The Holiness of Rabbi Elimelech M’Lizhensk
Rabbi Elimelech M’Lizhensk was, without a doubt, one of the greatest and
brightest luminaries of the Chassidic movement, who lived in Poland. His two
most renowned works are a thorough commentary on the Torah called “Noam
Elimelech” (Pleasantness of Elimelech), and a Mussar guide called Tzeit’l Kattan
(“the Short List”), both of which attest to his genius.
Nicknamed after his work “Noam Elimelech”, he advocated a powerful,
fiery service towards Hashem, based on asceticism and denial of pleasures. And,
of course, as customary of Chassidic Rebbes, Rabbi Elimelech expounded much
one the Arizal and the Zohar, often encouraging his students to study them and
incorporate their practices in daily life. This we see from the Tzeit’l Kattan.
There’s much to say about the Noam Elimelech. Indeed, we simply can’t do
justice to his contributions to the Jewish world, but in this article, we will focus on
what we can use as inspiration for our lives.
Self-Sacrifice and Sanctifying Hashem’s Name
We all know that Hashem expects Mesirut Nefesh (self-sacrifice) from us in
our everyday life. True Avodat Hashem shouldn’t be a piece of cake, otherwise, it
wouldn’t be called “service”. In the Tzeitl Kattan, the Noam Elimelech teaches a
very interesting mystical intention (Kavanah). He says that whenever a person
feels depleted, without energy or too tired to do anything, he should imagine a
great fire pillar coming from the Heavens, and offer his life in the fire. If he does
that, it will be considered as if he really did so.
This Kavanah comes from the Zohar and the Arizal, though it’s new in the
sense that it can be used anywhere and anytime. The Kabbalistic Siddurim use the
standard formula for the Kavanah of receiving the 4 death penalties (stoning,
burning, sword and hanging) in order to elevate the fallen sparks from the
spiritual worlds back to their source.
While this might seem like a very gloom thing to think about, we are in fact
only demonstrating our desire to come closer to him and even, if need be, to die
for His sake. This has not only a profound cleansing effect on the soul, but also
clears much of the dinim (judgments) one can have hovering over himself. And, of
course, when someone is willing to accept even these 4 punishments, he can feel
lighter knowing that he took from himself a huge burden.
This is, in fact, the Mitzvah of sanctifying Hashem’s great name since, if a
person does this with real intention, Hashem connects the intention to the act.
Further in the book, R’ Elimelech also teaches that one should strive to nullify all
forms of physical pleasure, either from eating or from intimacy since they come
from the side of evil, though this seems to be something reserved for very unique
Praying with all of one’s force
In Tzeit’l Kattan we also find the advice to pray with all of one’s force. This
is known from the Testament of the Ba’al Shem Tov, however Rabbi Elimelech’s
approach goes further in that he advises a person to pray “in a raised voice that
will arouse his sincere thought, linking the mind to the spoken words. His face
should then be toward the wall, and held fast to the siddur (prayer-book), both in
the morning and evening; and he shouldn't look to the sides, from the beginning of
the prayer to its end. […] At the time the Torah is read aloud he should pay
attention to every single phrase from the one who reads the Torah, as though he
were reading the Purim megillah. And he should make himself as if mute and
dumb in the synagogue even before the prayer - service or after it, until he goes
We saw before in many articles that prayer words have power. There’s a
reason why our sages made the prayer book the way it is and the main one is in
order that a person’s soul reverberates with Creation, bringing the greatest
But this is not all there is to it. In order for prayer to be truly effective, one
has to put his soul into it, and feel like he’s literally ready to give up his life for
each and every word. This is very difficult and requires great training, but is
doable and proves incredibly powerful.
In light of this teaching, another big Segulah he brings is that whenever a
person is beset by the evil inclination, and feels either stubbornness, a feeling of
shame (to do a mitzvah) because of pride, laziness, or idleness that leads to
boredom, he should ready the verse from the Torah that lists the 7 Cana’anite
Nations which are the the “Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Perizzite, the
Hivite, the Jebusite, and the Girgashite” (in Hebrew: Ha’Kena’ani, Ha’Khiti,
Ha’Emori, Ha’Perizi, Ha’Hivi, Ha’Yevussi, V’Ha’Girgashi), with as much force as he
can muster. Since each of these nations that were in Israel represents one
negative character trait (which was their prized trait), when we bring it to light,
we heal ourselves of it, pretty much like traumas that need to be healed.
As we see, there’s much to learn from the Noam Elimelech. Those
interested in further reading can find his works translated online very easily.
His grave is in Leżajsk, Poland and many Chassidim celebrate his Yortzait on the 21 st of
Adar. It’s customary to light a candle for him as it is with all Tzadikim on their day
May the memory of the Noam Elimelech be for a blessing!
This article was written in the zechut of Meirav bat Roza. May HaShem help her attain all her hearts desires speedily!
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