Tuesday, November 17, 2009

In the beginning . . .Noam Elimelech ...

I met and drew close to the Clevelander Rebbe Shlit"a of Ra'anana, Israel when I was 18/19 and learning for a year post high school in eretz yisroel. I had relatives in Ra'anana and I was searching for a Chassidus that was English speaking (I didnt know Yiddish at the time) accessible (I didnt want to be one of thousands for whom the Rebbe would have 5minutes if I was lucky) and had some connection to the path of Chassidus I was already interested in (Galicianer as opposed to Chabad/Breslov/Polish etc).
Hashem sent me all three and more when I met my Rebbe. Cleveland an offshoot of Nadvorna is a small Chassidus. I know the Rebbe personally and over the years I have spent countless hours learning with him, eating with him, dancing with him, living with him, laughing with him, crying with him and just basking in his presence and observing his ways close up front and personal.
My Rebbe's family also comes from Czernowitz as does my own and as for English he is fluent.
Anyway when I was going back to the USA the Rebbe sent me to his only brother-in-law the Sulitza Rebbe shlit"a of Far Rockaway. I became a fixture in their home, and spent countless Shabboses with the Sulitza Rebbe. Although they have very different outlooks and personalities I grew and learned much from them both.
I noticed that while the Sulitza Rebbe was always learning, and his seforim shtib - the room covered floor to ceiling in sifrei kodesh had many volumes. I only saw three seforim besides a Siddur on his table. Gemarrah, Zohar and "Noam Elimelech."
In fact when the Rebbe visited Yerushalayim in his small dirah in Sanhedriah I usually saw him learning Noam Elimelech.
I knew that Noam Elimelech was one of the classic chassidic works. But that was it... I myself was busy trying to study Baal Shem Tov on the Torah and Degel Machene Ephraim. Eventually I picked up a copy of the old Rashi script offset Cracow printing in America in a seforim store that sold it to me for about $5 or $7.
It sat on my shelf and waited. I met my wife, we got engaged and my kallah bought me gifts. A Kedushas Levi, A Toldos Yaakov Yosef and a few other seforim joined the shelves. The Noam Elimelech waited quietly.
It was when we helped move old seforim from my wife's basement that a small hand held (legible) copy of Noam Elimelech (with a section of stories from Eser Oros reprinted in the back) became mine as well.
We were married we moved to Israel and I was learning full time in kollel in Ra'anana. And...I had begun to study Noam Elimelech.
At first I was very dissapointed. The sefer did not move me and I found the Hebrew very poor and Rabbinic lacking the style and grammar of a Ramchal or Beer Mayim Chaim. But even more so I could not see the commentary as plausible. It did not fit the words and the connections seemed forced at best. It was a difficult sefer and after learning it once or twice I put ot on the side.
Time passed we moved to Ramat Bet Shemesh and I studied one piece of Noam Elimelech and the idea intrigued me. I learned it over several times and wrote down some notes in English. As I began to study a little but each Shabbos I realized that despite the fact that the sefer was difficult there was something to be learned that was worth the effort.
I decided that I would attempt to study it in depth. Why Noam Elimelech? Well I knew two things:
1. I knew it was one of the major classics and it bothered me that I didnt know why.
2. I knew if the Sulitza Rebbe studied it, it must be profound since it was the only chassidic sefer I had ever seen him study at all!
I began to learn through the sefer one piece at a time from the beginning. Almost simultaneously I began to study the stories in Eser Oros about Rebbe Elimelech to find out who the author was. What I revealed was staggering to me!
Here was a sefer considered one of the holiest seforim in Chassidus and it had languished on my shelf for years. Here was a Rebbe who had taught, trained the major Rebbes and founders of Chassidus and perhaps given birth to the Galicianer Classic Chassidic court we know today and I knew almost nothing about it.
I studied through the Eser Oros and I found myself once again in the USA. In Moznaim in Boro Park where I had purchased the original old printing of the Noam Elimelech. I found a copy of Ohalei Tzadikim a collection that I was excited was back in print. And in it was Ohel Elimelech, one of the largest collections of stories, teachings and anecdotes of Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk. I bought it, and it accompanied me back to Eretz Yisroel.
Eventually I was to find my English notes becoming a translation that I considered publishing.
And the stories in Eser Oros and Ohel Elimelech would join them.
Finally afer studying the sefer for a few years it hit me. This was not a sefer meant to be a commentary on Chumash. It was meant to be a guide for Tzadikim on how to serve Hashem. Thats when the sefer took on a whole new meaning for me and has ever since.
The same thing was true about the Keser Nehorah Siddur but thats a different story for a different time . . .
Kol Tuv,
R' Tal Moshe Zwecker
Director Machon Be'er Mayim Chaim
Phone: 972-2-992-1218 / Cell: 972-54-842-4725
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