# 333 (s5764-25/ 17 Adar)

A Reasonably Priced Sermon

Ascending the platform i nthe synagogue, Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk did something very strange.


A Reasonably Priced Sermon

The Rebbe Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk used to wander around in self-imposed exile, dressed as a very simple peasant - with a short jacket and a straw belt.

Once he came upon the town of Zarnovtzeh, and asked an official of the Jewish community to be allowed to speak in the shul. Due to his simple appearance, the official denied his request. When he persisted in asking, the official finally pushed him out of the shul. When the official's young son, Avner, saw this, he asked his father, "What does it matter to you if this poor man earns a few rubles by giving a sermon? If he's asking to be allowed to speak, surely he must be capable of doing so!"

Moved by his son's words, the official recanted - presenting Rebbe Elimelech with a note which indicated he was allowed to speak. The caretaker of the Jewish community informed everyone that there would be a guest speaker in the shul. The entire Jewish community came to the shul to hear Rebbe Elimelech's words.

Ascending the platform, Rebbe Elimelech did something very strange: he remained silent. He gazed around the room, as if looking for someone. Finally, a member of the audience piped up, "Who is it that you're looking for? The whole town is here!"

"There is a smell of immorality here, G-d forbid," was Rebbe Elimelech's strange reply.

Incensed by these derogatory remarks, the people wanted to hit him. He ran out of the shul, with the crowd chasing after him. He didn't take a straight path, but a rather twisted one. Finally, they came to a rather wide gate, like that of a horses' stable, which was open on two of its sides. And then they saw…the town shochet [ritual slaughterer] with a non-Jewish woman. They ceased chasing him, having understood his words, and what he was looking for.

But Rebbe Elimelech was still running with all his might, thinking that the whole town had continued to chase him. However, the only one who had followed him this far was the young Avner, who didn't really understand what he had seen. But he knew one thing - if this man would have been allowed to speak, he would have earned some money. Now that the townspeople had chased him out of the shul, he was unable to earn his fee.

With these thoughts, he ran after Rebbe Elimelech, shouting, "Stop, stop! No one is chasing you any more!"

"What is it, young boy?" asked Rebbe Elimelech.

"Surely you need to be paid for your sermon. I can pay you! Why should you lose out just because the people wouldn't let you speak?"

"Your money belongs to your father, and you cannot give it to me without his permission."

"My father gives me four large coins every day, and I've saved some of it."

"In that case," responded the Rebbe, "I will take it."

"Here's eight gold pieces. That's what one gets for a guest sermon in our town."

"Son, how can I bless you?" asked Rebbe Elimelech.

"However you wish," was Avner's response.

Putting his hand on Avner's head, the Rebbe Reb Elimelech said, "I bless you that we should become mechutanim (related through marriage)."

* * * * *
Avner grew up, became wealthy and well known. Eventually, a match was made between a granddaughter of R. Avner's and a grandson of Rebbe Avraham Yehoshua Heshel of Apta [the "Ohev Yisrael"]. The young man was also a great-grandson of the Rebbe Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk, who had already passed away.

The "Ohev Yisrael", a disciple of Rebbe Elimelech, made the trip to Zarnovtzeh for this wedding. In fact, over seventy Chassidic Rebbes were present. Among them were the Chozeh [Seer] of Lublin and the holy Yid of Pshischa.

Arriving at his hosts', the "Ohev Yisrael" inquired of R. Avner, "How did you deserve such mechutanim, especially the Rebbe Reb Elimelech? Tell me about yourself and your deeds."

R. Avner replied that he is very hospitable, taking in guests. He gives generous amounts of tzedaka [charity]. He is careful to set aside time for Torah study.

With each attempted answer, the "Ohev Yisrael" responded, "It's not because of that. Try to remember.…"

R. Avner delved deeply into his memory, trying to find some incident in his life which would be a fitting answer to the "Ohev Yisrael". Finally, he remembered the above incident with the poor "speaker." He hadn't thought of it before because he never discovered that the man he helped was actually the Rebbe Reb Elimelech.

When he finished the story, the "Ohev Yisrael" said, "Now tell me, exactly what did he look like?"

Upon hearing R. Avner's description, the "Ohev Yisrael" nodded in approval. "That's it! That poor man was the Rebbe Reb Elimelech, and it was from his blessing that you merited becoming his mechutan!"

[Excerpted and adapted by Yrachmiel Tilles from
"I Remember You From the Rebbe," as translated and adapted by his good friend Yitzchak Dorfman from a story in "Ohel Elimelech," plus other sources, for publication on www.modzitz.org.]

L'iluy nishmos: R. Yehuda ben Yitzchak [Dorfman], yahrzeit, 29 Adar II; Feiga bas Shmuel, yahrzeit, 10 Nisan; Chaya Sarah [Dorfman] bas Baruch hakohen, yahrzeit, 17 Nisan.

Biographical note:
Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk (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 works.


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.

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