A Jew living in Poland was suffering from a lung ailment, from which his doctors informed him he would not survive. They said that he’d better just relax and settle his affairs, while awaiting his inevitable, imminent death.

But the man refused to cede to such harsh judgment, and began making his rounds among famous, holy rabbis, seeking their blessing for a recovery.

One rabbi he met said: “I cannot assure you recovery. But, I have a colleague living in Selish, in Hungary’s Carpathian Mountains,1 named Rabbi Shmuel Shmelke.2 He and I studied together under the famed Choze (“Seer”) of Lublin. He can help you.

“Do not leave him without receiving an assurance that you will recover. Even if it means sticking around there for a few months, do so, and participate in the classes he gives to the yeshivah students.”

The Jew did as he was told, and traveled to Hungary to seek the great rabbi’s blessing. The rabbi questioned why he had come. “I cannot give you any better assurances,” he said.

The Jew remembered what the first rabbi had told him, and he found himself accommodations for an extended stay. As instructed, he attended the rabbi’s classes at the yeshivah.

One day, the rabbi delivered a Talmud class about the exact lung ailment that this man was experiencing, and quoted the opinion of the foremost commentator on the Talmud, Rashi, who mentions that this ailment is considered fatal. Then the rabbi said, “One moment, there is also the opinion of Rabbeinu Tam (Rashi’s grandson), who says seemingly in passing that even though this ailment is considered fatal in an animal, it is not considered fatal in a human. This is because a person possesses a mazal (a personal, heavenly, supportive power”).

After saying this, the rabbi turned to the Jew and said: “Do you hear? Rabbeinu Tam assures you that you will have a long life. Go home. You will be well.”

The man went home and lived a long and happy life.


What can this story teach me about faith? What can it teach me about the power of perseverance even in the face of issues which seem irreversible?

(Source: Tzaddikim Lemofet, pg. 186)