The Chossid Who Wouldn’t Let the Rebbe Rashab Think Chassidus

R. Shneur Zalman Slonim, a grandson of Rebbetzin Menucha Rochel, joined the Rebbe Rashab and his family on a trip to the Crimea. Before leaving, he was told not to let the Rebbe think Chassidus, which he did with a clever trick.

Born in Chevron in 5622, R. Shneur Zalman Slonim was a grandson of Rebbetzin Menucha Rochel, the Mitteler Rebbe’s daughter. In 5645, he traveled to Lubavitch, and the Rebbe Rashab was mekarev him greatly, even taking him with the family to Yalta, where he served as the Frierdiker Rebbe’s melamed for a period.

When R. Shneur returned to Eretz Yisrael the next year, the Rebbe Rashab arranged financial support for him to enable him to continue learning full-time, and wrote him many letters (later published in Igros Kodesh) responding to his questions in Chassidus and avodas Hashem. In 5660, he was appointed as the Rov of the Chassidim in Yafo, and remained in that position until his passing on 11 Tammuz 5696.


After his father’s histalkus, the Rebbe Rashab devoted himself so intensely to learning Chassidus that he became physically weak. Under doctor’s instructions, he traveled with his family to the port city of Yalta, in the Crimea, to relax and recover. Joining them was R. Shneur, who was visiting from Eretz Yisroel at the time, and came to teach the young Frierdiker Rebbe and learn with the Rebbe Rashab. Before leaving, he was warned by Rebbetzin Rivkah to not allow the Rebbe Rashab to think Chassidus deeply.

At the onset of the trip, the Rebbe Rashab stipulated with R. Shneur to treat him as an equal. When on one occasion R. Shneur stood up in his honor, the Rebbe reminded him of their arrangement. But when the Rebbe received a telegram requesting a bracha for a woman in labor, the Rebbe told him that he was not a true chossid, since he didn’t record the exact time of the bracha. He did so immediately, and indeed it matched with the delivery time.

Throughout the trip, the Rebbe Rashab learned Chassidus with R. Shneur, adding his own explanations. Since he had no one to repeat it to, R. Shneur was afraid he would forget it all, so the Rebbe Rashab advised him to write it down, and sometimes reviewed the notes for accuracy. However, the Rebbe did not want the notes to be shared, and at the end of their journey, he burned them all.

Whenever R. Shneur would see the Rebbe beginning to think Chassidus deeply, he would distract him by sharing stories from Eretz Yisroel. Once he wasn’t paying attention, and the Rebbe Rashab fell into deep thought. Seeking to rouse him, R. Shneur scratched himself noisily. Startled by the sound, the Rebbe asked what he was doing, and R. Shneur replied that he was trying to “scratch out another story.” The Rebbe laughed at his clever ruse.


In his prison diary, the Frierdiker Rebbe recalls his memories of R. Shneur on the Yalta trip:

At that time, we would all go for a stroll almost every day, from 1 pm until 7 or 8 pm. My father would find a seat and study a sefer he brought with him, thinking and writing. R. Shneur would teach me for an hour and tell me to review, and then he would join my father in learning that sefer. My father would speak, and R. Shneur would listen; R. Shneur would question and my father would answer; my father would clarify and R. Shneur’s face would shine.

At a little distance, my mother sat and read a long letter. From time to time, she would offer me milk and cookies from the little bag that lay on the ground beside her and send refreshments with me to my father and R. Shneur.

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