Part Six – Rabbi Yosef fasts and prays for Shlomo Leib’s recovery

Now, in the meantime, when Rabbi Yosef realized the seriousness of Shlomo Leib’s condition, he took it upon himself to fast day and night for two consecutive twenty-four hour periods ending with the commencement of Shabbos. He recited Psalms and prayed for Divine mercy and after Shabbos he began another twenty-four hour fast.

After three days of high fever, Shlomo Leib snapped out of his delirium and recognized the court physician. However, when in an effort to comfort him the doctor told him that in a day or two his wife will come to visit him, he became very emotional and slipped back into his delirium, until he just lay there motionless, like a block of wood.

Meanwhile, news arrived at the inn of the accident in which the patient’s wife and son had drowned when their boat capsized. Hundreds of peasants were searching the length and breadth of the Vitba River before it flowed into the larger Dvina River. As of yet, the bodies had not been recovered.

The doctor told the innkeeper that the patient is worried about his wife and son and that he must love them passionately. He speculated that this must be the reason for his regression, because when he tried to comfort him that tomorrow or the day after they would visit, he began to sigh and moan and lost his senses. He tried to revive him with strong medications but nothing helped and he fears that these are his last hours on this earth. Therefore, he must urgently send a courier to the court of the Count informing him of the situation.

During all this Rabbi Yosef was so engrossed in fasting, reciting Psalms and praying that he was unaware of all that was going on with the patient. When the innkeeper told him what the doctor said, Rabbi Yosef immediately realized that Shlomo Leib was getting agitated at the mention of his non-Jewish wife and child. He turned to the doctor and asked him if he could visit the patient to perform the last rites of confession, being that he is so close to death and any moment could be his last.

The doctor looked at the Rabbi in astonishment and as if talking to himself said, “The patient is laying there like a block of wood and this old man wants to perform the rite of confession with him!?” “I will watch him closely”, said Rabbi Yosef and if he opens his eyes I will recite the confession with him.” “Do whatever you like”, the doctor answered. “I won’t stop you. Watch over him. His pulse is very weak. His soul is still not extinguished but he is near death.”

Upon entering the room Rabbi Yosef shut the door behind him, leaned over Shlomo Leib and whispered into his ear that his non-Jewish wife and son had drowned in the river and that now he can return to his Jewish wife and children without obstruction. He repeated these words several times until he saw that color was returning to Shlomo Leib’s cheeks. He repeated his words several more times. Suddenly the patient opened his eyes and glanced fearfully here and there. Rabbi Yosef told him what had happened to his wife and child and that he still could fulfill the mitzvah of Tefillin, as the sun had not yet set.

In the evening, when the doctor returned to the inn from a long stroll he was shocked at the sight that lay before him. The patient’s bed was in the middle of the big public room and surrounding it were Jews sitting and standing, engaged in eating and drinking. He looked on in bewilderment.

Recognizing the doctor’s puzzlement the innkeeper rushed to him and explained that the patient had suddenly opened his eyes and asked to be moved to the public room. He also requested that all the guests at the inn should taste something and bless him.

The doctor approached Shlomo Leib and felt his pulse. He then requested that a courier be sent post-haste to the court of the Count with good tidings of the patient’s condition. He told Shlomo Leib that in a matter of a few days he could travel home and that he himself would be leaving early next morning.

In morning Rabbi Yosef prepared to leave and return home, but Shlomo Leib pressed him to stay. He said that since Rabbi Yosef was the only one who knew his secret, therefore he should help him fulfill his oath to return to his Jewish wife and children. He asked that because he is still weak, Rabbi Yosef should wait until after Shabbos and that in the meantime they should discuss what arrangements need to be made. Rabbi Yosef agreed.

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