The students of Rabbi Dov Ber, the great Maggid of Mezerich, prized the opportunity to serve their master. Thus, they developed a rotation, in which they each took a turn assisting their teacher.

It happened during the turn of Meilech, who would one day gain renown as Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk:

“Meilech,” called the Maggid from his room. “Do you hear"Do you hear what they are saying in heaven? what they are saying right now in heaven? The mitzvah to love a fellow Jew means that one must love a complete sinner exactly as one would a pristine tzaddik (righteous person).

“A tzaddik is able to arouse latent abilities that are hidden deep in the soul of another, thus enabling even a sinner to return to G‑d,” continued the Maggid. “The Chevraya Kadisha (Holy Brotherhood, a term used for the elite disciples of the Maggid) has the ability to arouse a complete sinner to return to G‑d.”

The following morning, Rabbi Elimelech shared this wondrous teaching with his fellows, who understood that they had their work cut out for them. They immediately set out to understand the Maggid’s words, each one offering his interpretation. During the course of the conversation, they shared stories and teachings of the sages on the subject of teshuvah (repentance).

Suddenly, the door opened and a stranger walked in. He stood for a few minutes, listening to their conversation, before shouting: “What are you doing, sitting around in a synagogue talking about Torah study and repentance? What is Torah? What is teshuvah?”

He then continued to berate them and laugh at their sincere discussions.

The men rose to pray with great fervor and copious sobs. They then recited Psalms together, allowing the inspired words of King David to express their desire to help others come closer to G‑d.

Unmoved, the man continued to scoff, calling them “batlanim” (“loafers”). Undeterred, they continued to display only kindness, telling him how every Jewish soul is"What is Torah? What is teshuva? infinitely precious in the eyes of G‑d.

Slowly but surely, their words had the desired effect, and the man turned his life around, becoming a pious and G‑d-fearing Jew.

This story, which was told by the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, of righteous memory, was preserved by Rabbi Zusha of Anipoli who heard it from his brother, Rabbi Elimelech, and related it to the first Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi. (Sefer Hasichot 5700, Hebrew Edition, pp. 119-120)