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Miracles Today

On the fifteenth of Elul, in 1970, the entrance to the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s synagogue at 770 Eastern Parkway was crowded with the members of the families of the groom and bride who were to be married several hours afterwards. They had come several hours early in order to receive the Rebbe's blessing as he went from afternoon prayers to his study. Unexpectedly, he gazed intently at the groom's father, Rabbi Zalman Leib Astulin of Bnei Brak, Israel, and ordered, “What is this? What is this? Go straight to a doctor!”

All those present were amazed by the Rebbe's sudden reaction. Only Rabbi Astulin comprehended that the Rebbe was addressing the condition of his leg.

During World War II, he had suffered a leg injury, and had to use crutches since. Lately, he had been suffering agonizing pain. Not wishing to disrupt the wedding preparations, which included a trip to New York and an opportunity to spend the festive month of Tishrei in "770", Rabbi Astulin had not mentioned his suffering to his family.

In response to the Rebbe's directive, he resolved to get medical attention as soon as he returned to Israel. “I do not know any doctors in New York,” he thought. “Besides, I could never afford the doctors' fees here.”

As he stood in thought, the Rebbe turned back and reprimanded, “Right away. Immediately! Before Rosh HaShanah!”

Caught off guard by the Rebbe's response to his thoughts, Rabbi Astulin blurted: “But I do not know anyone here.”

“Dr. Seligson [the Rebbe's personal doctor] will refer you to the right physician,” said the Rebbe.

After examining the leg, Dr. Seligson sensed the severity of the condition and referred Rabbi Astulin to Dr. Redler, an orthopedic specialist. A mere glance at the leg was sufficient for Dr. Redler to recoil in sympathy and pessimism. “I'm terribly sorry. There is a severe infection and irreversible gangrene. I cannot help you.” The x-rays supported his diagnosis. “There's nothing I can do. There is no healthy tissue left. It's decayed entirely.”

Mrs. Astulin recovered first from the terrible shock: “It can't be totally hopeless. The Lubavitcher Rebbe advised us to come here. If he sent us to you, then the condition is curable and you are the right person to help us.”

With professional dignity and imposed patience, the doctor asked, “Is the Lubavitcher Rebbe a doctor? Did he inspect the leg?” He waved the x-ray at her. “Here, look for yourself. It's black. Nothing more can be done.”

“Try something, anything. Maybe the treatment will help.”

Dr. Redler agreed to experiment with some medicines and ordered Rabbi Astulin to stay in bed. The Astulins felt that he wanted to soothe their anxiety more than the leg. “If you see any improvement after two weeks, see me again,” Dr. Redler said unenthusiastically.

A veteran of war, a victim of Communist harassment, and a long-time refusenik, Rabbi Astulin was not one to worry about his physical discomfort. Yet he could not conceive of missing the festive atmosphere of "770". Despite the doctor's orders, he went to shul on Rosh HaShanah and attended the farbrengen (Chassidic gathering) on the second day of Yom Tov. At one point during the farbrengen the Rebbe handed him a piece of his challah and said: “Eat, Reb Zalman Leib, eat - and you will recover.”

Two weeks after the first appointment, on the thirteenth day of Tishrei, Rabbi Astulin went back to the doctor. Dr. Redler looked at the leg, and exclaimed in total disbelief: “It couldn't be the same leg!” He examined it again and again, shook his head, and murmured, “Impossible! This is very strange. I must take another x-ray and compare them.”

There was no question. Clear white spotting appeared inside the gangrene. “I can't believe it. Healthy tissue in a blackened, decaying limb! I have never seen this in all the decades of my practice!”

Although a nurse would usually have been charged with applying the salves, massages, and bandages that Rabbi Astulin's leg required, Dr. Redler announced to his staff that he would personally attend to this case. The treatment took months, but Dr. Redler generously dismissed the high bill. Eventually, the leg healed, and the Astulin family had a private meeting with the Rebbe at yechidus before returning to Israel.

“You have a revived father,” the Rebbe commented to one of the daughters.

Some years later, the Astulins traveled to the States again. Paying a social visit to Dr. Redler, they were sorry to hear that he had suffered a heart attack. “But don't worry,” Dr. Redler reassured them smiling. “Ever since your extraordinary recovery, I have been in contact with the Rebbe and I have consulted with him on many other matters, not only medical. I don't have to tell you how helpful his advice and blessings have been.”


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