The following is a continuation of an abridged excerpt from the diary of the Freidike Rebbe dated Sunday, 2o Iyar, 5656. For part 1 see here. Text enclosed in square parentheses has been added either by the Translator or myself. I have also changed the order in which some of the stories are recorded.
After [the morning] davenen, when most of the worshipers had gone home and only a few remained, three elder chassidim sat together in the room adjoining the zal and exchanged narratives -- my teacher R. Shmuel Betzalel, R. Abba Persohn, and R. Shmuel Gurevitch.
[Reb Avrohom Abba Persohn’s father was a Chossid of the Mitteler Rebbe and later the Tzemach Tzedek, as well as being a respected Chossid, he was also one of the most respected philanthropists in the region. He had his son, Avrohom Abba, educated by Chassidim of the old-school.
His was a very emotional personality, but at the same time well balanced, he was moderate in his speech and his conduct. From his youth he would interest himself in the stories of the Chassidic elders and he collected them one by one like a collector of pearls, reviewing them with great precision. When he would relate these stories, he would add lengthy introductions, describing the era, the place and the character of the various personalities. (From the periodical “Hatomim”, Vol. 6, pp 92-93.)]
From among the things that R. Abba Persohn recollected on that occasion:
An aged chassid by the name of R. Chaim Shmuel of Kreslava: Five times he visited the Maggid of Mezritch, who gave him his blessing that he should live to see a fourth and a fifth generation engaged in Torah and Chassidus. After he brought his grandson's grandson to the local cheder to begin his schooling, he passed away at the age of 116.
The following account is from among the things that this R. Chaim Shmuel of Kreslava heard during his visits to Mezritch:
For six years the Baal Shem Tov refused to become revealed; for this, six years were deducted from his lifetime. He passed away on a Wednesday; a mnemonic of this is to be found in the phrase referring to the fourth day of Creation [as yom shenitlu ham'oros -- "the day on which the luminaries were suspended (in the heavens)," which the Alter Rebbe once paraphrased in this context] as nitlu ham'oros -- "the luminaries were taken away." He passed away on the First Day of Shavuos in the year 5520 (1760), at the age of 61 years, eight months, and eighteen days.
At the extremely joyful festive meal on Lag BaOmer of that year, the Baal Shem Tov expounded the verse, ve'ahavta eis Hashem Elokecha -- "And you shall love the L-rd your G-d." He explained that the numerical value of ve'ahavta ("And you shall love") is twice the value of ohr ("light"). This in turn is the numerical equivalent of raz ("secret"), whose mirror image is zar ("a stranger"). I.e., the spiritual task of tzaddikim is to reveal the secret [Divine spark] which is present even in a [seeming] stranger [to Divinity]. This revelation generates light -- through the fulfillment of ve'ahavta ("And you shall love"), which is twice the value of ohr ("light"), alluding to the two modes of [Divine] revelation: ohr yashar ["direct" revelation, the Divine revelation achieved by the Tzadik, through his direct relationship with G-d] and ohr chozeir ["reflected" or indirect revelation, achieved when the Divine spark is revealed even in the “stranger” to Divinity. This relates to the concept of Teshuvah, through which “one’s sins became merits”]. When regarded as units (mispar katan), the three digits that indicate the numerical value of the three Hebrew letters that spell ohr ("light") total nine. Twice this equivalent of ohr [corresponding to the two forms of Divine revelation described above] comes to eighteen.
"And in eighteen days," he concluded, "I will behold the sublime ohr chozeir [though an indirect revelation, it actually reveals a deeper level of G-d’s true greatness, revealing that G-d’s truth even permeates that which seems to be a “stranger” to Divinity]; as it is written, v'haruach tashuv el haElokim asher n'sanah -- 'And the spirit will return to G-d, Who gave it.' [in Hebrew both chozeir – the term used to refer to the indirect revelation of Divinity – and the word tashuv mean return. Thus this verse can be interpreted to be a reference to the spirit attaining a revelation of the deepest source of the indirect revelation of Divinity] Moreover, ruach aysei ruach v'amshich ruach -- 'The spirit evokes spirit and draws forth spirit,' with a new revelation that will shine until the coming of Moshiach."
He passed away eighteen days after Lag B’Omer, on the First Day of Shavuos of that year.
The Maggid of Mezritch remarked that the 26 years of the Baal Shem Tov's leadership correspond to the numerical value of the Four-Letter Divine Name Havayah, and to twice the numerical value of echad -- "One" [as in the verse, “Hear O Israel… the Lord is One”].
I hope the semantics weren’t too complex, but to be sure I’ll try and put the general point into more simple words:
It is the Tzaddik’s mission to reveal G-dliness in this physical world, there are two general modes via which he achieves this. 1) Through direct service of G-d the fulfillment of Mitzvos and the study of Torah, unimpeded by the various tribulations that confront the ordinary man. The Tzaddik is not plagued by the self-centered wills of the Evil-Inclination or the Animal Soul and is free to commit himself entirely to the service G-d. 2) The Tzaddik not only serves G-d himself but inspires others to do so too. This is achieved (in the Chabad system) by teaching the ordinary people about G-d and the special relationship that we share with him, and which we can reveal through his service; or (in the Chagas system) by actively revealing G-d’s special relationship with us through working miracles and (in both systems, to a greater or lesser degree,) providing a living example of a physical being on this earth who has a tangible connection with the A-mighty. In inspiring the ordinary man to struggle against the natural inclination of the Animal-Soul, that he may commit himself to the service of G-d, the Tzaddik reveals the spark of G-dliness which is hidden even in those who naturally appear to be “strangers” to Divinity. The Divine service and dissemination of G-dliness that is achieved through the struggle of the ordinary man has the “advantage of light in a dark place” – it burns all the brighter, revealing that G-d is not only manifest in the naturally “holy” or “spiritual”, but also in the mundane and the physical. Indeed this is the primary mission for which the Tzaddik’s soul descends into this physical world.
If any specifics remain unclear, I will endeavor to clarify them in the comments below.