Reb Pinchas of Koretz was an extraordinary Tzaddik and a colleague/disciple of the holy Ba’al Shem Tov. In fact, the Ba’al Shem Tov is reported to have said about him that, “A soul such as that of Reb Pinchas of Koretz comes down to this world only once in 500 years”. Reb Pinchas had his own following, demonstrating to them his path of serving G-D, and expounding on his own teachings of Hassidut. Although he did not write down any of his teachings, they were extensively quoted by other Rabbi’s and collected by his foremost student, Rabbi Rafael of Bershad and others. Many of his teachings were also passed and written down by the disciples of Reb Rafael of Bershad, who took over the leadership after Reb Pinchas of Koretz passed away. Some manuscripts of Reb Pinchas’ teachings found their way to the public quite recently in an interesting series of events. Those events provide the setting to our Rashi Escape Room.
Sefer Imrei Pinchas
Rabbi Pinchas Chodorov, a descendant of Reb Pinchas of Koretz, had in his possession original manuscripts that contained the teachings of Reb Pinchas of Koretz. During the Holocaust both his family and his belongings were cruelly taken from him. However, with considerable effort he managed to hold on to these manuscripts for a while. The following story of the manuscripts is recounted by a survivor named Reb Pinchas Ehrenburg when he returned to Poland seven years after the Holocaust.
‘One day while I was staying in Breslau, Poland, a Polish non-Jew appeared at the Jewish community house, carrying a package containing some papers. Attached to the outside of the parcel was letter. Upon opening the package we were astounded to find that it was the manuscript of the great Rebbe Pinchas of Koretz. The accompanying letter was written by Rabbi Pinchas Chodorov of Tarnov. It was written as a last will during the final days of the ghetto in Tarnov...I did not sit still until I had redeemed the manuscripts from the non-Jew, paying the full price - more than I could afford. I did this in order to present to the public the Rebbe's word's "that cleave with flames of fire." I pray to G-d that this merit will protect me and my dear family, and that it may be a memorial to the soul of my only son Meir and the other members of my family all of whom perished in the Holocaust, Hashem Yinkom Damam - may G-d avenge their blood. The letter accompanying the manuscript read: To him into whose hands this manuscript may fall: These papers contain one volume of commentaries by the illustrious Rebbe Pinchas of Koretz, one of the disciples of the Baal Shem Tov. They are the only originals extant. They contain a vast treasure of priceless holy thoughts and insights...Since I left my home three years ago, a deportee, driven from place to place, I have carried these papers in my valise, never abandoning them - until now. Now that the "rage of the oppressor" has overtaken us (my dear wife and son and daughter have been stolen from me, may it be the will of our Father in Heaven that I will see them again), and we, the ones who remained, the life we face is precarious and we do not know what the day will bring. Therefore I decided to give these manuscripts which are so dear to me to one of my non-Jewish acquaintances who will hide them until G-d will return the captives from among His people. I fervently pray that the One Above has decreed that I may live, and that I myself will have the merit of publishing these manuscripts. But if, G-d forbid, my tracks will not be known, I ask him into whose hand this letter will fall, to be aware that Heaven bestowed on you this holy treasure in order that you bring to light the teachings of the saintly Rebbe Pinchas of Koretz. My request is that you include also my own commentaries, so that they be an everlasting memorial for me. My hands are extended to G-d in prayer that I may live to see the consolation of His oppressed nation and the return of G-d to Zion. Rabbi Pinchas Chodorov 16 Cheshvan 5703 / 1943’
What's in it?
The manuscripts contain discourses of Reb Pinchas and Reb Rafael of Bershad arranged in the order of the weekly Torah Portion, and was first published in 1974 as Sefer Imrei Pinchas. Then, in 2003 it was published again as Imrei Pinchas HaShalem. The later version contains new material and corrects errors of the older edition. It also includes many other interesting tidbits, such as stories of Reb Pinchas of Koretz and Reb Rafael of Bershad, biographical material on them and their families, and information of their customs and Hassidic practices among other things. Reb Pinchas’ teachings Reb Pinchas of Koretz believed that instead of focusing on directly seeking spiritual union with G-D, one could achieve this goal through self - purification and self-nullification. He emphasized moral virtue and simple faith in one's service of G-D, and his opinions are reflected in his teachings which abound with many short sayings filled with meaning. Reb Pinchas was adamantly committed to truth. To him it was the highest virtue of all. He said, “If all men spoke the truth, there would be no further need to wait for the Messiah; he would have come long ago.” His emphasis on moral virtue, and his application of it to himself, is portrayed through the following teaching of his. “Every sin is linked to a reason, good or bad-with the sole exception of vanity, which needs no reason to grow and grow. If someone finds it necessary to honor me, that means he is more humble than I. Which means he is better and saintlier than I. Which means that I should honor him. But then, why is he honoring me?” In harmony with the Hassidic approach to life, Reb Pinchas said concerning joy: “Joy is on a higher plane than grief. Even with a newborn child, tears come first and smiles only later. Joy constitutes a higher stage, for it springs from higher worlds, from the glory of G-D. Thus it is that joy washes away all sin.” Another teaching of Reb Pinchas dealing with the virtue of every individual. “If men did not sin, the Lord would have no occasion to employ His attributes of mercy, compassion, and the like, but only His attribute of justice. Therefore, if follows that even sinners please the Lord; they bring into play his worthiest attributes.” Reb Pinchas of Koretz was an incredible Tzaddik, one who truly practiced what he preached, always in accord with his commitment to truth and his dedication to G-D. We are so fortunate that his manuscripts survived the holocaust and were published, giving us yet more access to his teachings and way of life. We are proud to be able to publicize the story of his manuscripts by incorporating it into our Rashi Room, and hope that they will continue to be a source of inspiration to all.