The Infinite in the Finite

By Rabbi Dovid Markel


The chassidic mentor, Rabbi Shmuel Levitan would often recount the following story:[1]

Once, some chassidim arrived late to an event where the 3rd Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch, delivered a chassidic discourse. Disappointed that they had squandered the occasion, they requested that the Rebbe recite the discourse a second time, so that they too could be inspired.

However, the Rebbe refused, and told them to go the holy chossid, Rabbi Hillel of Paritch and that he would repeat what had been said.

They continued to entreat the Rebbe that he repeat it for them, saying: “Reb Hillel is already a second hand source, and the Talmud (Shabbat 40b) states that boiling water poured into a secondary vessel does not have the ability to cook.”

Their meaning being, that in order to be inspired they would have to hear the discourse directly from the Rebbe.

“True,” replied the Rebbe. Continuing with the metaphor of cooking on Shabbat, he rejoined: “However, being that ‘the hand would be burnt in it,’ he is still hot enough to cook.[2]” The Rebbe intimated, that because Reb Hillel was truly inspired by the discourse he had the ability to inspire others.[3]

When the chassidim arrived at Reb Hillel’s abode, he sat with them and discussed three levels of Jewish people: the Beinoni (intermediate), the Tzadik, and the Rebbe.

Reb Hillel said: “The Beinoni’s G-dliness is finite, the Tzadik touches infinity, but the Rebbe draws the infinite into the finite.”

The lesson is twofold: The litmus test to see if we are truly inspired by the G-dliness of the Rebbe’s message, is if we have the ability to inspire others. Additionally, what is understood from Reb Hillel’s statement, is that by connecting to the Rebbe we have the ability to break logical bounds and connect to an infinite expression of G-dliness that is generally beyond our capability.

[1] R. Shlomo Zarchi, Farbrengen, (Jerusalem 2014) Pg. 179.

[2] See Jerusalem Talmud, Shabbat 3:4 Rambam Laws of Ma-asar 3:15. See, however, Tosafot, Shabbat 40b V.S Ta Shema, Rambam, Laws of Shabbat 22:6. Shulchan Aruch Admur Hazaken, Orach Chaim 318:11-12 expresses that a second vessel that is still hot can possibly cook things that are easily cooked.

[3] From this that the Tzemach Tzedek expressed that they can be cooked from such low heat, it can perhaps be deduced that these were chassidim that were already inspired and only needed to be “lightly cooked.” However, for individuals of lower caliber to be inspired, they would need to hear directly from the Rebbe.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *