Great tzaddikim, by the merits of their holiness and piety, are able to accomplish extraordinary things. Their unadulterated faith and pure prayers are so powerful that their requests of Hashem are immediately fulfilled.
Following are a few stories that demonstrate the power of a tzaddik’s word.
Rav Chaim Ben Atar, famously known as the Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh, would never sit down to a Shabbos or yom tov seudah unless there was a guest gracing his table. While there was no shortage of people who would jump at the opportunity to eat at the home of the great tzaddik, the Ohr Hachaim would specifically look to also host those who had nowhere else to go.
One year, erev Pesach dawned, and the Ohr Hachaim realized that he did not have any guests lined up for the seder. Typically, his table would be surrounded by tens of guests on Pesach, all eager to participate in the great sage’s seder, but this year, it appeared that things would be different.
The Ohr Hachaim sent out his aid, Ovadia, to scour the length and breadth of Sali, the city where he resided, for guests. Ovadia went to all the shuls and shteiblach, but everyone already had a place for the seder.
The deadline for eating chometz came and went, and then the time for burning the chometz passed as well. Ovadia walked up and down the streets, searching for a guest but could not find anyone to take up his invitation.
About three hours before yom tov, he conceded defeat. He returned to the Ohr Hachaim, his hands upraised. “I’m sorry, rebbi, but there are no guests.”
“Impossible,” the Ohr Hachaim insisted. “There must be someone who needs a place for the seder. You need to look better. Look around everywhere.”
Without a word of protest, Ovadia turned around to do his master’s bidding, though he was unsure where else to search for a guest. He had already combed through all the shuls, hotels, stores, streets, and the local park more than once. It seemed pointless to try again.
“The only place I didn’t check was the cemetery,” he said aloud in frustration. “There are only dead people in a cemetery.”
But even live people frequented the cemetery on occasion, so Ovadia decided to check there anyway. Sure enough, as he approached the cemetery gates, he heard the sound of sobbing.
Walking between the rows of graves, he came upon a Jew, his head in his arms, crying bitterly.
“I see that something is bothering you,” Ovadia said to the top of the man’s head. “Can I perhaps help you with something?”
The man didn’t bother looking up, shrugging his shoulders instead. “Please, I’m a broken person. Just go away!”
“But Pesach is in less than three hours,” Ovadia countered. “How can you stay here in the cemetery?”
The man lifted his face just a few inches and peeked out. “Leave me alone!” he cried. “For me, it’s erev Tisha B’Av today, not erev Pesach!”
Ovadia placed a gentle hand on the man’s shoulder. “I am an emissary of the Ohr Hachaim,” he said softly. “I’ll take you to him. Perhaps he can help you.”
The Jew shrugged off his hand. “I’m not going anywhere,” he said stubbornly. “I am so miserable, the only place I want to go is into a grave and die.”
Seeing that he was getting nowhere with the man, Ovadia returned to the Ohr Hachaim to tell him about the only potential guest he had found. “He’s just standing there, crying his heart out,” he explained breathlessly. “He says he wants to die.”
“Go back there, and tell him to come to me immediately,” the Ohr Hachaim instructed. “Perhaps I will be able to ease his pain.”
There was only two hours left to yom tov. Ovadia ran the entire way to the cemetery. There was no time to lose.
“The Ohr Hachaim wants you to be his guest at the seder,” he told the man. “He has no other guests. He says that he will be able to help you.”
The man lifted his head entirely at this piece of information. Ovadia’s words had struck the right notes. To be a guest, alone, at the Ohr Hachaim’s seder! What a privilege, what a merit!
“But how could he possibly help me?” the man asked, his voice slightly calmer.
“Let’s just hurry there and find out,” Ovadia suggested. “It’s a good ten minutes away from here.”
They walked briskly together to the Ohr Hachaim’s home, where the sage himself was waiting by the door to greet them.
“Rebbi!” the man wailed the moment he laid eyes on the great tzaddik. “For me, it’s not erev yom tov, but erev Tisha B’av!” He began weeping again, piercing anguished cries of real pain.
The Ohr Hachaim regarded him closely, taking in his blotchy face, swollen eyes, and torn clothing with concern. “My child, tell me what happened,” he said softly.
The man tried to speak, but his sobs made his words incoherent. At last, he managed to choke out his story. “We are terribly poor,” he began. “My family survives from bread crust to bread crust. We have barely anything to eat. My children were getting older, and I knew that the only way I would be able to marry them off is by earning money somehow for a dowry.
“Eight years ago, I left my family and traveled to a foreign country, where jobs are plentiful and easier to come by. For eight years, I slaved away, saving penny after penny for my family. Living alone and working so hard was excruciating, but each time I longed for my family, I would remind myself that one day, when I returned to them with a sack of coins, all of the difficulty would be worthwhile.
“Two months ago, I reached my financial goals and booked a ship ticket back home. To protect my savings from theft, I changed them in for a small sack of jewels, which I held in my pocket the entire journey.
“The trip wasn’t easy. I traveled on three different ships, with stopovers in foreign cities in between each. The last ship was to dock here in Sali just days before Pesach, so I planned to spend yom tov locally and then continue the journey home by foot after Pesach.
“Yesterday, the ship pulled into the harbor, and all the passengers were transferred to rowboats, which brought them right up to the dry land. There was a flimsy rope ladder that we used to get from the ship down to the rowboat, and I was terrified of falling into the water. Holding tightly onto my small sack of jewels, I descended the rope ladder carefully.
“Suddenly, a gust came, and I nearly lost my balance. Gripping the rope ladder tighter, I lost grasp of the velvet sack and watched in horror as it fell into the water, sinking immediately. My eight years of hardship, loneliness, and separation from my family were all for nothing!”
The man burst into fresh tears, and tears of compassion came to the eyes of the Ohr Hachaim as well. “My child, it is almost Pesach, a time of salvation, of miracles. Don’t worry, everything will be alright.” He took the man’s hand. “Come with me.”
There were now one and half hours left before Pesach would set in. As if he had nothing else to do, the Ohr Hachaim walked with the man to the harbor. “Where did you lose your jewels?” he asked him. “Which part of the water was it?”
“I have no idea!” the man cried. “If I knew where it was, I would dive in and get it. But it’s lost, somewhere in this vast ocean.”
The Ohr Hachaim closed his eyes. “In a few moments, the water is going to spit out all the objects that were lost in its depths within the past five years. You only have permission to take the sack of jewels that belongs to you. The rest of the lost objects will be washed back inside.”
The man’s eyes widened.
The Ohr Hachaim lifted his hands toward the heavens. “Ribbono shel olam!” he cried out. “There is a Jew here in excruciating pain over his loss. We must help him before Pesach! Please, Ribbono shel olam, instruct the angel of the seas to eject all the objects that were thrown into this ocean in the past five years!”
Before the man’s disbelieving eyes, the waters began to bubble and froth, and the tide slapped down upon the beach, once, twice, three times. As the water retreated, it left behind an enormous number of things. There were coats and hats, pens and shoes, a treasure chest, some coins, suitcases, fishing rods, pocket watches, and dishes. The shore was lined with an assortment of items.
“You have permission to take only the item you lost,” the Ohr Hachaim reminded the astounded man.
The man began walking among the objects and suddenly bent down. “It’s here!” he called out, his voice ringing with joy and relief. He lifted a matted velvet sack and opened it up. All the jewels he had painstakingly worked for were inside.
“Rebbi, this is mine!” he declared jubilantly, falling at the Ohr Hachaim’s feet and kissing them reverently. “Thank you! Thank you for performing this miracle!”
The Ohr Hachaim raised his eyes heavenward. “Ribbono shel olam! Thank You for the tremendous miracle You have performed for this Jew!”
Almost immediately, a high tide tore through the beach, washing all the objects back into the water.
Rav Meir Simcha, author of the Ohr Sameach and the Meshech Chochmah, was a genius and an illustrious tzaddik. He lived in the later nineteenth century and passed away in the 1930’s.
When he became rav in a city, the priest leading the Christian community in that same city was an anti-Semite. While he didn’t rile up his congregants often, he simply did not like the Jews and was opposed to the presence of their community in his city.
The city was located in the valley between two imposing mountains. A long river snaked down the mountain, feeding from the sea above. Years earlier, the city had been established by the construction of a dam, which held back the river water from flooding the entire area, creating both a placid lake and dry land for the city to be built upon.
The dam was built to be tall enough and strong enough to handle a tremendous amount of water and pressure. If it were to collapse, tragedy would immediately befall the city. All the homes and animals would be swallowed up by the water, and it was not at all a certainty that the people themselves would manage to evacuate the area on time.
When it started to rain one day during Rav Meir Simcha’s early years as rav, no one in the city was concerned. After all, it had rained countless times over the previous tens of years, and the dam had withstood the lake’s rising waters.
It took a day or two for people to realize that this rain was different. It was a storm, a heavy storm, with thousands of gallons of water pouring down from above. The sea overflowed, sending even more water rushing down the river into the lake. The water levels grew higher, but torrents of rain continued to relentlessly come down without pause or signs of letup.
After four days of nonstop gushing, the townspeople began to fear their lives. They could see the water rising almost to the top of the dam. Just another little bit, and the dam would come down, flooding the town and killing many.
The residents of the city hurried to the priest.
“What should we do?!” they cried in fear. “Pray for us!”
“There’s nothing I can do,” the priest said, just as afraid. “This is a matter for the Jewish rabbi.”
“The rabbi? That despicable Jewish leader?!”
“It doesn’t matter what we think of him,” the priest said, donning a heavy raincoat. “There is no time to lose. I’ll accompany you to there. I hope the Jewish rabbi will be able to do something.”
Rav Meir Simcha was sitting at the table in his home, speaking to a young bachur in learning when he heard a commotion. Glancing out the window, he saw a cluster of hooded men running toward his home, heads bowed to shield their faces from the downpour. Two minutes later, there was a knock on his door.
Rav Meir Simcha opened the door and stepped back to allow the men to enter. Soaked raincoats and drenched boots were hung and dispensed of, and then the men stood before him, shivering slightly. It was the local priest, who had always thrown hateful glances his way, and four other prominent city officials.
“Can I help you, gentlemen?” Rav Meir Simcha asked.
Briefly, one of the officials described the situation at the dam.
“Only a miracle will help us now,” the priest added.
Listening to the official’s words, Rav Meir Simcha realized that the city was indeed in danger. “Bring my Shabbos coat,” he requested of the young bachur.
The boy brought him the requested coat, and Rav Meir Simcha put it on. The priest beside him, the boy at his heels, and the four city officials bringing up the rare, Rav Meir Simcha set out to the dam.
The water was continuing to rise steadily, inch by inch. In just hours, it would succeed in spilling over the dam and overrun the valley.
“Sar shel yam!” Rav Meir Simcha called to the angel in charge of the seas. “I command you to go back down. Cease rising, and recede to your former levels!”
But the water just continued to rise.
“Angel of the seas!” Rav Meir Simcha cried again. “I am the mara d’asra, the rav of this community, and I command you to go down!”
The water did not obey.
“I decree that you must go down!” Rav Meir Simcha commanded. “If you do not obey, I will excommunicate you!”
That did the trick. Suddenly, like someone unplugged the drain of a sink, the water began to recede. It dropped steadily, inch by inch, and was soon back to its normal levels.
Seeing the miracle before his own eyes, the priest fell down and began kissing Rav Meir Simcha’s feet. The tzaddik, revulsed by this, took a step back.
There was no kabbalah involved, no mystical recitations of verses or sheimos to commune with angels. Rav Meir Simcha had achieved the miracle through the merit of his own holiness, purity, and complete faith.
The story was told to Rav Shalom Schwadron by the young bachur, who had been in the midst of learning with Rav Meir Simcha when the story occurred and had witnessed it himself.
A friend of mine was the personal assistant of Rav Itzik’l, a great rebbe in Europe who passed away in the 1970s. He was a great tzaddik, famed for his piety and righteousness. He relayed the following story.
Once, a man came for a blessing from Rav Itzik’l. He was sick with a life-threatening illness and was afraid for his future. He sought a blessing for a full recovery and a long life.
Rav Itzik’l looked at him. “Your sickness should leave you,” he said simply. “It should leave you.”
Suddenly, the person began experiencing severe cramps. He hurried out of the room, and withing a few minutes, returned, feeling drained but significantly better. It seemed as though the sickness had simply left his body, just as the tzaddik had commanded.
A follow up visit with the doctor confirmed this. Without an operation, without treatments, with the pure merit of a holy tzaddik, the illness had withdrawn completely and the man was fully healed.
My chavrusah’s father-in-law, a distinguished rav, was in the hospital with a terrible illness that had begun in his foot but spread to his entire body. His life hung on the balance. His family arranged for Rav Moshe Feinstein to visit him, hoping that the gadol hador would be able to provide much needed chizuk to the sick man.
Rav Moshe arrived and found the rav laying weakly on his hospital bed. “Where is the illness?”
“In his foot,” the family replied.
The tzaddik approached the bed and lifted the patient’s foot, curling his fingers around the heel like a person making kiddush on a cup of wine. Lifting the foot, he blessed him that Hashem grant him a complete recovery. Gently, he lowered the foot back onto the bed.
To this day, the man’s case remains a medical mystery. Scans were taken of the area the following day, and the doctors were astonished to discover that the illness had completely vanished from the body. It was as if it had never been there.
The Alter Kapischnitzer Rebbe’s son, Rav Moshe, who eventually succeeded him, did not have any children, and came to his father for a blessing. The Kapitschnitzer Rebbe blessed him.
A few weeks later, another childless couple came for the same blessing. “Your salvation should soon come, together with my son Moshe’s,” the rebbe blessed them.
Indeed, one year later, both the rebbe’s son and this couple merited to have a child on the exact same day.
Have a Wonderful Shabbos!
This story is taken from tape # A55