The city of Brod was renowned for its Torah scholars, the most famous
of whom was the sage Rabbi Moshe Leib. Like many of his colleagues
at the time, he was wary of the new Chasidic movement that was then
The sexton of Rabbi Moshe Leib's synagogue had a daughter who had
been suffering for some time from a mysterious digestive disorder.
When the sexton heard about the Chasidic rebbe, Rabbi Elimelech
of Lizhensk, he decided to go to him to ask for a blessing for
his daughter. The Rebbe gave him some food his wife had prepared,
and instructed him to feed it to the girl. As soon as she tasted it
her pains went away.
The sexton was filled with wonder and appreciation. He was so impressed
by what had happened that he decided to share the good news with Rabbi
Moshe Leib. He urged him to go to Rabbi Elimelech to see for himself.
At first Rabbi Moshe Leib was adamantly opposed to the plan, considering
it a waste of time that could be better utilized studying Torah. "And
besides," he countered, "you know I don't really believe
in these newfangled wonder workers..."
But the sexton was persistent. "On the contrary," he said.
"You, as a rabbi, have an obligation to check him out for yourself.
If you determine that Rabbi Elimelech isn't a true tzadik (righteous
person), you can persuade people not to go to him. But if you find
that he really is a holy man, you will have succeeded in dispelling
a lot of false notions."
In the end Rabbi Moshe Leib consented and traveled to Lizhensk. The
whole way there he thought about what he would say to the Chasidic
master, and composed various questions to test his scholarship and
Rabbi Moshe Leib arrived in Lizhensk on a Friday afternoon. He was
surprised when he saw that Rabbi Elimelech lived in a tiny little
house - not the grand mansion that he had imagined. His surprise grew
when he realized that Rabbi Elimelech himself was standing on the
threshold, waiting for him. The tzadik extended his hand in
"Come in, come in," he said to him warmly. "I've heard
so much about you. They say that you're one of the most distinguished
Torah scholars in all of Brod." Rabbi Moshe Leib felt a surge
"Therefore," Rabbi Elimelech continued, "I'd like
to tell you an interesting story." Rabbi Moshe Leib's face fell,
but the tzadik didn't seem to notice.
"There was once a brave warrior who did battle with a ferocious
lion and succeeded in slaying it. To commemorate his heroic deed,
he skinned the animal and filled its hide with straw. He then placed
the stuffed lion in front of his house so that everyone would know
how strong and courageous he was.
"When the rumor spread that there was a lion guarding his door,
all the animals of the forest came to see for themselves. They stood
at a distance, too fearful to approach. But there was once clever
fox who quickly perceived that the lion wasn't moving. He crept closer,
and with one paw swiped at the beast. When he saw that it wasn't alive,
he tore the skin apart and the straw fell out. All the animals laughed
and returned to the forest."
Rabbi Moshe Leib looked at the tzadik, not comprehending his
meaning. Why had he made the long trip from Brod to Lizhensk? To hear
animal stories? He couldn't believe that Rabbi Elimelech had nothing
more important to do on a Friday afternoon than tell tales. He was
about to say good-bye and return to his inn when the tzadik
continued. "No, don't leave just yet. I have another story to
"There was once a very poor man who had never in his life owned
a new set of clothes. One day his luck changed, and he came into a
large inheritance. The first thing he did was to summon a tailor and
commission a fine new garment as befits a nobleman. The tailor measured
the man from head to toe, and a few days later returned for the first
"The man put on the half-completed suit as the tailor rearranged
the pins and basting stitches and made little markings with chalk.
Ignorant of the way a custom garment is made, the man assumed the
tailor was mocking him and threw him out of the house, despite his
That was the end of the story. Rabbi Moshe Leib, completely confused,
went back to the inn to prepare for Shabbat.
Then it hit him: Perhaps the tzadik was talking about him
with his strange tales? Maybe he was trying to tell him that he was
only a "stuffed lion"? And like the poor man with the new
set of clothes, could it be that he was only posturing as a nobleman?
His whole life would have to be reconsidered...
That evening in the synagogue Rabbi Moshe Leib studied the tzadik
in an entirely different way. He became an ardent disciple of Rabbi
Elimelech of Lizhensk, and later a Chasidic master himself in the
city of Sasov.
[From the rendition by Basha Majerczyk on www.lchaimweekly.org
Basha Majerczyk is the translator of two popular collections of chasidic
stories: Extraordinary Chasidic Tales (Otsar Sifrei Lubavitch)
and (Chassidic Stories Made in Heaven).
Rabbi Elimelech of Lyzhinsk (1717 - 21 Adar 1787), was a major
disciple of the Maggid of Mezritch, successor to the Baal Shem Tov,
and the leading Rebbe of the subsequent generation in Poland-Galitzia.
Most of the great Chassidic dynasties stem from his disciples. His
book, Noam Elimelech, is one of the most popular of all Chassidic
Rabbi Moshe Leib of Sasov [1745 - 4 Shvat 1807] was a disciple
of the Maggid, Reb Shmelke, and the Rebbe Elimelech, and a teacher
of the Seer and the Zhidachover. He was well-known for his extraordinary
dedication to helping widows and orphans and for his creative musical
Yrachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed,
and editor of Ascent Quarterly and the AscentOfSafed.com and KabbalaOnline.org
websites. He has hundreds of published stories to his credit.