Pershischa. Not a chassidus, but a brand name.
The small town of Pershischa was a factory of sorts
where sincere Yidden with raw but lofty ideals
developed into holy individuals. Men of madreigoh
who wished to forget completely their earthly needs and
surroundings, to rise and fly above all that is mundane
and remain in an atmosphere that is spiritual only —
those were the men who came to Pershischa.
The principle of the Rebbe Reb Bunim was that no person
should imagine that he has truly attained the heights
he has aspired to. Never should he be satisfied that he
has reached the summit, for in Yiddishkeit there
is always more to climb.
Towards the end of his life, Reb Bunim remarked
wistfully, "When I was young I thought I could rectify
the whole world. Later I grew up and my desire was at
least to rectify the town of Pershischa. Now, in my old
age, I can only hope that perhaps I will manage to
"Never look back at what you have achieved," he would
exhort his Chassidim, "but constantly look ahead to
what still has to be accomplished."
Thus on an erev Yom Kippur he called to one of
his Chassidim, who had lately fallen somewhat from his
madreigoh, "Come my friend. I am not who I should
be and neither are you what you should be. Let's do
teshuva together," bringing his chossid to
a complete repentance.
For a time, the Rebbe Reb Bunim lived in Germany. There
he worked arduously to return Jews who had been sucked
in by the whirlpool of emancipation back to their
roots. He would unravel before them the list of
zechuyos they would have if only they would turn
over a new leaf, explaining in detail how, with the
reacceptance of Torah and mitzvos, each sin would be
transformed into a merit to be rewarded. His effort
bore fruit and many Jews returned to the fold.
Once, the Rebbe heard of a Jew who had stooped so low
that he had not the remotest intention to return and
even refused to be seen by Reb Bunim. Whenever he heard
that the Rebbe was looking for him, he would run into
Upon sending his Chassidim to find out his whereabouts,
the Rebbe was told that the Jew was in a debased club
where all the city's louts would hang out, knowing full
well that the Rebbe would never set foot into such a
place to find him.
Having been directed to the hangout, the Rebbe Reb
Bunim stood outside and began to sing softly. As his
voice grew louder, the holy melody he sang became
stronger and hauntingly stirring. On and on the Rebbe
sang his song of kedushoh and yearning to Hashem
until its power drew the fallen Yid out of the
building. Grabbing hold of the Rebbe's coat he escaped
from his evil past, never to return.
A group of students once decided to hold a debate with
the Rebbe, to prove to him once and for all that his
beliefs were all wrong and to stop him from furthering
his kiruv role.
As soon as they entered Reb Bunim's room, the latter
announced loud and clear, "In the olden days there were
apikorsim like Pharaoh, who stuck to his
convictions and, even after being smitten with ten
plagues, still asked, `Who is Hashem?' Nowadays,
however, they just have to hear a crack of thunder and
already they are shaken to the core, instilled with a
belief in Hashem and shout Shema Yisroel."
As the Rebbe's thunderous voice held forth, the men in
the room were gripped by fear and, as soon as he
finished speaking, they cried out in unison, "Shema
Yisroel Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echod!"
Once the Rebbe was told of a certain priest whose
humility was to such a degree that it must surely be
causing the accusatory angel in Heaven to point a
finger at the man, saying that in all of Klal
Yisroel there is no one as humble as this gentile
Rabbeinu shook his head in disagreement. "True humility
is rooted in holiness and this priest is an impure
goy. There must be some flaw." So saying, he sent
a talmid of his to stay a while with the priest
and to inspect the sincerity of his self-effacement.
As soon as the talmid arrived, the man of the
cloth in his long robes bent his full height to bow to
him. He then proceeded to clean his shoes and served
him as a lowly slave does his master. The talmid
waited a day, and another, and another, waiting to
discover the fault line in the priest's behavior.
However throughout the duration of his stay, the host
would not let up with acting as a lowly servant
honoring the Yid, until the latter decided to return to
his Rebbe and to report that the humbleness of the
priest was indeed to be admired.
Dejectedly he left the house of the priest to return to
Pershischa, when he heard the window being opened
Sticking his head out, the priest chortled with
laughter, "Ha, so what are you going to tell your Rebbe
about my humble ways?"
In his youth, Reb Bunim once traveled with a friend to
the Maggid of Koznitz for a Shabbos. Throughout
the Shabbos the Maggid gave all his attention to
Reb Bunim's friend, almost ignoring Reb Bunim
Motzei Shabbos came and the two friends went to
say farewell to the Maggid, whereupon the latter
insisted on accompanying them part of the way. When he
turned back, Reb Bunim asked his friend, "Who do you
think the Maggid intended to accompany, you or
"Probably me," said the friend. "Because it was I whom
he spoke with the whole Shabbos."
Hearing this, Reb Bunim argued that the Maggid
had meant R' Bunim and thus they should return to
Koznitz to verify this.
Since his friend had no desire to travel back, he
shrugged, "OK, so he meant you. Now let's continue on
However, Reb Bunim decided that the matter needed
clarifying and persuaded his friend to retrace his
steps together with him and go back to Koznitz.
Indeed, the Maggid confirmed that he had
accompanied the pair in honor of Reb Bunim.
When the Rebbe related the above story, his listeners
were perplexed. It seemed so out of character for the
Rebbe to be running after his own honor. "I'll explain
the whole story, its meaning and its lesson," said Reb
Bunim with a smile.
"The reason why the Maggid chose to ignore me was
to test my trait of humility. How would my pride react
to such deferment. On motzei Shabbos, the holy
Maggid went out of his way to accompany me to see
if I would become haughty.
"However, I noticed that, through the Maggid's
behavior, my friend was getting proud, his
ga'avoh rising as the time went by and more harm
than good would be caused. I therefore made him return
with me to Koznitz to ascertain that it was not him
that the Maggid meant."
Before he was niftar, the Rebbe Reb Bunim said
"When Moshiach comes, it'll be a real joke:
people will laugh at the fact that to the giants of
yesteryear Moshiach didn't come and to our lowly
generation Moshiach Tzidkeinu has arrived."
After his passing, the tzadikim in the next
dor would add:
"And from the days of the Rebbe Reb Bunim, to our days — the joke is getting bigger and bigger!"