April 29, 2015
Beis Moshiach in #971, Chinuch

What was the reaction of RHillel of Paritch that a non-Chabad audience found hard to understand? Why is a child praised only when he comes home with an excellent report card? Why is it important not to miss even one hanachas tfillin? What did the Rebbe say in yechidus to a boy who knew none of the material covered in school? * Another chapter in the chinuch series by RNachman Twersky.


Once at a farbrengen, R’ Hillel of Paritch told the following story about the Maharam (Moreinu HaRav R’ Meir) of Rothenburg:

About 600 years earlier, the Germans wanted to kidnap the person considered the greatest of the generation in Germany of that era, the Maharam of Rothenburg. When he heard that they were after him, he decided to flee, but right before he reached the border, the Germans caught him and incarcerated him in a fortress. The Germans demanded a very high ransom for him. The Maharam declared it was forbidden to redeem him, because if the Jews redeemed him, the Germans would realize that kidnapping Jews is a lucrative business and would kidnap someone else the next day and there would be no end to it. He remained in prison for the rest of his life and passed away on 19 Iyar 5053.

After the Maharam passed away, the Germans refused to release his body for burial. Fourteen years passed until a Jew by the name of Alexander Wimpfen offered all his money to the government in exchange for the Maharam’s body. The government agreed and upon the release of the body, Alexander purchased two plots in the cemetery and said that when his time came, he wanted to be buried next to the Maharam of Rothenburg.

A few months later, during the Aseres Yemei T’shuva, the Maharam came to Alexander in a dream and said: First of all, I want to thank you, for in your merit I attained Jewish burial. In heaven they want to repay you for the great deed you did. You have two options and you need to choose one. The first option is that you will become extremely wealthy and will be blessed with a long life. The second option is that you can be with me in Gan Eden. If you choose the second choice, you will have to get up now and write your will and in the morning you will be with me.

Alexander did not hesitate but said: I choose to be with you.

He quickly got up, woke up his family, told them what happened in his dream, and wrote a will in which he described everything that happened. The next morning he died.

R’ Hillel Paritcher finished the story and asked the Chassidim: What do you think of the choice Alexander Wimpfen made? Did he make the right choice?

The Chassidim debated with one another about whether he should have taken wealth and long life or a place in Gan Eden with the Maharam. Then they turned to R’ Hillel and waited to hear what he had to say.

“He was a fool!” shouted R’ Hillel. “Why? Because putting on t’fillin one time in this world is worth more than all of the spiritual delights of sharing in the paradise of the Maharam of Rothenburg until the coming of Moshiach!”

I once told this story to a non-Lubavitcher audience and people were very surprised by it, because the frum world sees this world exclusively as a corridor in order to get to Gan Eden.

The Alter Rebbe explains in Tanya, chapter four, the statement of the Mishna that “one hour of repentance and good deeds in this world is better than all of life in the world to come” to mean that in this world, a Jew can “take” Hashem Himself. When a Jew does a mitzva, when he puts on t’fillin and says, “and He sanctified us with His mitzvos and commanded us,” he is able to reach Hashem Himself.

They, on the other hand, learn the Mishna, “an hour of repentance and good deeds in this world is better than all of life in the world to come” in the opposite way, that the main thing is the world to come, and as long as we live in this world, we can still make amends, but when we reach the next world, no changes can be made; but the objective of all we do is the next world.

To us, it is worth losing the next world in order to be able to do another mitzvah. For those not yet exposed to Chabad Chassidus it’s the opposite; it’s worth losing a mitzva in order to get to the next world quicker [if that will mean having a greater share in the world to come].

From our perspective, that Jew (notwithstanding his greatness for spending all his money to redeem the Maharam’s body) was a baal taava for the next world and he forwent so many mitzvos of t’fillin and thousands of other mitzvos just so he could be in the presence of the Maharam of Rothenburg.

From their perspective, where the main thing is the next world, he made the best deal ever, which is why it was hard for them to understand the story with R’ Hillel.


Why do some people wonder at R’ Hillel’s reaction? Herein lies a principle of Chassidic education. In order to discern the difference between chinuch in general and the Rebbe’s educational teachings, I will tell you something that happened with the Gerrer Rebbe before the war, in Poland.

A person sent the Gerrer Rebbe a letter in which he asked how to attain simcha shel mitzva. So how do you explain what simcha shel mitzva is when the person is very poor?

The Gerrer Rebbe wrote back: Imagine that you are on your way to shul with tallis and t’fillin in the morning, and someone stops you and says, come to my house and stay until after sunset. You can eat, drink, and do whatever you like, but you may not put on t’fillin.

Would you give up putting on t’fillin for $1000? Surely not. Would you do it for larger sums? No way! That means that you would be willing to forgo everything of this world in exchange for putting on t’fillin one time.

Therefore, think what a joy it is that you are doing a mitzva for which you are willing to forgo all the material pleasures of this world!


But to R’ Hillel it was different. A child who is taught what a mitzva is, that it is an essential bond with the Torah and Hashem, even when he trips up, and we all do, he remains with that foundation. A Chassid is not a fool and he understands that putting on t’fillin one time is worth more than being in the presence of the Maharam of Rothenburg.

This is “educate a child according to his way” in the teachings of the Nasi HaDor.


There is a phenomenon which we need to pay attention to. When do parents praise their child? When he comes home with a nice report card and a set of s’farim that he earned after being tested baal peh. A boy who does not behave nicely, who starts up with his siblings etc., is yelled at. What happens when he changes and behaves well? He does not receive praise because he is acting normally, but if he is tested and does something special, then he deserves praise.

In a maamer of the Rebbe from s’fira time—s’fira is about refining the middos of the animal soul—the Rebbe highlights an important idea. What is a person given in exchange for the avoda of rectifying and refining his middos? The answer can be found in the t’filla we say following the counting of the s’fira, “In the merit of counting the omer that I counted today, it should be rectified what I blemished in the s’fira of… and may I be purified and sanctified with supernal holiness, and through this may it be bestowed shefa rav (abundant bounty) in all the worlds. [Chassidus explains that ohr (light) is merely a luminescence of the divine, but shefa means that one takes the essence of Hashem Himself – and plentiful shefa in all the worlds!] And to rectify our souls… with Your supernal holiness…”

In this maamer, the Rebbe focuses on the idea that when a Jew invests in his avodas Hashem, there is so much abundance that is poured forth for him. The greatest things in the world come as a result of the rectification he has accomplished in his character traits.

Even a child who corrects something and displays a positive trait should be highly praised for this! It’s the same idea as that of s’firas ha’omer. We need to acknowledge when a child does something good in fixing his middos and in Ahavas Yisroel. The praise ought to be very strong and he needs to be encouraged. When a child hears something positive, it has such a great effect on him. To you it’s something small, but to him or her it is really something big that you can’t measure.

This is what the greatest mechanech of all, our Rebbe, teaches us. The Rebbe himself said, they ask me about operations, difficult situations, business, and rely on whatever I say, and what about chinuch? My expertise is in chinuch, so why is it that when it comes to chinuch you don’t ask me? One would think this is the main area in which you need to hear my advice.


There was a couple, Holocaust survivors, who married after the war, moved to the US and settled on the Lower East Side. They had a son and when he grew older, his father decided to send him to learn in Lubavitch.

The child had severe behavioral problems, but in those days they didn’t throw anyone out; the main thing was for a child to remain among friends. The child was sensitive toward his parents and did not want to hurt them, so he hid all the problems he made in class. To his parents he was a delight and he expended all his pent-up energy in yeshiva.

In 5720, the child became bar mitzva and his father told him that before one’s bar mitzva you should try to get a bracha from a tzaddik. Since he learned in Lubavitch, they would go to the Lubavitcher Rebbe. The boy agreed.

The day before their yechidus with the Rebbe, the father told his son that the next day he would come home early from work, they would put on their Shabbos clothes, and then go to the yechidus. The boy told his friends that he would be seeing the Rebbe. His friends, who knew him well, asked him whether he knew what tractate they were learning. He said no …

“Don’t you know the Rebbe asks questions?” they said, and the boy became nervous. Why didn’t they tell him earlier? He would have prepared at least a little. He did not want to aggravate his parents after everything they had been through, he wanted to give them nachas, but it was too late and there was nothing he could do.

The next day, he came home from yeshiva and went with his father to see the Rebbe. On the way, he was very nervous because he didn’t know what the yechidus would be like.

When it was their turn, father and son walked in and the Rebbe blessed them for the bar mitzva and spoke to the father about various things that pertained to him. Then the Rebbe asked the boy whether he could speak to him in learning. The boy said yes … He did not know the material everyone was taught, but since he made so much trouble, there was one big Mishna that he could recite thanks to his being punished so many times to learn and write that Mishna over and over again. The Rebbe, instead of asking which Gemara his class was learning, asked him questions from that Mishna, like what does R’ Shimon think about such and such, and the boy immediately knew all the answers.

The father looked on emotionally. Here was the Rebbe, the great gaon, talking with his son in learning, and his son knew how to respond! What nachas! The Rebbe blessed him to continue in this way.

This is the point. For it was with this that he was connected to Hashem, despite the fact that he only learned it as a punishment. The Rebbe saw with which Mishna he was connected to Hashem, which Mishna was alight in his neshama, and it was through this that he lit up his path.

The Rebbe encouraged the boy and blessed him to continue and grow up to be a Chassid, yerei Shamayim, and lamdan. When the father and son went out from the Rebbe, the father embraced and kissed his son and said: I didn’t know you were the ilui of Brooklyn!

When they arrived home, he told his wife excitedly, “We didn’t realize what a son we have!”

From that day on, the boy became a new person. The Rebbe, with those words, infused him with the light of his neshama, infused him with new strength, by way of the only Mishna he knew. The Rebbe ignited his inner spark and encouraged him to reveal the good hidden within him.


Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (
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