by Rabbi Sholom Avtzon
Being that this past Monday was the yahrzeit of Reb Hillel HaLevi Paritcher, I chose to present a story of his life. This is excerpted from my book on Reb Hillel, which is presently being reedited and expanded for a reprint.
One day, Reb Hillel announced his desire to travel to the Rebbe the Tzemach Tzedek for Shabbos. Every one of the wagon drivers regretfully informed him that they would never be able to make it in time, as the distance from Babroisk to Lubavitch was just too great to arrive before Shabbos.
One young chossid, who owned a pair of strong, young horses, heard about Reb Hillel’s predicament. Approaching Reb Hillel, he confidently offered to help. “I can get you to Lubavitch before Shabbos. However, you must agree to two things. First, I am going to have to travel on the paved road that the Czar made. [As Reb Hillel chose to refrain from using that road so as not to give any praise to the evil Czar who enacted many harsh decrees against the Jews.]
“Secondly, we are going to have to cover great distances and travel many hours every day. I am sorry to say but the Rov won’t be able to daven at length as he is accustomed. If the Rov promises he will daven like most people do and allows me to go on the paved road, my horses will be able to do the job, and we will be in Lubavitch before Shabbos.”
Although both of these conditions were extremely painful for Reb Hillel, he accepted. His intense desire to spend Shabbos with the Rebbe could not be appeased.
Putting together their belongings and supplies for the trip, they set out immediately. Only after he covered the necessary distance for that day’s traveling did the young chossid pull into an inn. Before retiring for the night, he reminded Reb Hillel of his promise not to daven at length the following morning.
The next morning they both awoke extremely early to daven. After davening, the young chossid ate his breakfast and quickly went to hitch the horses to the wagon. When everything was ready to go, and he entered the inn to get Reb Hillel, he was shocked. Reb Hillel was completely unprepared to travel and was only at the beginning of Shacharis. Reb Hillel was davening at his leisurely slow pace, so the davening on even a regular weekday took considerable time. “I should have known,” he muttered to himself.
After waiting patiently for hours, the young man concluded that they would not be able to be in Lubavitch for Shabbos. When Reb Hillel finally concluded his davening, the chossid asked, “Didn’t the Rov agree to daven as a regular person does?” As if he was really saying, “Why didn’t the Rov keep his word?” Why didn’t he daven at the same pace of most people, and not at length as we agreed? Now,” he sadly concluded, “we won’t be able to arrive in Lubavitch before Shabbos.”
Reb Hillel replied with a relaxed smile, “When a merchant travels to the great fairs in Leipzig and elsewhere, it is in order to buy the merchandise he wants at special prices. Only there, at the fair, is it discounted. He then brings it to his hometown to sell at a profit.” The young man shook his head in agreement.
“Now, tell me,” continued Reb Hillel, “what happens if while he is traveling to Leipzig, he meets a dealer who has the exact merchandise he is looking for, and the dealer tells him, ‘I will sell it to you at the same price you would get at the fair’? What would you call the merchant if he says, ‘I’m sorry. I cannot buy it from you here. I must buy it in faraway Leipzig. If you want, come with me to the fair and there I will buy it from you.’ Obviously you would consider him a complete fool. After all, this is the merchandise he wants to buy and the dealer is willing to sell it at the price charged at the fair. So, why must he travel all the way to the fair? The traveling is for nothing.
“The same thing is true here,” concluded Reb Hillel. “Why are we traveling to Lubavitch? Only in order for the Rebbe to give us guidance and advice, and help us learn how to daven properly. And now that I am on the road in the middle of the journey and the davening is going well, only a fool would say ‘No! I can’t daven here. I must go to Lubavitch.’”
Shmuos U’Sippurim, vol. II, pp. 56-7
Some conclude the story that they still made it to Lubavitch in time for Shabbos.
Some may say the above is appropriate for someone who is close to the level of Reb Hillel, however, how does this story speak to many of us, who are closer to the wagon-driver than to Reb Hillel.
Reb Hillel often said, “Every Jew says Shema a few times a day. In the second parsha (paragraph) of the Shema we say the words va’avaditem mi’heyra, which is translated to mean, [if you don’t follow Hashem’s commandments] you will be quickly destroyed.
“However,” he would say “there is another way to translate these words, and that is; “You should lose and abandon the swiftness and rush. Even if you don’t daven leisurely, don’t rush through it, say each word individually and if possible contemplate on the meaning of at least a few paragraphs in the davening.
 Reb Hillel used to finish Shacharis and his shiurim around midday.