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Unread 07-23-2003, 02:41 PM   #7
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Shabbos Nachamu, is 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.

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.”

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 iskafya. 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.

So how can we understand Reb Hillel’s response to the Tzemach Tzedek? 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 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).”
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