“Are All the Manufacturers in Russia So Learned?”

R’ Nechemya of Dubrovna, who was married to the Alter Rebbe‘s granddaughter, was a chavrusa to the Tzemach Tzedek and an exceptional gaon. Yet, he shied away from publicity and earned his livelihood from his taleisim factory.

The gaon Reb Nechemya Birech Halevi of Dubrovna was the son-in-law of Reb Chaim Avraham, the Alter Rebbe’s son, and was one of the Alter Rebbe’s outstanding chassidim. He earned his livelihood from a factory of taleisim that he owned. He authored Sheilos Uteshuvos Divrei Nechemya, as well as glosses on Gemara (printed in the back of the Vilna shas) and on the Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch. He passed away on his birthday, 15 Shvat 5612 (1852).


Once, the rov of Dubrovna asked Reb Nechemia to deliver a teshuvah (responsa) he had written to the renowned Reb Efrayim Zalman Margolis. After reviewing it, Reb Nechemya added some thoughts of his own and signed, “Reb Nechemya the manufacturer.” Upon receiving the letter, Reb Efrayim Zalman asked, “Are all the manufacturers in Russia so learned?”


A rov once met Reb Nechemya after talking with him in learning he said, “I see you are a great gaon, why are you not famous among the ‘lomdim’?”

Reb Nechemya replied with a mashal:

A seforim seller once entered the home of a great rov and was surprised to see the walls lined with many and rare seforim. The seller asked the rov, “Why is it that I have a tenth of the seforim that you have, yet everyone knows about my seforim, while you have so many more seforim, but no one knows of them?” To which the rov replied, “Your seforim are for the world and therefore they are famous, but my seforim are for myself”…


Once Reb Nechemya saw a soldier in the Russian army being whipped for having let his feet freeze while standing on guard duty. The soldier complained, “What have I done wrong? It was freezing outside!” He was told, “If you would remember the oath you have taken, to serve the king with all your might, this oath would have warmed you.”

It is said that from this event, Reb Nechemya had chayus for 25 years in his avoda, thinking of the warmth he should have as of a result of the oath he had taken before entering this world.

For sources, visit TheWeeklyFarbrengen.com

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