“Nu, What Was I to Do?!”

As a tomim in Lubavitch and later as a shochet, R. Shamai Vigan was a devout oved Hashem who spent hours each night at krias shema she’al hamita. Crying to the Rebbe Rashab that his sister was in danger, the Rebbe felt compelled to make a miracle for him.

R. Shamai Vigan was a chossid of the Rebbe Rashab and Frierdiker Rebbe. A grandson of the chossid R. Zalman Scherbiner, he was born in the small village of Scherbin, near Lubavitch. R. Shamai learned in Tomchei Temimim in Lubavitch and was known for his sincere avodas Hashem. He served as a shochet in Rostov and was moser nefesh to teach bochurim until he was arrested in 5696 and exiled to Siberia for three years. After his release, he served as a shochet in Novozybkov, Russia, where he was killed al kidush Hashem by the Nazis in 5702.


R. Yudel Chitrik recorded:

From my days in Schedrin, I became friends with “Shamai Scherbiner” as he was called. Shamai was a yirei Shomayim and a pnimi, and he shared his inner feelings and experiences with me. He told me that he thought through the maamar “Tanu Rabanan” 5643 before davening over 100 times.

Before Pesach, bochurim wished to adopt all the Rebbe Rashab’s hidurim in making matza. But Shamai questioned us, “Are we on the level of such hidurim?” Yet, we concluded that in order to be receptive to Chassidus, we ought to be mehader as much as we can.

When he reached the age of shidduchim, he was matched with the daughter of R. Avrohom Fradkin. He met with her and the shidduch was almost finalized, but then Rebbetzin Shterna Sara suggested for him a girl from Gzatzk. He was uncertain of what to do. In the end, both fell through, and he married the daughter of the shochet from Zhebin.


Even many years later in New York, whenever R. Zev Kazinitz would hear the niggun that R. Shamai would sing, he would break down crying. Having learned shechita from R. Shamai, he recalled his heartfelt krias shema she’al hamita which lasted until dawn and broke the hearts of whoever heard it.

Once, while someone was chazering a maamar, R. Shamai was standing and crying. When asked why he was so upset, the great oved said that he is crying because he isn’t engaged at all in avoda…


When his sister developed a growth on her tongue, the doctors said it was dangerous and must be operated on immediately. Shamai ran in anguish to the Rebbe Rashab, who assured him that it was nothing more than a rotting tooth that must be pulled out. Indeed, they found the tooth and removed it, and the growth disappeared.

When someone noted to the Rebbe Rashab that he is publicly displaying mofsim, the Rebbe replied, “Shamai came in crying that his sister must be saved. Nu, what was I to do?!”

For sources, click here.

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