Little Ya’akov’s Healing

By Reb Daniel Lev

Rebbe Yisroel Hopsztajn, a great promulgator of Hasidism in Poland, blessing acolytes c 1800. Hasidism gave the elite Tzadik a social mystical role

It was so sad. Just after Ya’akov’s tenth birthday, he was stricken with an illness that left him with two paralyzed legs. His Chassidic parents were saddened even more after months of visiting doctors who only shook their heads. There was no known cure in Ya’akov’s 19th-century world. So, the family stopped traveling to big cities and brought their son home to their small village in southern Poland. Their town was nestled, on one side, below some tall mountains (not unlike our Ko’olaus) and boundaried by a large river on the other side of town that had only a narrow bridge connecting it to the rest of the country.

Daily Ya’akov’s parents would push him in a simple wheelchair to shul and school. Each night they would fervently pray that HaShem would send their son a healing. Then it came – the good news that the great Rebbe-master and healer, Reb Naftali of Ropshitz, would be coming to perform a wedding in their little town. They know that he could heal their son where the doctors failed. The only problem was that Reb Naftali was so popular that when he would enter the town he would become surrounded by swarms of the townspeople and they could never get their Ya’akov close enough to be healed.

Two night before the Rebbe was to arrive they made a plan that would put their son before the great healer. They reasoned that since there the only way to enter the village was over their small bridge, they would wheel their son out to the middle of the span and then the Rebbe would have to see him. When he heard of the plan, Ya’akov, a very shy boy, told his parents that he could not speak to the Rebbe, let alone ask for a healing. Since the parents were also shy they decided to make a sign and place it around their son’s neck. It said, “Reb Naftali, I cannot walk, please heal me – Ya’akov.” The day came for the Rebbe’s arrival and Ya’akov’s mother and father brough him out early to the bridge. After a couple hours they heard the Rebbe and his entourage coming because while traveling he would encourage his Chassidim to sing. Quickly, the parents rolled onto the bridge to block it, and then they retreated to stand behind a tree on the town-side.

When the Rebbe saw this little boy sitting in a chair on the bridge one of his followers offered to move the boy. He said, “No, I will do it.” He walked up on the bridge and stood before Ya’akov, who looked down at his sign. The Rebbe looked at it too and read out-loud, “Reb Naftali, I cannot walk, please heal me, Ya’akov.” Then the Rebbe took a great breath – the kind of breath filled with the sadness of the world, one that would be expelled with the greatest of sighs that only a master healer could express. Then the Rebbe shouted: What’s the matter with you! You are blocking the bridge! Get out of my way you little pisher! At that moment, Ya’akov jumped up and ran away…