The Holy and awesome Rebbe Meshulam Zisha of Hanipoli was well known and famous in all of Israel as a great light and his glory shone as a great candle which throws sparks of light, purity and sanctity deep, deep into the hearts of every Jew. His efforts bore fruit and he turned many Jews away from sin, by wandering (in self imposed exile) from town to town and city to city to purify the hearts of the Jewish people. To plant in their hearts fear and awe of heaven as well as sincere service of Hashem together with his brother the Holy Rebbe Reb Elimelech of Lyzhansk. Their words live on till this day igniting the Jewish soul to shine bright as the splendor of the firmament and the glory of the heavens.
It is related that their father Rabbi Eliezer Lipa was a wealthy man, who gave generously to help support the poor. Their mother Mirel was likewise righteous. She was known to travel every Thursday into town to distribute alms to the poor so that they would have money in honor of Shabbos. The gentile wagon driver never saw her for in her modesty she never allowed herself to be seen and she was never seen by a non-Jew altogether.
The Rebbe Reb Zisha himself related about his saintly mother that although she was uneducated and could not read the Hebrew Prayers in the Siddur, rather she would say the Blessings by heart and that in the place where she recited the morning blessings the Divine presence of the Shechinah dwelled.
Reb Eliezer himself was a great philanthropist – a Baal tzedakah with a large heart. Whenever he was traveling in his coach if he saw somebody walking he would offer them a lift. It once happened that he passed a bedraggled beggar and offered him a lift to sit with him together in the coach. Surprisingly the poor man refused on the grounds that although he was indeed headed towards the city his custom was to beg for alms from door to door among all the villages on the way to town. If he was to take Reb Eliezer’s offer he would lose that opportunity. Reb Eliezer offered him a donation equal to whatever he would make on his rounds. Whereupon the poor man declined once again saying that all his friends and acquaintances that knew him would not see him and wonder at his absence and he would miss them as well. Reb Eliezer could not give up this opportunity to help the poor man and offered to at least transport his heavy satchel and leave it for him in town by the inn. Finally to this last request the poor beggar agreed whereupon Reb Eliezer happily took his baggage and gave him a handsome donation as well.
Reb Eliezer was also a major contributor to funds helping the redemption of captives. He would sometimes spend great amounts of money to help redeem a fellow Jew. It once happened that a Jew and his family owed the local Poretz – a squire a large sum of money for their arrendar. They had been unable to pay for quite some time. The angry nobleman arrested the Jew and his family impounding them in his dungeon. When Reb Eliezer Lipa heard of their plight he gathered all of his funds amounting to one thousand silver coins and set out to appease the squire and redeem the poor Jew and his family. The problem was that the debt amounted to several thousand silver coins. Reb Eliezer asked his holy sons to pray that Hashem grant them favor in the eyes of the nobleman. Reb Eliezer approached the squire and attempted to placate him with the following argument: "Although it is true that this Jew owes you a much larger sum he cannot pay. If you hold him in prison what good does it do you in terms of advancing your payment? It cannot help you cover the loss. If however you agree to release them I am willing to pay you one thousand silver coins. You will still recover some of the debt in this manner." The nobleman thought about it and agreed.
He then said to Reb Eliezer "you seem to me to be a just and upright man I would therefore like to offer you a good business deal. My brother in law is the squire in such and such a province. He has an abundance of flax and he is looking for a sincere and honest merchant to sell it to. I will write you a letter of introduction and recommendation and he will offer you a good deal that you will profit from." Reb Eliezer answered the squire "I would gladly do so however I just gave you all of my money to redeem your captives and I have none left." Hashem caused Reb Eliezer to find favor in the eyes of the nobleman, who had pity on him. "Here, take back the money you gave me and here is a letter of introduction for my brother in law." When the second squire read Reb Eliezer’s letter of recommendation from his brother in law he readily agreed to do business with Reb Eliezer. He took Reb Eliezer to his flax storehouses to show him the merchandise. As Reb Eliezer was walking on the grounds he heard faint crying and sobbing coming from somewhere. He asked the nobelman’s workers what the sound was? The answered him that it is the sound of a poor Jew crying from the dungeon. He was unable to pay his rent so the squire ordered him to be put in jail and left without food or water till he starved to death. It has been two days since we gave him any food they said. When Reb Eliezer heard this he realized that another important mitzvah of redeeming captives had come his way.
He immediately went to the squire and begged him to release the Jew for the thousand silver coins to which he agreed. Once finished he said to the squire I cannot do business with you because I see that you are a cruel and heartless man! How can you starve a man to death! The squire was upset to lose such a good business deal. He promised Reb Eliezer that he would never incarcerate and treat a Jew in such a way again. "In fact," said the nobleman "I will even count the money you gave me to redeem this Jew on account for the flax as a down payment, lower my price and give you the rest of the merchandise on credit!" Reb Eliezer agreed and he made the deal. The price he got was very good and he was successful in selling the flax for a large profit. In this manner he became quite wealthy.
The Rebbe Reb Zisha was the oldest of seven brothers. He was older than the Rebbe Reb Melech by 15 years.
When Reb Eliezer Lipa passed away his wealth was distributed among his children. The Rebbe Reb Zisha however only inherited all his father’s debts. The amounts owed to him added up to a considerable sum. However it required someone to go and collect it. The brothers reasoned that since Reb Zisha appeared free and he didn’t sit and learn all day he would have time to go and collect from all those people who owed their father money.
In reality the Rebbe Reb Zisha immediately declared that all the debts owed him and his father were hereby cancelled and waived. The Rebbe Reb Zisha himself was left poor and penniless. He began to wander from town to town in search of some livlihood until he came to Mezritch were the Maggid, the Baal Shem Tov’s successor held court. He became connected; tied to the Maggid and the Chassidim with bonds of love. There he learned the way to serve Hashem by nullifying his material existence.
When the Rebbe Reb Zisha came to become a student and follower of the great and holy Mezritcher Maggid, the Maggid taught him "To serve Hashem and come close to Him you must teach yourself to learn three things from a baby and seven from a thief. From a baby you must learn to: 1 Always be happy, 2 Never sit idle, and 3 you must cry for what you want and ask for. From a thief you must learn: 1 to work by night, 2 if you don’t succeed the first night try again the second night, 3 camaraderie and kinship among each other, 4 he will exert himself and give his soul for even a small thing, 5 even though he exerted himself for that thing it is not worth much in his eyes and he would be willing to sell it for a trifle, 6 he is willing to suffer beatings and hardships to learn his trade and get what he needs and 7 he loves his job and would never exchange it for another. These words are very deep as to how one can serve Hashem.
(A similar teaching is found in the name of Rav Yitzhak of Vorki one must learn 3 things from a baby 1 if he is hungry he cries so too we must cry if we need parnasah, 2 he is never idle, so too we must never be idle, and 3 he never worries, so too we must not worry instead we should continuously serve Hashem with joy!)
The Rebbe from Komarna related that he heard from his father in law the Tzadik Avraham Mordechai of Pintshov that the Rebbe Reb Zisha in his poverty served as a Shamash in Ostra. He would fast two or three days in a row and then he would ask one of the residents for some bread to satisfy his hunger. Once Reb Zisha said to himself that it is a lack of faith in Hashem to go begging and asking for bread rather he resolved to trust in Hashem alone and Hashem will send him his food and sustenance. After fasting for three consecutive days he was weak and the verge of death, however no one gave him any food. In the heavens there arose a great uproar, since no one was found worthy of the mitzvah of sustaining so lofty a soul and giving Reb Zisha something to eat! Even though there were many worthy upright individuals in that town no one was of the caliber worthy of the mitzvah of supporting Reb Zisha. Hashem then created a miracle so that two nipple like openings, opened in Reb Zisha’s mouth, from one would come forth milk and from the other honey. For three full months Reb Zisha was nourished from these miraculous openings alone. After three months somebody approached Reb Zisha and offered him 6 Groshen to buy bread. At that moment the miracle stopped and the openings closed up.
Commentary on last story
(In the Zohar Parshas VaYakhel pg 198a a poor man that comes to someone is described as a gift sent from Hashem to that man who sustains him and see Rashi on Gemara Succah 49b "Is it true that all who jump to give charity are allowed to and provided with worthy individuals to give to? The verse says it is precious teaching us that one must pay attention to chase and run after the opportunity since it is not always around and does not always present itself. In the Gemara Mesechs Shabbos 53b there is a story of a man whose wife passed away leavening a baby to nurse, he didn’t have enough money to hire a wet nurse so Hashem made for him a miracle and opened his nipples like a woman’s so that he could nurse his son. In Midrash Bereshis Rabba 30:9 Rav Yudan taught once Mordechai searched for a wet nurse for Esther and could not find one, so he himself nursed her.)
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Rebbe Meshulam Zusha of Hanipoli
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