In the small Russian township of Batchaikov lived a kindly old squire. The squire owned many villages and forests, inhabited mostly by the employees of his holdings. The squire was exceptionally generous. He would exempt people from their obligations to him if they were poor, and offered special discounts for the local rabbi, ritual slaughterer, schoolteachers and cantors. Most Jews in and around Batchaikov made their livelihood off the squire’s estate.

Being old and frail and in poor health, the squire often visited a renowned medical specialist of the time, Dr. Berthenson. Also, he gradually entrusted the administration of his estate to his anti-Semitic chief manager, who quickly began implementing his prejudices. Gone were the exemptions for the poor and the communal employees. In less than two years, the Jewish community was impoverished.

Many of the members of the Jewish community of Batchaikov were followers of Rabbi Shmuel, the “Rebbe Maharash,” the fourth Lubavitcher Rebbe (1834–1882). Mostly simple folk, they would visit their rebbe for a Shabbat or holiday, hear a chassidic discourse, be received for a private audience, and head home, confident that G‑d would surely bless them materially and spiritually. No one ever thought to trouble the rebbe with the details of the painful situation brewing in their hometown.

No one ever thought to trouble the rebbe with the details of the painful situationOne longtime Batchaikov resident, whose family had maintained close contact with the squire and his ancestors, was Reb Shmuel. This Reb Shmuel was visiting the rebbe when, during a private audience, the rebbe began questioning him about the state of affairs in Batchaikov. Reb Shmuel told him everything.

After admonishing Reb Shmuel for not informing him of the situation earlier, the rebbe gave Reb Shmuel explicit instructions. “Your squire’s life is in danger. Travel home. Tell him in my name that I know he is critically ill and the doctors have just about despaired of his life. Let him help the Jewish families who live on his properties; for every Jewish family he helps, I promise him one month of life and health.”

After returning home, Reb Shmuel tried to visit the squire, but was refused admittance. Since it was a pleasant summer day, the doctor requested that the squire be taken outside for a ride. As Reb Shmuel stood from a distance and watched the old, broken gentleman get into the carriage, his heart was pained. The moment the squire saw Reb Shmuel on the road, he invited him into his carriage.

Reb Shmuel climbed aboard the coach and immediately passed on the rebbe’s message. The squire asked Reb Shmuel to draw up a complete list of every Jewish family in Batchaikov and the neighboring areas who could earn a living from his estate. In total, Reb Shmuel compiled a list of over 160 families.

So it was that over 160 families, plus a few dozen more from the surrounding area, were once again able to make a living. And the squire recovered.

According to the squire’s tally, he was owed another fourteen months of life . . .About fourteen years later, Reb Shmuel was once again visiting Lubavitch, though the Rebbe Maharash had passed away some eleven years earlier.

Reb Shmuel related this story to his fellow chassidim, and then revealed the reason behind his visit: though the squire was exceedingly old, for the past fourteen years he had felt robust. Recently, however, he began feeling ill. He asked Reb Shmuel to visit the resting place of the rebbe to inform him that according to the squire’s tally, he was owed another fourteen months of life . . .

Reb Shmuel visited the rebbe’s grave and relayed the message. Needless to say, the rebbe kept his promise.