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Posts Tagged ‘Eliezer Lipman’

Reb Elimelech M’Lizhensk (Part X)

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

To the misnaged-opponent, chassidus was not perceived as a different strand of normative Judaism, nor as a movement to uplift downtrodden Jews – but as an existential threat to Judaism itself. And the threat was no longer viewed as a futuristic potentiality; it was a real and imminent danger, for the movement was no longer limited to just the commoner but had infiltrated the ranks of scholars.

Accordingly, the opponents and their leadership concluded that the time had no longer come to halt the proliferation of the aberrant chassidic movement – but to annihilate it. If there was anything they had learned from the Sabbetai Zvi and Jacob Frank debacles, it was how important it was to crush false prophets at the very first signs, before affording a chance to influence and spread.

Those that had decided upon issuing a cherem (excommunication) against chassidim meant they had decided upon war. Any other move would be too little and too late.

The first stage occurred in 1771 when letters circulated regarding the heresy of chassidus. By 1772 full-fledged excommunication was in the works under the direction of no less a spiritual giant than the Vilna Gaon. The result was that the chassidim were ostracized and excommunicated in Lithuania and Galicia, and a rift had been wedged into the Jewish community.

The war against the chassidim continued to rage after the death of the maggid on 19 Kislev, 1772. With the master’s passing the chassidim concluded that it was time to formulate a counterstrategy. Until then, the battle had remained isolated enough that a single leader was capable of guiding the situation. But this was no longer the case. The battlefront stretched from Sokolov to Vilna, from Slutzk to Pinsk, and from Brisk to Brodi.

The chassidic camp universally felt that there was a need for leaders that were richly endowed with energy and charisma, those who would know how to guard chassidic interests and even be prepared to engage in battle. The candidate who they felt best filled this description was Reb Elimelech, who was to assume the mantle of leadership in Galicia and Poland.

Reb Elimelech was the son of Reb Eliezer Lipman, a leaseholder in the township of Lapachi, near Tiktin. Tradition maintains that Eliezer Lipman was an individual wholly committed to the sake of G-d and His people, outstanding in his love for all Jews. For this reason, chassidic folklore attributes the “crown of charity” to Reb Eliezer Lipman who was known to work sedulously to redeem the imprisoned and repay the debts of poor tenants incarcerated by their rapacious landowners. Everything he did was performed with complete anonymity.

Eliezer Lipman’s wife, Mirish, was also a holy personality who devoted her days to good deeds. Every Erev Shabbos she would travel to Tiktin to dispense alms. One story relates how a group of poor people came to her home. Among them was a leper covered in boils. Everyone avoided this poor soul, but Mirish did not shy away from the opportunity. She exerted herself on his behalf and cared for his needs. Just before the group’s departure, the leper blessed her by saying, “May your children be like me.”

Mirish was frightened, indeed in no small measure revolted by the blessing. But before she could respond, the entire entourage of poor people disappeared. She then understood that she had been subjected to a Heavenly test to gauge her resolve and commitment. Accordingly, the blessing that she received was G-dly in nature and intended for her good.

Mirish was illiterate and did not even know how to read from a siddur. Yet Reb Zusha would testify that when his mother would recite the blessings (which she obviously knew by heart) the Shechinah would hover there. (Obviously only an angel such as Reb Zusha could make such an assertion.)

This pious couple, who lived initially in destitution, were pained that their children were not learned in Torah. As they agonized over their plight, the Baal Shem Tov came to their town. This unknown itinerant would gather crowds of simple folk and regale them about the value of holy and pure prayer and the value of donating to places of worship. The couple was mesmerized by what this man had to say.

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.

Reb Elimelech M’Lizhensk (Part I)

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

Just when it seemed that the Jews could never recover from the ruinous events of the 17th and 18th centuries, their plight was worsened yet, by even heavier taxes imposed by the Polish government. The townsfolk were increasingly hostile, and the police were indifferent to attacks upon Jews and their possessions. As a matter of law, Jews were banished from most professions, forcing a large number of them to engage in agriculture. But they were not allowed to own the land.

They worked for what might be compared to a feudal lord, and was referred to in the colloquial parlance as a “Poritz.” Invariably, the Poritzs were interested in squeezing whatever money they could out of the Jews and mercilessly punished, with full government endorsement, any delinquency in tax or rent.

One of the many Jews who had incurred the wrath of his Poritz had an outstanding debt of 3,000 golden coins. It was off to prison for him and the Poritz made it very clear that he would never see the light of day until his debt was paid in full. These were never vain threats, and the kindhearted and benevolent Reb Eliezer Lipman learned of this poor soul’s plight.

Reb Eliezer engaged in many acts of chesed, including the supreme mitzvah of redeeming Jews from captivity. This time it would be an august challenge, for he only had 1,000 golden coins. Still, he did not falter in his quest and asked to speak with the Poritz.

As he was making his way to the Poritz’s doorstep, he heard torturous moans that he gathered were from the Jewish prisoner held in the mansion’s dungeon. Those awful moans only further strengthened Reb Eliezer’s resolve.

The visitor was shown into the Poritz, who was cordial until he learned the purpose of the call. Any trace of geniality evaporated at the very mention of the prisoner. “The stinking Jew owes me 3,000 golden coins,” the Poritz fumed, “for all of the time that he hasn’t paid his debts. He will rot in the cell to the last of his days, until every coin is received!”

Eliezer attempted to reason with the hardened landowner. “What have you to gain from a prisoner who dies in jail? You are after your money, and this will not return it. Let me pay you all the money that I have, 1000 golden coins, for the freedom of the prisoner and surely the Lord will bless you so that you will not lose out from this deal.”

But the Poritz would not budge; nor would Eliezer give up. Finally, the determined ba’al chesed prevailed, and the prisoner was released.

The Poritz was impressed both by Eliezer’s negotiations and that a perfect stranger would spend 1,000 coins of his own money to redeem a fellow Jew. “I see that you are an upright man,” the Poritz commented, “and I am therefore going to offer you a break. Since you are a flax merchant I recommend that you travel to my brother-in-law who is a flax distributor. I will write you a letter of recommendation encouraging him to give you a substantial discount.”

“Thank you,” Eliezer responded softly, “but I parted with my last coin in order to redeem your captive.”

“In that case,” reflected the Poritz, “here is your money back; invest it wisely with my brother-in-law!”

Joyously, Eliezer departed to the flax distributor armed with his letter of recommendation. The new Poritz read the letter and was amenable to making a sale at a fair price. He had Eliezer escorted to his warehouse so that he could personally inspect the material. Eliezer was impressed by the quality of the flax and it’s low cost.

Just as they were leaving the warehouse, Eliezer heard a tormented shriek and wail from somewhere nearby. “What is that noise?” Eliezer Lipman wanted to know.

“Oh that,” the worker said with a flip of his hand. “It’s hard for me to believe that old Jewish farmhand is still alive. Ever since he was imprisoned he has made such a racket that we have denied him food and drink to quiet him down. Eventually, I guess, it will work…”

Upon hearing this Eliezer dropped the bolt of flax and rushed out of the warehouse to speak with the man he had just negotiated with. Using the money that he had brought for his purchase, Eliezer Lipman managed to redeem the prisoner.

The captive was released in a dreadful state, and Eliezer had a doctor summoned and food gingerly administered. He then invited the man to come to his house for the holiday of Passover that was imminently approaching.

Grateful that he managed to save a fellow Jew before it was too late, Eliezer and his guest were about to set off when the wholesaler called out, “Hey, what about our deal? Don’t you wish to purchase some flax?”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/jewish-columns/chodesh-tov/reb-elimelech-mlizhensk-part-i/2011/10/19/

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