Rabbi Eliezer Lippa
Among the great giants of Chassidism were two brothers, Rabbi Zusha of Hanipoli and Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk. But the apple does not fall far from the tree and the deeds of the fathers are a lesson for the children. These two tzaddikim owed much of their character to their father, Rabbi Eliezer Lippa.
Rabbi Eliezer Lippa was a wealthy man who lived on the outskirts of Lvov. Throughout the area he was known as a man of great charity and also one whose house was continually open to the poor and guests of all kinds.
It was also his custom, when he journeyed to other cities, to pick up every poor man he passed on the road and drop him off at his destination.
One Poor Man
The story is related that Rabbi Eliezer Lippa was riding one day in his wagon and passed a poor man who was walking slowly, carrying a heavy sack. The good man's heart was filled with pity at this sight and he stopped the wagon.
"Sholom Aleichem," he said.
"Aleichem Shoiom," replied the traveler.
"I see that you are carrying a very heavy bundle," said Rabbi Eliezer Lippa, "and you look quite tired. Please do me a favor and get into the wagon so I may drive you to your destination."
"Thank you," said the poor man. "I would prefer, however, to go by foot."
The rabbi was very surprised and he asked, "But why? The journey could take half the time if you went with me."
"I know, sir, but if I walk I will be able to stop at each town and collect money."
"I see," said Rabbi Eliezer Lippa. "Tell me, approximately how much money do you think you can collect in the towns that lie between here and Lvov?”
The poor man thought for a moment and replied, "I would estimate I can certainly collect about 25 gold pieces, and I cannot afford to lose this sum by riding with you."
"Nevertheless, I cannot bear to see you walking in this heat with that heavy burden. Here are 25 gold pieces - the amount you would have collected by walking - and ride with me."
"Believe me, I appreciate it," said the traveler, "but I still think it would be better if I walked."
Rabbi Eliezer Lippa was now completely dumbfounded. "I have just offered you the same money you could make by walking to these towns. What prevents you now from riding in the wagon?"
"You see, I have been going for many years to these towns. I know the people and they know me. They expect me at a certain time every year. If I should now go with you in your wagon, they will surely think I met with some accident and they will worry. I wish to spare them that."
When Rabbi Eliezer Lippa heard these words he said, "I appreciate your thoughts. But at least let me carry your heavy sack in my wagon. I will drop it off at the hotel in Lvov and leave it with the innkeeper. When you have finished with your collection and arrive in Lvov it will be there waiting for you."
Rabbi Eliezer Lippa was proud of being a Jew and never humbled himself before the lords of the area, as did many of the other Jews. He never lowered his eyes when speaking to them or flattered them needlessly. Because he behaved toward them with dignity they respected him and treated him on equal terms, which was rare in Eastern Europe.
Once, when Rabbi Eliezer Lippa was riding on his horse, he paused and alighted to allow his horse to rest. Continuing on his way, he decided to walk in front and lead the animal by the reins.
Coming from the other direction was a magnificent coach with four beautiful white horses and in it sat a count who was a stranger in the area and did not know Rabbi Eliezer Lippa.
Commanding his coachmen to stop the carriage, the count stopped the rabbi and asked him in a imperious manner, "You, Jew, where are you from?"
"I come from Lvov," answered Rabbi Eliezer Lippa, quietly.
The count saw that the Jew had not removed his hat while speaking to him, as a symbol of servility. Furiously, he yelled at him, "And your hat, Jew?"
"My hat?" echoed the rabbi. "Oh yes, my hat, it too comes from Lvov."
The Two Sons
Rabbi Eliezer Lippa's sons, Rabbi Zusha and Rabbi Elimelech, were to become among the dearest students of Rabbi Dov Ber, the Maggid of Mizritch, and they spread the Torah of the Ball Shem Tov in Galicia.
While they were still young, besides learning a great deal of Torah, they also delved into the teaching of the great kabbalist, Rabbi Yitzhak Luria (the Ari). The Ari claimed that all the souls of the humans throughout the generations are bound in some way to the soul of Adam, the first man.
Rabbi Zusha once asked his younger brother, "If this is so, and your holy and pure soul was tied to that of Adam, how could you allow him to commit the sin of eating from the Tree of Knowledge?"
"If my soul had tried to prevent him," answered the young Elimelech, "and succeeded, he would have wondered for the rest of his life: 'Perhaps the snake was right: And you know that our rabbis tell us in the Talmud (Yoma 9a), 'The thoughts concerning a deed are more severe than the evil deed itself.'
"Because of this, my brother, both your soul and mine agreed that it would be better for Adam to eat and to commit his sin and know that the snake was a liar, rather than not eat and be filled with evil thoughts for the rest of his life."
The two brothers, following the death of their rabbi, Reb Dov Ber, returned to Galicia, determined to spread chassidism among the people. They did it in the surest, though most difficult way possible.
They went wandering from town to town, eating, sleeping and sharing the lives of the common and poverty-stricken people.
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