A couple stories from Rabbi Yossi Paltiel’s shiur on Mem Gimmel, Reb Brachya.
Baal Shem Tov once received a letter from the previous Baal Shem, which is amongst the letters found in Genizas Cherson. He wrote to him that recently, his teacher, Achiya HaShiloini (who was also the teacher of Baal Shem Tov and Eliyahu HaNovi), told him to get into a carriage. They got in, and the carriage started driving. AHS told him that “If you knew who was driving this carriage, you would sit with a greater derech eretz”.
They arrived in some town and walked into an empty building. Baal Shem sat down, and his teacher was pacing the room. Pacing, pacing, pacing. Rabbi Paltiel says, it must have been an unbelievable sight: a neshama from 3000 years ago, pacing back and forth in the room. Suddenly, another carriage pulled in, and there was a knock on the door. AHS opened the door, and a tall man with large forhead and great hadras ponim walked in. AHS said with great respect: “Sholom Aleichem, please come sit down”. The man answered: “Where I come from, there is no concept of sitting. I will stand. What is this that my Yisroelik tells me that you will not teach him anymore if he doesn’t reveal himself?” AHS answered: “That’s right.”
They argued for a while, and then the man walked out and left.
“Pasach Reb Brachya,” says Rebbe Rashab in the ma’amor, “and taught: In the upper world, angels only stand, and malach Michoel offers neshamos at the misbeach. And yet, Hashem prefers the beams of the Sanctuary standing upright to the angels and animals offered in the physical Beis HaMikdosh to the neshamos offered in the Upper Worlds.” Why? Because His Essence is linked to this world.
When the Rebbe was a young man, he was quite studious. His brother, Reb Leibel, was equally brilliant, but more outgoing. Oftentimes, he would offer the Rebbe a chance to go somewhere and participate in a mitzva, and the Rebbe refused, saying he had to learn. Only two times did he leave his studies: once, when during the World War I, Jewish refugees came to Yekatirinoslav, and the rav’s family offered them food, clothes and shelter, and again, when there was an epidemic of typhus in the city. When people got typhus, they would be brought to quarantine, where they would be left to either die or recover. Those taking care of them would come and wipe off the film that formed on the patients’ tongues overnight.
This is what the Rebbe did (he was about 19 years old at the time). And it happened so that he contacted typhus (this was when he started losing hair). He was lying in his family’s house and was at times delirious. He was lying in fever and whispering something. And the Rebbetzin Chana, when she came to New York, said one time that if someone leaned over and listened, he could hear that the Rebbe was whispering how bright the Upper Worlds were, and how their brightness was not comparable to a Jew doing a single mitzva in this world.