Reb Hillel of Paritch was a tremendous Torah scholar who “crossed the floor” and became a Chabad Chossid. Over the years, he became a dedicated student of the second and third of the Chabad Rebbes, but never managed to meet the Alter Rebbe, founder of Chabad.
It’s not that he hadn’t tried, but Providence ensured that each time he arrived in a town that the Alter Rebbe was visiting, he just missed the Tzadik by a day. Eventually, Reb Hillel researched the Rebbe’s movements ahead in advance and arrived in a small shtetl ahead of the Rebbe’s brief visit there.
To make sure he would not miss the chance to meet the Rebbe, he smuggled himself into the Rebbe’s room, hid under the bed and waited...
Excited by the prospect of meeting this great Torah personality, Reb Hillel had prepared some intricate questions on the obscure topic of “erchin” (the appraisal of people’s value to donate to the Temple) to pose to the Alter Rebbe.
As the Rebbe walked into the room, before Reb Hillel could move, he announced: “If a young man has a question regarding appraising people, he should first concentrate on appraising himself!”
Reb Hillel fainted; the Rebbe’s message had hit its mark. By the time he came to, the Rebbe had left and Reb Hillel never got to meet him.
A man once asked the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe why he allocated so much of his time to simple Jews, when he could surely have better invested his time with scholars. The fellow happened to be a diamond merchant, so the Rebbe asked to see his stones.
As he looked through the collection, the Rebbe remarked that he didn’t see why a particular stone was so expensive, it seemed rather ordinary. The dealer patiently explained that, as an expert, he could see the value of a stone that an inexperienced person could not see.
“I,” said the Rebbe, “am an expert in people, I can see a value that you cannot...”
If we are unable to see that preciousness in the next Jew, it is ourselves we need to assess.