One of the chassidim of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi suddenly fell ill while sailing down the Dnieper River on a business trip. He decided to leave the ship at the next port, Shklov, and seek medical attention.

He went to a well-known doctor, who answered him in grave tones, “I’m afraid you have contacted a rare disease for which, as of yet, no cure has been found. I suggest you return home immediately.”

The chassid, however, decided to go see his rebbe before going home. “If my days are numbered, at least I will have seen the rebbe before I die,” he thought, and set out for Liozna.

When “Rubbish! You are only suffering from malaria!”he related the doctor’s words to the rebbe, he was surprised to hear the rebbe’s reaction. “Rubbish! You are only suffering from malaria!”

“But Rebbe,” the chassid protested, “one of the symptoms of malaria is recurring shivers and chills, neither of which I have.”

Nu, so you will shiver!” the rebbe said.

No sooner had the rebbe uttered those words when the chassid began trembling, his teeth chattering uncontrollably.

He was treated in Liozna, and remained there until he fully recovered. Once he regained his strength, he set out back home, passing through Shklov to see the doctor whom he had previously consulted.

“How could you have frightened me so, telling me that I had some incurable disease? You see, thank G‑d, all I had was a case of malaria, and I am now alive and well.”

“Indeed,” replied the doctor, “you had malaria. However, there are two variants of this disease. One is a serious but uncomplicated illness, characterized by chills and shivers, for which treatment is available. The other, more severe case is typified by a gradual loss of energy. For this, there is no cure. You most certainly had the more severe type of malaria. I am amazed at your recovery. What happened?”

The chassid told the doctor of his visit to his rebbe. “The only explanation I have,” the doctor responded, “is that your rebbe’s blessing transformed the disease from one type to the other.”

[Connection to the weekly Torah reading: The plagues.
Connection to this week: 24 Tevet (this year, Tuesday, Jan. 5) is the yahrzeit of the rebbe in the story.]

Adapted and supplemented from From My Father’s Shabbos Table (pp. 84–85), Eliyahu Touger’s excellent selection and translation from the first two volumes of Rabbi Yehuda Chitrik’s 4-volume series, Reshimot Devarim.

Biographical note:
Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi [18 Elul 5505 (1745)–24 Tevet 5573 (1812)], one of the primary disciples of the Maggid of Mezeritch, is the founder of the Chabad chassidic movement. He is the author of Shulchan Aruch HaRav and Tanya, as well as many other major works in both Jewish law and the mystical teachings.

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