By Yossy Gordon
The two brothers, the famed Rabbi Elimelech of Lizensk and Rabbi Zushe of Anipoli, often wandered about together posing as simple beggars. They would mingle with the masses; listening, teaching, speaking, helping and guiding whomever and whenever they could.
Once while traveling with a group of vagabonds, members of the group were accused of being thieves, resulting in the entire bunch being thrown into jail. Confident of their innocence and eventual release, the two brothers sat quietly. As the afternoon progressed, Rabbi Elimelech stood up to prepare himself to pray the afternoon service.
“What are you doing?” his brother asked
“I’m getting ready for minchah,” replied Rabbi Elimelech.
“”Dear brother,” advised Reb Zushe, “it is forbidden to pray in this cell because there is a pail that serves as a toilet nearby, making the room unfit for prayer.”
Dejected, the holy Rabbi Elimelech sat down.
Soon after, Rabbi Elimelech began to cry. “Why are you crying?” said Rabbi Zushe. “Is it be because you are unable to pray?” Reb Elimelech answered affirmatively.
“But why weep?” continued Rabbi Zushe. “Don’t you know that the same G d who commanded you to pray, also commanded you not to pray when the room is unfit for prayer? By not praying in this room, you have achieved a connection with G d. True, it is not the connection that you had sought. Yet, if you truly want the Divine connection, you would be happy that G d has afforded you the opportunity to obey His law at this time, no matter what it is.”
“You are right, my brother!” exclaimed Rabbi Elimelech, suddenly smiling. The feelings of dejection banished from his heart and mind, Rabbi Elimelech took his brother’s arm and began to dance from joy as a result of performing the mitzvah of not praying in an inappropriate place.
The guards heard the commotion and came running. Witnessing the two brothers dancingâ€”with their long beards and flowing tzitzitâ€”the guards asked the other prisoners what had happened. “We have no idea!” they answered mystified. “Those two Jews were discussing the pail in the corner when all of a sudden they came to some happy conclusion and began to dance.”
“Is that right?” sneered the guards. “They’re happy because of the pail, are they? We’ll show them!” They promptly removed the pail from the cell.
The holy brothers then prayed minchah undisturbed…