The Karliner Rebbe's Prescription
D. Ben-Amos, ed. “Folktales of the Jews”, vol. 2 “Tales from Eastern Europe”, Philadelphia 2007: "The Karliner Rebbe's Prescription"
As a shepherd tends his flock, so did the “Babe of Stolin” care for his flock and see to all their bodily and spiritual needs. Nevertheless, he also conducted conversations on secular matters: with one person he would discuss philosophy and ethics; for another he would write down a “prescription” – a charm for physical health.
A Hasid who felt unwell would come to the rebbe*, described his ailments, and ask for a remedy. The rebbe would ask questions and make inquiries, arrive at a diagnosis, and write out a tried and true prescription for perfect health.
Once, during the intermediate days of Passover, a brawny Jew came to the rebbe with a request: “Rebbe, I am a carter, a man of the whip and harness. I travel the roads and work day and night. In summer I’m consumed by the heat, and in winter I’m seared by the cold. But my strength is failing – may it not happen to you – and I get dizzy when I’m on the road. Would the rebbe be so kind and merciful as to write me a prescription to ease my ailments?”
The rebbe tore a piece of paper from his notebook, wrote down some words in Polish, and gave it to the Hasid. “Here is your prescription,” he told him, “A proven charm against headache. Now go in peace, and with God’s help you will be well.”
The Jew took a respectful leave of the rebbe and went his way.
Summer passed, autumn arrived, and during one of the Ten Days of Penitence the same Jew came to the rebbe again. His face made it plain that he was in great pain. The rebbe recognized him. “What’s the problem, whip master?” he asked. “Why do you look so downcast?”
“Rebbe, the headaches have come back. Please, have mercy on me and write a note, and my pains will be relieved again.”
“But I wrote you a proven remedy. If it has run out, go to the apothecary and ask him to refill the prescription I wrote you during the intermediate days of Passover.”
“May the rebbe live, could you possibly imagine that I took the rebbe’s handwritten note and gave it to some nameless apothecary? Heaven forbid, Rebbe! Heaven forbid that I should do something like that!”
“I am astonished at you. You didn’t give the note to the apothecary? What did you do with my prescription?”
“Rebbe, may you live long, what do you mean what did I do with it? I unraveled the seam of my leather cap, stuffed the note deep inside the lining, and wore the cap on my head. I felt better as soon as I put it on. For half a year I was free of pain.”
“And where is the hat now?”
“May the rebbe live, one cloudy day last month a storm came up, with a driving rain that soaked me. It tore my clothes and blew my hat away. And, woe is me, it carried off the note, written in the rebbe’s own hand. Now once again my head is dizzy when I’m on the road. Would the rebbe please be merciful and write out the charm again, to bring me relief as before?”
* A Hasidic rabbi.