Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sefer "Noam Elimelech" on Parashat Pekudei

Yukon Aurora with Star Trails


This entire week I have been trying to find some time for Rabbi Elimelech of Lezhinsk whose Yahrzeit we commemorated on Sunday. Rabbi Elimelech was a student of the Mezritcher Maggid and lived from 1717 - 21 Adar 1786. It was no than him forming the concept of a ZADDIK in a chassidic sense. You will hardly find a Parasha in his famous commentary "Noam Elimelech" not dealing with the Zaddik.

Later in his life, Rabbi Elimelech became the Rabbi of the Polish town Lizhensk (Lejansk). It says that there was never money in his house and in case there was, he instantly gave it to the poor.
Famous are also his fights with the "Mitnagdim" of the Vilna Gaon. It is said that Rabbi Elimelech's response to the Mitnagdim: The Zaddikim (righteous) serve G - d in truth and without pride !"

According to Rabbi Elimelech, a Zaddik is a person who attained a high standard through spiritual purification and the subjugation of the ego. The Zaddik's sacrifices and lifestyle awaken followers to their proper destiny. Rebbes would mystically bind themselves to their Chassidim and purify their souls.

He believed that a Zaddik could annul an evil decree, heal the sick and even ensure financial well - being. This great power stemmed from the Zaddik's overflowing love for G - d and all people.

In his book "Noam Elimelech", the Rabbi explains the Torah sentence "VeAssu li Mikdash - And build me a Sanctuary" (see Shmot - Exodus 21:8). As we know from the Midrash (Tanchuma), the upper Mikdash in the spiritual world is the counterpart of the Mikdash in our material world. Just as everything existing in our world has its spiritual counterpart in the upper spiritual worlds. Rabbi Elimelech wrote that when a Jew is making himself holy in our world (by walking in the path of Torah), he is building a sanctuary for G - d in this (our) world.

I find this a very encouraging statement for all Jews if not all human beings. By making oneself holy (a Jew keeping Torah and a Gentile keeping the Seven Noachide Laws), we are able to draw down G - d into our world and even build Him a sanctuary. The Torah is eternal and what Elimelech is also saying that it is US TODAY still playing a role in building the Mishkan or Mikdash. Those laws weren't only given to the Israelites in the desert some thousand years ago but WE do still have a active part in this Mitzvah.


- Sefer Noam Elimelech

- The Encyclopedia of Hasidism by Tzvi M. Rabinowicz

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