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Thousands of people from all over the world are expected to visit the Polish town of Lizhensk for the 236th yahrzeit of Rabbi Elimelech Weisblum of Lizhensk ((1717–1787), a.k.a. the Rebbe Reb Elimelech (the “Rebbe Reb” title suggests he was a rebbe to the rebbes), a student of the Ba’al Shem Tov’s proverbial disciple, the Maggid of Mezeritch, and the founder of the cult of the Tzadik in Hasidism.

The yahrzeit will begin tonight, Monday, the 21st of Adar, March 13, and continues until Tuesday at dusk.


United Hatzalah is sending a medical team from Israel as well as an ambulance team from Ukraine who will be providing medical care to the thousands of pilgrims expected to arrive at the Rebbe’s graveside.

Lazer Hayman, Vice President of United Hatzalah’s Volunteer Department, who will be spearheading the mission said: “Each year, thousands of people from all over the world flock to the grave of Rabbi Elimelech. We send a medical team, comprised of volunteers from Israel and our branch in the nearby city of Uman in Ukraine to provide emergency medical care for anyone who becomes ill or suffers an injury during the commemoration. The volunteers, paramedics, and EMTs will be working in shifts around the clock with the assistance of the Lizhensk municipality and local medical teams. In previous years, the pilgrimage passed without any major incidents, and we hope the same continues this year as well.”

The Rebbe Reb Elimelech is most commonly known by the title of his popular book “Noam Elimelech,” a compilation of commentaries on the Torah that stresses the author’s view of the central role of the Tzadik in communicating between heaven and earth. Chabad founder, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the work “Sefer Shel Tzadikim” (a Book of the Righteous).

In his commentary on the Golden Calf (Parshat Ki Tissa which we read last Shabbat), Rabbi Elimelech asks how come Tzadikim die? After all, we know that man is put to death only for his own sin (Deut. 24:16), and if one becomes a Tzadik it stands to reason that he doesn’t sin, then why do Tzadikim die?

The Rebbe explains that this notion we have of the Tzadik’s moral behavior following a 45-degree trajectory ever-upward is wrong, because the Tzadik conducts himself according to the need of his flock. He brings up the example of why Moses broke the tablets when he found out about the golden calf.

There goes Moses, the Rebbe says, coming down to earth after spending 40 days in the upper worlds without food or drink, absorbing God’s laws, and becoming extremely holy. But in this state, he is useless to his flock who are busy desecrating anything that stands in their way. And so, to be available to them Moses must reduce his righteousness, and he does it through an act of anger by breaking the tablets. Maimonides ruled that he who angers it is as if he practiced idolatry – and thus Moses is brought down to the level of his people and can lead them.

This constant routine of expanding and shrinking spiritually takes its toll on the Tzadik, says Rabbi Elimelech, and in the end, this is what kills him.

May we all merit to have the holy bones of this wondrous man be brought home to find eternal rest in Eretz Israel.


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