After Reb Elimelech had restored the glory of his colleague, Reb Shmelkeh of Nikolsburg, he departed home to Lizhensk. He was en route when a voice descended from Heaven and proclaimed, “In the merit of your helping Reb Shmelkeh you have the privilege of blessing whomever you desire during the next 24 hours. And your blessing will be fulfilled.”
Reb Elimelech continued on to Lizhensk via fields and terrain that were thoroughly devoid of man. The time allotted to him to award a blessing was about to lapse and he still hadn’t encountered a single person. Reb Elimelech prayed that he should not squander this opportunity – and just then he spotted a Jewish woman traversing the field.
There were only minutes left so Reb Elimelech began unspooling devout blessings as he ran toward the unsuspecting recipient. The woman became frightened by the stranger who was mumbling mumbo jumbo and running toward her. The lady began to back-pedal in alarm.
“Don’t be afraid,” Reb Elimelech soothed in his reassuring voice. “All I wish to do is bless you. Please tell me where you are from and how you make your livelihood.”
He had acquired her confidence and she replied to his queries. Reb Elimelech extended his sincerest blessings and then continued home. The woman, on her part, related all that had transpired to her husband.
Before long this couple began to drastically prosper. Indeed, in the blink of an eye, they became significantly wealthy. The two of them had little doubt that it was Eliyahu Hanavi himself who had dispensed with the blessings.
The overnight rich man was cognizant of where his money had come from and therefore became a philanthropist. He and his wife left their small country abode and moved to a large house in the city that had many servants. The domestic staff were instructed that they may donate to any poor person, up to a golden coin, that visits. Any figure larger than this requires their permission.
Years later Reb Elimelech and Reb Zusha traveled the countryside in order to collect money for redeeming captives. In the course of their journey they were informed that in a nearby city lives a rich man that is very generous.
When the brothers arrived at the door a servant listened to their request and gave them a small donation, which they refused to accept. The servant then ratcheted up to his maximum, but even a golden coin was declined, and they insisted that they speak with the gvir himself.
The attendant brought them into a waiting room that was occupied by the lady of the house. As soon as she took a look at the guests she blanched and then fainted. It took several frought-filled moments until she awoke.
She managed to get back on her feet and then whispered to her husband, “That one over there is Eliyahu Hanavi who blessed me in the field years ago. He has surely returned to reclaim the riches that he sent to us.”
“No!” said Reb Elimelech emphatically. Your money is safe for I am not Eliyahu Hanavi, and I have not come to rescind your wealth. I am delighted that the blessing was fulfilled.”
“So then tell me,” asked the gvir, “how much money do you need for this mitzvah?”
“We need 500 coins,” the brothers responded. The gvir turned on his heels and went into his room. He returned a few minutes later with the entire amount.
“We do not wish you to contribute all of the money, for we intend to benefit others with the opportunity to donate to this paramount mitzvah.” But the gvir was adamant that he relieve them of their humiliating mission. Yet the Holy Brothers would not capitulate, and in the end the gvir finally agreed to give 250, leaving it to his esteemed guests to raise the balance.
There was yet another time that Reb Elimelech came to Reb Shmelkeh’s rescue. The next encounter took place when the two met in a small village with a significant Jewish population. Reb Shmelkeh addressed the townsfolk with an erudite and pilpulistic excursus that was above the heads of the attendees.
Reb Elimelech witnessed the blunder and asked Reb Shmelkeh for permission to add a few words. Agreement was immediately forthcoming and Reb Elimelech ascended to the podium and related the following story:
Count Pototsky traveled abroad in the company of his valet and wagon driver. At one point the two assistants plotted to assassinate the count and when they arrived at a distant land they implemented their plan.
Afterward one pretended that he was Count Pototsky and the other claimed to be his valet. Acting out this charade they traveled from land to land, enjoying the luxuries afforded to dignitaries. At one point during this excursion the fake count became ill and the very finest doctors of that land were summoned and prescribed medications. But these drugs had no effect at all.
When they saw that there was no improvement in his condition they summoned a simple doctor accustomed to treating the common folk. The new doctor administered a far heavier dose than what the initial doctors had prescribed and this gave rise to a cure.
Explained Reb Elimelech, “The renowned doctors thought that they were treating Count Pototsky and therefore gave him light medications that should have impacted upon a refined body accustomed to a delicate diet. But a simpleton, accustomed to coarse food, requires far more potent medications. Hence only the less-skilled country doctor was able to heal.
“The holy Reb Shmelkeh of Nikolsburg assumed you to be wise and deep-probing scholars, for he is not familiar with how a simple mind works and why one sins. Hence he delivered an erudite discourse as one would to an intelligent, refined audience. However, I am the simple doctor who knows how to prescribe the proper and appropriate amounts for you to comprehend.”
Reb Elimelech then delivered a fire-and-brimstone sermon, enumerating their sins until they began to weep from remorse and embarrassment. Their contrition was sincere, and Reb Elimelech, as always, managed to generate genuine teshuvah.
(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 e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.Rabbi Hanoch Teller
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