A Short Biography

R' Elimelech of Liszensk (1717-1787), was one of the major disciples of the R' Dov Baer, the Maggid of Mezeritch, the successor to the Ba'al Shem Tov Tov. It was his brother Reb Zusia who first brought R' Elimelech to the Maggid of Mezeritch. R' Elimelech was a scholar, of great stature, an ascetic. He sat for days at a time fasting, engrossed in his Talmudic studies He was a man of refined and noble character, and a born leader. R' Zusia on the other hand was known as the "Fool of G-d". He would wander for days in the forests in contemplative isolation singing the praises of Hashem. When R' Zusia would become enraptured in his divine service, the rest of the world would cease to exist.

R' Zusia and R' Elimelech had an ongoing dispute on what should one base his service of Hashem. R' Zusia maintained that one should first reflect upon his own lowliness which would in turn cause him to appreciate Hashem's eminence. R' Elimelech held that by contemplating Hashem's eminence, he would come to realize his own insignificance. Since neither brother could sway the other, they went to the Holy Maggid of Mezeritch for a judgment as to whom was correct. "You are both correct, explained the Maggid, both paths are valuable. But the one who begins with himself is safer . . . one can't fall from the ground".