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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘exile’

It’s Time to Shut Down The Press

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

The Jewish Press reports that Kosher Delight is closing its doors in New York, the third Manhattan kosher emporium to do so this year. The real question is: when will “Galut Delight” close up shop? When will the exile lose its delight in the eyes of Diaspora Jews? When will we understand that we don’t belong in gentile lands, no matter how delightful and kosher our Jewish communities may be?

Just as it has led the way in so many vital Jewish issues in the past, I call upon The Jewish Press to once again lead the way now. That’s right my good friends, the time has come to close up shop at The Jewish Press and transfer the whole operation to Israel. True, The Press must go on, but in the Holy Land, not in Brooklyn, smoggy LA, or sunny South Florida. It’s time to lead the way by example, to be the Peter Piperman of the Jews in Diaspora, and close down the doors to The Jewish Press building. Pack up the computers, throw all the back issues and archives into crates, register with Nefesh B’Nefesh, and get on the plane! If need be, in order to give the management and staff a feeling of security, you can tear down the building brick by brick, and rebuild it in Talpiot on the outskirts of Jerusalem, or, even better, on a windy hilltop in the Shomron. No more major headlines about kosher delis and neighborhood eruvs; no more Manischewitz wine, Empire Chickens, and High Holidays in the Catskills. It’s time to say goodbye to Columbus and the boroughs of New York, and say shalom to Avraham, Yitzhak, and Yaacov in the Promised Land. From this day on, let the word go forth from The Jewish Press that we have to do everything in our power to eliminate the exile, not to enjoy and strengthen it, God forbid.

But why listen to me? Rabbi Meir Kahane was one of the people who helped make The Jewish Press the great beacon of light that it is. This is what he has to say about the imperative to eliminate the exile, in his book, The Jewish Idea.

From Chapter 34, “Elimination of the Exile”

How many souls have been lost and destroyed under the pressure of assimilation in the exile! “For she has cast down many wounded; yea, a mighty host are all her slain” (Prov. 7:26). Surely, this, alone, makes every Jew duty-bound to “cry out, and not hold back!” (Isa. 58:1).

As Isaiah proclaimed, “Depart! Depart! Get out of there! Out of her midst! Touch nothing impure! Be you clean, you who bear the Lord’s vessels” (Isa. 52:11). Isaiah is calling upon Israel, the “bearers of the Lord’s vessels,” because they bear the yoke of God’s mitzvot, to depart the defilement of the exile. Metzudat David comments, “Cleanse yourselves of all defilement, you who bear the Lord’s vessels,” and Ibn Ezra comments:

“Get out of there”: Every single Jew from the place of his exile; “Touch no unclean thing”: Separate yourselves from the nations of the world; “Get out of her midst”: Everyone from the country of his exile.

Rashi wrote, “Get out of her midst: The midst of the exile.”

Likewise, Jeremiah said regarding the Babylonian exile, “Flee the midst of Babylon! Exit the land of the Chaldeans! Be the he-goats before the flock!” (Jer. 50:8). Mahari Kra comments, “Jeremiah told them, ‘I know that in the future, whoever is in Babylonia will die by the spear or sword… so flee first, before calamity comes.’”

Today, when the last Redemption looms before us and the Mashiach’s traces are visible, and when we have already merited, through God’s kindness, to return to Eretz Yisrael and establish a State, God’s cry is heard in all its might. Depart! Get out! Depart the defilement of exile, in order to be separated from the nations and protect the purity of God’s Torah; in order to save Jewish souls from the blight of assimilation; in order to sanctify Heaven’s Name by shedding our reliance on foreign governments.

The very exile is a Chillul Hashem, a desecration of Hashem, and our return to Eretz Yisrael is the opposite — Kiddush Hashem, a sanctification of Hashem. The nations’ having control over a Jew, and Israel’s lowliness in the exile, are called Chillul Hashem, in that the non-Jew rules over the People of Israel, and thereby, over the God of Israel, so to speak. I have already made clear that this is Rashi’s intent regarding the verse, “My Holy Name will I make known in the midst of My People Israel. Neither will I suffer My Holy Name to be profaned any more. The nations shall know that I am the Lord, Holy One of Israel” (Ezek. 39:7). Rashi said, “Israel’s lowliness is a Chillul Hashem, in that the nations say of them, ‘These are the Lord’s people, [and they are gone forth out of His land]’ (Ezek. 36:20), yet He is unable to save them.”

The very conquest of Eretz Yisrael by the nations, and Israel’s exile from its land, allow the non-Jew to think that there is no God in Israel, Heaven forbid; because if there were, and if He were truly all-powerful, He would not let the nations destroy His Land and Temple, and exile His People. Even if Israel do not endure real suffering at the non-Jew’s hand, the very fact that they must live in their lands at their mercy, dependent on their tolerance and benevolence, is a Chillul Hashem. Only when Israel dwell in sovereignty and might in their own Land is God’s Name sanctified. If Israel stubbornly refuse to leave the exile, God — with fury poured out — will liquidate their exile in order to blot out the Chillul Hashem. Now is surely the time to “flee before calamity comes.”

In a word, the idea of Israel living under the dominion of the nations and their alien culture, is by definition a Chillul Hashem, and clashes with God’s will to establish a chosen, treasured People in a chosen, treasured Land. There, Israel would be separated and isolated from the nations’ cultures and alien beliefs, fulfill pristine, complete Torah lives, and establish a sovereign, independent state and society under God’s rule, and that is a Kiddush Hashem.

Every Jew has a sacred, absolute duty to live in Eretz Yisrael, because living in the exile contradicts and profanes God’s will.

What mental gymnastics and sophistries are employed to justify loathing the Desirable Land! Just as God liquidated the exile in Egypt and allowed no Jew to remain, killing those who refused to leave for Eretz Yisrael, so, too, in this period of final Redemption, God will liquidate the exile with fury poured out and will annihilate any who refuse to leave it — Heaven help us!

God took the Land from the nations and removed them from it, and He brought Israel into it so that they would keep His Torah and mitzvot. From the moment God decided to give the Land to Israel, it became Eretz Yisrael, the Land of the People of Israel — God’s Land which He gave Israel to use as the Holy Land.

It is a mitzvah and duty upon every Jew to live in Eretz Yisrael, and a Chillul Hashem when Israel lives outside of it. Furthermore, once God decreed that Israel must be separated from the nations and their alien, dominant culture, it clearly is forbidden to let the non-Jew live in Eretz Yisrael unless he is denied mastery and sovereignty over the Land and willingly accepts this. No non-Jew has the slightest right to ownership over the Land, and any non-Jew who denies God’s mastery and the ownership of His People Israel over the whole Land is rebelling against God, denying God’s sovereignty on earth and profaning God’s Name. He has one fate — to leave the Land or to relinquish his right to existence.

Over 1,000,000 Jews in New York and God Weeps!

Friday, June 15th, 2012

A couple of days ago, The Jewish Press reported that there are over a million Jews living in New York. Nearly half of them are “Orthodox.” What’s the celebration? Hashem gazes down from the Heavens at His children in New York City and weeps. That’s right. That’s what our Sages teach in the Talmud. During the night, the Holy One Blessed Be He sits and roars like a lion, saying, “Woe to the children who I have exiled among the nations of the world” (Berachot 3A). It’s like a King who builds a beautiful palace for his children, but they don’t want to live there. They prefer to hang out with the harlots. If we feel proud that there are a million Jews living in New York (when they could very easily be living in Israel), then something is very wrong with our Jewish Identity. On the contrary, we should all hang our heads down in disgrace.

But why listen to me? Let a real Rabbi explain it to you. Rabbi Meir Kahane was a true Jewish leader. For example, he could have gone into politics in America but he chose to go into politics in Israel instead, because he wanted to teach the Jews of America that they belong in the country of the Jews, and not in the countries of the gentiles. He wanted to teach them that Jerusalem was their capital, and not Washington D.C. Rabbi Kahane wanted to show by his personal example that what was really important for a Jew was what was happening in the Eretz Yisrael, and not when a new kosher pizza shop was opened in Boston or Beverly Hills. Yes, the pastrami and corned beef may be better in Brooklyn, but, personally, I’m happier eating a felafel on rye in Jerusalem, knowing I’m in the place where Hashem wants me to be.

Here’s part two of Rabbi Kahane’s chapter on the Mitzvah of Living in Israel, condensed from his book, The Jewish Idea:

Eretz Yisrael is acquired through suffering and devotion. The deterioration in our values, and the blunting of Israel’s emotional attachment to Eretz Yisrael, emerged because we distorted the halachah, due to the wretched exile which conquered our minds and souls. We are also tempted to flee the difficult challenge and duty of isolating ourselves from the nations, and the hardships of earning a living in rebuilding our homeland. It all goes back to our Sages’ comment in Berachot 5a: “God gave Israel three fine gifts and all come only through suffering: Torah, Eretz Yisrael and the World-to-Come.”

A person’s whole life is a test to see whether he will accept the yoke of Heaven and of mitzvot. There is nothing precious that does not exact a heavy price. Eretz Yisrael, a precious gift, requires self-sacrifice, as befits a treasure of the Chosen People.

Wherever we go, we are obligated to prove our faith and trust in G-d, and certainly so in Eretz Yisrael, the Chosen Land, symbol of Israel’s isolation and their belief that “The Lord alone guides them” (Deut. 32:12). Yet time after time we have failed in this. Our Sages learned (Tanchuma, Tazria, 6):

“A kohen who used to observe plague-spots (see Lev. 13) became poor and wished to leave the Land. He summoned his wife, saying… “Let me teach you how to observe plague spots. If you see that the well-spring of a person’s hair has dried up, know that he is smitten, for God created a well-spring for every single hair to drink from”… His wife replied, “If God created for every hair a well-spring of its own, how much more so will He provide a livelihood for you, who are a human being, with much hair, and have children whom you support!” Therefore, she did not let him leave the Land.

Lack of trust in God’s ability to support and defend us was, from time immemorial, the plague that severed us from the great mitzvah of living in the Land, causing us to distort the mitzvah and contrive all sorts of warped excuses to exempt ourselves from it.

How could we as a nation have failed regarding this mitzvah, fleeing the suffering entailed in the settlement of Eretz Yisrael, when ultimately it is the greatest gift God gave us? As it says (Jer. 3:19), “I gave you a Desirable Land.” So terribly has the cursed exile warped our nation, that many see no personal duty to leave the exile, and they do not at all consider it a punishment! What a perversion this is! This is a distortion of the Torah — through love of the Exile.

The Diaspora Has Failed!

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

Yesterday, my wife and I visited the yeshiva high school in Maale Hever, where one of our sons will be learning next year. The settlement is located on the edge of the Judean Desert about ten minutes south of Hevron. As we were driving, I remembered back some 30 years ago to my first trip to Israel, how I was blown away by the biblical scenery along this very same road to the City of our Forefathers. The vineyards of Efrata, the terraced landscapes, the holiness shining off the hills, the realization that King David herded his sheep, here, in these very fields, all filled me with the overwhelming understanding, like a bolt of lightning in the darkness, that if I wanted to sincerely embrace a new life of Torah, as Torah was meant to be lived, in all of its freedom, pride, and holy beauty, then Eretz Yisrael was the “Super Bowl” for a serious Jew.

It is impossible to describe the feeling of a visit to Hevron, where we stopped on our way back to Yerushalayim. It’s a little like visiting your mom and dad after a very long absence. This is where our Nation all started. Not in Brooklyn. Not in Los Angeles. Here in Hevron, the history of our Nation begins, in the field of Machpelah, which remains today just as it was when Avraham purchased it. It is impossible to describe the transcendental feeling in the Tomb of the Patriarchs when you recite the Blessing of Avraham at the beginning of the Amidah prayer, and you are standing, trembling with awe and joy, with the realization that Avraham Avinu is here alongside you, with Yitzhak and Yaacov, here, in Hevron, where all prayers gather from all over the world to receive our father Avraham’s blessing before traveling on to Jerusalem, just a short drive down the road.

After praying, I sat with one of my sons and learned the Parsha with him, here in Hevron, where Jewish education all started, feeling that we were a living part of tradition, carrying the mission of the Jewish People forward, educating my son to be a proud Jew in the Land of our forefathers.

This week’s Torah portion of “Bechutotei” states with crystal clear clarity, again and again, that the exile is a curse and a punishment. It equates the exile with a terrible and frightening disease. Its language is brutal and horrific, leaving no room for misunderstanding. Exile from Eretz Yisrael is the worst punishment that can befall the Jewish People.

Given this terrible predicament, the task of Diaspora Jewry was to survive the exile and prepare the wandering and homeless Jewish community for its awaited return to the Land of Israel. The goal of returning to Israel is emphasized in the Torah, and in the visions of our Prophets again and again, more than any other theme. For nearly 2000 years, we prayed and dreamed about returning to Zion. Then something went terribly wrong. When the State of Israel was established, and we finally had the chance to return home to our Land, the vast majority of Jewish communities in the West turned their backs on the opportunity. Instead of wanting to escape the exile, they chose to stay. In defiance of the clear promises of the Torah, the Prophets, and 2000 years of prayers and dreams, in defiance of the clear discernible fact that God was gathering His outcasts back to Zion, and miraculously rebuilding the new State of Israel into one of the superpowers of the world, the Diaspora communities in the West decided to remain where they were, living amongst the gentiles in foreign lands. Instead of rushing to rebuild Israel, and take part in the long-awaited Redemption that was unfolding for everyone to see, they continued to build and strengthen their bastions in golus. After 2000 years of yearning, when the time came to return, they got cold feet. Yes, with their money, they helped a great deal. Out of love for our homeland and concern for the Jews who were rebuilding it, they reach deep into their pockets and gave. They exerted political pressure on Israel’s behalf. But in the matter of coming themselves, by and large, they failed to heed the call and join the hundreds of thousands of secular pioneers, Sefardi Jews, Yemenite Jews, and Holocaust survivors who were returning to Israel, in accord with ancient prophesies, age-long prayers, and the eternal command of the Torah.

Rejoicing Proud Jews: Reflections on Lag B’Omer

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Driving through Israel on a packed bus heading for Meron on Lag B’Omer. Along the way I see small fires lit everywhere, the radio talks about the holiday, the police are directing the public transportation system to bring a million Jews to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.

Many, however, do not know what this celebration is all about. Why do we put so much emphasis on one great rabbi? Why do we make fires all over the country and Jewish world? Why do we go up on mass to Meron, while Jerusalem is emptied?

Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, Rashbi, was a rebel. He rebelled against the Romans, and repudiated their culture. He saw nothing positive about the Roman physical and cultural occupation and was vocal and active against them. The Romans, ever vigilant, closed in on Rashbi and he was forced to flee. His flight was marked by a prolonged period of hiding, and while in a cave, Rashi and his son began writing down the Kabbalah, Jewish esoteric wisdom.

The Romans won. They put down the uprising led by Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Shimon. They killed millions of Jews and exiled millions to Rome, selling them as slaves. They destroyed the Temple and sacked Jerusalem.

Judaism, now bereft of land and Temple, with millions dead and dispossessed, seemed to be on the brink of utter destruction.

But Rashbi and his colleagues put into place a system of surviving the exile. For the next 15 centuries, Judaism would become portable and just as Rashbi went into hiding, so did the Kabbalah, the internal life spirit of Judaism. For fifteen-hundred years did the Kabbala hide, passed secretly amongst the sages. This transmission kept the Kabbala alive through the persecution and the darkness of the exile.

But around 1550 CE a man came to the land of Israel who saw that the era of the exile had come to an end and that the spirit of the Kabbala could now be resurrected.  The man was the Ari HaKadosh, Rabbi Yitchak Luria, and from the holy city of Tzfat, he called on the Jewish people to do two things, to return to the land of Israel and to study the Kabbala – the two things the Romans had taken away from the Jewish people.

The Ari began teaching the Zohar, the Kabbalistic legacy of Rashbi, and he instituted Lag B’Omer, the day that marks the passing of Rashbi as a day of celebration, celebrating the victory of Rabbi Shimon’s war against the Romans 1500 years later. The Holy Ari saw that victory was at hand — the Jews will return to the land and the true Torah will be studied once again.

Indeed, the victory of the Jewish idea is celebrated on Lag B’Omer. It neatly fits between Israeli Independence Day and Yom Yerushalayim. These three days together all have the same spirit which drives them:

*  the liberation of Jewish peoplehood,

*  the return to the land, and

*  the reemergence of authentic Jewish culture which the Romans sought to suppress.

Our fire burns bright in the night, it shall not be extinguished. They sought to extinguish our flame in Rome as in Auschwitz. But we persevered. On Lag B’Omer we celebrate the victory, and we honor the great Jewish fighters who fought for liberation and lost, who hid away our the precious cargo of our holy Torah, who passed it hidden through generations, and who pined away for the great day when we could once again live on our land as proud Jews.

That great day has come.  Chag Sameach!

Here’s My Problem with the Dalai Lama

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

That’s right.  I’m calling out the Dalai Lama.

I have worked with the Tibetan diaspora, met privately with the Dalai Lama (see the picture, above), he grasped my hands and sent energy racing up my arms (no lie), and His Holiness even put a Tibetan prayer scarf (Kata) around my neck, which I still have to this day.  I get it.  He’s the Dalai Freaking Lama.  And everyone loves Mr. Lama.

But here’s my problem with His Holiness in particular, with Buddhists in general – and it also happens to be one of the first things that drew me to Judaism:

Jews understand evil.  Buddhists do not.

As Sara Yoheved Rigler wrote, “Judaism does not just resign itself to a world of darkness.  Judaism advocates jumping into the fray, facing evil head-on.”

“Facing evil head-on” is the defining characteristic of my life.

Wherever and whenever I see evil, my first reaction is to run at it and punch it in the face.  I do this for a living: on behalf of Tibetans, Falun Gong, Israeli Jews, and against anyone who threatens America.

What did the Dalai Lama do when Tibet was threatened by the evil of Communist China?  He retreated into exile.  Since then, Tibet has been virtually destroyed and consumed by its invaders.  That does not mean there were no courageous monks.  A number of them fought valiantly against the Chinese.  But the Dalai Lama was not among them.  He followed the example of Buddha and retreated.  As Maurice Lamm wrote, “buddha, upon seeing death, sickness and poverty, retreated from the world into a life of contemplation.”  In that way, Buddhism is more attuned to peaceful retreat than to facing evil head-on.

When Israel was threatened by its neighbors with destruction, Israel did not retreat.  It faced evil head-on.

That is not to say that all Jews, or even all Israelis, are 100% badasses who fully understand how to deal with evil.  Many Jews today still believe that they can get along peacefully with those whose only aim is to wipe all Jews from the map.

But Judaism, as I have come to understand it, is profoundly “of this world.”  It demands that we take action in this world.  And sometimes that means facing evil head-on.

By contrast, Buddhists believe that “enlightenment” means elevating one’s self out of this world.  Buddhist monks retreat from the world into monasteries, and this particular monk – the Dalai Lama – retreated from his country in 1959 and has lived in exile ever since.  Perhaps the Buddhist lack of understanding of evil is what led the Dalai Lama in May 2010 to declare “I’m a Marxist,” or to say in January 2012 that he was still seeking a “middle-way” policy with the Chinese communist thugs who took over his homeland and butchered his brothers.

That’s my problem with the Dalai Lama.  When evil crawls up your leg with a knife in its teeth you don’t retreat, you don’t meditate on it, and you don’t try to find a “middle-way.”  You kill it.

Jews love life.  But the world’s most evil people (who just happen to be the world’s biggest Jew-haters) proudly declare “we love death more than you love life.”

How do you deal with bad people who love death?

You give them what they love.

http://notajew-jew.com/?p=92

The Audacity of Redemption

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

Natan Sharansky, famed refusenik and former Knesset Member who today heads the Jewish Agency, spent nine years in prison and labor camps in the former Soviet Union. His crime? The desire to live in his ancestral homeland, the Land of Israel. When asked in an interview how he survived the terrible conditions of the Russian Gulag, including 400 days in punishment cells, he answered that his faith, his Book of Tehillim (Psalms), and his feeling of “inner freedom,” gave him the strength and courage to go on. Behind the steel bars, he said, he felt freer than the prison guards who held him captive.

Freedom is a state of mind. And real freedom requires a little chutzpah, audacity.

It has been said, ‘It is easier to take the Jew out of the Exile, than to take the Exile out of the Jew’. While in Egypt, the Jewish people could not even hear Hashem’s promise of Redemption because of their “shortness of spirit” (Exodus 6:9). Even the name Mitzrayim implies constriction and limitations, from the Hebrew meitzar. The bondage in Egypt wasn’t merely a physical bondage, but a mental one. And so, while still in Egypt, Hashem began the process of taking the Jew out of the psychology of Exile, ridding him of his slave mentality.

According to the Midrash, during the plague of Darkness, the Jewish people searched under the cover of night in their Egyptian neighbor’s homes for valuables. Later, when it was time for the Jewish people to ask the Egyptians for those possessions, they would not be able to deny owning them (Shemot Rabbah 14:3). While the image of Jews snooping around for gold and silver always bothered me, this brazenness was necessary to take the ‘Exile out of the Jew’.

A slave’s time is not his own. So the first mitzvah that Hashem gave the Jewish people was to proclaim the New month (Exodus 12:2) – empowering us to create the calendar and proclaim the festivals – making us the masters of our own time and the masters of our destiny.

And in the greatest act of chutzpah, Hashem commands the nascent Jewish nation to slaughter the Egyptian god, and roast it over fire. The Torah is not a recipe book, but requires that the Passover Offering be roasted. Why? Because when you are having a barbeque in your backyard, the whole neighborhood knows! Just imagine what it must have smelled like that night in Egypt, as the Jews prepared to leave.

A little chutzpah is also necessary in our service of God, as individuals.

Rabbi Moshe Isserles (16th C. Poland) writes at the beginning of his commentary to the Code of Jewish Law, “One should not be ashamed in front of another who mocks him in his service of Hashem.” If you are always looking over your shoulder, you’re not free. As Jews, we take pride in eating our unleavened bread and bitter herbs, along with all of the other mitzvot we observe, without wondering what the neighbors will say.

Audacity, or brazenness, got us out of Egypt. That attitude kept us going for 2,000 years without a homeland, and it’s that same attitude that founded the State of Israel against all odds.

No longer are we ‘shtetl Jews’. As of the founding of the State of Israel, Jews are finally free to live and practice their Judaism without looking over their shoulders. But today, the State of Israel is in desperate need of leaders with some chutzpah. Leaders who don’t cower at international pressure or capitulate to the demands of the White House. Leaders who will do what is in the best interest of this country’s safety and security – at all costs. Leaders with some backbone.

The next time you hear someone repeating the old stereotype that Jews are pushy, remember that Jewish survival has always required a little chutzpah.

Arab League States Propose Exile for Assad

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

Arab states have floated a proposal to US and European diplomats whereby Bashar al-Assad would agree to resign and he and his family would be sent into exile, according to a report by Reuters.

There is heavy skepticism that Assad would agree to such an arrangement, but the proposal reveals the extent to which Arab states and the West agree that the only and inevitable solution for the 10-month turmoil in Syria is Assad’s ouster.

While the exile option may be premature – considering the ongoing UN Security Council debate on a draft resolution – three countries have already expressed willingness to give Assad sanctuary in order to end the crisis. Although a European diplomat insisted that there was “no way we’d have him in our countries,” sources said the United Arab Emirates is among those states that would.

Should Assad even agree to exile, the issue of immunity would pose another problem, as Syrian opposition and human rights organizations would likely oppose any deal that grants him immunity for the brutal violence perpetrated in the name of his regime.

“We understand that some countries have offered to host him should he choose to leave Syria,” an Obama administration official was quoted as saying, but “there are significant questions of accountability for the horrible abuses that have been committed against the Syrian people.”

The current Arab-Western draft resolution urges Assad to transfer power to his deputy to allow for a peaceful transition to unity government. Russia insists that it would veto any resolution on Syria that does not explicitly rule out foreign military intervention.

The violence in Syria has resulted in the deaths of almost 5,000 people in the past 10 months, and dissidents reported this week that the regime’s forces have intensified operations on Syrian opposition positions.

Reb Elimelech M’Lizhensk (Part III)

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

Wherever the two holy brothers went on their self-imposed exile they generated a spirit of repentance. Their standard routine was to admonish themselves out loud for their supposed crimes, when in fact their “sins” were precisely the ones that the villager within earshot needed to rectify.

“Mellech, Mellech,” Reb Elimelech would reprimand himself, “how will you ever be able to face your final judgment knowing that you took advantage of your customers’ naiveté?”

“I am certainly no better,” Reb Zusha would join. “How could I,” he mourned, “have avoided davening with a minyan?”

The two of them used their clairvoyant abilities to determine exactly what it was that the locals had transgressed, and then elaborated as to how they would personally be punished for those very same sins. Invariably, this caused the true sinners to be filled with remorse and rectify their sinful deeds. Countless individuals improved their lives this way without having their dignity compromised or having been humiliated in the process.

Wandering from town to village, the holy brothers neglected their physical needs and were sustained solely by meager coins or scraps of food that were donated along the way. One Sunday night they found themselves in a new town on a cold wintry night. The tavern keeper offered to lodge them behind the fireplace that heated the pub.

The two of them took their places on the floor, with Reb Zusha, as always, offering his older brother the preferred spot nearer the fire. No sooner had Reb Elimelech and Reb Zusha retired their weary bones when the tavern began to fill up with Gentiles who had come to celebrate nothing other than their inebriated state. Wobbling and singing as drunkards do, they made themselves merry until they stumbled across a real cause for celebration.

Right before their eyes, innocently sleeping on the floor, was a Jew who could serve as the evening’s entertainment. As many of them were wagon drivers, they were equipped with whips and staffs that could readily enlist the sleeping Jew’s cooperation.

“Up and dance!” they ordered, as they snapped their whips and beat their staffs to ensure immediate compliance. Reb Zusha sprang to his feet and danced energetically for the leering drunks. The wagon drivers were not looking for a quick performance – they had all night – and they unsparingly utilized their appurtenances to assure protracted amusement.

Eventually, however, the drunkards grew tired and allowed Zusha to collapse to the floor. But it wasn’t just one Jew that they had savagely beaten. Reb Elimelech felt every blow on his own back and urgently pressed his brother to exchange places with him. “They’ll be back and then it will be my turn to suffer their indignities.” But in no way did Reb Zusha feel that he was getting the worst part of the deal. Being beaten simply because he was a defenseless Jew was good for the soul, he maintained. And he knew his brother did not dispute this point.

Still, Reb Elimelech would have none of it. He was insistent that they switch places so that when the drunks would decide again to be entertained, he would be the butt of their vile behavior.

And indeed the wagon drivers returned, eager for another dance performance. Not for naught had they entered a tavern.

But in a display of uncharacteristic egalitarianism, they announced that it would only be fair to wake the Jew lying nearer to the fireplace, for the outer one had already made his contribution to the night’s festivities.

Reb Elimelech stood up and explained, or at least tried to explain, that the outer Jew was previously the inner one, for they had switched places. But his entreaties fell upon drunken ears.

Reb Zusha sanguinely accepted his lot and commented, “Mellech, don’t feel bad. You see that one who deserves to be beaten cannot avoid it. Your desire to switch places was willed from Heaven.”

Eventually the wagon drivers tired of their entertainment and they crashed to the floor in a drunken stupor. The brothers arose to recite tikun chatzos and to thank the Almighty for having separated them from inhumane derelicts. Blessed were they to be servants privileged to worship the Almighty.

The holy brothers never forgot those that extended themselves on their behalf while they were in their period of exile. One such individual was Reb Aharon in the village of Ludmir who served as their host whenever they visited this town. Reb Aharon lived in abject poverty, but this never stopped him from extending hospitality and sharing his meager crumbs.

Once Reb Elimelech and Reb Zusha were revealed as famous tzaddikim, and their followers were everywhere to be found, they returned to Ludmir – this time in a horse-drawn carriage. Just as in the past, they turned to Reb Aharon for lodging, which he graciously offered, as always.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/jewish-columns/chodesh-tov/reb-elimelech-mlizhensk-part-iii/2011/12/21/

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