web analytics
May 29, 2015 / 11 Sivan, 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
What's happened to NYC's Celebrate Israel Parade?
Israel Rejects as ‘False’ UJA Federation’s Claims about Israel Parade ‘Inclusion’
Latest Judaism Stories
Torat-Hakehillah-logo-NEW

What if someone would come to you and offer you everything that is desirable in this world, but with one condition: you have to give up your essence.

Rabbi Avi Weiss

Torah learning is valueless unless it enhances personal morality, fostering closer connection to God

Grunfeld-Raphael-logo

Why did so many of our great sages from the Rambam to Rabbi Moshe Feinstein live outside Israel?

Daf-Yomi-logo

Casting A Doubt
‘Shall We Say [They] Are Not Valid?’
(Nedarim 5a-7a)

I was about six years old at the time and recall that very special occasion so well.

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)

Why was Samson singled out as the only Shofet required to be a nazir from cradle to grave?

“What do you mean?” asked the secretary. “We already issued a ruling and closed the case.”

Tosafos suggests several answers as to how a minor can own an item, m’d’Oraisa.

This week’s video discusses the important connection between the Priestly Blessing and parenting.

Many of us simply don’t get the need for the Torah to list the exact same gift offering, 12 times!

There is a great debate as to whether this story actually took place or is simply a metaphor, a prophetic vision shown to Hoshea by Hashem.

Every person is presented with moments when he/she must make difficult decisions about how to proceed.

One does not necessarily share the opinions of one’s brother. One may disapprove of his actions, values, and/or beliefs. However, with brothers there is a bond of love and caring that transcends all differences.

This Shavuot let’s give G-d a gift too: Let’s make this year different by doing just 1 more mitzvah

More Articles from Rabbi Hanoch Teller
Rabbi Hanoch Teller

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

Rabbi Hanoch Teller

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

A humble person who achieves a position of prominence will utilize the standing to benefit others.

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: