In the summer of 1772, R. Shneur Zalman of Liadi came to Rovno, where the Maggid was living. When R. Zusia told him that R. Dov Ber had asked that he come, R. Shneur Zalman sighed deeply and fainted. Even after he revived, he was feeble and bedridden. R. Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk and R. Zusia went to tell the Maggid what had occurred. His reaction: "R. Zalmanyu," for thus did he refer to his beloved Talmid, "has the feelings of a son. I was like a son to my Rebbe, the Baal Shem Tov, and he is like my son."
His pupils did not understand R. Shneur Zalman's weakness and their rebbe's reaction to it until that winter, in the month of Kislev. At that time, looking at the mournful faces of his disciples, who realized that their master was nearing death, the Maggid told them: "What you feel now, R. Zalman felt last summer."
Each year on the first evening of Rosh HaShanah, Eliyahu the Prophet appeared to R. Elimelech of Lizensk, revealing something from Above. In the year 1772, he told R. Elimelech that the world exists because of the prayers of three Tzaddikim, and he identified them. R. Elimelech was amazed that the Maggid was not among them. He later understood why - the Maggid passed away shortly thereafter.
Since one never know when his last day will be, I therefore write these words to my dear, beloved son, the holy Tzaddik Avrahaminyu:
The will was signed by the Maggid and witnessed by R. Azriel Meisels and R. Shlomo of Lutzk.
The Maggid then lapsed into a lengthy silence, closed his eyes, and appeared to doze. R. Zusia tiptoed into the room, and the Maggid awoke and beckoned him with a weak motion of his hand. As he approached the Maggid's bed, the master grasped R. Zusia's right hand, looked into his eyes, and whispered in a faint but clear voice: "You, Zusia, are mine in this world, and in the next world you will be next to me, as body and soul are joined." His head fell onto the pillow as his strength faded, but his eyes remained fixed on R. Zusia.
Again he drifted off into slumber. "Where is Menachem Mendel?" he asked upon awakening, his voice even weaker than before.
"Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk is not here," replied R. Shneur Zalman.
"Is R. Yehudah Leib HaCohen here?" the Maggid inquired, sounding like his end was very near.
"R. Yehudah Leib HaCohen is here," answered R. Shneur Zalman.
As R. Yehudah Leib drew near the bed, the Maggid lifted his head off the pillow and took R. Yehudah Leib's right hand. "You will also be close to me," he told him, "for the 'lips of a Kohen guard knowledge' [Malachi 1:7] and knowledge is my realm." His lips moved distinctively, his voice clear and sure.
He then turned to R. Shneur Zalman. "Zalmanyu," he said, "give me your hand. You will remain alone, you are for yourself - you have your own way. You will need a lot of help from Heaven. I will yearn for you very much, and God willing, I will save you from all your troubles."
After bidding his other disciples farewell, he cried, "Where's Avraham? Where are you, my son? I don't see you!"
They found him locked away in his room and brought him to the Maggid.
"Avraham," he said in an unmuffled voice that had regained some strength, "I don't have to tell you anything. Continue on your holy path. Listen to Zalmanyu and things will be good for you. But above all, do not afflict yourself, for a small hole in your body can leave a large hole in the soul, and your neshamah is unique." The Maggid stared intently at his son for a long while, awaiting a reply. But the Malach was silent.
At this point the Maggid said, "good-night," closed his eyes, and fell asleep. On the nineteenth of Kislev, wrapped in Tefillin, his face aflame, the Maggid returned his soul to its Maker.
The Maggid was buried in Onipol. Chassidim say he traded places with R. Yaakov of Onipol, a protege of the Baal Shem, who was buried in Mezritch. Interestingly, it was R. Yaakov who mentioned the Maggid to the Baal Shem Tov before their first meeting. Later, R. Zusia and R. Yehudah Leib HaCohen were buried near the Maggid, in fulfillment of his promise to be with him in the next world. R. Mordechai of Chernobyl (1770-1837) once remarked that these grave sites had the fragrance of Gan Eden.