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Chapters of Elimelech
From the Yevreiska Encyclopedia
Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk was a well-known Tzadik, the student of Dov Ber of
Mezerich, and the brother of Meshulam Zushia of
He was born in 1717, and died
During the lifetime of Dov Ber
of Mezerich he traveled widely with his brother all over Poland to spread
Hassidism. After Dov Ber's death, Rebbe Elimelech settled in Lizhensk and
attained great fame, thanks to his lofty life.
During his lifetime, Lizhensk
was turned into a center of Polish-Galician Hassidism. There, many famous
Tzadikim and Hassidic activists of Galicia were educated and obtained their
inspiration during the 18th century.
Rebbe Elimelech was the author
of Noam Elimelech (Lvov 1798), a book of commentaries on the
Pentateuch. In that book, the role of a Tzadik is set out and explained, and
the doctrine of Hassidism is explained in greater detail.
This book was subject to an
intense investigation by the opponents of Hassidism. (Yisrael Leibel from
Yedia Meheimna, 1799).
Many of his expositions are
published in his work Darche Tzedek, and other works.
His son Elazar
the Lizhenski took his place after his death.
At the end of the works of
Rebbe Elimelech, the sermons of his son Elazar are published. The heir of
Elazar was his son Reb Naftali.
Rabbi Elimelech the son of Elazar Lipman of Lizhensk
from the Hebrew Encyclopedia
(Born in 5477 - 1717 in a village near Tiktin. Died in 5547 - 1787 in
He was one of the Hassidic
giants, one of the students of the Maggid Rebbe Dov Ber of
Mezherich. Rebbe Elimelech and his brother Zushia of Anipoli traveled around
from town to town to Poland as if reenacting an exile for Hassidic
purposes, with the intention of bringing the multitudes back to the
source, inspiring people to repent, and purifying the hearts of the children of
Israel. Due to the influence of his brother, Rebbe Elimelech became
close to the Maggid Reb Dov, and due to the latter's influence, he became given
over to Hassidism.
After the Maggid died, Rebbe
Elimelech settled in Lizhensk, which is near Jaroslaw in Galicia. During the
time of his residency there (5535-5547 1765-1777), Lizhensk became a
center of Hassidism in Galicia and Poland. Many stories spread about the
piousness and righteousness of Rebbe Elimelech, and thousands streamed to him,
not only to learn Torah from his mouth, but also to learn from his character
traits. In contrast to what was accepted at that time in Hassidic circles,
where they used to worship G-d from joy; Rebbe Elimelech was an ascetic, and
at the time that he reached the pinnacle of asceticism he would chastise and
smite himself with sharp thorns (as is told by Rabbi Moshe of Koznice in his
book Beor Moshe, on the Torah portion of Maasey).
According to his students
his greatest desire was to separate from this material world and to stand
in the source of holiness (Rabbi Yisrael of Koznice: Avodat
Yisrael on the Torah portion of Chayey Sarah), however Rebbe Elimelech
instructed his followers to distance themselves from asceticism, for the
strength of the sufferer is weakened by fasting and asceticism, and there is no
possibility of reaching wholeness in this manner (Rabbi Kalonymos of
Krakow: Meor Vashemesh for the Sabbath of Repentance the
Sabbath between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur).
Rebbe Elimelech was the first
founder of practical Hassidism and of Tzadikism as a set phenomenon
in Hassidism. The Tzadik was in his eyes an intermediary between
G-d and man, a friend of G-d, Holy from his mother's womb,
and called a son of the Holy One Blessed be He (Noam
Elimelech on the Torah portions of Mishpatim and Lech Lecha), for
By means of his holy deeds, he can enact everything (ibid.).
The following Tzadikim numbered
among his disciples: the Chozeh Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz of Lublin;
the Magid Rabbi Yisrael of Koznice; Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Heschel of Apta;
and others. His son Rabbi Elazar, took over form his father (he died in
5566-1806 in Lizhensk). He organized the letters of his father and published
the volumes of Noam Elimelech (published in Lvov, 5548
1788, and later on in many other editions), as well as Likutei
Shoshana (Lvov 5618 1856, at the end of Noam
Chapters on Rebbe Elimelech (from Gog Umagog)
take cognizance of the constant fasts from one Sabbath until the next and all
the other afflictions that suck out the vigor of the haughty person as well as
the distraught person, I have heard that there indeed are Hassidim in the
world. I said to myself: Perhaps it is worthwhile to look at them and to see
what type of strange creatures they are since they think that one can attain
anything without afflictions and in those days a Hassid came to me that
returned from the house of his rabbi. I asked him: What did you hear from
your rabbi? He answered me: I have heard that Torah as it is written should
not be cleansed with soda
I asked him: Where does your rabbi dwell? He
answered me: In Lizhensk. I immediately heard the footsteps of our rabbi
Rabbi Elimelech of holy blessed memory.
rabbi Rabbi Elimelech did not treat this meal with utmost importance. After the Sabbath, he would sit by the table and dip crusts of bread into
hot water that had not been sweetened, in order to fulfil his obligation. Once
it happened that on an eve of the Sabbath in the afternoon, a man came to him
dressed in the clothes of a fisherman and holding a bag of fish in his hands.
He stood before our rabbi, spoke to him in Polish, and asked him to buy the
fish from him. Our rabbi told him to go to his wife. The man went to the
rabbi's wife and she sent him away, claiming that she had already prepared
everything for the Sabbath, and she no longer had any need for fish. Our rabbi
looked at his visage, and told him to return to his wife and tell her in his
name that she should purchase, if not all of the fish, at least some of them.
Nevertheless, the rabbi's wife stood her ground. The man returned and came
back a third time, took out the fish from his sack, tossed them on the ground
when they were still twitching, and grunted: You would do well if you
would prepare them for the feast of the king. Our rabbi of Lizhensk
immediately raised his eyebrows (he had large eyebrows and he often raised them
when he wanted himself to be clearly understood by somebody), looked into the
eyes of the fisherman for a short period of time and said: I have no
more energy to make your meal as it is fitting. However I promise you that my
son who comes after me will be very meticulous in making the meal as is
proper. Therefore the children of our rabbi Rebbe Elimelech customarily
eat fish at the Melave Malka meal.
regard to death, with regard to death
Yaakov heard and laughed:
Lizhensk, the city of our rabbi Rebbe Elimelech, has high mountains surrounding
it that are covered with forests. On occasion, before dawn, our rabbi would
cross the bridge over the river San to walk by himself over the rolling hills.
When he came to the summit the hill, where the trees surround it as a cube, he
would sit down. The people of Lizhensk referred to this place as the grove of
Rebbe Melech, and the rock that is on top as the table of Rebbe Melech. Every year, on Lag
Baomer, young schoolchildren would go up to this place, play, run around, shoot
bows and arrows on top of the table of Rebbe Melech.
rabbi Rebbe Elimelech lived in his final years among people closest to him in
an ascetic manner, separating himself from people, and the affairs of his
students were given over to the hands of Rabbi Yehuda Leib. He would call his
most diligent and faithful students the guardians of the head. It
was not known whom the guardians of the head were supposed to
protect, and from whom they were supposed to protect.
Rebbe Elimelech sensed that his end was drawing near, he called the most dear
of his students to his bedside, including the three who were most dear to him:
Rabbi Yaakov of Lublin (known as the Chozeh with whom the rabbi had made
up one year previously); Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Rymanow, who was very
peaceful and placid; and Rabbi Yisrael the Magid of Koznice. All stood, with
the exception of Rabbi Yisrael of Koznice, who sat because of his great
weakness. At that time, Rebbe Elimelech lifted his hands to his eyes. As his
eyes began to dim, he moved them toward the Chozeh, who stood bent over his
hands, and put them over his eyes. Afterward he grasped his head that was
streaming with sweat, and immediately thereafter put his hands around the head
of Reb Mendel. Finally he put his right hand to his heart, which was already
preparing to take its final beat, and then touched the heart of Rabbi Yisrael.
From that time on, on occasions when the three of them were together in one
place, their Rebbe dwelt among them.
A Section of the Prayer of Rebbe Elimelech of Holy Blessed Memory
And protect us from emptiness, from haughtiness, and from anger,
strictness, sadness, tale bearing, and other bad traits, and from anything
which takes us away from Your holy and pure service, that is dear to us. May
You influence us so that we may cleave to you and we should always be
unquestioning before you
Save us from jealousy, and may the envy of
another person not come unto our heart, and may our envy of us not come to
anyone else. On the contrary, make it so that each of our hearts will see the
good points in our friends, and not their faults, and that everyone should
speak to his friend in a way that is righteous and acceptable before You.
Amen, and may it be Thy will.
Rabbi Elimelech the Leader
by Rabbi Dovidel of Lelow
It is said of a great leader
that he is the Tzadik (righteous one) of the generation. What is the meaning
of a leader? In order to lead, one must know the path. However, this is not
sufficient. In order to lead the path that he knows, he must go at the head.
However there is a third thing that is relevant also. He must forge together
his charges into a team, and it is an entirely different matter when this team
marches together with a leader at the helm, than if it were to go along as a
flock without a leader. The meaning of a team is a group of people who are of
common heart, and who are committed one to another. The rabbi Rebbe Elimelech
was a great Tzadik and peace and harmony prevailed among his students, and not
only among his students but anyone who came in contact with him became
part of the team.
Some time ago I met an old
woman who served in his house even before I came to Lizhensk. I asked her what
particularly stood out in her memory. She said that she did not know how to
relate stories, however what she remembered in particular was: on weekdays on
occasion there was strife among the staff, as happens, however on Sabbath eve,
when the Rebbe said to us Peaceful Sabbath, something passed over
us, so that each of us fell upon the necks of each other and we requested one
from another please forgive me, my beloved, for all that I sinned against
you during this past week.
This was the way it was. The
Rebbe did not need to impose his influence upon people. They were influenced by
his surroundings. His very presence strengthened his associates into one group.
Our rabbi of Lancut was chief
among the students in the court of Rebbe Elimelech. Not even the greatest of
the students tried to undermine his leadership. The Tzadik himself, who was
reluctant, particularly during his old age, to deal with matters which could be
dealt with by others, used to answer people who came to him for advice:
Go to Rabbi Yitzchakle, as our rabbi was referred to by everyone.
On one occasion, our rabbi did
not come for Simchat Torah. I was not yet in Lizhensk at that time, but Rabbi
Elazar, the son of the rabbi Rabbi Elimelech, related the matter. He saw how
disturbed his father was and asked him why he was so troubled by the fact that
one student was missing, for many others of the same caliber were present.
Rabbi Elimelech answered, Certainly you know that every year, on this
day, my students assist me in erecting the Celestial Holy Temple, and each one of them raises a specific holy vessel of the Temple, and Rabbi
Itzikel of Lancut brings in the holy ark, and if he is not here, even if I call
out 'Arise Oh G-d' one hundred times, I have called it out in vain!.
And you certainly know, Yaakov
Yitzchak, that a strange transformation occurred in Rebbe Elimelech about seven
years prior to his passing, that is to say seven years before he filled his
allotted seventy years. However you certainly cannot describe the change as it
was. He, with his soul in the celestial treasury, distanced himself from
matters of this world, not all of a suddenly, but very gradually. This was not
only in his will and intellect alone, but in his entire physical being; his
face became clear, and his gaze turned away from any thing and seemingly turned
inward. In those days he only walked on his tiptoes it appeared very
strange. For he was even taller than our rabbi was and he carried his
arms, for no external reason, in a posture of repulsion. He only turned to them
with brief words, and his eyes always looked in wonder at such a time.
There were a group of younger
people who thought in their hearts that he had, Heaven forbid, become senile:
however, in truth, he was as great as he was before. However interpersonal
contact had become difficult for him. They made him impatient. The Magid of
Koznice said: this occurred because they all behaved with such seriousness,
that is to say that they did not know how to be in the presence of the angels
that were surrounding us, that were produced by his good deeds.
On one occasion, our rabbi
returned to Lizhensk and told one of his friends that when he went through a
forest and saw two trees extraordinarily tall, one with a thick trunk and the
other tall and thin. The first one did not branch out anymore at the top, but
rather grew upward with all its might. The second one weakened, and sprouted
branches at an equivalent height to its top. After some time, he had a long
conversation with the rabbi Rebbe Elimelech, and after this conversation he
went to Lancut, which was not far from Lizhensk, and related that in that
discussion his rabbi granted him permission to lead his own congregation.
However, I am of a different opinion, that Rabbi Elimelech only told him to go
to Lancut, and the permission to lead a congregation was not given to him until
a long time after this event, that is to say one year prior to the passing of
A few months after that
conversation Rabbi Kalman asked me if I know how great was the transparency of
Elijah the prophet in the final time before he ascended to heaven in a
whirlwind. When I did not answer, he said: the people of his generation could
no longer conceive of the greatness of his intellect, and it was no longer
possible to receive lessons on the way of life from him, therefore the Holy One
Blessed Be He said to Elijah: Their intellect cannot conceive of the greatness
of your glow and holiness, therefore anoint Elisha as a prophet in your stead,
who is lesser than you, and people will be able to relate to him, and from him
they will learn the way of life according to their intellect.
In any case, the rabbi Rebbe
Elimelech sent several people with whom he no longer wished to deal to Lancut,
however apparently he did not realize that many of his students, particularly
the younger ones, went their without asking him first. I myself participated
in this change of situation, not deliberately. Our rabbi at that time used to
go to Lizhensk on occasion for the Sabbath accompanied by his shammas. Once I
heard that he went, and I went to his guestroom in order to greet him. It was
the eve of the Sabbath prior to the setting of the sun. After I greeted him I
hurried to leave, for it was not an appropriate time for lingering. However
the rabbi called me to return, he said in a loud voice: Rabbi Dovid, do you
know at what time the Sabbath begins? I answered that I do indeed know, for my
hands tell me. I showed him my hand, whose sinews began to knock at that that
time. He said: If indeed you know at what time the Sabbath begins, I will
tell you a story. The daughter of a captain fell in love with the son of a
general, and even though this situation was not normal, this was a decree from
Heaven that overruled the way of the world, and they got married. Did you hear
what I related to you? I nodded my head; indeed this secret is found in the
book 'Pri Eitz Chaim': how the upper and lower worlds unify together on the
weekdays and bustle with life. They unify together in order to clarify the
powers that have fallen, until such a point that with the commencement of the
Sabbath new souls become created. The rabbi hugged me and said The rest
is near to you.
However I later heard that the
rabbi Rebbe Elimelech said to him at that time when he came to great him: you
have come to take my Hassidim from me, just wait and everything will fall into
The congregation grew in
Lancut, and I also traveled to there on occasion until the situation became
such that I was there more often than in Lizhensk. Yaakov Yitzchak, you must
understand: the rabbi Rebbe Elimelech did not look at any one of us anymore.
He walked among his students as a cloud on a stormy day. There is a town
between Lizhensk and Lancut where a student of Rebbe Elimelech used to live,
who was a teacher of young children. He also began to follow our rabbi. He
once went for the Sabbath to Lancut, and rabbi Elimelech realized this, and
immediately at the conclusion of the Sabbath he traveled to that village, found
the home of that student and inquired about him. His wife answered that he left
and would return shortly. He went to greet her husband and suggested that he
give some sort of pretext, however he did not want to lie before his rabbi, and
when Rebbe Elimelech asked him where he was he answered: Our rabbi dwells in
the seventh heaven and no man such as myself can approach him, and in Lancut
there is a ladder from which one can ascend to the skies of Lizhensk. The
rabbi called out: You wise person of the wise, desist! It is
related that that man immediately fell asleep in the second room and did not
awaken again. After one week he passed away. In the meantime, Rebbe Elimelech
continued on his journey to Lancut. He came to our rabbi in the middle of the
night. Nobody knows what they discussed. It is told that Rebbe Elimelech
turned to our rabbi with a demand, and our rabbi refused. He brought a parable
from the life of Saul, where it is told that at first he did not want the
kingship, and later cleaved to it for naught. However, nobody at all overheard their conversation, and they certainly did
not discuss it with anyone. A long time thereafter, Rabbi Elazar the son of
Rabbi Elimelech told me that his father told him about the event at that time,
after he returned from his journey, and uttered something that sounded like a
curse. Rabbi Elazar reminded him that he himself told his student to go to
Lancut. Rabbi Elimelech responded that nobody understood him, and that even
his own son only supports him a little bit. He said with tears flowing from
his eyes: But I wish to still live.
Nobody can believe that the
explanation of this was that he desired for this world. The word 'to live'
only means that he wished to rectify things in this world. Nobody can know
what, however one can imagine that he had something against the ideas of our
rabbi and that his actions were a stumbling block for Rebbe Elimelech.
1. The name of the son generally appears in the text as Eliezar, but here and
in a few other places as Elazar. These are two distinct names. I use the form
Elazar consistently, as that is the version that appears on the inscription of
the monument on page 169.
2. This is the name of a book by Martin Buber. Literally 'Gog Umagog' refers
to the apocalyptic battles expected to take place as a prelude to the Messianic
3. This is referring to the Melave Malka meal, which is eaten after the
conclusion of the Sabbath.
4. A short form for Elimelech.
5. A reference to the Jewish mystical belief that there is a Holy Temple (Beis
Hamikdash) in the celestial realm that is a spiritual counterpart to the
earthly one that was destroyed 2000 years ago. The holy ark is the main vessel
in the Holy Temple. The phrase 'Arise Oh G-d to your dwelling, You and Your ark
of glory' is a verse that is included in the Simchat Torah liturgy.
6. Unclear to whom this refers. Semantically it seems to refer to his arms,
but contextually, it probably refers to his students.
7. A reference to the mystical belief that good deeds give birth to good
8. A reference to the story of Elijah the prophet in the last few chapters of
Kings I, where Elijah is told to anoint Elisha as a prophet in his stead, and
the second chapter of Kings II, where Elijah is taken up to heaven in a
whirlwind. It is explained that Elijah, due to his great level of
spirituality, was no longer able to relate to the Jewish people, with their
common desires and drives. He expresses his deep frustration that the people
keep on reverting to idolatry, even though they have seen clear proofs of
G-d's existence. Therefore, G-d asks him to anoint another prophet in his
9. When King Saul was anointed king of Israel, he at first tried to decline.
Later, when David was anointed in his stead during Saul's lifetime, Saul
cleaved to the kingship, even though it was meant to go to David. The
inference here is that Rebbe Elimelech is clinging to leadership even though
his effectiveness may have passed.
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