Living in the shadow of one of the greatest chassidim of all time, R. Sholom R. Hillel’s was himself an impressive chossid and oved. But one comment from a villager did more for his avodas Hashem than the Chassidus that he learned from his great mashpia.
Reb Sholom HaKohen Huminer of Beshenkovitz was known as Reb Sholom Reb Hillel’s because he was a devoted talmid of Reb Hillel Paritcher. He had a store in Beshenkovitz that his wife ran, while he would accompany Reb Hillel on his travels.
On one of their journeys, they arrived at the estate of a wealthy poritz and they stayed with a local Jew. The manager of the poritz’s estate was also a Jew and came to greet Reb Hillel. But when Reb Hillel saw that he was dressed like the squires and he trimmed his beard, Reb Hillel lowered his eyes, answered him coldly, and bade him farewell without conversing.
Later, Reb Hillel sent Reb Sholom to visit the manager at home, and told him not to leave until he donates a certain sum for tzedaka. Reb Sholom was taken aback and reminded Reb Hillel of the manager’s surly face when he left. Reb Hillel just repeated the instruction without any explanation.
When Reb Sholom arrived at the house, he found the manager pacing back and forth, very perturbed. He didn’t even notice Reb Sholom, and he was saying to himself, “He [Reb Hillel] surely knew that I have the ability to grind him like a pebble and turn him into nothing, and still he wasn’t intimidated by me. Indeed, he must be a true tzaddik.” Eventually, the manager calmed down and noticed Reb Sholom, and he asked him what he wanted. Reb Sholom replied that he needed a certain amount for tzedaka. The man didn’t hesitate and immediately gave him the desired amount.
Time passed and Reb Hillel came to the town again, and they were greeted by a changed man. As time passed, the manager became a chossid.
On another journey, Reb Sholom and Reb Hillel visited a village in White Russia. Reb Sholom started to daven ma’ariv and davened until daybreak. He refused to go to sleep, since it was now time to prepare for shacharis. After about an hour he began shachris, and by mincha time was only up to Shema.
When the innkeeper came to daven Mincha and saw Reb Sholom still in middle of shacharis, he said in disbelief, “What is wrong with this Jew that he davens all night and day? He must have a blocked head!”
Reb Hillel later said, “The three years that Reb Sholom learned Chassidus by me did not affect him as much as the words of that innkeeper…”
After once breaking a leg, R. Sholom R. Hillel’s was confined to bed with severe pain for a few years. During that entire period, he would recite mishnayos ba’al peh, daven at length, tell stories or sing niggunim, all with special sweetness.
When R. Groinem, the first mashpia in tomchei temimim, heard about this, he said that he now understood something that had puzzled him. He had heard that R. Hillel Paritcher had promised R. Sholom R. Hillel’s to be with him in gan eden after R. Sholom had cried about their inevitable separation in the world to come, and R. Groinem wondered what made R. Sholom R. Hillel’s so special to merit such a promise.
Now, after hearing how R. Sholom R. Hillel’s had been accepting Hashem’s judgment with love for quite a few years, he understood.
When the Frierdiker Rebbe visited the United States in 5690 (1930), a Jew named Tzvi Salaf recalled to the Frierdiker Rebbe how when he was a little boy in Russia, he would enjoy going to shul after the shabbos meal, to hear the heartfelt davening of R. Sholom R. Hillel’s. The davening stayed with him years later in a different country and circumstance.
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