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December 5, 2016 / 5 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Baal Shem Tov’

The Ever-Amazing Reb Elimelech (Part XIV)

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

As has been noted in a previous column, Reb Elimelech – like the Baal Shem Tov before him – asserted that pessimism and depression cause sin and spiritual apathy. Repentance (yes, even repentance!) that causes depression and sadness distances the Holy Presence.

Joy is absolutely essential for Jewish life. And although Reb Elimelech was determined to infuse all Jews with a state of simcha, he was especially concerned over the plight of orphans, and devoted special energy to arrange marriages for them.

The Baal Shem Tov was thoroughly foreign to the concept of evil. Indeed, when a despairing father inquired, “What shall I do with my son? He is so wicked!” the Baal Shem Tov, who shunned reprimands, characteristically counseled, “Love him all the more!”

This was a lesson that Reb Elimelech incorporated and would find essential in dealing with the unschooled and non-observant masses. Like those that preceded him, Reb Elimelech viewed his mission to be the spiritual elevation of the people – whether or not they were affiliated with chassidus.

The chassidic masters (Reb Elimelech is the perfect example) never remained cloistered in their homes or in the synagogues. They went out to the people and implored them to repent. “One cannot arrive at the proper and complete service of the Lord,” instructed Reb Elimelech, “without a guide that will direct toward the path to faith.”

Reb Elimelech championed emunah temimah (pure belief) above everything in the service of God. Like his predecessors, he focused on the importance of emunas tzaddikim (trusting the righteous) and what the responsibilities of a rebbe are. Namely, to raise the spiritual level of the masses who are mired in the pits of poverty – both materially and spiritually. It is the job of the leader to never seclude himself from the world and to be located among his people, so that he can hear their troubles and ease their burdens.

Reb Elimelech explained that some people serve the Almighty and perform good deeds under the impression that they are doing the Lord a favor, and accordingly deserve a reward. A consequence of this perverted thinking is that people need not work on themselves because they are assumedly good, benevolent individuals.

To counteract this mindset Reb Elimelech encouraged that before performing a mitzvah one should recite: “ha’reini oseh zos l’shem yichud kudsha b’rich hu u’shechintei, la’asos nachas ruach l’borei olami – I am engaging in this deed for the sake of the Almighty, so that I may cause pleasure to my Maker.”

For the very same reason he felt that serving God must be anchored in deep, not superficial, Torah learning. This includes Gemara with Rashi, Tosafos and the meforshim, and Shulchan Aruch and the poskim. Learning in depth and with diligence frees one from egotistical thoughts and cleanses the soul.

He instructed, “One should arise and pray, ‘May it be Thy will that my learning will motivate me to act with proper character and Torah knowledge. Spare me from interruption – even the slightest little disruption.’ ”

Among Reb Elimelech’s rules were: A Jew should guard himself against hating any of his folk, except for the wicked for whom no excuse can be found. He should not engage in any conversation at all before prayer, as it is a hindrance to concentration during davening.

One should speak gently to all men and see to it that one’s clothes are always clean.

Reb Elimelech pointed out four customs of zehirus (caution) that have becomes pillars of chassidus:

I) From the moment people arise in the morning, they must quickly wash their hands and accept upon themselves the yoke of Heaven. Their very first steps must be with sanctity and purity, and this will set the tone for the rest of the day.

II) “Chassidus,” as mentioned in the Gemara, means not walking four cubits with an uncovered head, and to live with the awareness of what the yarmulke symbolizes – namely that there is a Ruler above.

III) “Purity of the Home” mandates a staunch religious education for boys and girls so that tradition is never in jeopardy of being abandoned.

IV) One must learn Torah in order to observe and fulfill the commandments. Even those who are not enrolled in a yeshiva are obligated to learn on a steady basis, each and every day.

Rabbi Hanoch Teller

Reb Elimelech M’Lizhensk (Part IX)

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

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.

Rabbi Hanoch Teller

Reb Elimelech M’Lizhensk (Part VIII)

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

Scholars have debated where precisely the Baal Shem Tov was born, few giving credence to the tiny village of Okopy (pronounced Akup). Most likely he hailed from Kolomyya on the slopes of the Carpathian Mountains and on the banks of the Prut River. Nearly 300 years have lapsed since the passing of the Baal Shem Tov and all the while the stories of his miraculous abilities have increased. Yet all fail to fully portray his greatness.

Orphaned from both of his parents at a very young age, he was nonetheless deemed a wonder-child by all who observed his unusual ways.

In his youth he was hired as a “behelfer” in a cheder, meaning he would escort young boys to their teacher and to shul in order to say “Amen” and “Yehei shemei rabba.”

His love of his fellow Jew – even toddlers – by that point nearly defies description. The Maggid M’mizretch commented upon those days, “Hallevai, if only we would kiss a sefer Torah on Simchas Torah with a fraction of the love the Baal Shem would kiss the young students.”

When he turned 18 years old, legend has it, he went out to the forests, as he was accustomed to doing, for special introspection in honor of his birthday. It was there that he met Elijah the Prophet, the first time that he had seen him alone and not in the company of hidden saints. And it was then that a new path in serving the Almighty was hatched, to be known as chassidus.

Yisrael (the Baal Shem Tov) saw his mission as encouraging the masses to have simple and pure faith and to pray with intense concentration. Critical was ahavas Yisrael and allegiance to pious Torah leaders. And everything was to be done with paramount joy and a constant awareness of G-d’s presence in all of life’s facets.

The Baal Shem Tov and a group of devoted followers would travel to the most faraway townlets to teach the children aleph-beis and rudimentary Judaism. They would establish educational systems for the youth and pay equal attention to their parents.

Focusing first on the lower classes and those most hard hit from the massacres and the pogroms, the Baal Shem Tov would not only raise their spirits but assisted in their livelihoods. Only then would he tend to the scholars who also sought his counsel.

The Baal Shem Tov’s message was not only tailor-made for the people, but it was precisely what they desperately needed to hear. Without fire and brimstone, righteous indignation or even a hint of castigation, he built up the bitter souls with a message of love.

Love for one Jew toward another, and unrestrained love of the Lord.

With boundless love and compassion, the Baal Shem perceived a spark, although sometimes dormant, of holiness in every Jew. It was this ember that he constantly tried to ignite. He never threatened or instilled fear, invoked purgatory or employed righteous indignation. His message was clear, simple and short: a fulfillment of the Talmudic dictum, “G-d desires the heart.”

Another principle that was drilled was that “no place is bereft of G-d’s Presence.” A philosopher once stated, “I took apart the world and didn’t find G-d.” In response, a violinist remarked to him, “That’s akin to me saying I took apart my violin and didn’t find music.” A person needs to look at the harmony of the whole world in order to behold G-d.

The result of the Baal Shem’s approach was magic. The masses flocked to him and found comfort and hope in lives that had been previously miserable and desolate. A heavy burden was lifted from their shoulders.

The Baal Shem Tov’s enthusiasm and pleasant countenance was contagious, and villagers freely welcomed guests into their modest hovels – fulfilling the Talmudic adage, “hospitality is greater than greeting the Lord.”

The concept of evil was thoroughly foreign to him. “What shall I do with my son? He is so wicked!” asked a despairing father. “Love him all the more,” was the characteristic counsel of the Baal Shem who shunned reprimands.

The Baal Shem mesmerized whomever he met, and seeing him meant falling under his spell. His repertoire of anecdotes, parables, metaphors and aphorisms was endless, and he appealed to the heart as well as to the mind. The Baal Shem Tov captured the hearts of the poor and the humble; everyone could approach him. The stories and legends of the Baal Shem Tov shine and sparkle in the darkness.

Rabbi Hanoch Teller

Reb Elimelech M’Lizhensk (Part VI)

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

History recounts that the Baal Shem Tov did not appoint a successor, so when he passed away on Shavuos 1760, his only son, Zvi, became the leader for a full year. According to tradition, on the first yahrzeit of his father, the Baal Shem Tov’s son disclosed that he had had a vision of his father relating that the Shechinah (God’s holy presence) had moved from Mezhubesh (the court of the Baal Shem Tov) to Mezeritch and then symbolically removed his white coat and placed it on the shoulders of Reb Dov Ber from Mezeritch.

The Maggid was a masterful imparter of his master’s teachings, but because he was physically weak, restricted to crutches and an ill individual, he could not go out and intermingle with the people. The center of chassidus was transplanted to Mezeritch and whoever was thirsty to hear chassidic teaching would travel there.

Because the Maggid could not physically take the message on the road and to the people like the Master before him, he appointed shalichim (agents) to act on his behalf.

These shalichim entered study halls and they entered beer halls – virtually anywhere that the commoners could be found. When they encountered a Torah scholar they would offer no rest until he would agree to visit the Maggid in Mezeritch, who would invariably enchant – converting a skeptic into a chassid.

Many of these scholars, after having personally imbibed the world of chassidus, would head out to the field and metamorphose towns into chassidic centers.

By the time of 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. He would mold them into inspired teachers and holy men. The Maggid was able to take a man of outstanding potential and develop him into “the tzaddik” that the Baal Shem Tov had described, the very key to the success of chassidus.

The popularity of the rise of chassidus did not go unnoticed by those who did not share the same allegiance. 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 all of this had changed by 1772.

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

But the nascent movement of chassidus not only leapt passed geographic boundaries, but 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 kabalistic texts was disregarded by the chassidim, creating panic and alarm that the influence of Shabbetai Zvi 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 story is told of an ignorant, shepherd-boy who entered a synagogue on Yom Kippur 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 hoist and transport all the prayers of this assembly into the portals of Heaven.”

(To be continued)

Chodesh tov – have a pleasant month!

Rabbi Hanoch Teller

Reb Elimelech M’Lizhensk (Part IV)

Friday, January 20th, 2012

Reb Elimelech M’Lizhensk was considered one of the finest students of the Baal Shem Tov’s successor, the Maggid MiMezretch. When the Maggid passed away, his disciples gathered for the funeral and then had to decide who would succeed their master. The consensus was that there was a need for a leader that was robust and energetic, articulate and charismatic, who would know how to watch over his flock and even, if necessary, to engage in battle. Once these guidelines were established, the question of succession would become a mute one.

Unanimously the disciples elected to crown Reb Elimelech, and they chanted in unison, “Yechi adoneinu v’rabbeinu – Long live our master and teacher, Reb Elimelech!” From Mezeritch the group of chassidim departed to Lezhensk, with Reb Elimelech at the head of the procession. The group continued until evening descended, and it was necessary to lodge for the night. They entered an inn along the way and requested a single room for their newly appointed master.

To the great astonishment of the chassidim Reb Elimelech requested pillows and covers from the innkeeper – as if he were planning to retire for the entire night. Several hours later the chassidim were, well, appalled that their new master was still sleeping like a commoner.

The Maggid who had preceded him had never allowed himself more than a few hours of sleep. Without anyone saying a word, there was a profound sense of regret over their choice of leader. Still, no one had the temerity to arouse Reb Elimelech. But when several more hours passed and Reb Elimelech remained sleeping, they knew they had to do something. They summoned Reb Zusha, who was with them at the inn, to awaken his brother.

“Waking Rebbe Elimelech is the simplest thing in the world,” he commented, as if he was just asked by the trembling chassidim to tie a shoe. And with that he entered the room where his brother was sleeping and placed his hand over the mezuzah in the room. At that instant Reb Elimelech jumped out of bed.

The confounded chassidim asked Reb Zusha to explain what they had just beheld. “As you know,” Reb Zusha began, “man must envision the name of God before his eyes at all times. But what is one to do when he slumbers? The answer is that he relies on the ineffable name inscribed in the mezuzah.

“Thus, when I covered over the mezuzah, my brother no longer had anything to rely on, and he was therefore compelled to awake and envision the Almighty before his eyes.” All of the chassidim released a pent-up collective sigh of relief.

With Reb Elimelech at the helm, Lezhensk became the Jerusalem of the chassidic world. Like Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov, Rabbi Elimelech could establish instant rapport with both scholars and the masses.

Similarly, when he detected the need, he would take up the wanderer’s staff and visit far off villages and distant hamlets. In this way he came to understand the economic struggles, as well as the spiritual needs, of his people.

In the course of 13 years, Rabbi Elimelech armed his followers with weapons that enabled them to survive the onslaughts of the misnagdim. These weapons were prayer, kindness and compassion. Not undeservedly was he called not only Rebbe Elimelech, but also “the Second Baal Shem Tov.”

Because Reb Elimelech devoted all of his time and energy to serving the Lord, he didn’t have the means to support his family. There was never enough to eat, and the most modest and essential needs were barely met.

There was one businessman who davened in the same minyan as Reb Elimelech and he could not fail to notice the plight of the young man who spent his entire day immersed in Torah study. Therefore, every day he would discreetly place a coin into the tallis bag of Reb Elimelech. After awhile the businessman realized that his financial dealings were improving and his profit was increasing.

It didn’t take long before it became manifestly clear that his support of the poor scholar was a source of untold blessing. Hence he began to up his donations, and the increase in his personal income was commensurate to his contributions. In no time he had become a wealthy man.

One day Reb Elimelech was absent from shul. The businessman nervously inquired about the whereabouts of his goldmine and was informed that Reb Elimelech had departed to visit his rebbe, the Maggid of Mezeritch. The man made a quick calculation. If he had done so well by contributing to a student, then he would surely gain by donating to the master! Accordingly, he set off for Mezeritch and handed the Maggid a handsome donation. The man returned home confident that he had made the greatest investment of his lifetime.

Rabbi Hanoch Teller

Neglecting The Shul

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

Neglecting The Shul

Once a regiment of Austrian soldiers visited the city of Rimanov. Lacking pro­per facilities to house the troops, the com­manding officer decided to use the main shul in the city for their quarters.

When the Jews of the city were no­tified they became fright­ened. Their only house of worship would now be desecrated. The officials of the congregation pleaded with the officer, but to no avail.

In desperation they ran to their rav, the pious saint, Rav Mandl, to inter­cede for them. While they were discussing the mater with him, one of the balebatim remarked, “There is yet a chance that the army will not use the shul.” They turned towards him and asked, “why?”

“They would be foolish if they do,” he replied. “The walls are shaky, the roof is leaking and the whole appearance of the shul is drab and dirty.”

When the rav heard this he jumped up in anguish and exclaimed: “Now I know why Hashem punished us with this frightful confiscation of our shul. If we, ourselves, have no consid­eration for Hashem’s house, if we do not re­spect it enough to keep it clean and tidy and in good order, then why should Hashem have consideration for us? He decided to turn it over to the army, for they may take better care of it.

“This I advise to do immediately,” continued the rav. “Hire carpen­ters and laborers to repair the shul. Beautify it until it becomes the holy place it was supposed to be.”

The elders of the congregation rushed away immediately and engaged workers to repair and beautify the shul. They worked continuously, day and night, until the shul was once again a beautiful place to behold.

A few days later, the general of the army arrived to inspect the shul and to put his final approval upon it. He spent many hours examining and mea­suring. Finally, he announced that the shul was too small to be used. In­ asmuch as there was no larger hall in Rimanov, they decided to move to the next town where there were larger quar­ters for the entire regiment.

 

Foretells The Future

Reb Shaul, son of Reb Yisrael Shlomo of Slobodka tells the following story of the Baal Shem Tov:

A count who was noted for his anti-Semitism, heard that the Baal Shem Tov was visiting one of the towns in his province. Having heard that the Baal Shem Tov was able to predict the future and because of it he attracted a multitude of followers, the count ordered his servants to bring the Baal Shem Tov to him, by force, if necessary.

When he was brought before the count he was asked, “Is it true that you are able to see the future? For many of my subjects swear by you.”

The Baal Shem Tov had little choice but to say, “Yes.”

Drawing out his sword, the count said, “If that be the case, then tell me when will you die?”

The Baal Shem Tov realized the count intended to harm him.  If he responded by saying that he would live a long time, the count would kill him immedi­ately to show the Baal Shem Tov was a liar; and if he said that he would die today or tomor­row, he would intentionally let him live so as to prove him a liar and a charlatan.

With a prayer in his heart the Baal Shem Tov answered: “My lord, G-d will never reveal the day of death of any mortal. But this I know, the one day following my death, my lord, the count will also die.”

The count was amazed at this pro­found answer. He was afraid to kill the Baal Shem Tov for fear that his prophecy would come true and he would die the following day. The Baal Shem Tov left for home in peace.

 

Being Kind To Other People

The Chofetz Chaim (Rav Yisrael Meir HaCohen of Radin) would always point out that gemilas chesed doesn’t only involve giving money to the needy, but it also meant being kind to others. It meant in­viting guests to your home, escorting them home when it was dark, arranging the wedding of a poor bride and groom, vis­iting the sick and the bereaved and all the ­little things in life which makes the other persons happier.

Once, during a long winter night in Shevat, after praying Maariv, the Cho­fetz Chaim sat down to learn and review the Gemara. As was his custom, he placed the bottom of his long frock alongside of him, not wishing to sit on it and crease it. The Gaon became so engross­ed in his studies that he didn’t notice an elderly man stretch out on the bench alongside of him and place his head on his frock. The poor man was homeless and tired and he soon fell asleep.

Rabbi Sholom Klass

Reb Elimelech M’Lizhensk (Part II)

Thursday, November 24th, 2011

The parents of Reb Elimelech M’Lizhensk, Eliezer Lipman and his pious wife, Mirish, emanated from families that could trace their lineage all the way back to Rashi, Rav Yochanan Hasandlar of Talmudic fame and even King David. They lived in the townlet of Lapachi, not far from Tiktin.

As Mirish was illiterate in the holy tongue, she would recite her blessings by heart. Reb Zusha testified that at the time that his mother prayed, the Divine presence could be found in the home. On Erev Shabbos she would travel to Tiktin to dispense alms.

One story tells of a group of destitute beggars who came to her home, including a leper covered in ghastly boils. While everyone else distanced himself or herself from this wretched discomfiture, Mirish reached out and saw to his needs. Just before the group’s departure the leper blessed her: “May your children be like me.”

Before she could respond to this worrisome blessing, the entire entourage vanished. She then understood that she had been tested from Heaven.

One day, the Baal Shem Tov – who would travel from town to town and address assemblies of the commoners regarding the value of prayer and the sanctity of the synagogue – visited Eliezer and Mirish’s village. This marked a turning point in their lives. From that day on, they faithfully provided candles to the shul and were meticulous in prayer, as they beseeched the Almighty to open the hearts of their four sons and one daughter to the Torah.

On the sad day that Eliezer Lipman passed from this world, his children gathered for the week of mourning. At the conclusion of the shiva the sons divided their father’s inheritance in the following way: Avraham received the cash and the house was given to Nosson. The jewelry and housewares went to Elimelech and the outstanding debts were to be collected by Zusha.

The division had been thus contrived for Zusha, who was very clever at disguising his ways and who appeared to have plenty of time on his hands. It only seemed fitting that he should be the one to go out and collect the debts.

However, Zusha was in no way suited for this mission, and without a penny from the inheritance, was left destitute. Bereft of any means of support, he decided to travel to his uncle who was an assistant to the Maggid of Mezeritch.

Lodging with his uncle meant constant exposure to the Maggid and, in no time, Zusha became an ardent chassid. In the meantime, Elimelech had moved to his wife’s hometown of Shineva.

After his stay with his uncle in Mezeritch, Zusha departed for his brother, Elimelech. The very long and arduous journey took its toll on Zusha’s attire. His worn-out tatters were far shabbier than those that clad the poorest of beggars.

Ever vigilant of the honor of his in-laws, Elimelech was ashamed to allow his dreadfully-appearing brother into his home. He therefore arranged accommodations for him at the home of a local baker.

However, Zusha’s night was not earmarked for mundane sleep. Those precious hours were devoted to learning, prayer and the loud recitation of tikun chatzos. Zusha’s nocturnal agenda effectively brought an end to his tenancy at the baker’s house and Elimelech had no other recourse but to invite his brother into his own home.

It was there that he was able to observe Zusha’s ways first-hand. This sparked within Elimelech the desire to draw close to the Maggid of Mezeritch.

Reb Zusha convinced his older brother to join him in a self-imposed exile that they would devote to elevating the people that they would encounter. Attired in the clothes of exile, they would travel from village to village to persuade, direct and inspire the people to desist from sin and return to their holy roots. The exile would also, as the Talmud teaches, purify their souls.

Rabbi Hanoch Teller

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/jewish-columns/chodesh-tov/reb-elimelech-m%e2%80%99lizhensk-part-ii/2011/11/24/

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