A chassid of the rebbe of Dinov suffered from a mortal lung disease, and traveled to the capital city of Vienna for medical advice. The doctors told him that his disease could not be cured, because his lung was not in its normal position; it was pushed to the side, and was filled with phlegm which could not be drained and would cause decay. They suggested that he hurry home, lest he die among strangers.

The man started on his journey homeward with a broken heart. His way passed through Sanz, and he thought to himself, “The Divrei Chaim (Rabbi Chaim Halberstam of Sanz) is famous as a great scholar and authority on Jewish law. I shall ask him what I should do about the eating of maror, the bitter vegetable, in the forthcoming Seder on Passover night. I am unable to eat the required amount (the volume of an olive’s bulk—approximately an ounce). Am I, however, still required to eat a lesser portion, and should I pronounce a blessing over it?”

The rebbe listened to his question. “It is written in the Zohar,” he replied, “that maror is a ‘healing food.’ You should be able to eat the full prescribed amount, and be healed.”

“If my end is come, let me at least fulfill the mitzvah properly!”

This chassid was an accomplished Torah scholar in his own right. After he left the rebbe’s presence he remembered that the Zohar does not say that maror is a healing food, but rather, matzah. The Divrei Chaim had obviously made an error. And, with that thought, he dismissed the incident from his mind.

On the night of the Seder, when the moment for eating maror arrived, the sick man took the tiniest portion of bitter herbs. He immediately began to cough strenuously, weakening him greatly.

“If my end is come,” he cried out, “let me at least fulfill the mitzvah properly!” He took a full portion of the strong horseradish and ate it. As soon as he swallowed the whole mouthful, the cough grew worse and his whole body shook dreadfully.

His family became frightened and ran to fetch the doctor. But the doctor was himself conducting a Seder, and did not hasten to come.

When the doctor did arrive, he found the patient asleep. He was told that the man had become exhausted from coughing, had fallen onto the bed and dropped off into slumber. The doctor said that rest was good for him and that he should not be awakened.

He slept until a late hour the following day, and when the doctor came again to examine him, he was amazed. The patient was completely cured. The force of the cough and the shuddering of his body had jarred the lung, and it had returned to its normal position. The phlegm had been able to drain out.

The maror had indeed been, as the Rebbe of Sanz had said, a “healing food.”

Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from Haggadah of the Chassidic Masters by Rabbi Shalom Meir Wallach (Mesorah Publications). Based on Divrei Yechezkel Shraga 143.

Biographical note:
Rabbi Chaim Halberstam of Sanz [1793–10 Nissan 1876] was the first rebbe of the Sanz-Klausenberg dynasty. He is famous for his extraordinary dedication to the mitzvah of tzedakah, and also as a renowned Torah scholar; his voluminous and wide-ranging writings were all published under the title Divrei Chaim.

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