Once a chasid from a neighboring town came to his Rebbe, Rabbi Zvi Hersh of Riminov, and begged him to somehow intercede so that his father-in-law would die. "What!" exclaimed R. Hersh, "What are you talking about."

Once a chasid...begged him to somehow intercede so that his father-in-law would die.

"Well, my father-in-law is very old, already more than 100 years old," explained the chasid, "And he has to be watched over all the time. He can't really do much for himself, and he is miserable most of the time. He doesn't learn and doesn't pray any more. He has had enough of life already, but he just keeps hanging on day after day, week after week, year after year."

The Riminover didn't really know what to say, but he reasoned that a Jew who lived to such an age must have some kind of merit. He commanded the chasid to bring in the old man to speak with him. The chasid protested saying that his father-in-law was too old and too feeble, but the rebbe wouldn't relent. "Bring him in anyway as I have requested," he ordered.

So they picked up the old man, put him in a wagon and brought him to Riminov. They carried him in on a bed and placed him in front of the Rebbe. R. Hersh began to ask him questions. He soon found out that the old man was a simple but boorish Jew. He had been a wagon driver all of his life. He recited the prayers in the morning, but his real interest was to get to breakfast. He went to shul on Shabbos, but the cholent (Sabbath stew) served at the end was his main reason.

The Riminover peppered him with more questions to find out if the old Jew could remember any reason that might account for his many years. Maybe there was some special mitzvah that he did once or some experience, maybe he met a tzadik, a special holy Jew, on some noteworthy occasion that could have helped him to merit a long life.

But they promised me a good wage and the same food that I would eat at home and then some.

The old Jew recalled that once some young Torah scholars had asked him to take them for Shabbos to a town about a half a day's journey away called Lujzinsk. "They pleaded with me, he reminisced, "but I didn't want to go. I told them that I like Shabbos at home with my bed and my cholent. But they promised me a good wage and the same food that I would eat at home and then some. So I finally agreed and we set off. We got there not long before Shabbos and they set me up in a nice hotel."

"Sure enough, right after the Shabbos Night prayers, they showed up with a great meal; everything just the way I like it. They came back a while later and asked me if I wanted to go with them to some kind of gathering, but I told them that I didn't come for that kind of thing, and they should let me sleep. So, being decent guys, they did."

"In the morning after the Morning prayers, they again brought me a good meal with a cholent even better than what I would have gotten at home. So I ate my fill and went down for a Shabbos nap. When I got woke up, it was already close to dark and nobody was around. I waited awhile, but none of my passengers showed their faces. So I went to look for them. I came to the shul and I heard the loudest singing and saw wildest dancing you can imagine. I was sure that they were all shikker (plastered). I peeked inside and saw empty bottles everywhere, and these guys were singing and dancing like anything. When I went in I saw that they were in a circle and they were all dancing around in a circle and one of them there in the middle. He must have been the chief drunk or something because he was tall and his face was red like fire and he was dancing with his eyes closed and they were all singing and dancing around him."

...whoever...caught a glimpse of R' Elimelech’s face would not...leave the world until he had done teshuva.

At this point the Riminover stopped the old man, exclaiming that now he understood everything. The tall one in the middle with a face red like fire was none other the Rebbe R' Elimelech of Lujzinsk. He explained that it is well known that whoever even just caught a glimpse of R' Elimelech’s face would not be able to leave the world until he had done teshuva. **

So the rebbe turned towards the old man and started to explain to him in a gentle fatherly way how G‑d created the world, and how everything in it was put there for our benefit. He described the beauty of the creation, how every aspect of it is perfect, existing together in total harmony.

Then he began to explain the nature of the Jewish soul. He described how every Jew is like one soul, we are only separated by the physical bodies that we bear. Later, G‑d gave us the Torah and its Mitzvot, specific instruction for serving Him and understanding His will. The old Jew sat and listened but didn't utter a sound.

So the rebbe continued. He began to describe how we were given the Shabbos to further bring ourselves closer to Him. We welcome the Shabbos, and the Divine Presence comes to us, and so to speak, sits at our table together with us, sharing our food and our company.

At this point the old Jew turned his head and stared dreamily out the window. A moment passed and he let out a deep sigh. The Riminover (who was a Kohen) quickly left the room (Kohanim even today are forbidden contact with the dead). The old Jew heaved one more sigh of remorseful repentance and left this world - for the world to come.

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Connection: Shabbos Shuva and Yom Kippur.

** The same is said about whoever immerses in the underground Ari Mikveh in Safed. – Ed.


Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from www.nishmas.org, the website of Nishmas Chayim Yeshiva in Jerusalem, headed by Rabbi Benyamin Adilman. He is also the author of a very interesting, but sporadically published, weekly parsha sheet, B’ohelei Tzadikim.

Biographical note:
Rebbe Zvi Hirsh of Riminov [1778-29 Cheshvan 1847] was the attendant of the well-known Rebbe, R. Menachem Mendel of Riminov, and subsequently his successor. He had a reputation as a miracle worker. Some of his teachings are collected in Mevasser Tov and in Be’erot HaMayim.

Rabbi Elimelech of Lujzinsk (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.

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