The Awesome Holy Fire Of The Noam Elimelech (Rabbi Elimelech Mi’Lizhensk) – And The Kavanah Of 4 Mitot Beit Din

Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk, renowned as the Noam Elimelech, was a pivotal figure in the Chassidic movement, hailing from Poland.

His seminal contributions include the insightful Torah commentary, “Noam Elimelech,” and the ethical guide, “Tzeitel Kattan,” reflecting his profound intellect and spiritual devotion. Known for promoting an intense devotion to God through asceticism, Rabbi Elimelech deeply engaged with Kabbalah books, encouraging his followers to quench their thirsts with teachings from the Arizal and the Zohar.

While capturing the full scope of his impact in Jewish history is challenging (and outside the scope of this article), here we will have a short look at his inspirational legacy.

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Short Biography of the Noam Elimelech

Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk, born in 1717 and passing away on March 11, 1787, was one of the inaugural Rebbes of the Hasidic movement. His birthplace, Leżajsk, located near Rzeszów in Poland, became a significant center for Hasidic Judaism.

Rabbi Elimelech was deeply integrated into the “Chevraya Kadisha” (Holy Society) of Dov Ber of Mezeritch, marking him as a central figure in the transition of Hasidic leadership following Dov Ber’s death in 1772.

His seminal work, “Noam Elimelech,” played a critical role in developing the Hasidic doctrine of the Tzadik, or righteous leader, framing it as essential to the spiritual and communal life of the faithful. This work cemented his status as a founder of Hasidism in Poland and Galicia, with his disciples establishing numerous Hasidic dynasties across the early 19th century.

The Noam Elimelech’s lineage and personal life are notable, with his marriage to Sprinza, daughter of Rabbi Aharon Rokach Margolioth, producing five children. Following Sprinza’s death, he married Gittel, daughter of Rabbi Yaakov Margolioth. His family, including his brother Meshulam Zushya of Anipoli, played essential roles in the Hasidic tradition, offering contrasting models of Hasidic leadership.

His approach to leadership and teaching emphasized the Tzadik’s role in bringing the community to Hashem, and with the power to transform evil into good. This philosophy was not only spiritual but also practical, affecting everyday life and religious practice. Rabbi Elimelech’s teachings, particularly through “Noam Elimelech” and “Tzetel Katan,” a guide on righteous living, continue to influence Hasidic thought and practice to this day

A few stories involving Rabbi Elimelech Mi’Lizhensk

The Noam Elimelech was associated with many miraculous stories and legends that highlight his spiritual stature and the profound impact he had on his followers and the Jewish community at large, especially from Poland.

One story that stands out involves the Gaon Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum of Ouhl, whose young son fell gravely ill. In a desperate plea for Hashem’s intervention, Rabbi Teitelbaum sent envoys to pray at the tomb of Rabbi Elimelech in Lizhensk. The envoys were instructed to announce their arrival at the cemetery gate and then proceed to the tomb to pray for the boy’s recovery.

Miraculously, at the exact moment the envoys prayed at the tomb, the boy awoke from a near-comatose state, exclaiming that he would be healed. He described seeing a figure resembling the Noam Elimelech who blessed him and promised recovery.

Another story recounts the experience of a man from Jerusalem who was suffering immensely and unable to pass away. He remembered that during a period of his life in Lizensk, he had visited Rabbi Elimelech’s grave. A visitor explained to him that the Noam Elimelech had written in his will that those who prayed at his tomb would not die without doing Teshuva. Upon this realization, the man confessed his sins and repented, and he was able to find peace in death shortly thereafter.

The holy Tzeitel Kattan – Avodat Hashem with Fire

The Tzetel Katan, composed by Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk, is a foundational text that outlines ethical and spiritual guidance for living a life dedicated to serving God. It emphasizes the importance of prayer, the mitzvah of sanctifying God’s name, and offers practical advice for conducting oneself.

However, the work is noted for its fiery language and emphatic asceticism to keep people from straying after anything other than Hashem. Personally I find it very difficult to follow many of its teachings, but I respect those who can.

This work is considered a cornerstone of Jewish ethical and Hasidic thought, providing readers with insights into improving their spiritual and emotional well-being.

The holy fire of the Tzeitel Kattan by the Noam Elimelech is like a volcano.

Here are some teachings from the Tzeitel Kattan:

In all endeavors, whether it be engaging with the Torah, in prayer, or in fulfilling mitzvot, one should cultivate the habit of declaring, “I undertake this action to foster unity with Hashem, to delight the Holy One, blessed be He.” Let this declaration emanate from the deepest chambers of the heart, and in time, one will profoundly sense the Divine’s presence (the Shekhinah) through this affirmation.

When confronted by the allure of negative traits such as obstinacy, pride, lethargy, or sloth, which lead to folly, one should summon their strength and recite: “The Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Prizite, the Jebusite, and the Girgashite,” for deliverance. Cultivate a practice of keeping your gaze within your immediate surroundings, especially in places of study and worship.

Make it a principle to initiate conversation only when absolutely necessary, and even then, ensure your words are concise and pure, free from deceit, flattery, gossip, or derogation. Embrace the wisdom of our ancestors in learning to say, “I do not know,” and distance yourself from those prone to idle talk, employing all means to avoid them or, when inescapable, minimize interaction to the bare essentials.

Dedicate yourself to prayer with fervor, letting your voice bridge thought and speech, and direct your gaze to the confines of your prayer book, from start to finish. Remain focused during services, responding with vigor to each blessing, and listen intently to the Torah as if it were the reading of the Megillah. In the synagogue, embody silence, maintaining this discipline before, during, and after prayer until you depart for home.

Praying with all of one’s force

In the Tzeit’l Kattan, the Noam Elimelech deepens the spiritual practice of prayer, advocating for a fiery and vocal engagement that connects the heart and mind. Drawing inspiration from the Ba’al Shem Tov, he suggests praying with a voice strong enough to awaken genuine thought, thereby linking intention to utterance.

The emphasis is on maintaining a focused posture, facing the wall, with eyes fixed on the prayer book from start to finish, avoiding any distractions.

During Torah readings, the approach becomes even more introspective, suggesting listeners engage with every word as if experiencing the story of the Purim megillah, embodying a silence that extends beyond the prayer service, preserving a sacred space of reflection until one returns home.

This guidance underscores the transformative power of prayer, not just as a recitation of words, but as an act of profound spiritual resonance with Hashem. It hints at the idea that the structure and content of traditional prayers are designed to echo the fundamental vibrations of Creation, aiming for a profound impact.

However, Rabbi Elimelech’s teachings also remind us that the true potency of prayer lies in the willingness to invest one’s entire being into every word, a concept that demands immense dedication and practice. This level of commitment, akin to being prepared to sacrifice one’s life for the sanctity of prayer, highlights the depth of devotion sought in spiritual practice—a challenging yet attainable state that promises unparalleled spiritual fulfillment.

Self-Sacrifice and Sanctifying Hashem’s Name

We all know that Hashem expects Mesirut Nefesh (self-sacrifice) from us in our everyday life. True Avodat Hashem shouldn’t be a piece of cake, otherwise, it wouldn’t be called “service”.

In the Tzeitel Kattan, the Noam Elimelech teaches a very interesting mystical intention (Kavanah). He says that whenever a person feels depleted, without energy or too tired to do anything, he should imagine a great fire pillar coming from the Heavens, and offer his life in the fire.

If he does that, it will be considered as if he really did so.

The 4 types of death by the hands of the Beit Din are

  • Sekilah (stoning) – corresponding to sins with blemishes on the world of Atzilut
  • Sereifah (burning) – corresponding to sins with blemishes on the world of Beriyah
  • Hereg (sword) – corresponding to sins with blemishes on the world of Yetzirah
  • Khenek (strangling) – corresponding to sins with blemishes on the world of Assiyah.

As one is being mekaven that he’s receiving all these 4 deaths, he’s empowering the Binah (Immah) to give strength to Zeir Anpin and Nukvah (the Shekhina) so they should unite. While simple Kavanah of receiving the 4 Mitot Beit Din is enough, adding these Kavanot only reinforces their effect. One should also be thinking on the 4 Holy Names of Hashem A”b, Sa”g, Ma”h, and Ba”n as follows:

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This Kavanah, inspired by teachings from the Zohar and the Arizal, introduces a novel yet profound spiritual practice that transcends time and place. Embedded within the Kabbalistic Siddurim, this meditation involves embracing the concept of receiving the four death penalties—stoning, burning, sword, and hanging.

This is not a morbid contemplation but a deep expression of our yearning to draw closer to Hashem and do Teshuva, symbolizing our readiness to undergo extreme trials for Kidush Hashem (the sanctification of His name).

Although the notion of contemplating such severe judgments may appear frightening, it symbolizes a powerful act of spiritual purification and the alleviation of personal judgments (dinim). Embracing these penalties mean a person is willing to lift a significant weight from one’s soul, illustrating a deep act of devotion and self-sacrifice for Hashem’s sake.

Again, it’s all in one’s mind and the effects are very real on the soul.

When performed with genuine intention, teaches the Noam Elimelech, then Hashem aligns the purity of our intent with our actions, magnifying their spiritual power. Rabbi Elimelech M’Lizhensk further guides us toward divesting ourselves from physical gratifications, whether through food or intimacy, recognizing them as emanations of material “distraction”.

Again, it’s an interesting path, which makes sense for those who can follow it. This is the path that the Tzadikim follow (as we see from Sha’arei Kedusha, Maggid Meisharim, Likutey Moharan, and many other works), and it would be improper to think that one can reach these levels without proper abstinence from physicality.

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The teachings of Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk, encapsulated in the “Noam Elimelech,” offer profound insights into spiritual practice and Hasidic philosophy. For those keen on delving deeper, his works are readily accessible online in various translations, bridging the gap for a wider audience seeking spiritual guidance.

Rabbi Elimelech’s final resting place in Leżajsk, Poland, remains a significant site of pilgrimage, especially on the 21st of Adar, his yahrzeit (anniversary of death). On this day, it’s a tradition among Chassidim and followers to light a candle in his memory, a gesture extended to tzadikim to honor their legacy and contributions.

May the legacy of the Noam Elimelech continue to inspire and bless us in our Avodat Hashem.

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Chaim Apsan

Chaim is a teacher and Kabbalah enthusiast. He loves helping Jews connect with true Torah teaching and enhancing their spiritual growth. With a focus on meditation, he guides individuals on transformative journeys of prayer, contemplation, and connection with Hashem. He lives in Jerusalem with his wife and kids, and is committed to sharing the wisdom and power of Kabbalah in a genuine way.

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