Guest Posting By Rabbi Micha Golshevsky - Extra Stringencies
The Degel Machaneh Ephraim, zt"l, once said, "The Jews of Russia observe many stringencies above and beyond the letter of the law regarding Pesach, but none of these really find much favor in my eyes. There is one exception, though: the fact that they set aside enough water before the holiday to last through the entire festival. You might ask, then, why don't I do the same? The reason why is because this was not the custom of my grandfather, the Baal Shem Tov, zt"l."
After hearing this explanation, the Kochav M'Yaakov, zt"l, asked Rebbe Yisroel of Ossatin, zt"l, a pointed question. "How could the Degel Machaneh Ephraim fail to observe a chumrah that he admits to be proper just because his ancestor or Rebbi didn't follow that custom? If there is a true need for the stringency, shouldn't it be observed regardless of what one's parents, grandparents, or mentors did?"
Rebbe Yisroel of Ossatin responded on the spot with an anecdote from the Gemara.
He said, "On Beitzah 36b, we find that Abaye asked his mentor Rabah what to do about his millstones which were disintegrating from prolonged exposure to the dripping rain. Rabah responded that he could move them to another, better protected, place if he would move his own bed into the mill. Since the millstones are a type of muktzeh that can be moved because they are repulsive, they can be moved if they are within one's living space. Abaye expressed doubts as to whether it is really permitted to move his bed just to enable the removal of the millstones. Abaye was told soon afterward that his mill had collapsed. He responded that this was his due punishment for choosing to be more stringent than his own rebbi. So here you have a clear source not to adopt chumros that were not observed by one's Rebbe!"
Rabbi Micha Golshevsky's blog A Fire Burns in Breslov can be seen here.