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Chapters on Rebbe Elimelech

From Gog Umagog

When I take cognizance of the constant fasts from one Sabbath until the next and all the other afflictions that suck out the vigor of the haughty person as well as the distraught person, I have heard that there indeed are Hassidim in the world. I said to myself: Perhaps it is worthwhile to look at them and to see what type of strange creatures they are since they think that one can attain anything without afflictions - and in those days a Hassid came to me that returned from the house of his rabbi. I asked him: What did you hear from your rabbi? He answered me: I have heard that Torah as it is written should not be cleansed with soda... I asked him: Where does your rabbi dwell? He answered me: In Lizhensk. I immediately heard the footsteps of our rabbi Rabbi Elimelech of holy blessed memory.

Our rabbi Rabbi Elimelech did not treat this meal with utmost importance[3]. After the Sabbath, he would sit by the table and dip crusts of bread into hot water that had not been sweetened, in order to fulfil his obligation. Once it happened that on an eve of the Sabbath in the afternoon, a man came to him dressed in the clothes of a fisherman and holding a bag of fish in his hands. He stood before our rabbi, spoke to him in Polish, and asked him to buy the fish from him. Our rabbi told him to go to his wife. The man went to the rabbi's wife and she sent him away, claiming that she had already prepared everything for the Sabbath, and she no longer had any need for fish. Our rabbi looked at his visage, and told him to return to his wife and tell her in his name that she should purchase, if not all of the fish, at least some of them. Nevertheless, the rabbi's wife stood her ground. The man returned and came back a third time, took out the fish from his sack, tossed them on the ground when they were still twitching, and grunted: "You would do well if you would prepare them for the feast of the king". Our rabbi of Lizhensk immediately raised his eyebrows (he had large eyebrows and he often raised them when he wanted himself to be clearly understood by somebody), looked into the eyes of the fisherman for a short period of time and said: "I have no more energy to make your meal as it is fitting. However I promise you that my son who comes after me will be very meticulous in making the meal as is proper". Therefore the children of our rabbi Rebbe Elimelech customarily eat fish at the Melave Malka meal.

"With regard to death, with regard to death..." Yaakov heard and laughed: Lizhensk, the city of our rabbi Rebbe Elimelech, has high mountains surrounding it that are covered with forests. On occasion, before dawn, our rabbi would cross the bridge over the river San to walk by himself over the rolling hills. When he came to the summit the hill, where the trees surround it as a cube, he would sit down. The people of Lizhensk referred to this place as the grove of Rebbe Melech[4], and the rock that is on top as the table of Rebbe Melech. Every year, on Lag Baomer, young schoolchildren would go up to this place, play, run around, shoot bows and arrows on top of the table of Rebbe Melech.

The rabbi Rebbe Elimelech lived in his final years among people closest to him in an ascetic manner, separating himself from people, and the affairs of his students were given over to the hands of Rabbi Yehuda Leib. He would call his most diligent and faithful students "the guardians of the head". It was not known whom "the guardians of the head" were supposed to protect, and from whom they were supposed to protect.

When Rebbe Elimelech sensed that his end was drawing near, he called the most dear of his students to his bedside, including the three who were most dear to him: Rabbi Yaakov of Lublin (known as the Chozeh - with whom the rabbi had made up one year previously); Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Rymanow, who was very peaceful and placid; and Rabbi Yisrael the Magid of Koznice. All stood, with the exception of Rabbi Yisrael of Koznice, who sat because of his great weakness. At that time, Rebbe Elimelech lifted his hands to his eyes. As his eyes began to dim, he moved them toward the Chozeh, who stood bent over his hands, and put them over his eyes. Afterward he grasped his head that was streaming with sweat, and immediately thereafter put his hands around the head of Reb Mendel. Finally he put his right hand to his heart, which was already preparing to take its final beat, and then touched the heart of Rabbi Yisrael. From that time on, on occasions when the three of them were together in one place, their Rebbe dwelt among them.