Reb Naftali, the Healing Rebbe

Contributed by Rabbi Daniel Lev

Chaim was a sensitive ten-year-old boy who lived with his humble parents in the river town of Shplotz. Sadly, Chaim was not able to run around like other kids in town because he had been injured three years ago in a farming accident and was wheelchair-bound ever since. None of the nineteenth-century physicians could help him walk.

One day, Chaim’s parents heard that the great Rebbe and healer, Reb Naftali of Ropshitz, was coming to town to perform a wedding. They felt that this was their chance to approach the Rebbe and ask him to heal Chaim. However, it was well known that wherever Reb Naftali went, he was constantly surrounded by followers and others who sought his help. Being quite humble and shy, Chaim’s parents didn’t know how to approach Reb Naftali. After some thought, they came up with a plan.

Now, the town of Shplotz was uniquely situated on the Blintz River. The only way a person could easily enter the town from the south was to cross over a narrow bridge that spanned the water. There was a wagon trail behind the town, but most people used the bridge for foot traffic. Chaim’s parents decided that they would wheel Chaim up to the middle of the bridge, and there Reb Naftali could not pass unless he met Chaim. The boy was too scared to speak to the Rebbe, so his parents placed a sign around his neck for Reb Naftali to read. It said, “Rebbe, I can’t walk and the doctors can’t help me. Please ask G!d to heal me. Shalom, Chaim.”

The day of the wedding arrived, and when Chaim’s parents heard the wild singing of the Rebbe’s entourage of Chasidim dancing down the road, they wheeled their son to the middle of the bridge and then ran back to stand behind a nearby tree to see what would happen.

As the Chasidim approached the bridge, some of them saw this little boy in a chair blocking passage across the bridge. As they were about to run on ahead and move the kid, Reb Naftali called to them from the center of the group and told them that he would handle it. As he neared the boy, he saw that he was disabled and sat in a wheel chair. This saddened him, and he eventually stood before Chaim and read the sign:

“Rebbe, I’m unable to walk and the doctors can’t help me.
Please ask G!d to heal me.
Shalom, Chaim.”

The Rebbe looked down at the boy with soft eyes of mercy. He took in the deepest of breaths, the kind that flows through the most compassionate of sighs. Then, he yelled at the top of his lungs:

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE! CAN’T YOU SEE THAT YOU’RE IN MY WAY, GET OUT OF HERE RIGHT NOW!!”

At that moment, Chaim jumped up and ran away.