Chapter 37: Originally appeared as Part IV of Reshimas HaMaasar.

1.

About three times during the summer of 56511 (תרנ"א; 1891), my father the Rebbe [Rashab] visited a village called Mozinkes. It was about 25 viorsts from Lubavitch, via Babinovitch,2 and surrounded by a pine forest. He would leave Lubavitch on Sunday, stay at the home of R. Shmuel Horovitch,3 and return on Thursday.

At that time three friends and I studied4 under a teacher called R. Nissan Skobla. We studied Gemara (Tractate Bava Metzia) with the commentaries of Rashi and Tosafos; the Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim; Mishnayos by heart (by that time I had memorized Zera’im and Moed) after I had mastered the commentary of Bartenura; and Torah with the commentary of Rashi. In addition, once a week my father would teach me a chapter of Tanya, and twice a week a passage from a maamar in Likkutei Torah.

2.

R. Nissan the Melamed was studious by nature. He had a scholarly understanding of the Gemara and was expert in the learned literature on several tractates in particular. Though unschooled in formal bibliography, he was familiar with a wide range of books and with the times and biographies of their authors. He often quoted from Seder HaDoros, Sifsei Yesheinim and Tzemach David. Seder HaDoros, Sifsei Yesheinim and Tzemach David: Classic works of Jewish chronology and bibliography.

R. Nissan never punished like other teachers do, nor did he ever complain about his pupils. Instead, whenever he observed that one of them lacked interest he would not teach him, but concern himself with those who did show interest, especially with those who had industriously prepared their preliminary independent reading of the Gemara text to be studied. For us, his pupils, this was the severest punishment imaginable.

3.

One day my father asked R. Nissan the Melamed if he could take me on his next visit to Mozinkes. R. Nissan was not eager to agree, arguing that this would not only upset a week’s learning but might well weaken my studies in general.

I was still only a child, and perhaps just a little mischievous as well (though the manner of my education and the conditions under which I grew up from my seventh to my tenth year stripped me of any spoiled hankering after luxuries, as will be recounted at another time). Nevertheless, the changes that occurred in my life5 from the summer of 5649 (תרמ"ט; 1889) until the summer of 5651 (תרנ"א; 1891) reassured me afresh that I was an only child, and that I too had a loving father and (May she live on for many good years!) a compassionate mother.

Though still only a child I understood that this journey had an aim apart from merely taking fresh air, but I could not determine whether this aim was for [my father’s] sake and ultimately for my sake, or whether it was for my sake and ultimately for his.

4.

In essence, father and son fuse so completely that they become indivisible. Accordingly, that which gladdens the father serves as a living Torah for the son, and a good son doubles his father’s years.

5.

For whatever reason, my father deferred his journey to Monday morning. I had imagined that I would accompany him, but since I had been told nothing I would obviously not dare ask to be taken for a vacation, especially after R. Nissan’s remark that this might dampen my enthusiasm for my studies.

As I now recall, when Monday came and my father set out for Mozinkes while I stayed at home, I found this painful and for brief intervals felt antagonistic to R. Nissan. In between times I regretted feeling that way for, after all, it was my good that he had in mind. Surprisingly, therefore, I studied that week with particular diligence.

In the two previous weeks during which my father had travelled to Mozinkes, he taught me that week’s chapter of Tanya on Friday, and Likkutei Torah on Shabbos before Minchah and on Sunday from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m.

6.

On Shabbos my father would pray at considerable length. In those days he used to pray in shul both on weekdays and on Shabbos. On Shabbos he would go there when the congregational prayers began at about 9:30 a.m. [and begin his prayers and meditations at his own pace]. When the congregation had finished at about 11:30 a.m. he would begin to say Baruch SheAmar, completing his private devotions at about three or sometimes four.

Usually, even those individuals who prayed at length had completed their prayers half an hour or at most an hour after the congregation had finished — except for R. Chanoch Hendel. He, however, used to daven in the adjoining room, The adjoining room: In the original, cheder sheni. so that there was no one left in the main shul but my father.

When I had completed my prayers with the congregation I used to go home, and from there I liked to pay a visit to the home of my saintly grandmother,6 to watch how all the members of the minyan made Kiddush, conversed and exchanged chassidic stories. This would take half an hour or so. From there I would return to the shul to listen to my father’s supplications.

The beis midrash, which was known as der kleiner zal,7 was 18 meters long from east to west, 15 meters wide from south to north, and five-and-a-quarter meters high. A door at the west near the northern corner led from a smaller hall four meters square; there were three large windows to the south and to the north; and in the northwest corner near the entrance there was a basin of water.

The aron kodesh stood in the middle of [the eastern wall of] the kleiner zal. To its right, on the southern side, had been the place of my grandfather [the Rebbe Maharash]; the place next to it was vacant; the third seat was the place of my uncle, my grandfather’s son-in-law, R. Moshe Aryeh Leib;8 the fourth seat was the place of my uncle, R. Zalman Aharon;9 the fifth was my father’s place; the sixth was the place of my uncle, R. Menachem Mendel;10 and the seventh seat was vacant, awaiting the future husband of my aunt Chayah Mushka. The future husband of my aunt Chayah Mushka: R. Moshe HaKohen Horenstein later became the younger son-in-law of the Rebbe Maharash.

The first seat on the other side of the aron kodesh had [also] been reserved for my grandfather [the Rebbe Maharash]. It was near a door that led to the yechidus-room in which he [sometimes] prayed. On those occasions he would take this seat in the kleiner zal whenever he joined the minyan to listen to the Reading of the Torah. The Reading took place at the table in the middle of the room.

Between the two large stoves against the western wall a door led to the adjoining room, which was eleven meters long from south to north and four meters wide from east to west. This room contained an aron kodesh, a table from which to read the Torah, and a few benches.

For over two years I had been accustomed to return to the kleiner zal every Shabbos in order to listen to the prayers that poured forth from my father’s otherworldly heart. Though on weekdays, too, he used to pray there at length, I was unable to be present because I was then sitting at my lessons in cheder.

Following my daily schedule, I used to rise at 8:00, daven with the minyan in shul at 8:30 and have breakfast at 9:30. There were lessons from 10:00 till 2:00; lunch was at 2:00; from 3:00 till 4:00 I had time to write; studies again from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m.; and after that, in my room, my time was my own.

7.

At this age I recalled that when I had been a very little boy still taught by R. Yekusiel I used to run to shul to hear my father at his prayers. At that time, though, my heart was sad: Why didn’t my father daven fast like the whole congregation — like my uncles, for example? Once, in answer to my question, my uncle R. Zalman Aharon explained to me that my father wasn’t able to read all those letters so fast. This made me really sad.

8.

From the year 5647 (תרמ"ז; 1887) From the year 5647 (תרמ"ז; 1887): The author was then seven years old; see Section 3 above. until 5649 (תרמ"ט; 1889) I did not see my parents, because throughout this time they visited various health resorts abroad, partly for health reasons but more for domestic reasons. Only occasionally did they return home for a few days. My lifestyle during those two years made me forget my earlier memories of my father.

The warm closeness which my father showed me from the summer of 5649 (תרמ"ט; 1889) onwards erased all traces of the suffering which I had undergone as a result of my wanderings and difficulties in the preceding two years, and once again I recollected everything that I had seen and heard in the years before that period.

Once, when I was little, I came to shul and found no one there but my father. He was facing the wall and entreating G‑d for compassion. I was utterly unable to grasp why he entreated more than all other worshipers and why he was more in need of compassion than other people.

Suddenly my father wept intensely. My heart fell within me: no one was there in the House of G‑d but my father, and he was weeping. I listened carefully and heard that he said Shema Yisrael and wept, and said HaShem Elokeinu and wept. Then, still weeping, he said from the fullness of his heart and in an awesome voice, HaShem Echad.

This time I could contain myself no longer. I went and asked my mother tearfully: “Why does father daven longer than everyone else? My uncle R. Zalman Aharon says that father can’t pronounce the letters quickly, but why can’t he read quickly and properly? Besides, today I saw and heard him crying. Mother, come along with me and I’ll show you that father is crying!”

“But what can I do?” replied my mother. “Can I send him to a teacher? Go and ask your grandmother. Perhaps she will be able to do something about it.”

Hastening to follow my mother’s advice, I went to put my innocent question to my grandmother.

“Your father is a great chassid and a tzaddik,” she said. “Before any single word leaves his mouth he first thinks of its exact meaning.”

As I now recall, her answer set my mind at rest. From that time I related differently to my father, for I now knew that he was different from all other people. At every single step I began to see just who my father was. My father would put on his tefillin in the morning and say Kerias Shema and then go to make a cup of tea for his mother. I wanted to do the same, but was told that the hot water might hurt me.

I observed that my father washed his hands for netilas yadayim in a distinctive way. Other people poured water on each hand twice; my father would pick up the dipper in his right hand, transfer it to his left hand, pour water three times consecutively on his right hand, then take another dipper of water which he would hold (with a towel) in his right hand and pour water three times consecutively on his left hand.

I observed that my father called on his mother every day for an hour before Minchah and again poured her a cup of tea.

Other people talked, and talked excitedly; my father was silent most of the time, and when he spoke he spoke softly.

9.

Once a number of family members were sitting together waiting for tea to be served: my grandmother; my uncle R. Zalman Aharon; my uncle R. Menachem Mendel; my aunt Devorah Leah; my greataunt Gittel, who was my grandmother’s sister; and her son, Zalman Fradkin. The cups and sweets were on the table, but the samovar had not yet been brought in.

Meanwhile I was playing with my cousin Aharon Yosef in the western corner of the room near the buffet which had recently been brought from one of the larger cities, perhaps Vitebsk or even Moscow, and we were enjoying its decorative carvings. Suddenly we heard all the chairs move. Looking up I saw that my father had walked in, and everyone present had stood up out of deference to him.

“Your father’s here,” said my cousin. “You’d better watch out that he doesn’t punish you. I’m going to tell on you. I’m going to tell him that you didn’t say a blessing before you ate the candy that my mother gave you.”

I protested: “But I did say a blessing! You didn’t, but I did. Besides, Yosef Mordechai” — he was the elderly household help in my grandmother’s home – “heard me and even answered Amen. It was you who didn’t want to say a berachah. If you say such a thing to my father you’ll be an informer and a liar.”

“But if I tell my uncle [the Rebbe Rashab] that you didn’t say a berachah he’ll believe me and he’ll punish you. Besides,” my cousin added, “I’ll swear to him as I am a Jew that you ate without a berachah and he’ll believe me.”

For a moment I did not know what to do. I was afraid of my father, and was pained by the shame he would feel if he were to think that his only son ate without first saying a berachah.

“My father,” I told my cousin, “is a chassid, and a tzaddik, too. So he knows the truth — that I did say a berachah.”

Before I had quite finished speaking I ran off to seek refuge in old Yosef Mordechai: perhaps he would recall if he had answered Amen to my blessing. And how happy I was to hear him declare that I had indeed said the blessing of Shehakol and he had responded Amen.

I ran back and told my cousin: “I’m right! I told the truth! Yosef Mordechai answered Amen to my blessing. I’m not afraid of you any more. My father is a chassid, and a tzaddik as well, and I’m a tzaddik, too — a tzaddik the son of a tzaddik. And what about you? You’re two years older than me, yet you did not say a berachah and ate like a goy, while I said a blessing out loud and Yosef Mordechai even answered Amen!”

10.

In the course of one month in the summer of 5649 (תרמ"ט; 1889) I became a different boy. My father showed me such closeness that I felt all the warmth of a father, all the love of a compassionate father. I went to sleep with the thought that now I, too, had a father and a mother to whom to say goodnight, and in the course of the following two years I completely forgot the bitter conditions under which I had previously lived.

In the course of those next two years I attained understanding. I was now able to appreciate the great difference between my father and his brothers, that is, between his aspirations and theirs. For over a year now I had been listening to the discourses of Chassidus, standing behind my father as he delivered them. My father was expounding Chassidus and I was there to hear it.

In the course of those two years the Shabbosos were holy and the festivals were devoted to avodah and joy. Every Shabbos I would listen to the Reading of the Torah while following attentively in a Chumash, and in the course of the day I would study the commentary of Rashi as well. Rosh HaShanah of the year 5650 (תר"ן; 1889) Rosh HaShanah of the year 5650 (תר"ן; 1889): The author had just turned nine. was the first Rosh HaShanah on which I did everything like an adult. On the eve of Rosh HaShanah after immersing in the mikveh I visited the resting place of my grandfather [the Rebbe Maharash]; in the evening I listened to my father as he prayed; in the morning I read all the prayers in the Machzor with due deliberation; I listened to the Sounding of the Shofar; I said Tehillim;11 I listened to [my father’s delivery of an original maamar of] Chassidus; and beginning with Maariv did the same the following day. And from that day I was a grown-up.

11.

From late in the month of Kislev in the winter of 5651 (תרנ"א; 1891) my father was ill with high fever for about two months. The first two weeks were the most severe, he had to spend most of the next three weeks in bed, and for three or four weeks he was forbidden to engage in any strenuous intellectual exercise.

I did not study much during that period. Most of the time I sat in my room and cried, read Tehillim and cried, davened and cried. Not that he was so seriously ill, but a dark dread fell upon me: my father was ill. “Master of the Universe!” I thought to myself. “I’ve had a father for only a year-and-a-half, for in the course of the preceding two years, if not for the four times that he came home for a few days at a time I would have forgotten that I had a father at all. And now my father is ill!”

One night before daybreak, while we were waiting for the fever to reach its critical peak and then recede, I ran to speak to Reb Zalman Lieblis. (He was descended from the family of our saintly uncle R. Yehudah Leib of Yanovitch.12 As the caretaker of the ohel he visited it every day, after immersing in the mikveh.) I begged him desperately to take me to the ohel and to promise me that no one would know of it. Realizing how much this meant to me, and knowing that my father’s health was in need of heaven’s mercies and that my grandmother and mother had visited the ohel recently, he agreed.

It was bitterly cold and snowing heavily, and when we cleared the edge of the township the wind pushed me along. Though Reb Zalman was short and elderly he strode sturdily, whereas I stumbled at almost every step until we finally reached the ohel.

Before I even opened the door my little heart leaped up within me and released rivers of tears. Stepping inside I saw before me the holy resting places The holy resting places: I.e., of the Tzemach Tzedek and of the Rebbe Maharash, on the outskirts of Lubavitch. (See above, Volume III, footnote on p. 199.) covered by fine snow, and in the unbroken silence recited the blessing over the future Resurrection of the Dead. Such a shuddering then overwhelmed me that I was quite unable to say the prescribed verses of Tehillim. Instead, still weeping, I addressed those who repose in the dust: “My father is ill! My father who is a chassid and a tzaddik is lying ill in bed! My father who has only one son and who has been guiding me for only a year-and-a-half is ill! Pray to G‑d and ask that He be merciful and heal him soon!”

Reb Zalman approached me: “Here,” he said, “light this lamp and read what is written here in Maaneh Lashon. Ask your holy forebears to have pity and to arouse heaven’s mercies so that your ailing father will be preserved among the living!”

These words made me cry out in anguish: “Zeides!13 Holy tzaddikim! My father is ill! Ask G‑d to keep him alive and make him well and let him guide me so that I will grow up to be an upright Jew!”

Returning by the half-light before daybreak we found people already gathering at the marketplace. Reb Zalman walked quickly and I, ignoring my exhaustion, ran and perspired, eager to arrive home and hear news of my father’s condition. As we reached Bram St. we saw ahead of us Reb Chayim Meir the Butcher and his brother Reb Avraham Dan. They called out from a distance of 50 meters: “Thank G‑d! Just now we came from the [Rebbe’s] courtyard. The fever’s crisis has passed! Two doctors were there, Brodie and Bogorodski, and both of them said that the crisis has passed. Now, thank G‑d, he’s ours! And may G‑d grant him a long life!”

Dr. Brodie was a Jew who had come to Lubavitch from near Kharkov; Dr. Bogorodski was a 70-year-old Polish Russian specialist, a student of the celebrated Dr. Heibenthal.

I ran all the way home. Everyone there was overjoyed; no one knew where I had been and no one asked. My mother was in my father’s room and many family members had gathered in the front rooms of the house, including: my grandmother; my uncles, R. Zalman Aharon, R. Menachem Mendel and R. Moshe [Aryeh] Leib; and my aunts, Devorah Leah, Basya, Basya, Basya, Basya: Second wife of R. Menachem Mendel and second wife of R. Zalman Aharon, respectively. and Chayah Mushka.

I very much wanted to enter my father’s room and see him for the first time in two weeks, but I was not allowed in. Since one of the visitors at that time was my teacher R. Nissan, I decided that it would be a good idea to tell him that I had been at the ohel; perhaps he would advise me what I could now do to improve my father’s condition.

I approached him and told him secretly what I had done and he said that I had acted as I should.

“And now,” he asked, “have you drunk tea yet?”

“No,” I replied.

“If so,” he said, “then don’t drink or eat all day, but fast. Now, go along and daven with the minyan and then I’ll tell you what to do next.”

In response to my request he promised to keep my secret. I went off to daven and followed the day-long schedule that he prescribed.

It was clear to me that it was my prayer at the resting place of my holy forebears that had aroused G‑d’s lovingkindness and compassion. I keenly desired to go there again, to inform them that the crisis had passed, and to ask that G‑d in His mercy send my father a complete and speedy recovery — but I was afraid to speak up.

The doctors’ consultation took place at 5:00 p.m. Though I had already prayed Maariv with the minyan I had not yet tasted anything. At almost 6:00 p.m. the doctors left my father’s room, beaming. They both said that the day had passed very well; the illness had passed; the fever had gone; and now my father needed only an orderly regimen and complete rest.

Dr. Bogorodski was very fond of me. When I was five years old, before our visit to Yalta, he had cured me of a dangerous illness. And by meticulously fulfilling all his orders and taking all his medicines I had captured the heart of that pedantic physician.

“Why do you look so sad?” he now asked me. “Your father is getting better, thank G‑d, and in a few days he’ll be healthy.”

Then, turning to his colleague, he said: “And now, my friend, we have to set out a regimen of rest and diet for our patient.”

I spoke up and said: “I’m longing so hard to see my father. I haven’t seen him for about two weeks, but they won’t let me in!”

In addition to his professional connection, Dr. Brodie showed a lot of respect to our family. He was especially fond of my father, whom he had visited several times in his study. Being a thinking man with philosophical leanings, from time to time he would discuss scientific matters with my father.

He now rose from his place and after ten minutes in my father’s room rejoined Dr. Bogorodski, who was enjoying his very sweet tea with milk. In the meantime they conversed with our relatives, all of whom were in high spirits. An awareness of G‑d’s kindness to my father lit up all faces, not only of the family, but also of the household staff and of all those who visited the courtyard. Even the face of Yosef Mordechai, the old household help, lost its usual irritable appearance.

12.

This simple and honest man really deserves to have a whole description devoted to him. He lived in Lubavitch for a long, long time. He had first arrived to be employed by my greatgrandfather, the Tzemach Tzedek, even before the Rebbe Maharash was born, The Rebbe Maharash was born: In 1834. and he lived there until the winter of 5658 (תרנ"ח; 1898).

All in all, Yosef Mordechai spent 67 years in the household of the Rebbeim. Though he was a simple man and burdened by various failings, what his eyes saw and his ears heard is a treasure that cannot be described on paper.

One of his positive attributes is that he used to describe things exactly as they happened. His memory was remarkable: for every statement or story or incident that he spoke of he would mention the place and the time and the people involved, as if it had all happened that very day.

His tasks were simple, such as heating stoves and cleaning rooms, but this meant that he had ready access throughout the house without asking questions, so that he saw whatever he saw and heard whatever was being said.

During my two bitter years I suffered a great deal from this man, but at the same time I heard a great deal from him. The things he described to me are rooted in my mind and absorbed in my blood. I am perfectly certain that they are genuine and precise, but conditions of time and place do not allow me to record them. The time for that will no doubt arrive, with G‑d’s help.

13.

Mendel, the domestic, suddenly appeared from my father’s room and said that my father called me in. After only a brief moment of confusion I went in calmly and happily.

I stood next to his bed without a word. His pale and weary exhaustion saddened me, until his frail voice asked: “Yosef Yitzchak, what are you doing? Are you studying? What did you learn in the course of this time? Did you keep up going to daven with a minyan?”

“I went to daven with a minyan three times every day,” I said. “I learned, too, but they warned me not to speak a lot so that I wouldn’t disturb your rest. All this time they didn’t let me into your room. Even now I’m afraid I’ll make them send me out.”

A gentle smile appeared on his lips. “From now they won’t hold you back any more,” he assured me. “Tell me, have you drunk tea?”

Now I was really in a fix. On the one hand, I was not only reluctant to tell a lie but also afraid. After all, my father was a chassid and a tzaddik and no doubt knew everything, so how could I lie? On the other hand, I did not want to tell the truth either. Could it be that tzaddikim are not kept informed of things that concern them personally? At that moment I recalled that Yitzchak Avinu knew of the sale of Yosef but kept it a secret from Yaakov. Kept it a secret from Yaakov: See the end of Rashi’s comment on Gen. 37:35.

At that opportune moment, while I was still hesitating, my mother walked in with a cup of milk and said that the doctors had ordered my father to drink three cups of milk before going to sleep.

“Very well,” said my father as he put down the cup, “I will drink as much as I can. Yosef Yitzchak will give it to me when it has cooled down a bit, and then I’ll drink it.”

These words healed all my ailments. Sheer pleasure raced through my whole being, as I considered: I would now serve my father — I, who only eleven hours ago had run to the ohel and wept and begged for mercy, was now privileged to see that G‑d had accepted my prayer, the prayer of an only son whose love for his father was unbounded.

Though at first I was concerned that my father might ask me again if I had drunk tea, my delight at being able to help him banished all my anxiety. Deep in my heart, moreover, my pleasure was doubled by the awareness that I was serving my father while still fasting. I considered: Eisav, who was so wicked that he sought to kill his innocent brother Yaakov, made a point — while serving his father — of wearing clothes so precious that he entrusted them to the safekeeping of his mother Clothes... entrusted... to... his mother: See Rashi on Gen. 27:15. alone. How much more appropriate was it that I, the son of a chassid and a tzaddik, should attain a level at which I served my father while fasting and pure of heart.

From that day on my father’s health and strength improved so much that a week later he was allowed to sit on a chair. Most of the day I spent in his room at my request, and this gave me great pleasure.

On Chaf-Daled Teves,14 Dr. Brodie allowed my father to go into the other room to say Kaddish15 according to his annual custom. On the same day my father wrote a discourse of Chassidus. (This is the maamar beginning with the words, Mizmor Shir LeYom HaShabbos, on the manuscript of which he [later] wrote: “Delivered [orally] on the Shabbos of the yahrzeit, Yud-Gimmel Tishrei.”)16

From that time on I began to show signs of growing up. I gradually took leave of my childish games with my cousins, the sons of my aunt Devorah Leah. I now found their company tedious and at the same time grew closer to R. Chanoch Hendel.17 My father was very fond of him and often praised his character traits that sprang from deeply-rooted chassidic living.

This chassid is one of the individuals who have surely earned an entire chapter in our family’s chronicles, both on account of his personality and on account of his close relationship with our family. For about forty years he was like a member of the household, taking the lead in every matter that affected us privately. I will yet describe this, with G‑d’s help.

Though my grandmother, my uncle R. Zalman Aharon, my father, and my uncle R. Menachem Mendel, each lived [with their respective families] in a separate apartment, the expenses of the whole family were jointly covered by my grandmother’s account — except that that purse was now empty. The business enterprises were all finished and my uncles were left with heavy debts and no source of income. This, too, will be described separately.

The relatives who visited did not notice that the household was penniless, because my grandmother’s home was always open wide and the familiar routine continued, with relatives constantly coming and going. Those who lived in the household, however, knew the situation well.

Even I realized that the situation was not rosy. My father had been accustomed to give me five kopeks for every chapter of Mishnayos that I committed to memory (I used to master a chapter a day) and my mother also used to give me five kopeks a day. For a long time now I had not received any pocket money. I did not ask for it, of course; I saw it as a sure indication of where things stood.

From the time that my father recovered, the routine of my studies changed: every Thursday he visited the cheder for an hour-and-a-half or more and examined me on my week’s lessons in the presence of R. Nissan the Melamed. In addition, every evening after school I had to review for my father the new texts I had learned that day. And while with him, I would also recite for him whatever I had committed to memory.