Chassidus “In the Style of the Times”?!

R' Shmuel Leib and the Vitebsk Shul

As a shochet in Vitebsk, R. Shmuel Leib Levin “Paritcher” told the Rebbe Rashab that Anash there wanted him to recite Chassidus “in the style of the times.” The Rebbe’s face turned red and said that it was not possible.

R. Shmuel Leib Levin was born in 5646 in the town of Paritch. An early talmid in Tomchei Temimim in Lubavitch, he excelled in both Nigleh and Chassidus, and was the son-in-law of the famous Chasid R. Meir Simcha Chein of Nevel. R. Shmuel served as a magid shiur in the branch of Tomchei Temimim in Horoditch, and later as a mashpia and menahel of the underground Yeshivah in Poltava. He later served as a shochet in various cities and then as a rov in Moscow until his passing on 26 Tishrei 5712.


The Rebbeim held highly of R. Shmuel Leib and praised his unique qualities.

The Rebbe Rashab said, “I have a pair of exceptional brothers – Shmuel Leib and Eliyahu – one will be known and the other will remain hidden.” Chassidim said that the known brother was Shmuel Leib who served as a mashpia in various branches of Tomchei Temimim, while his brother remained largely unknown.

In a letter to the Poltava community in 5682, the Frierdiker Rebbe wrote, “His individual quality in knowledge, talent, his love of pnimiyus without fooling himself, and his thoroughness, make him fit to be a mashpia. The education that he received as a student in Tomchei Temimim was well absorbed by him, and he understands the course of things as set by my father, the Rebbe [Rashab], and all this has not faded in him…”


In the years 5665-5666, the temimim became inspired to improve the study of Chassidus, and a vaad of bochurim – prominent among them R. Shmuel Leib – was established to sustain it. In trying to build inspiration, they got involved in the seder of what should be learned, chavrusos, and even in who should be allowed into yechidus. A short while later the whole inspiration fizzled out.

At that time, the Rebbe Rashab called for 15 temimim and he told them why it dissipated: they were lacking bittul to their mashpiim. The Rebbe then gave them a ksav of a maamar to study.


R. Shoiel Ber Zislin related:

In 5670, I met R. Shmuel Leib, then a shochet in Vitebsk. He shared how he had recently visited the Rebbe Rashab at his datche home and told the Rebbe that anash of Vitebsk were unpleased with his delivery of Chassidus, since they wished to hear Chassidus “in the style of the times.”

Hearing this, the Rebbe Rashab’s face turned red, and he exclaimed, “How can that even be? Chassidus is after all above the times!”


R. Shmerel Sasonkin related:

While in Leningrad, the NKVD began to follow me, and I had to stop delivering shiurim. Hashem sent my way R. Shmuel Leib Paritcher, who in Lubavitch was among the great maskilim in Chassidus. I offered him the charge of repeating Chassidus, but told him why I needed to stop and perhaps he ought to be cautious as well.

He replied, “They don’t know about me since I didn’t register to live here.” And he accepted that risky task.

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