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Tuesday, November 21, 2006


A Faithful Servant, and a Servant of Faith

Today, 30 MarCheshvan, is the 160th yahrzeit of Rebbe Tzvi Hirsch ben R. Yehuda Leib HaKohen of Riminov, known by all as Reb Hersh M’shareis [the Attendant]. Along with Rebbe Leib Sarah’s, Rebbe Meir Yechiel of Ostrovtza, I would say that Reb Hersh was one of the most interesting Chassidic Rebbes of all time.

Orphaned from both parents at the age of ten, he was taken in by his uncle, who was too poor to maintain him. He soon became a tailor’s apprentice, “but his imagination wove the fine silk of avodas Hashem [Divine service] and yiras Shamayim [fear of Heaven]. His soul yearned to gaze at the face of a great tzaddik, to learn from his deeds and attach himself to his ways.” He had heard specifically about Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Riminov, who was then in Pristik, a nearby village. Once Reb Moshe of Pshevorsk [a talmid of the Rebbe Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk] saw him and told him he should leave his work and dedicate himself to serving his Creator.

Shortly thereafter, young Reb Hersh gathered up whatever little he had saved, and left his town, standing at the crossroads until a wagon came by and picked him up. In the middle of the night, they arrived in the town of Pristik, and the driver told him to get off. He wandered through the streets of town until he came across a house that was lit up…it was the home of Rebbe Menachem Mendel. He began to work there, helping in the kitchen, cutting wood, drawing water, stoking the fires, and eventually was 'promoted' to sweeping the floors. His Rebbe would say that he would 'meyacheid yichudim' [perform spiritual unifications] as he swept the floors.

a bed of straw, something like the one Reb Hersh M'Shareis made for his Rebbe

But he yearned for more – he yearned to become the attendant, the m’shareis, of the Rebbe himself. This too was granted him, when the attendant who regularly made the tzaddik’s bed was away one day, and R. Hersh asked to if he could do it. This was not an easy task, but one which required special attention. The bed was made from ropes and straw, and one needed to know exactly how much straw to put in by length, width and volume. The Chassidim say that this can only be done properly by knowing the proper kavannos [intentions] and yichudim required. The next day, the Rebbe asked who had made his bed the night before, and when he was told it was R. Hersh, he said, “From now on, I only want him to make my bed.”

What impressed him so? “Even the spread that he mades on the bed sing Shira [songs of praise to Hashem]. From the time when this young man began to make the Rebbe’s bed, he heard a song arise from each part of the bed. Indeed, Tzvi Hirsch, who was a tailor’s apprentice who sewed garments with shira v’zimra, made all of his work a song. A youth as upright and straight as he was, his soul sang out in praise, and his mouth was therefore filled with song. And so, with song and praise, Tzvi Hirsch went onwards and upwards. From sweeping the floors and stoking the fires, he became the main attendant and caretaker of Rebbe Mendel – and forever known as Hersh M’shareis.
Indeed, Rebbe Menachem Mendel said of him, “Just as the Arizal said that he only came into this world for R. Chaim Vital [his chief disciple], so too, did I come into this world only for my m’shareis – R. Tzvi Hirsch.” Another time, when the Riminover’s close talmid, Rebbe Naftali Tzvi of Ropshitz asked for a blessing from his Rebbe before his passing, he put his left hand on his head. “And who is your right hand for?” the talmid asked. “For Hersh, my m’shareis,” was the Rebbe’s reply.

Upon the passing of Rebbe Mendel Riminover, R. Hersh became a talmid of Rebbe Naftali Tzvi. It was only twelve years later, after Rebbe Naftali passed away, that Rebbe Tzvi Hirsch took over as the Rebbe of Riminov.

[the above was taken from the sefarim, Shaar HaChassidus, by Eliezer Steinman; and Chamishim Tzaddikim b’soch HaIr, by R. Aharon Pintchik]

An Act of Faith
[Adapted from A Treasury of Chassidic Tales, pp. 229-231]

Rebbe Zvi Hirsch of Riminov was known as Reb Hirsch M’shareis, the attendant, because in earlier days he had acted as an attendant and odd-job man in the household of his predecessor, Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Riminov.
Once, a Torah scholar of his generation asked him the meaning of a certain comment by Rashi which appears to be somewhat redundant, and hence puzzling. In the passage in the Torah which speaks of the Priestly Blessing, G-d instructs Moshe to convey the following command to the Kohanim who are to pronounce the blessing over their fellow Jews: “Thus shall you bless the Children of Israel, saying [amor] to them . . .”
On the verb Amor (''saying''), Rashi comments: “Amor k’mo Zachor v’Shamor.” Taken on their simplest level, these words merely explain the grammatical structure of the verb Amor, by pointing out that it is analogous to the structure of the verbs Zachor and Shamor which appear respectively in two commandments referring to Shabbos: “Remember [Zachor] the Sabbath day to keep it holy”; and ''Observe [Shamor] the Sabbath day to keep it holy.''
Reb Hirsch, however, chose to see Rashi's comment from a less prosaic perspective, and responded with the following story:

In the days when I served as the attendant to Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Riminov, it once happened that Thursday arrived and there was not a single coin in the house with which to buy the barest necessities for Shabbos. The Rebbitzen requested that I ask the tzaddik [her husband] what to do. I went across to his study, but as soon as I saw the intensity of his inspired concentration in the service of G-d, I could not bring myself to disturb him, so I tiptoed out. Thursday evening came, and the Rebbetzin made it clear to me - somewhat insistently - that it was high time that I go and remind the tzaddik that there was nothing whatsoever in the house for Shabbos. So I went, but exactly the same thing happened as before. On Friday morning, when there was still neither fish nor meat nor anything else, I again entered the Rebbe's study, but before I could say anything, he said: ''Please take the pot in which we always cook the fish, fill it with water, and put it on the fire. Do the same with the pot which we use for meat, and the same again for all the other things we usually cook for Shabbos.''
“But Rebbe,” I protested, “what will we cook in those pots? There is no sign of fish or meat in the house.”
The Rebbe answered me as follows: ''Concerning the manna in the wilderness which fell from Heaven on Friday and was to be eaten on Shabbos, G-d commanded our forefathers through Moshe Rabbeinu: 'And on the sixth day they shall prepare that which they shall bring.' That is to say, we are obliged to make the preparations: the holy day itself will bring whatever is needed."
And that is exactly what happened. We took out the pots, filled them with water, and left them simmering away on the fire. After a little while, we were surprised by a knock on the door. It was a villager who said he had to spend Shabbos in our town for some reason or other, and asked whether he could spend the holy day in the Rebbe’s house. He assured us that wherever he traveled he took along ample supplies of food - fish, meat, and whatever else one could need. We, of course, were very pleased to have him stay with us, and we were all blessed with an enjoyable Shabbos together.
"So it is," concluded Rebbe Hirsch, ''with the Priestly Blessing. It is obvious that the Kohanim themselves are unable to grant blessings, for it is written: 'And they shall set My Name over the Children of Israel and I will bless them.'
"All the Almighty commands the Kohanim to do is to go ahead with all the preparations they are capable of - taking off their shoes, washing their hands, raising them, saying the words of the blessing, and so on. At this point the Almighty comes into the picture and says, 'And I will bless them.'
"And this is what Rashi meant when he wrote Amor k’mo Zachor v’Shamor - comparing the sayings of the Priestly Blessing to remembering and observing the Sabbath day. He was not simply giving us a lesson on the structure of verbs. He was teaching us something about the nature of the Priestly Blessing - that, just like the preparations we made for the Shabbos, it is an act of faith."

Zechuso yagein Aleinu, may R. Hersh's many merits protect us!

Why do you find him to be one most interesting Chassidic Rebbes of all time?
ASJ - I thought you would find the answer to that in my post, but I guess I didn't convey it well enough. He rose to become a Rebbe from nothing - an orphan, without family, without Torah-scholarship, without money; and became one of the most popular Rebbes in his time, & scores of other big Rebbes went to him!
but then I have a weakness for the name, Tzvi Hersh. That's what my grandfather's name was.
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