I first read the following extraordinary story a few decades ago. Since then in has resurfaced once or twice in a different publications with only minor variations. I don’t know the original source:
In a certain religious village in Israel there lived a woman who suffered great difficulties and health problems whenever she was pregnant, and none of her pregnancies ended successfully. The situation worsened, and the couple was despondent. Now she was pregnant again, and they were seeking every avenue to try to ensure a happy ending.
They visited doctors and specialists, kabbalists and Chasidic Rebbes, and davened at all of the holy sites in Israel. Nevertheless, all of the medical examinations failed to show any change for the better in her condition, and the couple were desperate. Then, someone suggested that they write to the Lubavitcher Rebbe in Brooklyn. Although they were not accustomed to seeking help from outside of Eretz Yisroel, they were willing to try anything, and they duly sent off a request to the Rebbe for a brocho. Sometime later, very late in the woman’s pregnancy, they received back from the Rebbe this most remarkable response:
“Near their village” the Rebbe wrote, “in a certain direction, is a spring, and on the other side of the spring there is a factory. The workers of that factory leave there each afternoon at 4:30. The husband should go there on a specific date (that the Rebbe mentioned in his response) before that hour, and stand near the gate. When the workers emerge at closing time, he should count them one by one. When the tenth one exits, he should follow him”.
They didn’t know what to make of this unusual and bizarre answer. Nevertheless, the next day the woman’s husband followed the directions precisely, and upon arriving at the factory on the far side of the spring, he took up his post outside the gate. He stared and stared at his watch. Finally, at 4:30, the workers began to file out. 1-2-3…. The tenth man was very ordinary looking; nothing about him seemed unique in any way. He appeared to be a regular worker, not distinguishable in any way from those before or after him. But the husband had no choice. The Rebbe had said to follow him, so follow him he would.
The man walked and walked, finally arriving at a nearby settlement. He went straight to a certain house, entered and closed the door behind him, just as anyone would do upon returning home from a day on the job. The husband stood there not knowing how to proceed, but then realized he had no choice other than to continue to follow the man.
He approached the house and knocked on the door. A woman opened and asked him what he wanted. He told her that he wished to speak to the man who had come just before him…the man who worked at the factory near the spring. The woman nodded and told him to wait. She disappeared inside, and moments later, the same man whom he had followed from the factory came to the door.
The man asked the visitor who he was and what he wanted. The husband stammered uncomfortably for a moment, but then he blurted out: “To tell you the truth I don’t know myself why I’m here. But my wife is in a life-threatening situation, and the Lubavitcher Rebbe in New York wrote to us that I should follow you and here I am….” He braced himself, expecting to be laughed at or chased away.
The laborers response, however, took him by surprise. “I can’t believe it!” the man exclaimed, “even here in this remote location the holy Rebbe has found me. Just wait right here a few moments,” he instructed. He went back inside the house and shortly afterwards returned, displaying a few sugar cubes in his hand. “These are for your wife,” he said, “this time she has already given birth successfully to a healthy child. These sugar cubes are for future births. If she has any problems, give her these sugar cubes to eat and everything will be fine right away.”
The husband bubbled over with profuse thanks, and the two men parted warmly. When he reached his village, he quickly discovered that his wife had indeed given birth, with no complications, exactly when the mystery man had said.
All the residents of the community rejoiced at the good news of the unexpectedly smooth birth, and even more when they heard the extraordinary accompanying story. A few of them set out to get a blessing or a word of advice or just to glimpse the (newly discovered) hidden Tzaddik, but their efforts were in vain. The house was vacant and he no longer worked at the factory.
Perhaps you’re thinking to yourself: OK, it’s another story about the Rebbe’s greatness, or another story about hidden Tzaddikim and miraculous wonders. Or maybe you’re musing about the strong similarity between this story and one with the Alter Rebbe (who also sent a chosid to be helped by a hidden Tzaddik).
But I think you might just be missing the point.
For that matter, don’t you wonder, why does the Rebbe need to send the couple to a hidden Tzaddik in the first place? Couldn’t the Rebbe just give a brocho and help the couple directly, just as he helped countless others?
But I think that the answer is basic. I think that this is not just another story. I think that this is THE STORY! This is the story that is exactly what the Rebbe is all about.
Because, if you think about it, that is exactly what the Rebbe does; – he reveals the hidden Tzaddikim! They may be unidentifiable, they may be dressed in coveralls and have the appearance of regular workers. They may seem to be ordinary people, living in ordinary houses and leading ordinary lives. But the Rebbe inevitably finds them, wherever (and under whatever) they may be hiding, and reveals them.