Sunday Night is Chai Elul, the 18th of the month of the Elul. It is the birthday of the Holy Ba'al Shem Tov the founder of Chassidut, whose students we so admire and study through Be'er Mayim Chayim.
In the honor of this day, we are pleased to bring reflections of him through the eyes of the Kedushat Levi--whose book we hope im yirtzeh Hashem to publish soon-- and the Noam Elimelech--whose book were were zokeh to publish last year.
The Holy Tzadik and Rebbe Rav Levi Yitzhak of Berditshev was born in the year 500 of the Hebrew calendar which is around 1740 and the Holy Ba'al Shem Tov twice honored his students with cake and drinks to toast his birth saying: "A soul has come down to this world that will be an advocate for good on behalf of our brethren Bnei Yisroel." (Eser Oros 3:1)
To understand the power of the Kedushas Levi's soul we must read the words of the founder of Chassidus our master the Holy Ba'al Shem Tov, who once told his students "At the time the holy soul of Rav Levi Yitzhak of Berditshev came down to us, the accuser Satan prosecuted and said 'the actions of this holy and lofty soul will nullify the entire process of free choice since the entire world will repent and do good, and desist from evil. Then what good will my own position be?' Hashem answered Satan, 'this soul will serve as the Rabbi to several different cities and others will chase and persecute him [because of his beliefs], together with the burden and yoke of the Rabbinate it will weaken him enough that his influence will wane to the point where it will not nullify free choice.' " (Toldos Kedushas Levi Munkacz 1:3)
The soul of our master the G-dly Ba'al Shem Tov, may his merit shield us, included all the souls of the Jewish people. This story is well known, how our holy and awesome master the Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk was greatly pained and distressed wondering why he never knew the Ba'al Shem Tov?
He therefore had a great longing to somehow see the Ba'al Shem. Therefore once he heard someone knocking on his window pane at midnight, and it was revealed to him that he would be able to see the holy Ba'al Shem Tov.
Across from the Rebbe's home was a low hill and the Rebbe saw there a great fire blazing, and within the flames the vision of a man. They told Rebbe Elimelech that this was the holy Ba'al Shem Tov. Afterwards, this image burst forth into a myriad of 600,000 sparks and within each spark of the fire was an individual image of the holy Ba'al Shem Tov, hinting that the Baal Shem Tov himself included all the six hundred thousand souls of the Jewish People of Klal Yisroel.
(from Rav Yitzchak Eizik of Spinka's approb. To Sefer Baal Shem Tov)
Rav Avraham Yehoshua Freund the Av Beis Din of Nasoyd once told how our master the holy Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk was once walking together with his student the author the Maor VaShemesh, the rabbi of Cracow, Rav Kalinymous Kalman Epstein to the local Bais haChaim – the cemetery. When they arrived there they saw a pillar of fire descending from the heavens and in the flames there was a vision of a man. The pillar of fire reached the ground and returned to the sky once more. Afterwards Rebbe Elimelech told his student that he should mark that exact location where the pillar of fire had touched the ground, since Rebbe Elimelech explained, that is where he wished to be buried after his passing. The Rebbe Reb Melech then said: "That figure of a man in the flames was none other than the G-dly Rav Yisroel Ba'al Shem Tov of Mezibuz, may his merit shield us and all Yisroel! Truly he was a blazing fire even in his own lifetime, except that fire was covered by his skin.1