Despite his lofty madreigos in Torah and avodas Hashem, Reb Hillel Paritcher (as he is known) never attributed greatness to himself, only considering himself a talmid of his Rebbe. Next to the Tzemach Tzedek zt"l he was practically nothing in his own eyes.
Yet his Rebbe would send many chassidim to Reb Hillel when, on occasion, he himself could not teach them.
Several distinguished chassidim of the Tzemach Tzedek were not in favor of having a "substitute."
"Isn't Reb Hillel merely secondary, a kli sheini, to the Rebbe?" they asked the Tzemach Tzedek. "In hilchos Shabbos, the rule is that a kli sheini cannot cook or boil. If we want to get the bren in Torah and Chassidus, how can we receive that from a talmid?"
With a smile, the Tzemach Tzedek replied, "True that a kli sheini doesn't cook, but it can be yad soledes bo — it can be hot enough for the hand to become scalded. Reb Hillel's fiery words of Torah and Chassidus are sufficient to light the flame in each of you."
Reb Hillel was extremely particular to fulfill every mitzvoh according to its minute halochos.
It was his custom to review the many details of each mitzvah before doing it. And this, not only with mitzvos that are carried out once a year like eating matzo and shaking the lulav, but also those mitzvos that we do twice and thrice daily, such as washing hands and bircas hamozone.
Once there was a line of people waiting to speak to Reb Hillel and he tried to hurry for their sake. Seeing this, a talmid suggested that perhaps the Rebbe be flexible about his noble practice of learning the halochos before each mitzvoh and leave it out just this once.
"Fine," agreed Reb Hillel, "but before I carry out the mitzvoh of hatoras nedorim, I must learn all the pertinent halochos of nedorim!"
A talmid who was witness to the following episode relates it in awe:
When it came to the months of Av and Elul, the Rebbe Reb Hillel, would travel from town to town across the vast Russian countryside, speaking to the Yidden and arousing them to teshuvoh before the day of judgment.
In one small shtetl, the people gathered in one Jew's home sat and waited expectantly for the Rebbe to begin speaking. As usual, Reb Hillel left a few moments' silence for thought before he started. Then he opened his mouth to speak, but no words came out. After several attempts at trying to begin his droshoh without success, Reb Hillel turned to the owner of the house. "Perhaps there is a picture hanging somewhere here that does not befit a Torah household?"
The man's face reddened, as he stammered, "We already knew prior to the Rebbe's arrival of his meticulousness and made sure not to have shatnez in the chairs and to remove all pictures and wall hangings."
The Rebbe, however, was not satisfied and pressed him to check again if nothing was amiss. A thorough search around the house revealed that behind one open door a picture had mistakenly been left up on the wall. The offending piece was promptly taken down and removed from the house, after which Reb Hillel began his inspiring droshoh without a hitch.
During his days in Paritch, the government issued a law forbidding the growing of payos. Naturally, Reb Hillel ignored the ruling and went about with his long payos as usual. His daring cost him dearly when someone slandered him to the authorities.
Two officers were dispatched to Reb Hillel's house to do the job for him, but he was not going to give in so easily. Valiantly he fought his attackers with superhuman strength to protect his payos. During the struggle, a simple tailor passing by saw what was happening and came to Reb Hillel's aid, until together they managed to defeat the officers, saving not only Reb Hillel's payos, but probably his life as well.
Reb Hillel thanked the tailor emotionally and blessed him from the depths of his heart that for this noble deed he would merit to be buried together with Reb Hillel himself — imi bemchitzosi.
The years passed and Reb Hillel moved on from Paritch to become rov in Babroisk. The previous rov, Reb Boruch Mordechai zt"l had left to live in Eretz Yisroel and Reb Hillel could not refuse the persistent requests of the large kehilloh of Babroisk that had been left as a ship bereft of its captain.
Several years later, Reb Hillel Paritcher passed away, but not in his hometown. He was on his regular Av-Elul travels, exhorting people to do teshuvoh and, on the 11 Av in the small town of Charsan far away from Babroisk, his soul returned to its source. He was buried with due honor there in Charsan.
It was a frigid winter's day in 5625 in the town of Charsan. The winds howled and the blinding rain was the only respite to the heavy snow that drove any living being indoors.
In the hekdesh set aside for the poor wanderers passing through the city, an unknown Yid passed away. Due to the adverse weather conditions the shamash of the chevra kadisha found it difficult to look for an appropriate place to bury the meis mitzvah of whom they knew nothing.
Upon reaching the Jewish cemetery, they buried the man in the first available plot, close to the entrance.
A few days later, when the storms subsided, the town was in an uproar. This unknown beggar had been buried right next to the holy Reb Hillel Paritcher.
How could a simple beggar from the hekdesh have been buried next to Reb Hillel? Who knows, perhaps he was even a rosho who may not lie next to the tzaddik? On the other hand, was it permitted to move a dead body when only in doubt? The arguments and opinions raged back and forth as the town seethed with the story.
The beis din of Charsan convened over the matter and, after hearing the story from the shamash of the chevra kadisha, they decided to make an all-out effort to find out the identity of their mysterious meis mitzvah. If it would turn out that he was a Yid who kept Torah and mitzvos, even if not a special personality, it would be allowed bedi'eved to leave him there in respect for the deceased. However, if he turned out to be a mechalel Shabbos, the chevra kadisha would be obligated to remove the body and bury it elsewhere.
After much research, it was discovered that the man's hometown had been Paritch.
A letter was written to the beis din of Paritch explaining the predicament of the Jews in Charsan, with a request to identify the man.
The amazing reply was not long in coming. "You have no cause for concern. Your meis mitzvah is the old tailor of Paritch, the very same one that Reb Hillel promised would be buried together with him."
And so Reb Hillel's promise was fulfilled, despite the distance in time and space involved.
It is told among chassidim that in 5623, the year before his petiroh, a Jew who had been childless for many years came to Reb Hillel beseeching him for help. The latter gave him a kemaya with instructions that it only be opened just before the bris of the child to be born. A year later, several days following Reb Hillel's passing, a son was born to the Yid. Upon opening the kemaya before the bris, he found a note: "And his name should be called in Yisroel — Hillel."