Weekly Chasidic Story # 1380 (5784-37) 12 Iyar 5784 (May 20, 2024)

"The Crashing Wheelchair"

Through the window they saw a woman lighting Festival candles. They noticed that next to her a man with a radiant, joyful face was lying in a bed.

Why this week? LAG B'OMER -- Rabbi Shimon bar-Yochai, Meron

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The Crashing Wheelchair


Rabbi Chaim-Moshe Mendel was known to be one of the leading Ashkenazic Kabbalists of the previous generation. Born in the town Bistrita in Romania in the year 5662 (1902), he was ordained as a rabbi in Hungary. Before World War II he served as Dayan (a judge in a religious court) in Timisvar, Western Romania. During World War II he was sent to a labor camp in Romania, where due to the harsh living conditions and forced labor, he became disabled and suffered terrible tribulations all his life.

In the beginning of the Jewish month of Elul in 5709 (1949), he emigrated to Israel with his family. It seemed that the words of our Sages, "One of the three things that can only be acquired if accompanied by suffering is the Land of Israel," was proven by the hardship his family experienced. After descending from the ship in Haifa, they were housed in a camp for new immigrants. They were allocated a small and dilapidated tent. They shared the tent with mice and the strong sea wind shook their shelter.

Also, the heat and humidity in the middle of the summer were too hard to bear. Pearl, Rabbi Chaim-Moshe's wife, decided to go to Haifa to ask for help from the Admor (Rebbe) of Seret-Vishnitz, Rabbi Eliezer Hagar, son of the Admor known as the "Makor Baruch" whom her father had been a follower of.

She was received warmly. The Rebbe listed to her attentively. When she finished, he advised her that the family should move to Tsfat. The dry and cool climate of that city was a great improvement and they started to feel more at ease.

That Rosh Hashanah, they heard knocking on the door of their shack, and Pearl went to open it. In the doorway stood a man and a woman. Without introduction the woman asked, "Are there Jews here from the city of Grosswardein?"[1]

"I am from Grosswardein," answered Pearl.

"You are Pearl Goodman!" exclaimed the woman. "I don't believe it!"

Deeply moved, the women embraced.

The woman's name was Sabo. Pearl's grandfather was Rabbi Meir- Zeev Roshnak, a great scholar who lived in the city of Grosswardein close to the Sabos, who were a wealthy family. When the Sabo family immigrated to Israel they went to live in Tel Aviv. However, when it became close to Rosh Hashana, they decided to celebrate the holy festival in the "City of Kabbalah," Tsfat.

On the first night of the holiday, after the prayers, they decided to visit the neighborhood where the newly arrived immigrants lived, in the hope of encountering relatives or acquaintances. While walking through the street, something attracted their attention. Through the window of one of the shacks they saw a woman lighting Yom Tov (festival) candles. They noticed that next to her a man with a radiant, joyful face was lying in a bed.

"We saw the presence of G-d hovering over their house," they would say later. This was the reason they decided to knock on the door.

When the strong emotions of the reunion had calmed, Mrs. Sabo turned to Rabbi Chaim-Moshe. "Why didn't the rabbi go to the synagogue on the night of Rosh Hashana?"

"To my great regret I cannot walk," answered the rabbi softly, with quiet acceptance of the bitterness of his fate. "I do not have the means to hire people to carry me to the shul."

Seeing Rabbi Chaim-Moshe laying on his sickbed broke Mrs. Sabo's heart. She immediately decided she would do all in her power to help him and cheer him up.

The couple's faces became somber. "What can we do for you?" Mrs. Sabo asked generously. The rabbi's answered surprised her.

"I know that if I can go to Meron to pray at the tziyun (burial place) of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, I will be healed."

The decisiveness with which these words were said convinced Mrs. Sabo to fulfill his request. She asked her husband to pay for the ride to nearby Meron [15 minute drive]. "We will make every effort, even if it is only to make the rabbi feel better!" she stated assertively.

The couple arranged the trip with alacrity. The day after Rosh Hashana, on the Fast of Gedaliah, they hired an ambulance with four male nurses who would assist the Rabbi in reaching the tziyun.

When Mr. and Mrs. Sabo together with Rabbi Chaim-Moshe, Pearl and the others arrived in Meron, emotions were high. "Please bring me to the holy tziyun and leave me there by myself," requested the Rabbi.

He spent a long time there, praying to the Creator of the world. He spilled out his heart and begged G-d to send him a speedy recovery. At a certain point he felt sure that his prayers had been answered! He called the nurses and asked them to lift him out to the wheelchair. "I don't need this anymore," he said to the incredulous men.

His second request struck them with utter astonishment. "As soon as I get up, take the chair and throw it down the mountain."

His determined instruction amazed everyone. And when Rabbi Chaim-Moshe stood up on his own, they were even more amazed.

All present watched as the wheelchair was pushed off the mountain, breaking into pieces along the way to the bottom. They stood in wonder as the rabbi took several steps. None of them had ever seen such a miracle.

"In your merit I was healed," Rabbi Chaim-Moshe said to Mr. Sabo, his voice shaking with emotion. "I bless you with long life till ripe old age."

To Mrs. Sabo he said, "I know that all this is because of you. I bless you that you will live as long as the numerical value of "l'chaim" [98], and that you will have the strength and health to practice kindness with G-d's creations till your last day, with a clear mind."

This heart-felt blessing was fulfilled in its entirety. Mrs. Sabo died on her 98th birthday. Several years before that she became very ill. It seemed that her end was near. Her son, who was taking care of her, heard her whisper, "Master of the world, I'm not giving up on the blessing of the tzadik (pure, righteous person)."

Immediately after that her health improved. She recovered and lived out her years according to the wondrous blessing of Rabbi Chaim-Moshe Mendel. Till her last day she occupied herself with charity and helping others, among them many elderly and lonely people.

Source: Translated by Mrs. C.R. Benami, long-time editorial assistant for AscentOfSafed.com, and revised and supplemented by R. Yerachmiel Tilles from the popular Hebrew weekly, Sichat HaShavua #1896 (5-5-2023).

Biographical notes:
Rabbi Chaim-Moshe ben Meir-Yosef Mendel [1902 - 4 Tammuz 1996] was born in the town Bistrita in Romania. He was ordained as a rabbi in Hungary, and before World War II he served as Dayan (a judge in a religious court) in Timisvar, Western Romania.
He tried hard to conceal his deeds and holiness, but after R' Yisrael Abichatzera [the "Baba Sali"] and the Kabbalist Rabbi Moshe Yakov Rabikov ["the shoemaker"] sent him people to be blessed, and even Admorim came to receive his blessing, he became renowned as one of the leading Ashkenazic Kabbalists of his generation, a performer of salvations and a great lover of Israel. Many thronged to him for his advice and blessings. He is buried in Bnai Brak. [This paragraph is excerpted from mytzadik.com]

Rabbi Baruch Hager, the Seret-Viznitz Rebbe [1895-1963], known as the Makor Baruch, was the son of the Ahavas Yisrael of Vizhnitz [1860-1936]. He became the Admor of Seret-Vizhnitz after his father passed away. In Sivan 1947 he emigrated to Eretz Yisrael, eventually settling in Haifa where he established a yeshivah, a Talmud Torah and other Torah institutions. This laid the ground for the establishment of the famous community of Ramat Vizhnitz, built on the side of Haifa's Mount Carmel, laying its foundation stone on the 3rd day of Tammuz (!), 1954. [excerpted from dailyzohar.com]
[His brother, Rabbi Chaim-Meir Hager, settled in Bnai Brak after the Holocaust and started a large Vizhnitz community there. A son-in-law of Rabbi Chaim-Meir, Rabbi Moshe Ernster, founded and leads the Maor Chaim community in the southernmost district of Tsfat (Safed).]

Why this week? LAG B'OMER - Rabbi Shimon bar-Yochai, Meron

Footnote: [1] Oradea (in Hebrew and Yiddish texts the German name Grosswardein is used), is a city in Transylvania, West Romania, about 10 kilometers from the border with Hungary. (jewishvirtuallibrary.org)

Yerachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and chief editor of this website (and of KabbalaOnline.org). He has hundreds of published stories to his credit, and many have been translated into other languages. He tells them live at Ascent nearly every Saturday night.

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