[Entry #8:]
14 Adar I, Purim Katan,
15687 (תרפ"ז; 1927), 11:00 PM
[The Staravorvorskaya Hotel, Room 67]

When I woke in the morning I was so exhausted that I was almost unable to get up, and I rose only after resting for another hour.

At 11:00 AM I was visited by Mr. S[hneurov]. He told me that about half an hour after I left his home, a member of the house committee,2 accompanied by three other men, came to his door and made a thorough search. They asked exactly who had been in his home that evening and what they were doing there. He answered that his wife’s sister was engaged a few days ago, so a few of his father-in-law’s oldtime friends came in order to offer their congratulations, and since I was a relative of his father-in-law, I too came for the same reason.

At 1:00 I went to the home of R. Baruch Shalom Cohen for the midday meal. A delegation from Tiferes Bachurim,3 students of R. Y[aakov] Landau,4 arrived there and asked me to come and farbreng with them – together with Anash, our dearly-loved members of the chassidic fraternity, and the temimim – at the local Lubavitcher shul,5 in honor of today’s semi-festive date.125

I was happy to oblige, and at 3:00 I went to the shul, where I found a gathering of Anash, prominent among whom was R. Yitzchak Horovitz,6 and the temimim, as well as the students of Tiferes Bachurim, with their mentor, R. Y[aakov] Landau.

Summary of the Farbrengen:

I earnestly encouraged the students of Tiferes Bachurim to attend their study sessions more regularly, and urged each of them to influence his friends and acquaintances. The goal: to create an environment of people who studied Torah, accepted the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven with self-sacrifice, and resisted the Yevsektsia and the [Organization of Young Jewish] Opponents of Religious Activity7 with fortitude.

Moving on to another subject, I told them something that I heard from my revered father, [the Rebbe Rashab,] in the summer of 5654 (תרנ"ד; 1894):

One day, the time came for the Alter Rebbe to leave Mezritch for home at the end of one of his visits with his Rebbe, the Maggid.8 The Maggid’s son, who was known as R. Avraham der Malach,9 went out to see him off, and when the Alter Rebbe was about to climb up on the wagon, the Malach said to the wagon-driver: “Whip the horses until they stop being horses!”

Hearing those words, the Alter Rebbe took his knapsack and returned to his lodgings, because the Malach had inspired him to follow a new path in his Divine service. He now needed to receive individual direction as to how to tackle this new path in avodah, because until now he had known only one path: “Whip the horses so that they will know that they are horses!” And that was an utterly new path.

When R. Yitzchak Horovitz heard this, he broke into tears and said: “The horse knows that he’s a horse, and he’s not ashamed of the fact that he’s a horse.”

R. Yitzchak’s comment sparked off a lively hour-long debate. Whereas he argued that a chassid’s avodah should focus on his heart, R. Yaakov Landau held that a chassid’s avodah should focus on his mind.10

After that conflict of opinion had calmed down, and after evocative melodies had created an atmosphere of spiritual arousal, I explained the [Alter Rebbe’s] remark about the two paths in avodah in terms of the present conflict of opinion [concerning heart and mind], as follows:

It is written, “And on the likeness of the Throne there was a likeness resembling the appearance of a man upon it, above.”11

By refining and elevating physicality through the observance of Torah and mitzvos, one is able [to bring about a similar elevation Above]. Thereby, the forms of the four Animals of the Celestial Chariot which bear the Throne12 elevate the Throne, as well as the likeness and form of the “Man upon the Throne,” to the infinite level of Ein Sof – a level that is termed “for He is not a man,”13 [i.e., to a level that is so boundless that no form or visage can be ascribed to it].

That is how this matter is explained in Chassidus.14

We glean from the above that the ultimate Divine intent is that we elevate our avodah to the level which is alluded to in the phrase, “for He is not a man.” [At that higher level, we transcend our mind and heart, our defined and finite intellectual and emotive faculties that derive from the corresponding bracket of Sefiros, and serve G‑d in the superrational manner that derives from the mode of Divine influence called Sovev Kol Almin.] That level is far above the limited level that is described as “man,” [at which we serve G‑d only with our accustomed range of intellectual and emotive faculties]. The level of avodah described as “not a man” is superior, notwithstanding the fact [that there is a distinct merit to the level of service that is termed “man”]. Thus it is written,15 “I (Anochi) made the earth and I created (barasi) man upon it.” The term Anochi signifies “I am who I am,” [defying all description]16 – and I (Anochi) created the earth for the purpose of man. [What “man” is meant here? The answer appears in another verse, which states:]17 “You are My sheep, the sheep of My pasture; you are man.” Explain our Sages,18 “You, [the Jewish people,] are designated as man.” And the ultimate purpose of man’s creation is barasi, which is numerically equivalent to 613: the purpose of creation is that the Jewish people observe the 613 Commandments.

This, then, is one mode of spiritual service – to attain the level of avodah alluded to by the term “man.” There is a second and superior mode of service – to elevate that level of avodah (“man”) to the transcendent level of avodah alluded to by the phrase, “for He is not a man.”

Although avodah should take an upward direction, beginning below and proceeding upwards,19 the downward flow of spiritual energy [from Above, that empowers one to undertake his avodah,] appears first in the highest faculties of one’s soul and works its way downward.. In the original, hahashpaah bekochos hanefesh baah milemaalah lematah.

To explain: When doing one’s avodah of self-refinement and correction, one should begin from below. First, one deals with his actions (maaseh); then, working upwards, one deals with his speech (dibbur); above that, with his thoughts (machshavah); above that, with his character traits (middos); above that, with his intellect (seichel); above that, with his will (ratzon); and above that, with his faculty for pleasure (taanug). The rationale for this sequence is that each of these levels needs to be corrected and refined not only for its own sake, but also because it serves as the basis for the level directly above it.

By contrast, the downward flow of spiritual energy that empowers one to tackle his avodah appears first in the highest faculties of one’s soul and proceeds downward. Thus, the faculty for pleasure (taanug) arouses the will (ratzon) – or, vice versa, the will (ratzon) arouses the faculty for pleasure (taanug) – because either sequence is possible. Both together then impact the intellect, and sometimes the character traits, and sometimes one’s thoughts.

These three faculties – thought, character attributes, and intellect – are constantly active. Just as one’s thoughts can elevate one’s speech or debase it, purifying it or defiling it, sanctifying it or desecrating it, so, too, one’s intellect is able to elevate the character attributes or debase them, refine them or coarsen them.

All the above processes are influenced by a person’s faculty for pleasure and by his will, because all of his soul’s potentials depend on them – on what he finds pleasurable and what he finds desirable.

Now, all the above relates to the first mode of spiritual service, the level of avodah alluded to by the term “man,” at which one labors at self-refinement and correction in order to become a “man.” However, that is not the ultimate goal. It is merely a stepping stone to the real avodah, whose goal is to elevate oneself to become “not a man.” At that level, a person’s pleasure and will are identical with Divine pleasure and will: whatever is G‑d’s pleasure and will is also his pleasure and will. A person at this level has no independent sense of what he wants, because he is already “not a man.” His entire being – from the lowest faculty, the faculty of action, to the highest, the capacity for pleasure – he subordinates to Elokus in actual self-sacrifice.20

Self-sacrifice exists at various levels. There is potential self-sacrifice and there is actual self-sacrifice. Although in both cases a person is really sacrificing himself, there is still a difference between them. In the case of potential self-sacrifice, the person involved has some hope of being saved by some means or circumstance. Although he does not refrain from giving his life, he still has a spark of hope that he will remain alive. In the case of actual self-sacrifice, the person involved entertains no spark of hope that he will be saved by some means or circumstance. Moreover, that possibility does not even occur to him.

To consider the difference between them at a deeper level:

In the case of potential self-sacrifice, the person involved is prepared to give his life for a certain ideal, but he is thinking about himself: he is giving his life, and from that he derives a certain pleasure. Thus R. Akiva sacrificed his life in Sanctification of the Divine Name21 for the sake of Torah study, but at the same time he derived pleasure from the very fact of his mesirus nefesh. By contrast, Avraham Avinu underwent actual mesirus nefesh in order to make Elokus known throughout the world, without thinking about himself at all. Thus, in the case of a person undergoing actual self-sacrifice, it is part of the action itself, with no thought whatever of himself, whereas the person in a state of potential self-sacrifice is in fact sacrificing himself – but his self-sacrifice is a part of him: it is he who is sacrificing himself.

In terms of avodah, the level of “not a man” means that one subordinates and dedicates oneself to Elokus with all the faculties of his soul – from the lowest faculty, the faculty of action, to the highest, the capacity for pleasure – through actual self-sacrifice.

The level of “not a man” can be attained by either of two modes of avodah:

(a) In the case of a neshamah deriving from the World of Atzilus – whether directly from Atzilus, or originating in Atzilus but having passed through the three lower worlds of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah, and certainly in the case of a comprehensive soul22 – the direction of this avodah appears first in the highest faculties of one’s soul and works its way downward.144 This means that the yechidah, the innermost nucleus of the soul, impacts all the particular [lower] levels of the soul.

(b) In the case of the neshamah of any other individual, by contrast, the level of “not a man” in his avodah can be attained by an unquestioning acceptance of the yoke of Heaven,23 a stance that can raise him to the loftiest heights. Everyone can attain this level, as is clearly evident from the superiority of baalei avodah24 over baalei haskalah.25

To demonstrate this, I outlined the difference between two giants26 in the world of Chabad Chassidus: the illustrious R. Aizik of Homil, and the illustrious R. Hillel of Paritch. Both were maskilim in the teachings of Chassidus and both were baalei avodah – except that R. Aizik was an oved but primarily a maskil, whereas R. Hillel was a maskil but primarily an oved. I then explained the superiority of an oved over a maskil.

Observing how intently those present were listening, I decided that this was the time and the place to rouse them concerning the current state of affairs, as follows:

The superiority of avodah performed with an unquestioning acceptance of the yoke of Heaven is plainly visible in our days, when the Yevsektsia have arisen to hound all those who observe the Torah and the mitzvos. Self-sacrifice and kabbalas ol will enable us not to be overawed by them, but moreover, to powerfully resist and defy those who seek – against the law of the land – to destroy every institution of the Jewish faith. We must publicize that the laws of the government allow five children to be taught by one teacher, and they allow a father to hire a tutor for his children. Likewise, a community of thirty persons is permitted to conduct a house of prayer, and likewise a mikveh, at its own expense. These civil laws must be made known universally.

All of our fellow Jews, citizens of this country, make a point of conscientiously observing the government’s laws. That is as it ought to be, because every one of us remembers the cruel persecution that we suffered under the old regime,27 and the Sages urge us to “pray for the welfare of the government.”28 It goes without saying that this applies to a government that does not trample on our religious observance and our Torah, and certainly if it also supports them.

Many, if not most, of our fellow Jews mistakenly think that the group that calls itself Yevsektsia was established by the government, or enjoys some official sanction. In fact, the Yevsektsia was established by a number of Jew-haters who tyrannize religion and Judaism. They were joined by a number of our young and lightminded brethren who like being idle and unbridled, and hanker after fleshly pleasures. And with the help of this crowd, the Yevsektsia persecutes Jews who observe mitzvos.

Their leaders are the scum of humanity, cruel liars. Their shameful thefts and misappropriation of funds will certainly come to light, when each of them informs on his fellow in order to fortify his own position, and then in turn, his fellow will reveal his corruption and bring him, too, down to the pit. But until that happens, they are able (May it never happen!) to destroy the bastions of our religion.

We must all join hands, together as one man, and defy these oppressors of our Torah and our religious observance, the accursed Yevsektsia (May its name and memory perish!). Every one of us must publicize the absolute truth: (a) concerning the government’s laws relating to Torah study and the observance of mitzvos; (b) that the Yevsektsia is a private organization without any official sanction; (c) that the Yevsektsia was founded on the basis of coercion, which is in direct conflict with the basic principle of freedom; and (d) that any town or village in which members of the Yevsektsia meddle in religious affairs should consult with the Jewish community in Moscow.

In response to my above words, those present, fired with enthusiasm, requested that I deliver a maamar of Chassidus, and I promised to oblige the next day, Thursday, after Maariv.

* * *

Yesterday, at the meeting at the home of Mr. A. R., Reb K. asked me to visit him at his home. I promised to do so today, Wednesday, at 8:00 PM, so I now left from the shul straight to his home.

It was a friendly visit. Reb K. told me of his meeting with my revered father, [the Rebbe Rashab,] in Marienbad after the rabbinical conference in Vilna, in 5668 (1908; תרס"ח). He said that the misnagdim and the Polish chassidim were envious, and conceded that he was unique in his energetic and judicious work for the public good.

His conversation was emotional and impressive.

At 9:00 PM R. Baruch Shalom appeared, having been sent by Mr. A. L. Fox, and reported that he had been summoned to the UGPU. They had crossexamined him about me, and he held that I should leave Moscow because they were lying in wait for me. He had not yet finished saying this, when the telephone rang and we were informed that a call would be coming through from Leningrad in a quarter of an hour.

This information left me ruffled. I don’t know why: I can only sum it up by saying that in place of the joyful mood and exultant spirit of two or two-and-a-half hours earlier, when I had spoken in shul about defying the Yevsektsia, the present news of an impending call from Leningrad left me with dampened spirits and inner unrest.

In the meantime Reb K. and Reb Z. discussed that call and concluded that it related to me, while Mr. N. G. sat waiting near the telephone.

As my inner tension rose from minute to minute, I experienced the message of the parable in the teachings of Chassidus that explains the “mighty sound”29 made by the angels that are called Ophanim – in contrast to the angels called Seraphim,30 who sang their praises “with pure speech and sacred melody.”31

To explain the difference: The Seraphim are stationed in the World of Beriah, which is the realm of understanding. Since they fully apprehend the Divine light, they sing their praises “with pure speech.” When the Ophanim hear that song they realize that it is something wondrous, but they are incapable of apprehending it. Their response to it is therefore a mighty, tumultuous sound – just as an unidentified sound leaves a person in a state of tumult. When he knows something with certainty, whether it is good or unpleasant or even bad, his mind rules his heart, whereas when he is in doubt, he is left in a state of tumult, or at least of unrest.

When the telephone rang and Mr. N. G. picked up the receiver, the others watched him, wide-eyed and open-mouthed. Seeing his face changing from red to white and white to red, I gathered that the news he was about to tell us was bad.

“Last night,” he said, “they appeared at the home of R. Chonye Morozov32 and searched all through the night but found nothing. At midday today they came again and searched for five hours and still found nothing – but they arrested him and imprisoned him. Mr. B. Ch. has already set out [from Leningrad] and will arrive here [in Moscow] tomorrow morning. He asks that his opinion be given serious consideration, because the situation is serious.”

Gloom covered the faces of Reb K., Reb Z., Mr. N. G. and R. Baruch Shalom. There was no mirror in the room, but my face no doubt looked the same. Surprisingly, though, after hearing the news I was somewhat less disturbed.

Mr. A. and Mr. Sh. were looking at me with pity, which I can’t stand, while Reb K. and Reb Z. and N. G. sat with bowed heads and fallen spirits. The only one who vigorously picked himself up was R. Baruch Shalom, who said: “A chassid ought to fortify himself in his avodah. How much more so, a Rebbe who is the son of a Rebbe who is the grandson of a Rebbe – all the way back to the Alter Rebbe in physical lineage, and in spiritual lineage all the way back to Moshe Rabbeinu – surely ought to fortify himself in his avodah!”

R. Baruch Shalom continued: “Let me tell you what I heard from the Rebbe [Rashab], whose soul is in Eden, on Yud-Tes Kislev, 5657 (תרנ"ז; 1896), when he was staying on the estate of Miriam Monessohn and her sons, in Kalpatchny Paryulak.

“The Rebbe [Rashab] delivered a maamar beginning with the words, Padah BeShalom Nafshi, and then spoke about the distinctive qualities of chassidim, who innately are utterly different to other people. He said that by nature a chassid is clever; he stands firmly by his principles; he has a fiery flame within him; he has the capacity for bittul, setting aside his own ego; and he has a fine [spiritual] sense of smell. All of these characteristics are great qualities if they are utilized for one’s avodah, following the guidelines of Chassidus.

“By virtue of his mesirus nefesh, the [Alter] Rebbe implanted these and other qualities in chassidim. Avraham Avinu, through his self-sacrificing avodah, created Jews; the [Alter] Rebbe, through his mesirus nefesh, created chassidim.

“Over 120 years have passed since the year 5534 (תקל"ד; 1774), when he publicly revealed the path of Chabad Chassidus, and by means of the greatest mesirus nefesh he educated and guided his disciples until he had established a generation of chassidim of mellow understanding.

“All the self-improvement in mind and heart, all the labors in Torah and mitzvos and in prayer, ‘the service of the heart’33 – everything that chassidim have worked on over these 123 years, and that they will yet work on from now until the coming of our Righteous Mashiach – all of this is the work of the [Alter] Rebbe. We cannot guess at the extent even of his merit in achieving this, and certainly not the extent of his reward for this achievement. One thing is certain. When a chassid who follows the [Alter] Rebbe’s path needs help from Above in spiritual or material matters, and studies a few lines of Tanya with a view to applying them in practice and says: ‘Rebbe! I need a blessing and salvation in this matter’ (and he should outline it briefly), G‑d will certainly help him in the merit of the [Alter] Rebbe.”

These words of my revered father, the Rebbe [Rashab], now recollected by R. Baruch Shalom, roused the spirits of his listeners, who responded by saying, “G‑d will surely help!” As for me, though it was pleasing to hear that sichah quoted, it did not fortify me at all – when I recalled the warning of my revered father about actual self-sacrifice.34

I asked those present to keep the news secret, passed on a message via N. G. and Ben-Tziyon and Avraham Yosef that the chassidim should be prepared for a farbrengen the following night at 11:00,35 and I set out for the Starvorvorskaya Hotel.