Sigh Treasured In Heaven
By E. Lesches
Hillel of Paritch needs little or no introduction. His erudition,
his piety, his devotion to the Rebbeim is legendary in Chabad
Chassidus history. Every part of his life was permeated with
Chassidus and spirituality. Every iota of Torah counted, and he
applied its laws most stringently.
Reb Hillel traveled, he made certain that a Kohen accompanied him.
This honor usually fell to Reb Sholom Uminer (or, as Chassidim
nicknamed him, "Reb Sholom Reb Hillel’s"). However, on
one occasion, Reb Hillel chose another of his close disciples, Reb
Nachman Mariashin, and the pair soon set out on their journey.
as night fell, Reb Hillel and his student stopped at a roadside
inn and took a room for the night. Reb Nachman prepared himself to
daven Maariv, a davening not like anything we are
used to. He contemplated the Chassidic meaning of every word,
singing and meditating on the Maariv prayer until the new
course, now that it was already light outside, how could a
disciple of Reb Hillel lay down to rest? Disregarding his total
lack of sleep, Reb Nachman prepared to daven Shacharis.
His preparations took an entire hour. As the night before, it was
a davening permeated with Chassidus. Every word was laden
with meaning; every phrase punctuated by song and thought. The
hours slipped slowly by as Reb Nachman stood immersed in prayer.
When he finally reached the Sh’ma, most of the day had
gone. The sinking afternoon sun signaled it was already time to daven
innkeeper, a simple Jew, came by to the room in which the prayers
were held. He had come for Mincha, but found instead an
amazing sight — the Chassid he saw praying earlier in the
morning was still standing engrossed in Shacharis!
said the innkeeper. "What’s the matter with him? It took
him an entire night last night to say Maariv and now,
today, he has spent the whole day trying to finish Shacharis.
I’m much different than he is. It takes me no time at all to say
a prayer like the Sh’ma, yet look how long it takes him
to say the words. He must be a simpleton, probably a really
thickheaded person." Reb Nachman had just finished davening
in time to hear this remark.
Reb Hillel, "My student Reb Nachman learned Chassidus with me
for three years, yet all this Chassidus did not change him as much
as the innkeeper’s crude statement…"
Reb Nachman repeated the incident to the Rebbe Rayatz who, in
turn, related the anecdote to his father, the Rebbe Rashab. The
Rashab immediately asked that Reb Nachman be called in to repeat
the story. Though Reb Nachman was known for his excitable
temperament, he composed himself and repeated the story again word
for word. At the conclusion the Rebbe Rashab observed, "But you
have to rid yourself of the actual [spiritual] dirt, which can
only be achieved through avoda…"
another sicha of the Rebbe Rayatz, he writes that Reb
Nachman Mariashin had the custom of coming to Lubavitch for Pesach
and was thus dubbed "a Pesachdike Chassid." After
Pesach, he transcribed what he saw and heard during his stay. He
related the spiritual feeling that permeated the seider
table of the Rebbe Maharash and how during the seider the
Rebbe acted in the manner of the Baal Shem Tov. Though the
assembled always recited the Hagada in a low tone, Reb
Nachman reported a time that the Rebbe specifically asked everyone
to say the Hagada out loud. Another time, the Rebbe
Maharash asked everyone to leave the room, and sat alone at the seider
table for a long time.
innkeeper mentioned earlier had no appreciation for true davening,
but most people were outright envious of Chassidim who could
dismiss worldly problems and devote their minds and hearts to davening.
The Rebbe Rayatz records one such example:
Raza, Reb Zalman Aron, brother of the Rebbe Rashab, once passed
through the courtyard of the shul in Lubavitch, the sound
of soulful prayer drifting past his ears. Entering the shul,
he found Reb Chanoch Hendel Kugel engrossed in prayer, totally
oblivious to his surroundings. The Raza sat down to listen to Reb
Hendel’s prayer. Meanwhile Chaim Meir, the butcher, entered the
room, rinsed his hands, and sat down too. Soon another joined the
group. "Just listen to him," one of them whispered,
"this is a real davening!"
the door opened and another individual entered. This was Reb Berel,
a greatly learned scholar who, though a storekeeper by trade, had
authored a commentary on Yeshayahu. It was no secret that
Reb Berel held his own work in high regard.
Reb Ber!" someone turned to him. "What do you say to
such a davening?"
of course," Reb Berel dismissed him. "But…"
small group quickly understood Reb Berel’s intent. This very
well may be a good davening, he meant to say, but it does
not compare to my explanation of Yeshayahu!
this brief exchange, the small group left Reb Hendel and filed out
of the shul. "Ah!" exclaimed the butcher.
"What a beautiful davening! I would give away an
entire side of animal meat for such a prayer!"
when the Raza was in the presence of the Rebbe Rashab, he repeated
the entire incident and the remark made by Reb Berel. "[Reb
Hendel is] one who causes others to achieve spiritual merit,"
said the Rebbe. Look at the chain reaction effected through his davening:
Simple, unlearned folk will remind themselves of the way Reb
Hendel davens and they too will sigh and say, ‘Ay! That
was a real davening!’
cry," continued the Rebbe, "is a cry of the heart, a
longing that transcends words. It is a sigh treasured in Heaven.
In fact, this sigh is treasured more than what intellectual giants
can ever aspire to achieve…"
Seifer HaSichos 5702, pp. 84, 87; Seifer HaSichos 5701, p. 49)