess what the elders were doing, but when they saw them opening the Ark and snatching the Torah scrolls, they became frightened to death.

“What happened?” Reb Yisrael Nachman and Reb Yussik began to scream, “what are you doing? Why are you handling the Torah scrolls needlessly?”

“Fire!” shouted the elders. “We’re trying to save the Torah scrolls.”

“Where’s the fire?” asked Reb Yisrael Nachman and Reb Yussik. “Where are the flames, where’s the smoke?”

“We saw the young folk running,” said the elders, “so we assumed that there was a fire; if there’s no fire, why were they running?”

After the elders had calmed down, Reb Yussik continued telling Reb Yisrael Nachman all about how the maggid had davened that day. Reb Yisrael Nachman listened with his mouth open in disbelief. Forgetting that he was sick, he went away to the large beis hamedrash with Reb Yussik. On the way, they met Reb Berel Shammes, who was the son of the old shammes of the grave diggers’ shul, and one of the maggid’s most faithful followers.

“After the sunrise minyan, I went for a short walk in the street, and then I went to the large beis hamedrash,” said Reb Berel Shammes. “I listened to the maggid’s davening, and I remained until just now, forgetting that I have not yet brought my father (i.e., the old, blind shammes) his breakfast. What can I tell you? When you hear such davening, and you observe [the maggid’s] face, you forget everything else!”

“Nevertheless,” said Reb Yussik, “you’ve committed a grave wrong. You might forget your own needs, but not someone else’s needs — especially not those of your old, blind father, who can’t even move without assistance.”

The old shammes was very old. In his youth he had studied quite well, acquiring a reputation as a young genius. His study had progressed to ever higher levels until, at the age of eighteen, he had fallen gravely ill (may we be spared), and had forgotten everything he once knew. His illness lasted for two years before he began a gradual convalescence, culminating in a complete recovery.

The bochur came from a fine family, and was very handsome. Excellent marriage proposals were suggested to him. He, however, remained despondent over having forgotten his study, and he decided to take up residence in the beis hamedrash. There he would recite Tehillim, weep, and lament until G‑d would take pity on him and restore his intellectual capacities and memory, thus enabling him to study once more and to recall what he had known previously. He became a regular inhabitant of the grave diggers’ beis hamedrash, where he remained for several years until he decided that he no longer wished to continue being supported by his parents.

At that time the previous shammes of the grave diggers’ beis hamedrash had become too weak to carry out his duties without help, and this bochur began to assist him; eventually he became the shammes’ son-in-law. [His memory also returned,] and within a few years he managed to recall most of what he had once studied so well.

He served as shammes of the grave diggers’ beis hamedrash for more than sixty years, but over the past few years he had become completely blind (may we be spared). He still knew the Tanach and the Mishnah by heart, but when he wished to study Gemara or Poskim, someone had to read the text to him. Currently he was considered one of the foremost scholars, and his learned dissertations were quite ingenious. Nevertheless, he spent most of his time reciting Tehillim.

During the days when he had forgotten his study (may we be spared), he had vowed that if G‑d would restore his intellectual capacity for study, he would recite the whole Tehillim three times each day — weekdays, Shabbos, and Yom Tov. He kept this vow faithfully until the last day of his life.

Reb Berel Shammes quickened his pace, and ran into a store where he purchased a herring. From there he rushed home, took some bread and yogurt, and went to the beis hamedrash. Upon entering the beis hamedrash he paused in amazement, for this was the first time in all the years he knew him that he saw Reb Chayim Porush davening so late. And what’s more, he was davening out loud!

Now Reb Berel Shammes was aware that Reb Chayim Porush had been studying Kabbalah for quite some time, and that since the arrival of the maggid (may he be well) Reb Chayim had become a different person; he had come alive. The maggid (may he be well) had done a real mitzvah, for he had changed a corpse into a human being. But to see Reb Chayim Porush davening so late — well, that was truly a marvel! While thinking these thoughts he walked over to the place behind the bimah, where the old, blind shammes sat reciting some words in a whisper.

“Father, please don’t be angry,” said Reb Berel Shammes to his father, “I’m a little late in bringing your breakfast. Don’t be angry, Father — please forgive me.”

“You say you’re late,” said the old shammes, “But what does the Gemara say,6 ‘This teaches us that the Holy One, blessed be He, gives to each and every one his sustenance in its due time.’ What does it matter if you’re late? Even if you weren’t late, would it have made a difference? Each person’s food arrives at the exact time that the Creator wills it.”

The old shammes washed his hands, while Reb Berel told him that at eleven o’clock he had passed by the large beis hamedrash and decided to go inside and see what was happening. In the marketplace, he had heard that they had been up all night in the large beis hamedrash, but he had been unable to find out exactly what had taken place there. He had therefore decided to enter the beis hamedrash, where he might find someone who would inform him about the previous night’s events.

“When I entered the large beis hamedrash,” Reb Berel Shammes told his father, “I met several people there. When I asked them about it, they told me that ... (here, Reb Berel repeated the whole story to his father).”

“Afterwards,” said Reb Berel, “I remained standing there for a while, listening to the maggid davening. It was so delightful to hear, that I completely lost track of time, and I had no idea it had grown so late.”

“Here, I heard a sound as if someone were both singing and crying,” said the old shammes. “First, I heard the sound of someone loudly weeping in the side-room, but when I exclaimed ‘Who’s there?’ and received no reply, I continued saying my Tehillim, after which I studied my Mishnayos. Then, I heard someone singing, but when I asked, ‘Who’s that singing?’ I again received no reply. At first I was a bit frightened by this alternate crying and singing. But I ceased to pay attention to it and immersed myself in studying Mishnayos, and then I was no longer afraid.”

“That’s Reb Chayim Porush davening; he has been living in the side-room for many years,” said Reb Berel Shammes.

“I’ve never seen him,” said the old shammes, “and I have no idea who he is.”

“True, you’ve never seen him,” said Reb Berel Shammes, “but I’ve told you several times about the porush who stays here in the side-room, neither speaking with people nor looking at them. He enters the beis hamedrash only with his eyes closed, and whenever he goes to the toilet,7 he blindfolds his eyes, and someone has to lead him by the hand. His name is Reb Chayim, and he is a great gaon.”

“Ah!” exclaimed the old shammes, remembering. “Yes, yes! I remember your telling me about a ‘Reb Chayim Porush.’ Nu, so what’s become of this Reb Chayim Porush?”

“Since the maggid arrived,” Reb Berel Shammes replied to his father, “and they began studying together, Reb Chayim Porush has become a different person.” He then proceeded to give his father a detailed account about all the changes Reb Chayim had undergone.

“The maggid (may he be well),” said Reb Berel Shammes, “is a disciple of the gaon, tzaddik, and miracle-worker of Podolia-Vohlynia, who is known in that region as the Baal Shem Tov.”

The old shammes continued eating his yogurt as he listened to what his son told him. But when he mentioned the “miracle-worker,” the old shammes commented that he did not believe miracle-workers still existed, upon which an intense debate ensued between father and son.

Reb Berel Shammes was a very G‑d-fearing individual and quite learned, but not nearly as learned as his father. The father was a great scholar, and when he still had his sight he had studied many works of Jewish philosophy. Therefore, Reb Berel Shammes could not convince him of anything.

Meanwhile, Reb Chayim finished his davening, and entered the beis hamedrash. For some time it had been Reb Chayim’s habit to enter the beis hamedrash and pace back-and-forth whenever he wished to think something over carefully. Even in the middle of his study, he would often close the volume he was studying and begin pacing from one wall to the opposite wall; this might last as long as an hour or two, sometimes even longer.

Reb Berel Shammes was overjoyed at seeing Reb Chayim, though he could not say why. He had greatly respected Reb Chayim during all the years he had known him, but he had never been able to tolerate his eccentric behavior. However, since Reb Chayim had changed his ways, Reb Berel Shammes held him in even greater esteem, and he treated him with much reverence.

When Reb Chayim entered the beis hamedrash and began pacing back-and-forth, Reb Berel Shammes approached him and told him about the debate with his father on the subject of miracles. Reb Chayim listened to everything Reb Berel Shammes said, and suggested that he ask the maggid to explain it all to his father. “I myself can’t spare the time,” said Reb Chayim, “for the Torah requires that one attend to his own needs first.”

Being in a great hurry, Reb Chayim quickly downed a slice of bread with some water, recited the Grace after Meals, and departed. Reb Berel Shammes knew where Reb Chayim Porush was hurrying to: he was going to the large beis hamedrash. Reb Berel envied Reb Chayim greatly, but there was nothing he could do about it. He had to remain in the [grave diggers’] beis hamedrash until after Maariv, for it was his turn to teach the Ein Yaakov lesson between Minchah and Maariv.