When Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (founder of Chabad Chassidism), already an accomplished scholar and mentor to many disciples, neared his twentieth year, he decided to travel to a center of Torah learning and service of G-d.
At that time (circa 1764) Vilna and Mezeritch were the great Jewish capitals of Eastern Europe. Vilna was the seat of Rabbi Eliyahu, the famed Gaon of Vilna, and Mezeritch was the hometown of Rabbi DovBer (the ‘Maggid’), leader of the chassidic movement.
Years later, Rabbi Schneur Zalman told of the descision which ultimately led to his joining of the chassidic movement: “I debated as to where I should go. I knew that in Vilna one was taught how to study, and that in Mezeritch one could learn how to pray. To study I was somewhat able, but of prayer I knew very little. So I went to Mezeritch.”