web analytics
July 4, 2015 / 17 Tammuz, 5775
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post


Reb Elimelech M’Lizhensk (Part IX)

Teller-Rabbi-Hanoch

The Baal Shem Tov was the founder and the visionary of chassidus, but the architect who built and spread the movement was Rabbi Dov Ber, the maggid of Mezeritch.

At his death in 1772, the maggid had attracted to his center of learning in Mezeritch some of the most brilliant minds, extraordinary personalities, and dynamic leaders of his day. There he molded them into inspired teachers and holy men. The maggid was able to take a man of outstanding potential and develop him into not only the “tzaddik” that the Baal Shem Tov had described, but also the personality that would become the key to the success of chassidus.

Although Reb Elimelech was in his 40s when the Baal Shem Tov passed away, he had no attachment to either the Master or the early spread of chassidus. It is therefore rather remarkable, considering his late connection, that Reb Elimelech became the paramount leader of the chassidic movement.

The popularity of the rise of chassidus did not go unnoticed by those who did not share the same allegiance. However, as long as the movement was limited to the commoner and isolated in a few pockets of Poland, no one perceived it as a threat. But this all changed by 1772.

Because of the maggid’s agents’ outreach work, the movement flourished and expanded beyond all assumed natural, geographic borders. It extended to Central Poland and Galicia, Lithuania and White Russia.

But the spreading of chassidus not only leapt passed geographic boundaries, it also flowed up from the commoners and impacted upon important scholars and leaders. Suddenly the non-chassidic mainstay of Polish, Lithuanian and White Russian Jewry felt threatened. Overnight, everything the chassidim did was suspect.

The hitherto reluctance to consult kabbalistic texts was disregarded by the chassidim, creating panic that the influence of Sabbatai Zevi and Jacob Frank lingered yet. There was also concern that the unprecedented emphasis upon prayer would shift time-honored priorities. It had previously been assumed that only a scholar familiar with all of the intricate minutiae of the law could be considered holy and close to the Almighty. Suddenly, chassidim had hoisted the unschooled commoner to an equal level of closeness to God by opening the gateway of prayer.

Prayer did not require erudition or diligence, only sincerity. The Baal Shem Tov told the story of an ignorant shepherd boy who had entered a synagogue on Rosh Hashanah and was taken by the sincere devotion of the congregation. He too wished to offer up his voice in prayer but was unschooled in how to pray – even how to read from a prayer book. He therefore took out his recorder and began to offer the only profound expression that he knew how to articulate.

The worshippers in the synagogue were shocked, disgraced and appalled at the boorish behavior of this simpleton, who desecrated the Yom Tov with his simple flute. A shonda! They cried in unison and derision.

Only the Baal Shem Tov came to his defense, chastising those present by admonishing, “I could see that the prayers of this shul had almost made their way to the high Heavens, but they were lodged impenetrably at the gates. It was only this sincere and utterly pure blowing of the recorder that was able to ascend and transport all the prayers of this assembly into the portals of Heaven.”

Who did the chassidim think they were, supplanting the traditional “Torah study gateway” to Heaven with an artificial “prayer access way”? The fears of the opponents, or misnagdim, seemed to have been corroborated by the chassidim who adopted a non-meticulous approach to the proscribed times for prayer. If this wasn’t enough, they altered the nusach, or the liturgy, from Ashkenaz to Sephard.

For the very first time, Torah study, as it were, took a back seat to prayer that became – for the chassidim – the most dominant aspect of the day. In no time, chassidim had seriously tampered with the standard and accepted decorum of the synagogue. To wit, loud song and dance were no longer rare occurrences at specific times and on select holidays – but the daily norm. Meals consumed in a place of worship had previously been unheard of.

Those not within the chassidic orbit could not comprehend, nor even begin to fathom, the inordinate amount of time chassidim devoted to their pilgrimages to their rebbes. Precious time that could have been dedicated to Torah study was viewed to have been squandered in costly and grueling treks.

As if all these matters were not enough to signal rebellion and the casting off of tradition, the final indignity was perpetrated when chassidim began to assume the role of ritual slaughterers, utilizing polished knives – something that had never been used before.

To the outsider, certainly to the misnagedopponent, all of these actions demonstrated that the chassidim sought to sever themselves from accepted tradition. It didn’t take a prophet to conjure that further down the slope they would curtail their connection to Judaism altogether.

(To be continued)

Chodesh tov – have a pleasant month!

Those interested in screening Rabbi Teller’s acclaimed documentary, “Reb Elimelech and the Chassidic Legacy of Brotherhood,” should contact hanoch@hanochteller.com.

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Reb Elimelech M’Lizhensk (Part IX)”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
UN Human Rights Council
UN HRC Condemns Israel (But Not Hamas) for War Crimes
Latest Judaism Stories
Rabbi Avi Weiss

With Ruth, The Torah seems to be stating that children shouldn’t be punished for the sins of parents

Neihaus-070315

Without a foundation, one cannot hope to build a structure.

Torat-Hakehillah-logo-NEW

Why do we have a parsha in Sefer Shemos named after Yisro who was not only a former idolater, but actually served as a priest for Avodah Zarah!

Q-A-Klass-logo

Question: Should we wash our hands in the bathroom with soap and water, or by pouring water from a vessel with handles three times, alternating hands? I have heard it said that a vessel is used only in the morning upon awakening. What are the rules pertaining to young children? What is the protocol if no vessel is available? Additionally, may we dry our hands via an electric dryer?

Harry Koenigsberg
(Via E-Mail)

This Land Is ‘My’ Land
‘[If The Vow Was Imposed] In The Seventh Year…’
(Nedarim 42b)

The Shulchan Aruch in the very first siman states that one should rise in the morning like a lion, implying that simply rising form bed requires strength of a lion, in line with the Midrash.

Attempts to interpret the message of Hashem in the absence of divine prophecy ultimately may twist that message in unintended ways that can lead to calamitous events.

Suddenly, the pilot’s voice could be heard. He explained that this was a special day for those passengers on board who lived in Israel.

If the sick person is thrust into a situation where he is compelled to face his sickness head on, we who are not yet sick can encourage him by facing it with him.

All agree that Jews ARE different. How? Why? The Bible’s answer is surprising and profound.

What’s the nation of Israel’s purpose in the world? How we can bring God’s blessings into the world?

“Is there a difference between rescuing and other services?” asked Ploni.

To my dismay, I’ve seen that shidduch candidates with money become ALL desirable traits for marriage

Bil’am’s character is complex and nuanced; neither purely good nor purely evil.

Amalek, our ultimate foe, understood that when unified, we are invincible and indestructible.

More Articles from Rabbi Hanoch Teller
Rabbi Hanoch Teller

Yale argued living on campus meant living in the “real world,” with its complexities and challenges

Rabbi Hanoch Teller

I felt terror posing questions to Rav Elyashiv doing so only twice in the 9 years I was in his shiur

In a cab with Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach & Rav Elayshiv discussing if/when to say tefillas haderech

Rav Elyashiv favored books about gedolim with 2 caveats: accuracy; and no distasteful elements

Humility often confused with low self-esteem, truly means that a person realizes his true worth

If we are certain that God is on our side, we can easily become arrogant and even cruel

Reb Shlomo Zalman could not endure honorifics applied to him because of his enormous humility

Though braggarts come across as conceited, their boasting often reflects a low sense of self-regard

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/jewish-columns/chodesh-tov/reb-elimelech-mlizhensk-part-ix/2012/06/14/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: