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Free of Sin

by Yehudis Golshevsky

From the very beginning, Reb Shimon – Rebbe Nachman’s shamash and first follower – put into practice every word of guidance that he heard from the Rebbe. After years of intense Divine service, Rebbe Nachman said of him, “Shimon is just like his name. ShiMON can be rearranged as MaSh AVoN (free of sin).” Reb Noson said in later years that Rebbe Nachman attested that Reb Shimon had conquered all of his negative character traits – entirely through prayer and hitbodedut.

Even though Reb Shimon ran a business, he never allowed his work to get in the way of his Divine service. He spent a great deal of time out in the field in prayer, mainly at night, despite the summer heat or deep winter freezes. Because he treasured his hours of hitbodedut in the forests and fields, Reb Shimon established his home on the edge of the town, far from others. There he devoted himself – privately, quietly – to his service of God.

Reb Shimon continued this lifestyle even after he moved to the Land of Israel near the end of his life. In the holy city of Tzefat, he again set up his residence at the very edge of town where it met the open fields; this was where the ARI and his students used to learn and pray hundreds of years earlier.

Once, when Reb Noson and Reb Shimon spoke words of Torah while traveling together, Reb Noson noticed that Reb Shimon was carrying a manuscript of chiddushim (original Torah insights). He managed to get it out of Reb Shimon’s hands and, after looking at it closely, he realized it was Reb Shimon’s own work.

“Why, these are wonderful ideas! You must publish them!” exclaimed Reb Noson. Reb Shimon only sat quietly and took back the papers as soon as he could.

When they stopped at an inn, Reb Shimon took the first opportunity to approach the pot-bellied stove in the common room and throw in his own manuscript! He was willing to sacrifice years of hard work just to be sure that he never derived any personal benefit or honor from his Torah study.

Based on Or HaOrot I, p. 126

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