Living Legacy: Rebbe Michel of Zlochev
The 25th of Elul marks the yahrtzeit of Rebbe Michel, known as the holy Maggid of Zlochev, one of the greatest lights of the Chasssidic movement, and a Rebbe to many of the later Chassidishe Rebbes.
He was born in the city of Brod in the year 5486 (1726) to Rebbe Itzik’l of Drohobytch, who traced his lineage to Rashi Hakodosh and Dovid Hamelech. According to tradition, his ancestors were hidden tzaddikim.
His father was not always fond of Chassidim, but soon came to admire the Ba’al Shem Tov, and sent his son Yechiel Michel to spend time in the Rebbe's holy glow, and he was zoche to be meshamesh the Ba’al Shem Tov, who attested that his talmid “never tasted sin in his life.”
The story is told about his father who he was extremely poor. One erev Shabbos, there was nothing to eat in the home, and Rav Yitzchok—trusting that Hashem would provide—went to the beis medrash to learn. Soon, a gentile came knocking at the door with a chicken in his hand, offering to sell it. The young boy told his mother, “If he is willing to give it to you on credit, he is surely a ganif, and you shouldn’t take it from him.” But his mother took it anyway, grateful to have a chicken for Shabbos.
Soon, the gentile was back with flour, and later a fish, and so with all the provisions for Shabbos. Young Yechiel Michel warned her not to take it, for he was surely a ganif, but she paid him no heed.
When Rav Yitzchok came home that night, he made kiddush with great joy, and partook of all the delicious food. His wife could not contain herself and asked, “Aren’t you curious where I was able to procure all the food from?!
“No,” he said. “I already know; Eliyahu Hanovi came to me to complain that Yechiel Michel called him a ganif!”
From his youth, the boy was known for his kedusha and taharah, and for his great brilliance in Torah learning—learning day and night in the Kloiz in Brod.
After his marriage to Rebbetzin Miriam, he secluded himself in Torah and avodah for one thousand days, after which he became a melamed for the children of Brod.
After receiving a bracha from the Ba’al Shem Tov, many talmidim began streaming towards him in Brod. These included some of the most famous names of the Chassidic movement, and the tzaddikim greatly lauded the avodah of the Zlochiver Maggid.
One of the most famous Chassidishe niggunim of all time is the “Rachamim Rabbim Niggun,” composed by Rav Michel, which is sung by numerous Chassidic courts with tremendous emotion.
It was on Shabbos Nitzavim Vayeilech of the year 1781, and the Rebbe was in his room in great deveikus when he suddenly returned his holy neshomoh to its Maker.
He was interred in the Ukrainian city of Yampil, and the kever has remained a center of tefillah for Klal Yisroel and for the many descendants of the holy tzaddik.