Elimelech and his brother Susya of Anipol were among the foremost disciples of the Maggid of Meseritch, although Elimelech refers to him as the Maggid of Rovno, evidently coming under his influence when he was maggid in that town. On the death of the Maggid the town of Lizensk in Galicia, where Elimelech resided, became a new center of Hasidism; Elimelech is the father of the movement in Galicia. Before coming to Hasidism Elimelech led an ascetic life, and even after his conversion to the ideas taught by the Baal Shem Tov and the Maggid about reclaiming the holy sparks in material things there still existed a strong ascetic tendency in Elimelech’s thought. It is even reported that Elimelech used to engage in acts of self-mortification such as prolonged fasts and flogging himself with stinging nettles. There is a full-scale but somewhat uncritical biography of Elimelech by Bezalel Landau, Ha-Rebbe Rabbi Elimelekh Mi-Lizensk (Jerusalem, 1963). Elimelech is known among the Hasidim as the “Rebbe Elimelech.”
Elimelech’s work Noam Elimelekh (The Pleasantness of Elimelech) is one of the major and most popular Hasidic works. It was first published by Elimelech’s son in Lemberg in 1788 and subsequently in numerous editions. (The edition used here is that of Jerusalem, no date.) The book is in four parts: (1) expositions of the Torah sidra by sidra; (2) Likkutey Shoshanim (Bunches of Roses), brief comments on other biblical verses and talmudic passages; (3) letters of Elimelech, his son, and his disciple; (4) two lists of religious exercises. In some editions these latter are printed at the beginning of the book. The Noam Elimelekh is a paean of praise to the zaddik. Although the central role of the zaddik had been affirmed by the Baal Shem Tov, Jacob Joseph, and the Maggid, it is in this work of Elimelech that the role of the zaddik as an intermediary (Dubnow says, not without justification, a “broker”) between God and man is developed. The status of the zaddik is described in such exaggerated terms that the Mitnaggedim held the book to be blasphemous. The work deals at length with the training of the zaddik, his role as intercessor, his holy life, and the way he can transmit his sanctity to others, especially to his children.
I HOW CAN MEN HAVE THE HOLY SPIRIT IN AN UNHOLY AGE?
Noam Elimelekh, Va-yeshev, p. 21a
Elimelech here seeks to meet the objection that the claims made for the zaddik would have been extraordinary even in the days of the great prophets.
I have heard a sweet parable from the mouth of our Master and Teacher the Rabbi the Maggid of Rovno, the memory of the righteous is for a blessing. We see that now that we are in the bitter exile some people are gifted with the holy spirit far more easily than in the days of the prophets when, it is well known, they were obliged to engage in conjurations and remain in solitude for lengthy periods before they could attain to prophecy and the Holy Spirit. He gave this fine and sweet parable. When a king is in his palace with full regal honors paid to him, he will be annoyed if a friend invites him to have a meal in his house, for it is beneath the king’s dignity to leave the splendor of his palace to visit someone. This is so even if the repast prepared for the king is exceedingly lavish. It is quite impossible for anyone to get the king to consent to be his guest unless he first makes due preparations and begs those close to the king to intercede on his behalf. But when the king is on a journey and wishes to stay overnight in a certain place, he will be prepared to stay even in the village inn provided that it is clean. The application of the parable is obvious. When the Temple stood and the glory of the Shekhinah resided in the Holy of Holies, great effort was required if a man was to succeed in drawing down the Holy Spirit, as we find in connection with the ceremony of rejoicing at the Water Drawing, when they drew down the Holy Spirit. But now in the bitter exile the ho!y Shekhinah is in exile with us and, for our sins, wanders from place to place and is prepared to dwell with any man who is free from sin. And the words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious.
The ceremony of the Water Drawing took place in Temple times during the festival of Sukkot, and the Rabbis say it was a time when the holy men, after due preparation, were able to draw down into themselves the Holy Spirit. The contemporary zaddik, says Elimelech, can easily achieve that which was hard even for the prophets because in exile the Divine Presence is ready, as it were, to accept any lodging provided it is clean. The “King” cannot be choosy, as it were, because if the zaddik will not “let Him in,” no one will.
II HOW CAN FALSE MODESTY BE AVOIDED?
Noam Elimelekh, Likkutey Shoshanim, p. 101a
“And to walk humbly with thy God” (Micah 6:8). It is necessary to grasp the meaning of this verse. For it should have been put in the second person: “walk humbly with thy God” (in the imperative), as the verse concludes: “with thy God” (in the second person). But the meaning is as follows: A man has to be extremely careful to avoid the blandishments of the evil inclination. Even if his good deeds are performed away from men, nevertheless, since he himself is aware that he serves God, that he studies the Torah and is charitable and benevolent and so forth, he can have the ulterior motive of pride even in the most secret places. Anyone who looks into himself will see that what I have just said is true. It is therefore essential that a man should never think of his good deeds, and they should be hidden from him so that he is unaware of them at all and on the contrary, nothing he does should be considered to be good. That is why the verse says “to walk,” in the infinitive, which is impersonal. This hints at the thought that even walking humbly should be in a spirit of humility. That is to say, even when his deeds are hidden from men, they should be hidden also from himself so that he is unaware that he has achieved anything. This is the meaning of: “thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself” (Leviticus 19:18). For God is called “thy neighbor” as in the verse: “Thy neighbor, and thy father’s neighbor, forsake not” (Proverbs 27:10). Scripture says: Thou shalt love, namely: the way to attain complete love, to love God who is called “thy neighbor,” is impossible unless you behave “as thyself,” that is to say, it is as if, that you yourself are unaware that you have done anything and it is only as if you have done it. Understand this well, for this is a basic principle and a great root in the worship of the Creator, blessed be He.
Elimelech’s novel interpretation of “thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself is: “thou shalt love Cod by behaving as thyself,” i.e., by looking upon all your good deeds as if they were performed by another. Humility, for Elimelech, does not only mean that a man must avoid “showing off.” For if he is content with this he will find himself “showing off” to himself and taking pride in not being the sort of person who “shows off.” The only antidote to the “evil inclination” is for a man to forget himself completely, so that he is never aware of his self but only of as himself.
III RULES FOR SAINTS
Noam Elimelekh, Hanhagat Adam (Conduct of Man)
“The Conduct of Man” comprises rules printed at either the end or the beginning in the editions of the book. This is one of the two lists of religious exercises in which a fantastic piety is held up for emulation. Elimelech no doubt recorded these in the first instance for himself and then, possibly, for the guidance of his disciples.
These are the things a man must do to live.
 First a man must study the Talmud together with the commentaries of Rashi and the Tosafists, according to his ability, and afterward he should study the Codes, giving preference to the Shulhan Arukh Orah Hayyim. He should pray to God to enable him to arrive at the truth, for the sins of his youth, of the man he was formerly, blind his eyes so that even when he is able to engage in dialectics and declare the law to others, he himself forgets and does not really keep the laws. Consequently, a man must express his deep remorse over his sins. He should be in solitude before daybreak, for then it is an acceptable time to weep many times over the exile of the Shekhinah and he should shed tears. He should be in solitude also during the day (from time to time) and then his sins will be before him. He should remember his sins, his iniquities, and his transgressions, as high as the hills, which, if he did not behave in this manner, he would never have remembered. So should he do, not once nor twice nor a hundred times, until Heaven will take pity on him. He should pray to God to lead him in the right way so that his life should not be wasted. Then God, in His mercy and great compassion, will illumine his eyes in the holy Torah, and he will grasp the essence of the matter to keep it and to establish it.
 He should guard himself against flattery, falsehood, frivolity, slander, envy, hatred, competition, anger, and pride, and gazing at women and from gossiping even with his own wife, especially when she has her periods.
 He should always reflect on the day of his death. He should never interrupt his studies so as not to offend against the rabbinic prohibition of interrupting Torah studies. And he should pray to God to be worthy of studying the Torah for its own sake.
 Each day he should study in the moralistic literature, such as the Reshit Hokhmah, the Shelah, and the Hovot Ha-Levvavot.
The Reshit Hokhmah is the sixteenth-century moralistic work by Elijah de Vidas; the Shelah is by the seventeenth-century author Isaiah Horowitz; the Hovot Ha-Levvavot is Bahya ibn Pakudah’s Duties of the Heart.
 Occasionally he should study in a little fear of the writings of the Ari of blessed memory, but it must be in fear and dread and in awe of God. In former times men’s souls were holy and they would take care in their youth not to commit any sins or transgressions and their souls were equipped to study this science [the Kabbalah]. But nowadays, for our sins, when we have a course body and are of gross matter, a man must first refine his soul and wash it clean from every taint of sin. The test a man can apply to see whether he is clean is that the evil inclination no longer entices him to folly and stupidity as it did beforehand. Then he may study the Lurianic writings from time to time. God will reward him if he has purified his soul, by opening up for him the gates of wisdom contained in the writings of the Ari of blessed memory, which cannot be for as long as he is enveloped in the physical lusts of temporal vanity when this subject will be exceedingly difficult for him, God forbid.
The Ari (“the Lion”) is Isaac Luria, the famous sixteenth-century kabbalist. Elimelech is no doubt thinking of the Shabbatean movement in which the study of the Lurianic Kabbalah led to a casting off of the discipline of the Torah. He is saying that the Kabbalah will be misunderstood unless it is engaged in by men who have made the effort to lead holy lives.
 The way of purification in this matter is to study the Talmud and the rabbinic Aggadah, which has the special property of refining the soul.
 He should keep himself far from sin and evil thoughts in all circumstances.
 He should guard himself against hating any Jew, except for the wicked for whom no excuse can be found. But where there appears to be such, even the wicked should be given the benefit of the doubt.
“Loving Israel” is an ideal stressed by all the Hasidic masters. An important ingredient in the success of the movement was precisely because of the encouragement it gave to ordinary jews and the assurance that they mattered to God.
 He should not engage in any conversation at all, not even a single word, before prayers, because it is a hindrance to concentration during prayer.
 He should see to it that he relieves himself before prayer and before meals so as not to offend against the prohibition of being disgusting in one’s person.
 He should see to it that his shirt and drawers are always perfectly clean.
Hasidism stresses that bodily cleanliness is an aid to spiritual refinement.
 He should never act as a tyrant in his home, and no one and no thing should ever give him offense. He should blame the offense on his own sinfulness. In this way he will succeed in subduing the evil inclination and breaking its hold over him.
 He should pray to God to help him repent of his sins and that he should not die unrepentant, including his own prayers with those of other repentant sinners and asking pardon together with the pardon granted for all Israel.
 He should speak gently to all men. Whenever men praise him he should go away energetically and should be distressed, saying to himself “How they do praise me without knowing what I am really like? If only they were aware of how inferior I am, of my folly and my evil deeds! And how can I raise my face to the Creator, blessed be He, who knows and sees my deeds at every moment and all times and yet He has compassion upon me in al! that I do?”
 He should think to himself that a man is always standing beside him, never ceasing from looking at his deeds, so that if that man saw him commit an ugly deed he would be so ashamed that he would try to hide in a mousehole. How much more so, then, when it is God who stands over him and sees all his deeds all the time and from Him it is impossible to hide.
 When anyone insults him he should be very happy that God has sent him such a man so that his bad deeds should be exposed. Every person should seem to him to be his superior.
 He should keep far away from anything that is not essential to keep his body healthy for the service of God, whether it be food or drink or any other pleasure.
 The main thing is to keep from intoxicants, for this is a great malady and brings a man to a very inferior stage. The Rabbis say, “Do not become drunk and you will not sin.”
 He should take care never to utter God’s name in vain.
 He should take care never to utter or to think on holy things in an unclean place.
 He should never engage in conversation in the synagogue, not even on matters of morals or religion, lest it lead to profane talk.
This list of Elimelech and the other list printed in the book were widely studied by the Hasidim. These two lists have been printed in some prayerbooks so that the worshippers could read them daily.