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Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Of Coffee and Hourglass Moles…and Rebbe Chaim of Sanz

Updated from my previous post on the Sanzer:

Tonight and tomorrow, the 25th of Nisan, is the 132nd yahrzeit of Rebbe Chaim Halberstam of Sanz (1793-1876), known as the Divrei Chaim after his magnum opus on Halacha. The Divrei Chaim was born in 1793, in Tarnograd, Poland. He was a talmid of Rebbe Naftali Zvi Horowitz of Ropshitz. He went on to move to the town of Sanz, where he founded a Chassidic dynasty. He attracted many followers due to his great piety. The Sanz dynasty today is represented by the Sanz-Klausenberg and the Bobov dynasties.


This year in honor of the yahrzeit, we present two stories, both of which demonstrate his amazing abilities. The first was told by Reb Shlomo Carlebach.

A Hot Cup of Black Coffee
Although he suffered from a seemingly incurable physical ailment, the Sanzer was famous for his power of healing others. Many came from far and wide to seek his blessings. Once an elderly Chassid, suffering from tuberculosis, was loaded onto a wagon and brought from his distant village to see the holy Sanzer. Reb Chaim told the family. "Take your father home and make a hot cup of strong black coffee for him to drink."

"Are you crazy?" the children exclaimed. "Coffee will kill a man in his condition!”

But Reb Chaim repeated, "Take your father home and make a hot cup of strong black coffee for him to drink." So they took their father home and gave him a hot cup of coffee to drink, and the old Chassid was healed.

A few years later, the father suffered from a relapse of his illness. This time the family thought, "Let's spare our father the arduous journey to Sanz." So they prepared a hot cup of coffee and immediately the father began to cough up blood. So they loaded him onto a wagon and brought him back to Sanz.

The Sanzer asked the family what the problem was all about, so the children explained that their father had tuberculosis and that they had given him coffee to drink and that his condition had worsened.

"Murderers!" exclaimed the Sanzer. "Coffee will kill a man in his condition!"

"So what can we do?" they asked.

"Take your father home and make a hot cup of strong black coffee for him to drink." So they took their father home and gave him a hot cup of coffee to drink, and the old Chassid was healed again.


The next story comes to us from the sefer "The Zeide Reb Motele" by Rav Avraham J. Twerski, who relates: "We are fortunate in having much first-hand information about the tzaddik of Sanz (d. 1876). I knew several people who knew him, and my father and mother knew many more."
Below is one fine example.
In the Midst of the Wedding Ceremony…
There are many wondrous tales about tzaddikim, and it is not my intention to relate all of these stories. Hoverer, the following story is one that I heard in 1947 from R. Kasriel, a nonagenarian who knew the tzaddik of Sanz. [Yitz adds: The Sanzer was niftar [passed away] in 1876. A person in his nineties in the year 1947 was born in 1857 or earlier, which would make R. Kasriel at least 19 years of age when the Sanzer passed away].

The tzaddik of Sanz was given the honor of performing a marriage ceremony. He was given the cup of wine, but closed his eyes and was meditating. The family and guests waited impatiently for the tzaddik to begin the brachos [wedding blessings]. Abruptly, he set down the cup of wine, and called the bride's parents aside.

"Did all of your children survive?" he asked them. The parents said that they had lost one infant, who was swept away when a river overflowed.

''Can you recall whether this child had any unusual birthmarks?" the tzaddik asked.

The bride's mother said, ''Yes, he had a mole in the shape of an hourglass on his left shoulder.''

The tzaddik then had the bride's father take the groom aside, and examination revealed the mole on his left shoulder.

The tzaddik asked the groom's parents, ''Is this really your own child?'' They responded that they had found him as an abandoned infant and had raised him as their own.

''The bride and groom are brother and sister," the tzaddik declared. The joyous celebration continued, not as a wedding, but as a reunion with a child they had thought to have died.

This remarkable story of the tzaddik's prophetic powers spread rapidly through Galicia. The tzaddik of Sanz dismissed this as nonsense. "I have no prophetic powers," he said. "When I saw that I could not get the words of the brachos out of my mouth, I knew that something was amiss. I could not imagine what was wrong, except that for some reason, this marriage was not to take place. I could only guess what might be wrong, and I just happened to guess correctly."
Zechuso yagein Aleinu v'al Kol Yisrael - May the Sanzer Rebbe's merits protect all of us!

What a story!
I remember once learning that Avraham wasn't the first person G-d spoke to. G-d spoke to many, but Avaraham was the first to listen.
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