Students Document Reb Pinye’s Stories

Two students of Reb Pinye Korf, the legendary mashpia who recently passed away, wrote up stories they heard from him by farbrengens, discussions, and other occasions, giving a glimpse into his extraordinary life and to prior generations of chassidim.

By staff

Two students of Reb Pinye Korf, the legendary mashpia who recently passed away, wrote up stories they heard from him by farbrengens, discussions, and other occasions, giving a glimpse into his extraordinary life and to prior generations of chassidim.

The first was written by Rabbi Itche Roness, and documents Reb Pinye’s early years in Russia, his studies in Brunoy and Montreal, encounters he had with the Rebbe, and many stories he related over the years.

The second, published in Hebrew, was transcribed by Rabbi Avraham Chaim Stern, maggid shiur in Oholei Torah, and contains stories Reb Pinye related by farbrengens and by other occasions.


Memories of My Mashpia

By Rabbi Itche Roness


R’ Pinye once related his experiences as a youth in France:

After we left Russia in 5706 (1946), it took several years until we reached New York (in 5713 (1953)). On the way we traveled through many countries. One thing that was clear in our mind the entire time was that we are on our way to the Rebbe.

In 5712 (1952), while still in France, I wrote a letter to the Rebbe. In the Rebbe’s response he instructed me to look at the letter which the Rebbe had written earlier that year to the talmidei hayeshivos (printed in Igros Kodesh vol. 5, p.308). In the letter the Rebbe writes that “the reason why the Haggada places the chochom next to the rasha is a) since the rasha has the ability to transform himself into a chochom and b) the chochom has the mission to influence the rasha.”

Having read the letter, I discussed it with R’ Nissan Nemanov. I told him that it seems that the Rebbe is telling me that “I am a rasha and I must go to a chochom to learn how to transform myself into a chochom.” He responded, “On the contrary – the Rebbe is telling you that you are a chochom and must influence the rasha.” R’ Nissan remained with his opinion and I remained with mine, until the next year after I was already in New York. At my birthday yechidus I asked the Rebbe directly; the Rebbe said that R’ Nissan is correct.

In France at that time there were no yeshivos that also had an option of studying limudei chol. A certain talmid in yeshiva had a good head. Wanting to study limudei chol, he left yeshiva and went to college. He still enjoyed learning Torah and once in a while he would stop by yeshiva. Once the mashgiach R’ Zalman Hadicher (Levitin) told him, “I don’t know what they study for in college, but I’m sure you’re studying some math (cheshbon). So, I’ll tell you a simple cheshbon: Elokus is everything, and everything is Elokus.”

When we left France, this bachur and his family joined us. Our flight was delayed, and being refugees, we were treated nicely, and they gave us a fancy hotel to stay in for the night. Late that night R’ Nissan Nemonov and R’ Hillel Pevzner came to visit us. I was an active bachur and searched for where I could get a bottle of mashke at such a late hour of the night, and sure enough I got whatever was needed for a farbrengen. At the farbrengen, R’ Nissan told this bachur, “When you will be in New York, you’ll be in yechidus. You should then ask the Rebbe whether to continue to study limudei chol. If the Rebbe tells you to stop, you will certainly stop. And if the Rebbe tells you to continue, you should continue with the same kabalas ol as if the Rebbe told you to learn Chassidus.” I don’t know what happened in yechidus, but I know after he left the Rebbe’s room he no longer learned limudei chol.


In 5716 (1956), R’ Pinye told the Rebbe at his birthday yechidus that he would like to learn in Montreal. A few days later when his chavrusa Betzalel Rotter was in yechidus for his birthday, the Rebbe instructed him to go to Montreal as well.

R’ Aharon Leizer Ceitlin shared: When we were in Montreal, I once approached R’ Pinye with the following question, “If I am always supposed to advance in avodas Hashem then I will never achieve anything. There is no end goal and I feel like I’m never getting anywhere.” (Rabbi Ceitlin repeated this at a farbrengen at which R’ Pinye was present. R’ Pinye then said, “It’s a good question, what did I answer?”) R’ Pinye responded, “There’s nothing wrong with feeling accomplished with your past avoda as long as you’re not satisfied and know that you must still continue.”


R’ Pinye would give a shiur in Tanya every Thursday night in Oholei Torah. The shiur lasted about a half-hour, during which he explained the simple meaning of the perek (based on the shiurim of R’ Yosef Wineberg and R’ Yoel Kahn). Occasionally he would add from the Rebbe’s sichos, R’ Leivik, and his own father’s biurim. At every shiur he would complete an entire perek and he would then say a story.

In Elul, we learned Igeres Hateshuva. When we got to Perek Gimel, R’ Pinye told us that one year he went to the Rebbe for yechidus on his birthday. It was late at night when he went in, and he had already been fasting all day and most of the night. The Rebbe told him, “פניע, פראוועסט תעניתים – Are you conducting fast days?!” R’ Pinye told us that he doesn’t remember whether he fasted the next year, but it was definitely clear that the Rebbe was not happy that he had fasted for so long.

When we learned Perek 14 of Tanya, I asked, “How can I strive to be a beinoni and actually believe that I may become one? There have been many people much greater than I who served Hashem more than me, yet I do not know of anyone who is a beinoni?” R’ Pinye replied, “In business, although many people look to become wealthy and fail, it does not mean that you should not go into business and make money. And also, how do you know that others are not beinonim? Do you know everyone’s madreiga?” I then asked if he knows of anyone who is a beinoni. (In my mind I was thinking if it’s anyone, it’s him). He replied that in Samarkand they would say that R’ Nissan Nemonov and R’ Dovid Horodoker (Kievman) are beinonim.


He would farbreng every Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh. This was because the Rebbe mentioned that in recent years chassidim have a custom to farbreng every Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh (Vaeira 5752). It was not just enough for him that he was at a farbrengen, but he would ensure that in each of the yeshivos that he was mashpia (Oholei Torah Mesivta, Zal, and 770) there should be a farbrengen. Often this meant that he would farbreng multiple times in one day.

The farbrengen would begin with dvar malchus: the most recent sicha said by the Rebbe on that parsha. Later he would continue to farbreng with an emphasis on maaseh bepoel, often in connection to the parsha or time of year. For example, on Parshas Zachor he spoke about the words of the haftorah that it is better to listen to Hashem than bring good korbonos.

When asked to farbreng, he usually would agree unless he had something else scheduled at that time.

In 5774 (2014), he was asked to farbreng at a chanukas habayis. At the farbrengen, a yungerman lamented about how the nisyonos these days are too difficult. “After all,” this yungerman said, “the yetzer harah found its way into my own pocket, in the form of a device.” R’ Pinye responded, “How did it get into your pocket? Did it fly in there on its own? You put it there!” Afterwards a friend of this yungerman’s showed him how to install a filter. R’ Pinye repeated this incident often and said that those who need a smartphone must have a filter.

He would often tell us that when R’ Sadya Liberov would say over his schedule of the day he would say that he goes to mikvah, learns Chassidus, etc., and then tries to daven. Unlike learning that one can claim success if he understood what he learned; davening cannot be measured. It doesn’t depend on how much he “ge’bam’bed” (hummed to himself while saying “bam, bam”).

If he noticed that a bachur was not eating, he would stop speaking and tell the bachur to make Kiddush. (Often bachurim came after having just finished davening and didn’t want to disturb him in the middle of speaking.) He would also look to see which language would be most understood (Yiddish, Lashon Hakodesh, English, or Russian). If an Israeli bachur came he would say, “Since Lashon Hakodesh is understood by everyone, that’s what I’ll speak.”

He would often sing the same few niggunim at a farbrengen. Once a bachur mentioned that we had already sang a particular niggun earlier in the farbrengen. R’ Pinye then began a niggun which almost no one at the farbrengen knew.

He always made sure that the farbrengen would not interfere with seder.

Ahavas Yisroel

At the Cteen Shabbaton, there was a learning program in which they would learn with the bachurim in zal. It was amazing to see how he would learn with several of the teens.

Once, a bachur was expelled from yeshiva and was wandering the streets. I saw this bachur on Kingston Ave. and he told me that he was depressed. I invited him onto the mitzvah tank parked on the side of the road (I directed the tank those years). I didn’t know how to help him. Just then I saw R’ Pinye passing by. I asked him if he could speak with the bachur. R’ Pinye came onto the tank, while I took out mashke and crackers. After a short farbrengen, the bachur said that he came on the tank feeling depressed, yet he’s leaving it laughing. He then decided to go back to yeshiva. R’ Pinye asked me to make calls to help him get accepted.

I once told him that avodas Hashem is very difficult and asked if he had any advice. He asked, “Do you think I have a trick to make it easy? It’s called avoda for a reason!”


He would often tell me that I must learn “bimakom shelibo chafetz,” in an area that my heart desires. He explained that if I go to a yeshiva that I don’t enjoy, I’ll have a more difficult time learning.

This was not telling me to do whatever I want. In the summer of 5775 (2015), I was considering going to a yeshivas kayitz since I would learn more than as a staff member in camp. He told me to go to camp, which I would enjoy more despite the fact that I would probably learn less. When I told him, I had several options of camps, he told me to go to the one that was less chassidish, since I would have a greater influence there.

When I was in yeshiva in Crown Heights, I didn’t enjoy the atmosphere so much, but I did enjoy being next to 770. Therefore, I told R’ Pinye that it would make most sense if I went to learn in 770. R’ Pinye replied, “I think that you should go learn in Kollel Tiferes Zekeinim.” “Why?” I asked, thinking that he was serious. “It’s just like 770,” he replied with a smile, “it’s not for your age…”


He was often chazan when there was no chiyuv present, as the Alter Rebbe writes that the amud should not be hefker. One Friday he was davening at a minyan in which the chazan davened at an extremely quick speed. After davening R’ Pinye rebuked the chazan, “Where are you rushing to? Are you afraid that your cholent is going to burn? It is impossible for the minyan to keep up with the chazan like this.”

Influencing Others

When I was on shlichus, he encouraged me to farbreng with the bachurim and to guide them.

There was one bachur who told me that he reads various books. These books were not Jewish, but the content wasn’t directly against Torah, and he could not understand what was wrong with reading such books. I asked R’ Pinye how to explain it.

He told me, “Tell him that it says in Chassidus that the nachash told Adam Harishon, that he should eat from the eitz hada’as tov v’rah; the Aibeshter knows about good and evil yet it doesn’t affect him, so you can do the same. However, a person is not the Aibeshter. Whatever he sees or hears has an effect on him. Therefore, reading books that do not follow the values taught by Chassidus has a negative effect on the one who reads them.”


Click here to download ‘Reb Pinye’s Stories’ by Rabbi A.C. Stern

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