"And allow our heart, the heart of each and every one of us, to to see the good qualities of our friends and not their shortcomings..."
These words of brotherly love, easy to read and so hard to fulfill, were penned by the legendary hassidic rebbe, Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk,,whose yahrzeit (date of passing) falls this coming Saturday night, Adar 21. Inadvertently, they are an apt description of the rebbe's own life.
Rabbi Elimelech and his sainted brother Reb Zushe, disciples of the Magid of Mezhritz, student of the founder of hassidism, the Baal Shem Tov, wandered on foot all year from shteitl to village to impoverished town, bringing Torah and spiritual warmth to the persecuted and impoverished Jews of Eastern Europe.
And each year, for his yahrzeit, close to 35,000 pilgrims battle snow and freezing temperatures to travel to the remote corner of Poland where he is buried. It is said that anyone who prays at his grave on the day of his yahrzeit will not leave this world without being given a chance of achieving complete repentance.
In honor of that date, Rabbi Hanoch Teller's English language documentary "Reb Elimelech and the Chassidic Legacy of Brotherhood" will be shown at various venues in the US next week.
Arutz Sheva attended the Israeli screening held at the OU Israel Center in Jerusalem several days ago and, along with the large audience of English-speakers, found it inspiring, educational and most suitable for family watching. Using quality cinematic techniques, state-of-the-art graphics, full orchestration by leading musicians, original scores, duets by famed vocalists Abish Brodt and Avraham Fried, and rare archival material, Teller has created an exceptional experience for the Jewish audience.
Who exactly was Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk? The answer to these questions, as well as the understanding of the origin of the hassidic movement, is beautifully explained in this 74-minute film. But far more than just seeing the backdrop of Jewish life in 17th and 18th-century Poland and Ukraine, which - as the film shows - involved the Chmielnitzky massacres, blood libels, pogroms, debilitating taxes upon Jews, and the prohibition against Jews earning their livelihood as they wished, the viewer will understand the atmosphere of angst-ridden despair that resulted in the Sabbetai Zvi and Jacob Frank false Messiah debacles.
In that context, it is all the more wonderful that the Baal Shem Tov was able to give to the masses—whom he mixed with and uplifted—a reason to live and a way to live in which feeling close to G-d was as important as keeping each detail of His commandments.
An all-star team of luminaries has been enrolled to share their unique perspectives on the subject. These scholars include Dayan Chanoch Ehrentreu (former head of London Rabbinic Court), Rav Berel Wein (noted historian and lecturer), Rav Dr. Abraham J. Twerski (noted author and psychiatrist), Rav Moshe Weinberger (rabbi and teacher, Aish Kodesh, Woodmere), and Rav Dovid Gottlieb (senior lecturer, Ohr Somayach Jerusalem; former professor of philosophy, Johns Hopkins University).
And, of course, as a master storyteller and author of 27 books, Rabbi Hanoch Teller knows just how to relate enchanting hassidic stories for the contemporary world. Reb Elimelech’s life and teachings are the segue to the documentary’s key message of Ahavat Yisrael, love of the people of Israel.
The film’s portrayal is both profound and engaging, with many contemporary applications for the viewer to ponder, but no moralistic sermonizing. The message is subliminal, though, and the Arutz Sheva staff members found themselves internally committed to enhancing Ahavat Yisrael. Inevitably, other viewers will also find that they wish to improve their personal level and desire to be, well, holier.
The only way to view this documentary, Arutz Sheva was told,is to attend one of the screenings that will be held nationwide this coming week in the USA, the week of Reb Elimelech’s yahrzeit, or to order a screening for your community or group by writing email@example.com. .
Arutz Sheva brings you a short preview of the documentary and remarks on it here: Viewer's comments can be seen at http://youtu.be/W4Uv9_77DYE/
With a live introduction by Hanoch Teller in each location - not to be missed:
Lawrence = March 2 = Shaaray Tefila , 25 Central Ave. Lawrence = 8:30 pm
Brooklyn = March 3 = Young Israel of Midwood, 1694 Ocean Avenue = 8:00 pm
Waterbury =March 4 = Yeshiva Atteres Shmuel = 4:30 pm
Toronto = March 5 = Bais Yaakov High School, 410 Lawrence Ave. W = 8:00 pm
Miami = March 6 = Yeshiva Toras Chaim, 1025 NE Miami Gardens Drive = 8:00 pm
Cincinnati = March 10 = Cincinnati Hebrew Day School = 12 pm
Los Angeles = March 10 = Kanner Hall, 7269 Beverly Blvd = 7:00 pm