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Oneg Shabbos: Too Hot to Handle

Yeruchem Yitzchak Landesman

The holy Rebbe brought the child back to life — but years later, the fires of Gehinnom raging, was this the thanks he gets?

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

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A little boy’s parents stood around the small bed, listening in horror to the words of the indifferent doctor. “Your son is very ill with severe pneumonia, and frankly, there is no cure at this point. I like to be open and honest and not delude the family, so I’ll tell you straight that his chances of living are about the same as my medical bag here turning into a cruise ship. Prepare yourselves. Perhaps it will be a week, maybe two, even more, but his days are numbered.”

“My Getzel,” the mother whispered to her unconscious child. “We waited so many years for you, and now you’re going to leave us with our hearts shattered in a thousand pieces.” She burst into tears, while the doctor waited patiently to receive his wages for the bad news before leaving. Perhaps he was on the way to other homes, where he would deliver similar blows to loved ones of patients.

Getzel was an only child to his devoted parents, who had waited many years for his arrival. When he was finally born, they were overjoyed, bought him only the best, and spared no expense or effort on his behalf. One fateful day, though, they detected worrying signs of pneumonia, which was incurable — and fatal — in those days. Getzel’s parents went from one doctor to another, spending huge sums of money — all to no avail. Then they heard about this specialist, a famous professor who was an expert in the field and who would be visiting their area from Vienna on his annual excursion to cities throughout Europe. They’d pinned their last hopes on him, but now he was gone, leaving behind only his unequivocal diagnosis.

But not everyone was as despondent as Getzel’s parents. The baby’s maternal grandmother had very strong faith in tzaddikim, and she tried to infuse the baby’s mother with hope.

“Listen to me,” she told her daughter. “A short time ago, the famous tzaddik Rav Mordechai Leifer arrived in Bishtena, the next town over. He moved from Nadvorna, where he had lived for many years, and was known there as a miracle worker. Here, too, his door is open all hours of the day for Yidden who are troubled. The stories they tell are both awesome and wondrous. There are hundreds of stories of barren women who gave birth, sick people who were healed, and people desperate for a yeshuah who received a new lease on life through his tremendous power of tefillah.

“You have nothing to lose,” she continued. “A drowning person grasps even at straws. Take your son and carry him to Bishtena, to the Rebbe of Nadvorna. Perhaps he will have a cure.”

At first, the child’s mother refused. Although she was an observant Jewish woman who believed in Hashem, she had not inherited her mother’s strong emunas chachamim.

“What can the Rebbe do if a specialist has already sealed his fate?” she told her mother. “What more is he able to do? Does he understand more than the doctor?!”

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