Rebbe Hayim of Tzanz suffered greatly from a foot problem. Finally, he needed an operation. Since the operation was very painful, the doctor wanted to give him an injection and put him to sleep. The doctor said, “I have to give you an injection; the operation's very painful.”

“I’ll make a deal with you,” said Rebbe Hayim. “You don’t have to give me an injection. Just do what you have to do, and let me do what I have to do. But I have to ask one favor. If I don’t open my eyes after the operation’s over, don’t disturb me. I may lie on the operating table for a few more hours. But promise me that you won’t disturb me.”

The doctor promised him.

Then Rebbe Hayim closed his eyes and looked as if he were not in this world. After the operation was over, the doctor said, “There are hardly any signs of life in his body. I’m afraid he’s close to death.”

Rebbe Hayim’s children said, “Don’t worry. If our father said everything will be fine, it will be; trust him.”

For the next four hours, Rebbe Hayim lay on the operating table, seemingly lifeless. Then he opened his eyes and said, “Was the operation successful?”

After telling him, the doctor said, “I hope you don’t mind my asking you, but what did you do?”—because the doctor was amazed that during the operation, Rebbe Hayim showed no signs of pain at all.

Rebbe Hayim replied, “I have to tell you something that my holy master, Rebbe Naftali of Ropshitz, taught me. We all know how to feel joy on a worldly level. We need a reason to feel joy. If something very good happens, we’re joyful. My master, the Ropshitzer, taught me that I can be joyful for no reason. He said that one cannot always be in that place, but when you’re there, you must really be there. So when I knew that I was going to have a lot of pain, I simply elevated myself to a state of pure joy. But because I had to be there fully, I couldn’t come back right away.”

Reprinted with permission from Jewish Tales of Mystic Joy, by Yitzhak Buxbaum.