The home of Rabbi Eliezer Lippman in the small town of Tiktin, Poland was a magnet for all sorts of individuals. Whether a wealthy man en route to his various business dealings or a destitute vagabond alighted on his doorstep, it mattered not. He and his wife would accept wayfarer into their little inn and treat everyone with utmost hospitality.

One day, Rabbi Lippman and his pious wife heard a ruckus outside their home. A large group of vagabonds had surrounded their home.

They hurried to the bathhouse to heat large quantities of waterThe door creaked on its hinges as Rabbi Lippman hurried to open it for the band of strangers. The men were dressed in rags and tatters, their beards had grown wild and their faces were weathered from the sun and pinched with hunger. With compassion, the righteous couple received them warmly, led them to a table and served them a warm nourishing meal with refreshing drinks.

When they had satisfied their hunger and felt somewhat reinvigorated from their wanderings, the visitors presented their request. "We wish to bathe, to clean ourselves from the dirt and grime that has accumulated on our bodies throughout our long and difficult journeys," they explained.

The couple, their faces glowing with joy, readily agreed to provide all that they needed. They hurried to the bathhouse to heat large quantities of water for their guests and then hauled the water back to their inn. Upon returning, they noticed, among the group, one pauper who appeared agitated. Ill and deformed, his pinched and lined face was sickly and weak, and his entire body was covered with painful, unsightly sores and boils from head to toe. In a weak voice, he was pleading with his companions to help him wash himself, but, repulsed from his ugly sores, no one was willing to do so.

A wave of pity washed over the innkeeper's wife. Poor man, she thought. How terrible he must feel. Surely, a good warm bath would rejuvenate him, fill him with fresh new energy and vitality.

"Come, my dear man," she said to the leper. "I will give you a bath." Careful not to place undue pressure on the unfortunate man's many gashes and lesions, the kind woman respectfully washed his entire body and then gently dressed his wounds.

When she had finished, the grateful guest turned to her and said, "In return for your kindness, let me give you my blessing. May you merit sons like me."

The woman was greatly taken aback. Sons like him? The woman was greatly taken aback. Sons like him? A leper, covered entirely in dreadful sores? The thought filled her with distress. But suddenly, the stricken man, his fellow travelers and the wagon they had arrived in, vanished from before her very eyes.

Rabbi Eliezer Lippman turned to his wife. "G‑d has put us through a test," he murmured softly.

And indeed, Heaven had tested them to earn a truly divine gift. The pious couple was rewarded for their unusual hospitality with the birth of two saintly sons, Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk, who was later the devoted pupil of the Maggid of Mezeritch, the successor of the holy Baal Shem Tov, and Reb Zusya of Hanipoli, a great Chassidic master.

Note: The 21st of the Hebrew month of Adar—this year, Sunday, March 7, 2010—is the 223rd anniversary of the passing of Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk.