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September 30, 2014 / 6 Tishri, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Reb Elimelech’

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.

Reb Elimelech’s Ascent To Leadership (Part XII)

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

Wandering from town to village, the Holy Brothers neglected their physical needs and were sustained 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 non-Jews 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 be enlisted to acquire the sleeping Jew’s expeditious 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, 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 worse 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, “Melech, 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 tikkun chatzos and to thank the Almighty for having been separated 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 the village. 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.

Overnight, Reb Aharon’s modest hovel became the focus of the town, and masses formed outside the door to seek blessings from the tzaddikim and their intervention in a host of matters.

One of the wealthy merchants in the town felt that he deserved the honor of hosting these famous guests, and he extended his invitation for them to come to his richly apportioned house where they could dwell in perfect comfort. But the brothers flatly refused.

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 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.

Reb Elimelech M’Lizhensk (Part V)

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

Baruch, from the village of Radovitz, was a sharecropper who barely eked out a living. His income was at the mercy of the infamously cruel Poritz, who owned the Radovitz environs. This Poritz had a repertoire of ways to afflict the area’s Jews, and he never eased in his torturous exploitation.

Reb Baruch was not a talmid chacham, but he was a fearer of Heaven and he accepted his lot without complaint. He would travel as often as possible to Lizhensk, where he would bask in the aura of Reb Elimelech’s holiness.

Baruch’s pitiful financial situation did nothing to ease the predicament of his daughters, who were of marriageable age and no fish were biting. The years rolled on and the girls were becoming spinsters worthy of concern. Baruch’s wife was in a constant state of panic over their plight.

“Have faith,” Baruch assured her, but his assurance was of no solace. In fact, his nonchalance inflamed her.

It would never occur to Baruch to disturb Reb Elimelech, who dealt with lofty spiritual matters, over his mundane, petty issue of matches for his daughters. His wife, however, looked at matters differently.

One year, as the Yamim Noraim were approaching, she forbade her husband from traveling to Lizhensk for the holidays, unless he promised he would present his daughters’ situation to the rebbe. As she was well aware of her husband’s soft nature, she threatened that if this request was not faithfully fulfilled he would never see Lizhensk again!

Despite his thorough distaste for his mission, Baruch upheld his word and articulated his daughters’ plight when he greeted Reb Elimelech. He handed the rebbe a kvittel detailing the situation, and Reb Elimelech’s only response was, “For the time being, remain with us here.”

Reb Baruch did as the rebbe instructed and stayed in Lizhensk from Rosh Hashanah through Sukkos. Finally, when he hadn’t even a penny left, he bade farewell from Reb Elimelech on Motzaei Shabbos Bereishis. At that occasion, Reb Elimelech pressed three copper coins into Reb Baruch’s hand and wished him blessings and prosperity.

Reb Baruch was confused. Since when does a rebbe distribute money? But Reb Elimelech had already extended his hand in farewell and Baruch was pushed in the direction of the door by the people swarm of chassidim taking leave of the rebbe.

Reb Baruch headed back to Radovitz and was just approaching the turn to his village when he heard his name beckoned from behind. Baruch turned around and saw a young man who was a regular at Reb Elimelech’s court. “The rebbe has requested that you return,” he said, making the Radovitzer more perplexed than ever.

But even this paled when Reb Elimelech requested Baruch to return one of the coins. “I can only afford to give you two,” Reb Elimelech explained.

Baruch could not – nor would he ever attempt to – fathom what Reb Elimelech had intended. With perfect faith he set off again on his journey with two coins in his pocket, a gift from the rebbe to acquire success.

As he neared Radovitz he encountered three peasant youth wishing to sell him a handsome leather case with a silver, ornate frame. It was the kind of case that the Poritzes used to transport their money. Baruch opened up the case to discover that it was full of multicolored ruble notes of various denominations.

The illiterate youth were willing to sell the case for a song: just three coins, so that there would be an even distribution among them. Reb Baruch frantically searched his pockets, but all he could find were the two coins that Reb Elimelech had given him. What to do?

Reb Baruch proposed that since he only had two coins he would buy the contents of the quality case, that is the colored paper, and they could hold on to the case. The ignorant boys winked at each other regarding the killing they were about to make. Only the case had value in their eyes, and this foolish wayfarer was willing to pay two-thirds of its worth for mere colored paper!

The deal was consummated and the boys walked off with their empty case with the ornate silver trim. They made themselves a warming bonfire and sat down to celebrate their queer business success. However, their celebration did not last for long. They could not work out how to divide two coins and one elaborate case among three individuals.

Their disagreement escalated and they came to blows. The biggest of the ruffians decided to institute a policy of “all or nothing,” and he tossed the leather case into the fire.

Just then the Radovitz Poritz galloped over. The very sight of this evil man was enough to make Baruch’s blood freeze, and the same could be said for all of Radovitzian Jewry. The Poritz got down from his horse and turned to the youth and asked, “Did any of you come across a leather case I lost in this area?”

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.

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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