Monday, October 23, 2006

"G-d Wants Us NOT To Daven"

Maseches Taanis - Slavuta 1820

Chabakuk Elisha commenting on I Don't Have Any Answers:

The Slavuta printers, while in jail for the trumped up charges against them, found themselves in the predicament of being unable to daven. The cause for this was that they were in a single cell with many prisoners - common thieves and the like - with no bathroom. Instead they entire cell would share a pail to relive themselves in, and needless to say it was full of human waste.

Due to these circumstances, it was halachically forbidden to daven there. One of the brothers (I don't remember which one) was so depressed about this that he just sat there crying. His brother asked him for the reason for his tears, and the reply was that he was devastated that he couldn't not daven properly. The brother replied: "There is nothing to cry about! We daven because G-d wants us to, but in this case G-d wants us NOT to daven. Therefore, by not davening properly, we are fulfilling the same goal - fulfilling G-d's desire! This isn't something to cry over - it's something to celebrate!

With that, the brother picked up his brother and they began to sing and dance in ecstasy. The cell mates watched this and ask for the cause for celebration, and the Shapiro brothers pointed to the pail. The cell mates didn't understand the significance, but they too began to sing and dance, until the noise was so great that the guards came running to investigate the matter further. The guards looked around and demanded to know what was going on - to which everyone pointed to the refuse pail.

In anger the guards grabbed the pail and removed it from the room - ending the celebration. As calm returned to the cell, the brother tells the formerly depressed brother "Well, brother, now you can put on your teffilin and daven."


At October 23, 2006 at 2:13:00 PM EDT, Blogger Mottel said...

I've heard the same story with R' Zushe and R' Meilech . . .

At October 23, 2006 at 2:15:00 PM EDT, Blogger e-kvetcher said...

My rabbi told this story as part of a sermon last Shabbos (also with R' Zushe and his brother). Is this a coincidence, or was there something that made both you and him think of this story?

At October 23, 2006 at 3:00:00 PM EDT, Anonymous chabakuk elisha said...

I have heard the R' Zushe / R' Meilich version, however it is incorrect.

At October 23, 2006 at 6:07:00 PM EDT, Anonymous A Yid said...

I've never heared of Rebe Reb Zushe and Rebe Reb Elimelech being imprisoned, and together. Their biographies wouldn't omit such a fact.

At October 23, 2006 at 7:06:00 PM EDT, Anonymous shoshana (bershad) said...

I have found several versions of this story. One version is at

(scroll down to the section titled "It Once Happened")

In this version, the men are the grandsons of R' Pinchas of Koretz (the Slavuta printers).

Another version (

tells some overlapping parts of the story but omits this incident in the prison cell; it gives their names as Reb Avraham Abba and Reb Pinchas.

By the way, there are many versions of the story about R' Raphael's death the night before he would have had to give testimony against a Jew accused of murder (i.e., the impossible conflict between his utter devotion to truth and his love for the Jewish people). However, this is the only version I've found that says the accused were the grandsons of R' Pinchas.

At October 23, 2006 at 11:02:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Dovid Sears said...

It is well known that the Slavita printers were from Reb Pinchos's family, and that they were legendary for having actually immersed their press in a mikveh! Another major attraction was the confidence of the public that they did not print on the Shabbos.

Chassidim prized the Slavita Shas over the Vilna Shas, and Reb Nachman typically quotes the girsa of Slavita (which occasionally differs from the Vilna edition, esp. in the Agadata). The girsa of Eyn Yaakov is basically the same as that of the Slavita Shas, too.

The Slavita press also printed the most widely used Chassidishe siddurim, including the 'Avodah u-Moreh Derekh Siddur with quotes from different Chassidishe seforim; Ohr LaYeshorim, with the perush Keser Nehorah (also printed in the "Berditchever Siddur"); and Siddur Kol Yaakov, compiled by Rav Yaakov Kopel of Medzhibuzh (who lived a little before the Baal Shem Tov) with the kavanos of the ARI zal.

A friend and I once asked the late Breslover leader Rav Michel Dorfman, zal, which siddur the old Breslovers used when he was young, and he answered vehemently, "Der Chassidisheh siddur, nisht der misnagdishe siddur!" I assume that he meant Nusach Sfard instead of Nusach Ashkenaz. But he did not specify any of the Slavita productions. I guess they had bigger problems in those days!


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