In the city of Vilednik, there once lived a woman who had left her husband. In time, rumors began to circulate that she had been acting improperly with another man. And as would sometimes happen in those days, she was prescribed a punishment of lashes.

The woman rushed to the holy Reb Israel Dov Ber of Vilednik (1789-1850) and complained about the unfairness of it all. “Was I deserving of such a horrible punishment?” she demanded. “I am completely innocent, and the entire accusation is nothing more than baseless hearsay!”

“Yes,” said Reb Israel, “what you say is true. You did not sin, but the punishment that came to you is a result of your husband’s prayers. He still loves you dearly and misses you very much. Every day he sits alone in the synagogue, tears drenching his face, reciting Psalms with a broken heart. His distress tore through the heavens and brought this upon you.”

Upon hearing of her husband’s anguish, her resentment melted. Realizing how much she still cared for him, she agreed to return home. “However,” she stipulated, “the rebbe must promise me one thing: any sons I bear will grow to be as righteous as the rebbe.”

“To be as righteous as me?” echoed Reb Israel. “Is this what you want? If you will conduct yourself as my mother did, then you can be assured that you will bear children like my mother’s.”

Reb Israel then recalled two stories about his mother:

“On a Friday eve, after lighting the Shabbat candles, my mother began to pray. She cried and cried so much, that her tears accidentally extinguished the flames she had just lit. When my mother opened her eyes and saw what she had done, she began weeping once again and the candles miraculously reignited.

“Another incident happened after my father passed away, when I was five years old, leaving my mother with five small children to care for. She worked very hard to ensure that we had the bare necessities. But it happened that her stressful routine took its toll and forced her to lay in bed, sickly and weak.

She knew that if she remained bedridden too much longer we would all die of hunger. My mother asked me—I was still a young child—to hand her a holy book lying nearby. The book was called Alfas (a commentary on the Talmud written by Rabbi Yitzchak Alfasi). My mother could not read, and didn’t know the book’s name or author. Yet she opened the tome and pleaded in Yiddish, ‘Holy letters, appear before the Creator of the World and ask that I recover so that I can care for my small children.’

“My mother soon felt strong enough to leave the bed.”

Adapted and translated from Shemuot Vesippurim Vol. 2, page 96