The Yahrzeit of Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk, author of “Noam Elimelech,” Rebbe from the third generation of Chasidus and one of the outstanding students of the Magid of Mezeritch, took place on 21 Adar (Erev Shabbos).
It’s told that once the Tzaddik Rabbi Elimelech sat at his Rosh Chodesh meal along with his holy followers and students, when two men came and stood at the entrance.
Rabbi Elimelech turned and said: “Have you ever seen two bare people without the clothing of a mitzvah like these two? All because they dared to inform on the man of God, Rabbi Michel of Zlotchov.”
Rabbi Elimelech requested from the two that they relate what happened which caused them to remain bare of their mitzvos, so that he could perhaps find for them a rectification and atonement for their souls. So they related:
We conspired against our bookkeeper until in the end we bought his house from him for a third of its real value. However, instead of writing in the writ of sale, “All of this is done by my will and not through coercion,” the bookkeeper wrote, “All of this done through coercion and not through my will.”
The events greatly upset the spirit of the bookkeeper and after a short time he passed away. His sons, who thought that they would inherit a large sum, were surprised to hear that a month earlier he had sold his house for 200 rubles in silver. The sons, shocked by this, turned to the Rabbi of the city, the holy Rabbi Michel of Zlotchov.
When we [those telling the story] reached the Rabbi of Zlotchov, we pulled out the writ of sale, because we were certain that we would win in the dispute. However, since the writ was done through coercion and was falsehood, it had no relevance before the Tzaddik. Therefore, the letters flew away from the writ and it was left as blank paper.
“Did you come to mock me that you should show me blank paper?” Rabbi Michel asked them. He immediately took the writ, tore it to pieces, and tossed it to the ground. Without choice, we returned to our houses despondent and angry, deciding to remember the matter and at the right time, take our revenge.
The jealousy drove them out of their minds and they went to inform on Rabbi Michel
We turned to a great duke who lived near Zlotchov. We told him that all the Jews who lease from him his property and taverns request every year anew to reduce the price of the lease, and it’s all because of Rabbi Michel of Zlotchov. This is because the Rav decreed that no Jew should encroach on his fellow’s portion and put his eyes on the lease of others, even if they would give it to him at half price. Anyone who disobeys the word of Rabbi Michel will be punished by him through his magic and sorcery. Because of this, everyone is afraid and won’t dare to lease from the duke a deal which is already in the hands of another Jew. Therefore, the tenants demand from the duke to lower the price of the lease, knowing that it will remain in their possession.
The duke was very angry and after a few days gathered all the noblemen and dukes to a great feast. There he told them the reason that they are losing lots of money through the reduction of leasing prices, and about everything he accused that Rabbi of the city, Rabbi Michel of Zlotchov. Therefore, his sentence will be the death penalty in another three months from today.
That day, two Jews from Zlotchov, who were going around the villages with their wares, arrived by chance at the house of the duke. In the kitchen of the mansion, they offered their merchandise to the servants and maidservants, and then one of the woman chefs turned and said to one of the Jews, “Give me as a present the pair of earrings which I chose, and in exchange I will reveal to you a great secret.” Then she told him about the decision of the nobles to kill Rabbi Michel.
The Jew who spoke to the servant couldn’t find rest for his soul, and a doubt arose in his heart if there was truth in her words. In the end, he decided to go to Rabbi Michel and tell him about the evil conspiracies which are being planned for him. However, one of the servants at the Rav’s home blocked the way for him. “I must tell the Rav something which is most important,” he said to the servant. “Tell me your message and I will pass it on to the Rav,” the servant said.
The peddler told him all about the conspiracy, only the servant berated him and became angry: “Then what does the duke have with the Rabbi? Behold, he never met or spoke to him. It seems that the duke’s servants wanted to mock you and scare you. Therefore, they made this up from their imagination.”
When the Jew heard the words of the servant, he was calmed from his fears. He left the house of the Rabbi and told the people outside the entire story, and thanked Hashem that He prevented him from being harmed by the Rabbi’s strictness. After three months, two soldiers suddenly came to the city on horseback with weapons in hand. They stopped before Rabbi Michel’s house and announced that the duke sent them to bring to him Rabbi Michel.
Rabbi Michel of Zloctchov is summoned to detention and execution because of the informing
Immediately, there was a great tumult throughout the city and terror fell upon all the Jews, because the words of the Jewish peddler were recalled, and they saw that his words were true. Rabbi Michel’s followers entered his room. They didn’t tell him the words of the peddler; rather, they informed him that the duke sent to summon him.
Rabbi Michel said, “Didn’t you see today how when I approached to pray, I stepped backwards several times and feared to approach to pray. It was all because I saw my holy father, Rabbi Yitzchak of Drohavitch, stand in front of me, and I understood that something was certainly going to happen. However, don’t be upset. Just tell the duke’s messengers that after prayer I’ll come to him.
In the meantime, the duke saw that the two soldiers didn’t return with the Rabbi and sent many more additional soldiers. However, they also didn’t dare to enter the house of the Rabbi. When the Rabbi finished his prayer, he went out to the soldiers and together with them went to the duke’s mansion. When they reached the large fence surrounding the mansion, the soldiers turned to all the weeping people who were escorting the Rabbi, saying, “Only the Rabbi enters the duke’s mansion, and anyone [else] who enters, his blood is on his head.” At the entrance, there also stood a band of singers and players, in their hands drums and flutes, playing loudly so that the nobles would hear the shouts and groans of the Jews.
All the princes and nobles gathered to watch the sentencing. However, since they had a custom according to which the noble who decrees the sentence wouldn’t see the carrying out of the execution, the duke closed himself up in an inner chamber and locked the door. The Rav stepped inside and the hands of the players froze, and they remained standing in place. Also the one in charge of the execution became paralyzed with the sword in his hand.
How did you dare to hand over such a holy Tzaddik?
Rabbi Michel continued inwards until he reached the last chamber, and when the duke saw him, he asked, “Who are you, and who brought you here?” “I am a Jew from a lineage of people who for 16 generations were without any sin, and I don’t know why they brought me over here.”
The duke understood that this was the Jew who they had brought for execution and was amazed how he was saved. The duke ran outside to see what happened and saw that everyone was frozen in place. Immediately, he fell on his face before the holy Rebbe and cried, saying, “I sinned before my master. From now on I won’t continue to harm him, and also not insult his honor. Please pray, honorable Rabbi, that the people will return to normal.”
Rabbi Michel answered: “I will fulfill your request on the condition that all the nobles together with you will promise and sign not to do any more evil to any Jew who lives on your properties, and not to banish any one of them from his lease. Also not to increase your burden on the Jews.” The duke immediately agreed to his conditions, and the state of the nobles and players returned to normal.
“The duke also wanted to decree death on us,” related the two Jews who spoke evil about Rabbi Michel and caused him all of this. However, the Rav requested not to do any harm to them, because God is a just Judge, and will fight his battle and make his judgment.
So related the two people before Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk, and the Rav answered: “Really, God judged the two Jewish sinners and prosecuted [them] for the affront to the Tzaddik Rabbi Michel, and both of them went down and lost all their possessions to the point that they were required to beg at people’s doorsteps for a loaf of bread, going around from city to city. As such, things were until now. Until now, there was no rectification for their souls. However, since they confessed their sins today in public, and related their wrongdoing, their wrongdoing is removed, and their sin is atoned.”
After a month, the two men passed away and went to the next world.