Spiritual Masters

Rebbe Moshe of Lelov: Always Have a Picture of the Rebbe

You may wonder why many Jews (and even some non-Jews) are fond of hanging pictures of spiritual masters, tzadikim, in their house, or carry them around with them in their car or wallets. It is not merely that the tzadik’s face is beautiful, a real symbol of Divinity in the world. It is not only out of a sense of connection with the spiritual master, the tzadik; many times, the person who owns the picture has never met the tzadik in person and perhaps does not even know any of his teachings.

The faces of tzadikim are not only a sight to behold, they have an actual effect on the onlooker. Instrumental in encouraging this practice was the current Rebbe of Lelov, a contemporary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who was known to have a particularly soulful and deep connection with the latter. The Rebbe of Lelov once told a certain individual—and later this piece of advice spread far and wide and became famous—that in his home it is important that there be a picture of the Lubavitcher Rebbe that he can view at any time. The Lelover Rebbe explained that looking at the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s picture instills fear of Heaven. If someone does not take the time to look at the pictures of tzadikim, especially the picture of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, his fear of Heaven will certainly be missing something.
From this short anecdote, we learn that it is important for every child to have a picture of the Rebbe in his or her room in plain sight; this will give the child a sense of what fear of Heaven is.

The current Rebbe of Lelov learned this from his great-grandfather, Rebbe Moshe of Lelov, the son of the first Lelover Rebbe, Rebbe Dovid,1 whose day of passing is on the 13th of Tevet 5611 (1861).

Rebbe Moshe of Lelov was one of the great spiritual masters who yearned to live in the Land of Israel. Towards the end of his revealed life on earth, in his 74th year, after enduring tremendous hardship, he managed to make aliyah but merited to live for only 74 more days. Of course, his children and grandchildren learned from his example and live in the Land of Israel.

Before Rebbe Moshe set out from Europe, he told the multitudes who had come to part from him: “Jewish children, look carefully at my face, engrave it in your memory, it will be of benefit for you, both materially and spiritually.”

These words, spoken by the tzadik, have been passed down through the generations. They provided the inspiration for Rebbe Moshe’s great-grandson to encourage us to keep a picture of our Rebbe. When you look at the face of a real tzadik it fills your heart with fear of Heaven, love of God, love of the Jewish people, love of the Torah, the love of the Land of Israel—and everything else that a person should indeed love.

(based on teaching at a gathering for children in Ramat Aviv, Tevet 13, 5767)


1. For more about his character, see the introduction to The Art of Education.

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