Breaking Your Head

News on July 28th, 2017 No Comments

It was silent in the Beis Midrash (study hall). Chassidism listened with rapt attention to the teachings of their Rebbe, the Tzemach Tzedek.

After the Rebbe completed his sagacious discourse, the Chassidim gathered to review the teachings, and to clarify any ambiguous points.

Yet they were not able to agree on one point. The esteemed Reb Hillel of Paritch interpreted the words in a particularly profound manner, but everyone disagreed with him.

No matter how they tried to convince him, Reb Hillel would not budge from his position.

Unable to come to a conclusion, they decided that there was certainly one person who could resolve the dispute: the Tzemach Tzedek.

Each side presented their explanation, and the Tzemach Tzedek said that the correct explanation was with the majority, not Reb Hillel.

“When a Rebbe delivers a Chassidic discourse,” said Reb Hillel, “it’s like the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai. But after the discourse is completed, when it comes to explaining what was said, everyone must learn the teachings with their own sechel.

“At that point,” concluded Reb Hillel, referring to himself, “one can and must learn the words in a way that makes sense in one’s sechel — despite the fact that the Tzemach Tzedek himself explains it differently!”

* * *
To me, the point of this story is about how hard we have to work to understand the Torah. I don’t think the story means that anyone can read a text and explain it however they feel like. It’s important to note that Reb Hillel was a brilliant genius, and was sometimes referred to as a “half-Rebbe” for his tremendous spiritual accomplishments.

When one really puts one’s mind to it — “breaking your head,” as the saying goes — new vistas of understanding open up.

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