Friday, April 11, 2008

Guest Posting By Rabbi Micha Golshevsky - Extra Stringencies

(Painting by Boris Dubrov)

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.


At April 11, 2008 at 6:20:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

It is interesting that the Degel singled out water during Pesach since there is also a story about Rebbe Nachman of Breslov and water during Pesach in Sichos HaRan #235 here.

At April 11, 2008 at 10:11:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Correct but that very same volume, #240 records that Rebbe Nachman told Rav Alter Tepliker not to be a melamed. Rav Alter asked, "But the Ba'al Shem Tov said it is good to be a melamed?"
Rebbe Nachman replied, "I don't know if he said so or not, but even if he did, each tzaddik has the power to... lead people according to the present generation. I say (in our generation) it is not good for one's avodas Hashem to be a melamed..."

At April 11, 2008 at 11:06:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The source for the story in the post is: Kovetz Tiferes Yisrael, Nisan, תשס"ג-2004 page 21. It was written in Hebrew, by Rav Yisrael Freidman, shlita, a descendant of the Rebbe's of Tchortkov. The first half of it is also brought in Pninei Hachasidus on Pesach. (Section on preparing water for Pesach. In my older version it's on page 26.)

At April 11, 2008 at 11:06:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Rabbi Golshevsky! If this was the only post I ever read, dayeinu!

At April 11, 2008 at 11:10:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Chabakuk Elisha: Now I am curious. Why do you say that about this particular post?

At April 11, 2008 at 11:13:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chabakuk Elsha:
It was my pleasure.
Thank you for the powerful chizuk, it is very appreciated!

At April 11, 2008 at 11:51:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I’m sure we’ve spoken about this in the past, but I can’t describe the frustration that I’ve felt over the years by the seemingly vast opposition to this view. I don’t know how many times I have expressed this view only to be called various names including “Careless,” “Spineless,” “Sell-out” & “Hellenist” for it. It seems completely logical, if not obvious, to me – but there is a large segment of the population that doesn’t relate to it.

Many people relate to their Yiddishkeit with an “I just want to do the right thing” attitude – and while that might be understandable, it often comes along with a small-mindedness where there is this idea that there’s an invisible Heavenly checklist of objective, absolute, right’s and wrong’s somewhere up there that must be adhered to. Moreover, this also often leads to the desire to help your neighbor and force these things on everyone else: “Now, you too, can be closer to G-d by adopting chumra XYZ!” Sadly, far too often, we find that these attitudes pervade contemporary Yiddishkeit. So, what happens is that well-meaning people are constantly upping the ante in the chumra competition, and adopting the latest and greatest stringencies in our relatively recent multi-denominational cross-pollination of minhagim and chumros. And while this may look like were progressing or ascending in our relationship with HKB”H, I feel that the exact opposite is true.

I know I’m far from alone in thinking this. And Rabbi Golshevsky, in his refreshing post really highlights the “way it oughta be” – I take great chizuk from this uplifting post and it really does wonders for my emunas Tzaddikim!

At April 11, 2008 at 11:59:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Chabakuk Elisha:

There are very few stories about the Degel and I actually had never heard this story before Rabbi Golshevsky kindly brought it to my attention yesterday.

I have to tell you that I too take great chizuk in the fact that my personal view about chumros and minhagim was shared by this tzaddik whom I feel the most strongly attached to.

At April 11, 2008 at 3:05:00 PM EDT, Blogger DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

Chabakuk Elisha and Rabbi Golshevsky,

Yasher koach to y'all for writing about this. People often forget that if everyone were meant to be the same in their avodah, then Hashem wouldn't have had to create so many people! The fact that he did shows that everyone has a different avoda. It's good that you appreciate this and halevai more people should as well!

-Dixie Yid

At April 12, 2008 at 11:21:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Look also in Imrey Pinchos (on Pesach) about extra chumroys in general and particularly on Pesach. It resembles the Rebbe's view.

At April 14, 2008 at 1:06:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Talmid said...

Reb Itche Mayer Morgenstern on this weeks parsha, translated by Reb Micha himself, wrote:
"Now we can better understand why the Jewish people are so exceedingly
scrupulous about even the barest hint of chometz on Pesach. As the Baal Shem
Tov taught, even though it is best to refrain from extra stringencies all year long
since they can interrupt a person’s dveikus, nevertheless anyone who adopts
additional restrictions on Pesach is considered praiseworthy. (It is important to
bear in mind that the Likutei Moharan taught that in these later, weaker,
generations one should not adopt extreme stringencies, and each of their
opinions are correct based on the place and the time.) However, everything must
be in exact accordance with the halachah, and G-d forbid that anyone should
make light of it because the halachah must be the foundation of all of a Jew’s
avodah. Such devotion proves that the person is nullified before the tzaddikim of
every generation and before his ancestor’s customs; he should never make light
of the chumros practiced in his family: “Do not reject the Torah of your
mother.”15 We have no idea how great this self-effacement is in the eyes of

We all do things that are more stringent than someone else. As long as someone doesn't try to force their personal chumra on others.


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