On the 20th day of Tammuz, we lost a wonderful Jew in Crown Heights, Hachossid Reb Pinchos ben Hachossid Reb Yehoshua Korf, z”l. Reb Pinye Korf, as he was affectionately called, was, indeed, an exemplary Jew.
Chassidim stay away from calling someone a tzaddik, as the Alter Rebbe explains in Tanya that tzaddik is not a level that is easily attainable, and sometimes not attainable at all. Therefore, chassidim were very careful not to call anyone a tzaddik, unless this person was an extremely unique individual. Out of all the chassidim from the Alter Rebbe’s times and on, one of the very few ever to be called a tzaddik is Reb Hillel Paritcher (1795-1864).
The accolade regarded most highly by chassidim is beinoni. Although beinoni literally means an intermediate individual, the Alter Rebbe explains in Tanya that a beinoni is a Jew who is accountable for all his thoughts, speech and deeds. Not only is he accountable, but is successful in controlling all of these faculties. That is a very remarkable achievement – to live one’s life in full control; not that life is in control of him but that he is in control of his life.
Reb Pinye Korf was a Jew from Der Alter Heim –”the old school.” He lived a very regimented and precise life of Kabolas Ol, accepting the yoke of Hashem and His Torah. Throughout the 60 years of his adult life, his breakfast remained consistent: two slices of bread, one egg and a piece of a vegetable. The two slices of bread were for Pas Shacharis, as the Gemara (Bava Metzia 107b) describes the importance of eating bread in the morning. The rest was merely something to keep his body and soul together.
Moreover, Reb Pinye was not a Jew who lived a life separate from the community. He was part and parcel of the community; he spoke to everyone and cared for everyone. To say that he was a Jew who had Ahavas Yisroel is an understatement. He lived the life of all Jews. He felt pain from a fellow Jew’s pain, and rejoiced in a fellow Jew’s simcha. You saw that on him. When he heard something about a friend that was not in the realm of joy, he was visibly pained. When he heard a joyful thing about a friend, he rejoiced with that friend.
In terms of chassidus and being connected with the Rebbe, Reb Pinye lived with the Rebbe. His yearning for Moshiach, as the Rebbe constantly demanded from us, was constant and genuine.
He was extremely regimented. He slept maybe two or three hours a night. Yes, it is difficult to understand how one could survive like this. If he saw during the day that he could not continue, he would take a rest and ask the people around him to wake him up half an hour later. He was not happy if they did not wake him on time as he asked. Only because he could not continue further would he take a short rest, and then he would push himself to continue. He exemplified the form of an oved, a Jew who constantly serves Almighty G-d with selfless dedication and devotion.
His family says that he never drank water apart from meals, since there is a Mishnah in Berochos (6:8) “One who drinks water for his thirst makes a brocha.” Reb Pinye was always concerned that perhaps he was not truly thirsty, so he did not drink due to the doubt regarding the brocha. Where do you see a person who is so strict with himself, and so true to his observance?
It’s remarkable that Reb Pinye passed away in the week of “his own” parsha – the parsha of Pinchas.
Our condolences to his wife, Mrs. Chaya Korf, to his sons, daughters, sons-in-law, daughters-in-law, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, to his family and to the residents of Crown Heights, where he lived most of his life, since 1953, and to his extended family – Klal Yisroel.
Certainly Reb Pinye will not rest and work constantly to bring about the Geulah Ha’amitis Vehashleima, and Klal Yisroel will know only of joy and happiness forever and ever.