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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

"The Shechina Sings in His Throat"

The Rebbe Reb Elimelech's Kever in Lizhensk

Today, 21 Adar, is the 219th yahrzeit of The Rebbe Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk, one of the main disciples of the Maggid of Mezritch, and, like his Rebbe, he became a “general of generals” in that many of the greatest Chassidic Rebbes of Poland, Galicia, Rumania and Hungary were amongst his talmidim. “It is told that before he died, Rebbe Elimelech bequeathed the sight of his eyes to the Chozeh of Lublin, the spirit of his heart to the Kozhnitzer Maggid, the soul of his mind to Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Riminov, and the power of speech to Rebbe Avraham Yehoshua Heshel of Apt. His disciples said, ‘Nowhere else than at Rebbe Elimelech’s can your hear a bit of truth.’ ” [Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, Chasidic Masters, p. 55].

Moreover, the Rebbe Reb Melech’s influence extended way beyond his years: Rebbe Shlomo of Radomsk, author of Tiferes Shlomo, considered himself a talmid muvhak [distinguished disciple] of the Rebbe Reb Elimelech, even though he was born several [approx. 17] years after the Rebbe’s passing. The Radomsker would travel to Lizhensk almost every year on 21 Adar to pray at the Zion of the Rebbe Reb Elimelech. This was especially noteworthy, because the Radomsker was a Kohen, and thus couldn’t be present at the actual gravesite. Rather, he had a spot near a tree that faced the gravesite, separated by several mechitzos [barriers]. He would spend most of the day engrossed in learning; when he finished, he would received kvitlach [notes] for blessing his Chassidim. As a result of the Radomsker’s pilgrimage to this site, many Chassidim would come every year on the yahrzeit. He would say, “Baruch Hashem, we have uplifted the honor of the Rebbe, Reb Elimelech!”

On the way from Radomsk to Lizhensk, Rebbe Shlomo would often pass through Krakow. Despite the fact that many gedolim were known to be buried there, the Radomsker would not stop to pray at their gravesite – only at Lizhensk. He would say to those accompanying him: “If the Gaon, Rabbi Shlomo Kluger zt”l were still alive, he would surely ask me a very strong question: why is it that I go to pray at the gravesite of the Rebbe Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk, but not at the sites in Krakow? But I would answer him simply: [if one were to search] he wouldn’t find even one bone [in Krakow], for they have all ‘travelled’ to Eretz Yisrael. Rebbe Elimelech is unique, in that he prayed – effectively – that his bones remain in place, so that people could come and daven at his gravesite.” This was confirmed by the first Sochatchover Rebbe, the Avnei Nezer, in the sefer Abir HaRo’im. The Radomsker concluded by saying that those with eyes to see can see at the gravesite, the Rebbe Reb Elimelech standing up, garbed in tallis and tefillin, and davening for Klal Yisrael [the Jewish People].” [from this week’s parsha sheet, Alim L’Trufa].


The Gemara [Brachos 3b] relates that “a harp was hung over the bed of [King] David. When chatzos leila [midnight] came, a north wind blew and the harp played by itself.”

In Likkutei Shoshanim, the Rebbe Reb Elimelech explains that a bed is a place for coupling, joining together. The Tzaddik [as represented by King David] can join worlds together through his Divine Service. King David had an additional ma’alah [virtue] – in his intense dveykus [attachment] to Hashem, he would sing to Hashem with song and praise. The Shechina, the Divine Presence, is referred to [in the Zohar] as “midnight”. The Ruach Tzfonis, literally, north wind, can be interpreted as the holy spirit [ruach] that was hidden [tzafon] in him – it would “blow” a power of dveykus into him, and “play by itself” – that is, as the verse [Tehillim, 47:7] says, “zamru Elokeinu [G-d sings]” and not “zamru L’Elokeinu [sing to G-d].” This means, says Rebbe Elimelech, that the tzaddik should sanctify himself until the Shechina is singing in his throat.

Similarly, in another ma’amar in Likkutei Shoshana, Rebbe Elimelech says, “One must strengthen oneself greatly, so that the zemer [song] is as if the Shechina is singing in his throat. This is the meaning of the verse [Yeshayahu 12:5], ‘Zamru Hashem ki gei'us asa – Sing, O L-rd, for He has done lofty things.’ Again, the verse seemingly should have said, ‘Zamru LaShem’ sing to G-d. This indicates that the level of the singer should be as if Hashem Himself is singing – the Shechina is singing in his throat.

Finally, this idea is echoed in the sefer Maor v’Shemesh, by Rebbe Klonymus Kalman of Krakow, a talmid of the Rebbe Reb Elimelech. He says that Rebbe Elimelech explains the verse [Tehillim 147:1], Halleluka ki tov zamra Elokeinu [Praise the L-rd, for G-d sings well], that it is as if Hashem Himself is the singer – for without the help from Above, a person could not even utter a single word.


Rebbe Elimelech’s Niggunim:
In the sefer Encyclopedia L’Chassidus, there are notes for a niggun for Tzur Mishelo* [sung on Friday nights – see also below]. Chabad has a special wordless niggun from him, which came to them through Rebbe Shloime Twerski zt”l of Hornesteipel-Denver.

And finally, an album was issued [in the 1980s] called “V’Hashiv Lev Avos,” containing nine niggunim of the Rebbe Reb Elimelech’s. They are: V’sein B’libeinu, Mechalkeil Chaim, V’Hashiv Lev Avos, Niggun Dveykus, Eishes Chayil [Bnei Heichala], Niggun Rikud [Reb Melech’s Tantz Niggun], *Tzur Mishelo, Yedid Nefesh and Heyei im Pifiyos. Briefly, the Mechalkeil Chaim is a beautiful, deep niggun that lends itself wonderfully to the Yomim Noraim service. V’Hashiv is a very well-known tune, although it may not be known who authored it. The tune Eishes Chayil is sung in many Chassidic shtiblach for Bnei Heichala at Shalosh Seudos. The Tantz-Niggun Rikud is also quite well-known.

(Note: I haven’t found samples of this album on the Net. If anyone does, please indicate the located by e-mail or in the Comments).

Zechuso Yagein Aleinu v’al Kol Yisrael – May the Rebbe Reb Melech’s merit protect us all!

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