The Baal Shem Tov generated new energy that roused the Jewish people to spiritual wakefulness. One of the areas where this was keenly felt was the realm of emotion. Before the advent of the chassidic movement, prayer and Torah study were primarily cold and cerebral. The Baal Shem Tov set the souls of the Jewish people on fire, stirring them to a higher pitch of love for G-d and enabling them to develop deeper bonds with their fellowmen.
The Alter Rebbe and the Chabad Rebbeim that followed perpetuated the Baal Shem Tov’s legacy of spiritual vitality and expanded its scope, accentuating how, in order to channel the emotions toward the service of Hashem, the mind must harness even the most powerful of our emotional resources.
The Rebbe not only continued the heritage of his forebears, he pointed the way to new frontiers, by giving us a multi-faceted conception of avodah, with applications in our Divine service, in our interpersonal relations, and even in our business activities. In that way, he has given us the potential to mold our characters and change the natural flow of our emotions. And for those of us who cannot overcome the inner obstacles that stand in the way, he has shown us how to conquer our “minds of stone” by understanding the direction in which our emotions should lead us and acting accordingly. Simply put, his teachings make ideals and concepts that are intellectually abstract cogently real. Several classic examples of such teachings are collected and translated in this volume.