FOR A DAY
The Rebbe Reb Elimelech of Lyszhinsk
was once walking along with another man, when he heard a heavenly
voice, proclaiming a spiritual reward in the World to Come for whoever
would help to relieve the Rebbe Reb Shmelke of Nikolsburg from
the bitter opposition of his antagonists.
"Did you hear a voice just now?" Reb Elimelech asked. "No,"
said his companion. "Well," thought the tzaddik, "Since
only I heard it, it is clear that I am the one who ought to go to
Arriving there, he asked Reb Shmelke for permission to preach in
the synagogue in order to rebuke the congregation. Said Reb Shmelke:
"What good can that do, when they never listen to any words of
rebuke?" But his guest entreated him earnestly, so he finally
gave his permission.
Soon enough, the synagogue was filled with people who were eager
to hear the guest preacher. In the course of his sermon, Reb Elimelech
proved to them by all manner of ingenious hairsplitting but specious
arguments that there were ways and means of voiding various prohibitions
specified in the Torah. This kind of teaching was very much to their
At the end, he announced that he would preach again the next day,
and almost all the townsfolk flocked to hear him. He ascended the
pulpit, and proved to them - this time with valid reasoning - that
not only was what he had taught them the previous day not correct:
in truth it was forbidden to transgress not only those prohibitions
explicitly set out in the Torah, but also the slightest prohibition
ordained by the Sages.
His heartfelt words aroused a feeling of repentance in the hearts
of all his listeners. They wept, contrite, and said to each other,
"He's telling us exactly what our rabbi had been telling us all
along, but we didn't want to take notice. We really ought to go to
his house and ask for his forgiveness!"
So they went to Reb Shmelke, and asked him for pardon, promising
to heed his words from then on, explaining that the visiting preacher
had shown them that Reb Shmelke had been in the right.
As for Reb Elimelech, he took his leave of Reb Shmelke, and took
to the road. A little way out of Nikolsburg he was addressed by a
voice from heaven: "Because you helped Reb Shmelke, whomever
you will bless during the next twenty-four hours will be blessed."
Reb Elimelech walked on, overjoyed at his gift - but deep was his
disappointment when after many long hours on the road he had not encountered
one solitary fellow Jew on whom to bestow his blessing. Heartbroken,
he sobbed out his plaint to His Maker: "So You've given me a
gift for twenty-four hours. But I cannot use it, because I have not
met a single Jew. Tell me, whom can I bless?"
As he finished his prayer, he saw a woman walking in the fields,
and ran over to her and immediately began to bless her. Seeing that
the poor woman was taken aback, he tried to put her at ease. "Be
not afraid, my good woman," he said; "I am not a malevolent
being." Having reassured her, the tzaddik blessed her
again, and she went on her way.
From that day on, all her husband's and her affairs prospered so
much that they became extremely wealthy. They moved to a bigger city,
where they conducted their merchandising on a grand scale. They concluded
that without a doubt the unknown stranger who had blessed them was
none other than the Prophet Eliyahu, of blessed memory. The newly
wealthy merchant became a great philanthropist, and instructed his
servants that they could disburse charity on his account to the extent
of one gold coin without even consulting him, although for larger
amounts they had to ask him.
Many years passed. One day, Reb Elimelech and his brother Rebbe
Zusya of Anipoli decided to travel about in order to collect money
for the ransom of Jewish captives. Hearing that in a certain city
there was a very generous magnate, they set out to visit him. His
servants offered them a dinar of gold, which they declined. It was
explained that for greater sums they would have to ask the master
directly. The guests were admitted to the room of the merchant, but
no sooner did his wife set eyes upon Reb Elimelech, then she took
fright and fainted. The household was in turmoil.
When she came to, she told her husband: "Do you know who that
is? It is Eliyahu the Prophet, who blessed me many years ago. Now
he has returned; it must be to take back all the wealth that he gave
"Do not fear," said Reb Elimelech. "I am not Eliyahu
the Prophet, and I have not come to take away your wealth. I am just
an ordinary Jew, except that it was G d's will that my blessing that
day was fulfilled."
The merchant then asked: "How much do you need to ransom your
When they told him that they needed five hundred gold coins in all,
he quickly fetched them the whole sum.
"We want to enable other Jews to have a share in this great
mitzvah too," they said, and refused to accept his offer.
After he implored them to change their minds, they agreed to accept
half the sum. Then, amid a warm exchange of farewells, they took their
[Selected by Yrachmiel Tilles from A Treasury of Chassidic
Tales on the Festivals (Artscroll-translations-adaptations by my
esteemed colleague, Uri Kaploon).]
Rabbi Elimelech of Lyszhinsk (1717-21 Adar 1787), was a senior
disciple of the Maggid of Mezritch, successor to the Baal
Shem Tov. "The Rebbe Reb Melech," as he is affectionately
referred to, was the acknowledge leader of the Chassidic movement
in Poland after the death of the Maggid in 1772. Nearly all of the
great Chassidic dynasties in Poland and Hungary emerged from his disciples
and their descendants. His book, Noam Elimelech, is one of
the most popular Chassidic works of all time.