B"H. Beis Moshiach Magazine is powered by:




How Could Reb Hillel Of Paritch Have Said Such A Thing?
By Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Ginsberg

An amazing story about Reb Hillel of Paritch, as explained by the Rebbe, Melech HaMoshiach * When a miracle comes down from Above, it sometimes happens that as soon as the G-dly revelation ceases, the lower realms revert to their former state. The objective, of course, is to transform even the lowest levels of existence.

This past Shabbos, Shabbos Nachamu, was the yahrtzeit of the famous Chassid Reb Hillel of Paritch, who passed away on the 11th of Menachem Av 5624 (1864) in the city of Kharson, where he is interred.

In connection with that date, I’d like to relate a story I’ve heard many times and from many different sources, yet did not fully understand until I learned the Dvar Malchus of Shabbos Parshas Matos-Masai 5751. The gist of the story is as follows:

Reb Hillel of Paritch once heard a maamer from the Tzemach Tzedek. Later, as the Chassidim were sitting and discussing what they had heard, a dispute arose over a certain point in the maamer. Reb Hillel understood the maamer in one way and the Tzemach Tzedek’s sons understood it in another.

Unable to resolve the problem themselves, they decided to ask the Rebbe himself what he had meant. The Tzemach Tzedek explained the maamer according to his sons’ interpretation and not Reb Hillel’s.

Reb Hillel responded by saying, “When the Rebbe utters a maamer Chassidus, it is exactly ‘as if it were given from Sinai.’ Afterwards, however, when we attempt to understand it, we too are allowed to use our intellect to comprehend it in our own terms.”

These are the bare bones of the story, which I always found extremely surprising. And the more I thought about it, the more Reb Hillel’s answer didn’t seem to fit his character. How could Reb Hillel, who was renowned for his bitul and hiskashrus, have said such a thing?!

It is said, for example, that Reb Hillel’s friend, the famous Reb Aizik of Homil (a Chassidic giant in his own right), would deliberately give over maamarim in his own words rather than verbatim. Reb Aizik would explain that this was the truest indicator of having fully absorbed the Rebbe’s words and arrived at their inner meaning beyond their “form.”

Reb Aizik was known as a great Chassidic maskil, blessed with enormous mental powers and an expansive intellect. Whatever he learned, he acquired and made his own.

By contrast, Reb Hillel was known as an oveid, his entire essence permeated by complete bitul and askafya. Whenever he heard a maamer from the Rebbe, he would contemplate it with such a degree of self-nullification that it was if he were trying to squeeze himself inside it.

For this reason, Reb Hillel was always careful to repeat a maamer in the exact words in which it was uttered. When we read Reb Hillel’s maamarim, we can see that the Rebbe’s original style is faithfully retained.

Despite the fact that, in general, Chassidim don’t learn the maamarim of other Chassidim in the same way that they learn the maamarim of a Rebbe (for the reason that the G-dliness a maamer contains is only in the original), Reb Hillel’s maamarim were always considered to have retained the original style with all the G-dliness of the original words.

That being said, I always found Reb Hillel’s response to the Tzemach Tzedek incomprehensible. What did he mean? How could he have claimed that after a maamer is uttered, we have the right to inject our own intellect and express an independent opinion?

The Rebbe MH”M cites the above story in the Dvar Malchus of Shabbos Parshas Matos-Masei 5751, together with a short explanation [free translation]:

“The saying of Reb Hillel of Paritch about the maamer of the Tzemach Tzedek (and by extension, all the Rebbeim), in which he makes a distinction between the utterance of the maamer and the subsequent explanation and attempt to understand it, is well known. When the Rebbe utters a maamer, it is in a manner of ‘the Divine presence issues forth from his throat,’ ‘as if it were given from Sinai,’ which is not the case with regard to the shakla ve’tarya [debate] and elucidation that ensues thereafter, even that of the Rebbe himself. This is because there are two distinct thrusts in Torah: the drawing down of G-dliness from Above (‘as if it were given from Sinai’), and the process of elevating upward (the intellectual attempt to understand something). In general, this is the difference between Torah (the drawing-down of G-dliness) and prayer (which elevates the individual upward).”

From this we learn that the Rebbe himself also manifests this aspect of elevating:

When the Rebbe tells us something “from Above to below,” “as if it were given from Sinai,” the message is undiluted, and for that reason, the G-dliness it contains is extremely powerful. At the same time, precisely because it is coming from Above, the potential exists that the message will not fully permeate the very lowest levels of existence, as it is simply beyond the capacity of the lowest levels to relate to it. In this scenario, it is possible that the G-dly revelation will not effect a permanent change; as long as the revelation is ongoing there is holiness in the lower realms, but as soon as the revelation ceases the holiness departs. In fact, this is an accurate description of what happened when the Torah was given at Sinai. When the Divine revelation ceased “at the blast of the trumpet,” the mountain reverted to its former state, and the Jewish people were again permitted to come in contact with the mountain.

This also explains why Chabad Chassidus emphasizes the responsibility and merit of individual effort in avoda, as opposed to the reliance of other Chassidim on gifts from Above, revelations of G-dliness received through a Rebbe. As Reb Shlomo of Karlin commented on the words, “tzaddik be’emunaso yichyeh” (the tzaddik lives by his faith), among other Chassidim, the words may be read “tzaddik be’emunaso yechayeh” (the tzaddik enlivens [others] with his faith). A Polish Chassid needs only to be connected to his rebbe, and the rebbe supplies him with all his spiritual needs. The Chabad Chassid, by contrast, is not spoon fed, but must work under his own power to transform his inner character and establish “a dwelling place for G-d in the lower realms.”

Indeed, we sometimes find that people who have personally experienced a miracle through the Rebbe MH”M’s blessings do not fully incorporate it into their lives. At the time of the miracle, they recognize that “Moshe is true and his Torah is true,” but when it actually comes to enrolling their child in yeshiva, there isn’t any carry-through. Why? Since the miracle came from Above, the lower realms couldn’t completely absorb it and, therefore, remain unchanged.

Nonetheless, as the Rebbe explained on Shabbos Parshas VaYeishev 5752, it is extremely important to publicize these present-day miracles, as they play a significant role in bringing about the Redemption. Miracles, by definition, break through the material veneer of the physical world and openly demonstrate the underlying G-dliness of creation. The “shock” that the physical world receives becomes the impetus for transcending its limitations, enabling it to relate to G-dliness on its own terms.

For this reason, it is often those miracles that relate to simple, physical matters that are the most impressive, as they are the ultimate expression of elevating the lower realms upward, “from below to Above.”

(There is a famous letter the Rebbe MH”M wrote on 15 Sh’vat 5709, in which he encourages reaching out to Jews and bringing them closer to the Rebbe by means of  relating miracle stories, thereby demonstrating that “the Rebbe’s word is true, and his blessing is a blessing.” Following the Rebbe’s advice leads to success, and the converse is also true, G-d forbid.)

The Rebbe explains in the above Dvar Malchus that the distinction of drawing down and upward elevation also relates to the Rebbeim. After a maamer is uttered “as if it were given from Sinai,” the Rebbeim descend to the lower realms, as it were, for the purpose of accessing the advantage of functioning “from below to Above.” In this way, the G-dly revelation can better permeate even the lowest levels of existence, thereby transforming them in a permanent manner from the inside out.

By Divine providence, I recently received a telephone call from an acquaintance who has come closer to Chabad through several of the Rebbe’s miracles. (One of these involved a family member who had been married for many years but was still childless. After receiving a bracha from the Rebbe, and the directive to “be scrupulous in observing taharas ha’mishpacha,” the wife gave birth to a healthy son nine months later. Of course, stories like this have become almost commonplace nowadays!)

This person, who has become a big fan of Chabad, tells all his friends and relatives that whenever they have a problem, the only one to turn to is the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

In any event, my acquaintance told me how he had recently gotten hold of some of the Rebbe’s mikva water, and enthusiastically related a number of miracles he had observed as a result. Not only had he begun telling anyone who would listen about the Rebbe’s water, he had even started carrying around a small bottle for emergencies. Whenever people told him about a problem they were facing, he would give them some of the Rebbe’s water to drink.

The man was used to positive outcomes, but as he told me on the telephone, something had happened recently that really amazed him:

One day he was standing in line at the bank, extolling the virtues of the Rebbe’s water to the man behind him, when the bank clerk, an Italian woman who was listening to the conversation, became very interested and asked if she could have some of the water.

At first my friend hesitated, but remembering the Rebbe’s directive about encouraging non-Jews to observe the Seven Noachide Laws, he decided to give her some. After telling her to believe in G-d and offering a short explanation of the Sheva Mitzvos, he told her that observing the Noachide Laws is the vessel for obtaining the Rebbe’s blessing.

The next day, when he returned to the bank, the woman came running over to thank him, almost at a loss for words. The day before she had been involved a horrible accident. Her car had been totaled, but she had walked away from the wreckage without a scratch. “I have no doubt that I was saved in the merit of the Rebbe’s water!” she told him.

Needless to say, the woman has accepted upon herself the Seven Noachide Laws, and has started to educate her friends and acquaintances about them as well.

(In case anyone has forgotten, the whole phenomenon of Rebbe’s water started when it was discovered that a Chassid had been hoarding a bottle as a segula for many years. It wasn’t used until a relative of his became ill and wanted something tangible as a vessel for the Rebbe’s blessing. This released a floodgate of miracles that continues until today.)

Another anecdote:

A Chabad Chassid recently told me about a neighbor of his, a Misnaged who had been criticizing and making fun of Lubavitch for decades. A few years ago, when people started talking about the Rebbe being Moshiach, he waited for the expected verbal attack, but was very surprised when the Misnaged said nothing. A short time later another neighbor teased the Misnaged for his failure to speak up. “It must be that you’re also a believer that the Rebbe is Moshiach…”

“As it turns out, I am,” the Misnaged replied. “I have a lot of complaints against Chabad, but when it comes to this — there is nothing I can say. One of the main functions of Moshiach, as we say in davening, is to ‘correct the world under the sovereignty of G-d’ — not only the Jewish world but the whole world — by influencing the gentile nations to observe their seven mitzvos. Is there anyone other than the Lubavitcher Rebbe who is doing this so aggressively? Who else is encouraging them to fulfill these laws, precisely because they were commanded by G-d in the Torah, without regard for what people might say?”

* * *

We must use every opportunity to live up to our special shlichus. When we see that the Rebbe has reached someone, we must do whatever we can to bring it down to the lowest, most conscious levels of action, until the entire world cries out with one unified voice: “Yechi Adoneinu Moreinu V’Rabbeinu Melech HaMoshiach L’olam Va’ed!”



“The Rebbe’s maamer is exactly ‘as if it were given from Sinai.’

But when we attempt to understand it, we are allowed to use our intellect...”







It is extremely important to publicize present-day miracles, as they play a significant role in bringing about the Redemption.




Home | Contents | Archives | Contact Us | Subscriptions | Submissions | Interactive | Chat | Advertise

©Copyright. No content may be reprinted without permission.