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An Ordinary Woman

About 30 years ago, there was a woman in Crown Heights, let’s call her Mrs. M., who experienced a terrible fall in her home. She was rushed to the hospital with severe injuries to her face.

Mrs. M.’s husband ran to the synagogue and entered the office of the Rebbe’s secretary, Rabbi Leibel Groner. In a broken voice he told him all that had happened to his wife. He added that after examining her, the doctors had categorized her condition as serious, and said that she would need no less than four surgeries to repair the damage to her face.

Rabbi Groner wrote down Mrs. M’s full Hebrew name and her mother’s name, and promised to give over the information to the Rebbe as soon as possible.

The Rebbe’s response to this news was, “If so, I will travel to the Ohel.”

The “Ohel” is the term for the resting place of the Rebbe’s father-in-law, the previous Rebbe, Rabbi  Joseph I. Schneerson. The Rebbe used to travel there about twice a month to pray. Later the Rebbe began to visit more frequently, about twice a week.

When the Rebbe said he would go to the Ohel, this was an unusual trip, not part of his usual routine. A special trip just for this woman. Mrs. M. had no special qualifications that made her stand out in any way. She was an average woman, a member of the community, yet the Rebbe decided that to pray for her health he’d dedicate many of his precious hours.

It’s important to note that on days the Rebbe traveled to the Ohel, he would not eat anything that day until he returned. During his stay, which could last for hours, even in bad weather, the Rebbe would stand on his feet the entire time.

That evening, after returning from the Ohel, the Rebbe approached his secretary and asked about Mrs. M.. Rabbi Groner quickly called her husband for an update. Unfortunately, the news was not good. “The doctors still report the same prognosis,” he told the Rebbe. “They still say she will need to undergo four surgeries.”

 “If so, I will travel again tomorrow to the Ohel,” the Rebbe responded in the same words.

The next day, Rabbi Groner assumed that the Rebbe would want to hear a report right away. Therefore, even before the Rebbe returned from the Ohel, Rabbi Groner called the husband to find out if there was any change. Indeed, the doctors reported that there was a slight improvement, and decided that she would need only three surgeries.

Later that day the Rebbe asked Rabbi Groner how Mrs. M. was doing, and when he heard the good news the relief was visible on his face. Nevertheless the Rebbe repeated the same words he had said before: “If so, I will go again to the Ohel tomorrow.” A third trip.

Rabbi Groner expected that after this trip the husband would report a significant improvement and the Rebbe would not have to exert himself further.

To his joy, the Rebbe’s trip had its effect. The doctors examined the patient and concluded that two surgeries would be enough.

The Rebbe received the update and was gratified by the good news, but still did not give up. “If so, I will travel to the Ohel again tomorrow,” he said. Another day of fasting and intensive prayer for the full recovery of this woman.

Rabbi Groner’s great hope was that after the fourth trip, he would let the Rebbe know that Mrs. M. was healed completely. After the Rebbe returned from the Ohel, Rabbi Groner called the husband for an update and then reported to the Rebbe.

 “The doctors claim that Mrs. M. is experiencing a remarkable recovery, and as of now they say she needs only one surgery.”

Naturally, the Rebbe was happy, but still not satisfied. “If so, I will go again to the Ohel tomorrow.”

The fifth trip of the Rebbe finally did the trick. The doctors gave up on the need for any surgery! Five days of toil, five trips, countless long hours of prayer, had brought about a resolution unprecedented in the annals of medicine: The proposed four surgeries were whittled down to none, to be replaced by a regimen of therapy and rehabilitation until full recovery. Quite a bit of effort on behalf of an ordinary woman. Ordinary in our eyes, perhaps, but like any other Jewish man or woman, very precious in the eyes of the Rebbe.


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