The Arizal (Rabbi Yitzchak Luria of Tzfat, of blessed memory) once stayed at the home of a pious and G‑d-fearing man, who welcomed him with great honor and fulfilled the mitzvah of hospitality with a lavish hand. The Arizal remained in his home for several days, and his host’s devotion moved him deeply.

“Ask me what you will, and I will bless you!”

As he prepared to leave, the Arizal said to his host: “How can I repay you for the abundant kindness and affection you have showered on me while I was your guest? Ask me what you will, and I will bless you!”

The man sighed. After a short silence, he said brokenly, “What can I ask for, Rebbe? I have everything, thanks to G‑d. I have money and do not have to worry about my livelihood, and I am also healthy. There is only one thing I need.

“My wife, may she live long, has borne several children. But many years have passed, and she has not been able to bear any more children. We have asked doctors what the problem is, but they have found nothing wrong.”

His holy guest contemplated for a moment, and then said, “I see the reason. Know this, my friend: The trait of compassion, which is a mark of the descendants of our forefather Avraham, is very important. A person must be extremely careful not to cause suffering to his friends, to other people, or to any living creature.

From that day on, the chicks have been greatly distressed.

“On your property is a chicken coop. In the past, a small ladder was fixed at its entrance, so that the chicks might go down to find bowls of food and water for their nourishment. When your wife noticed that the ladder and the ground beneath it were becoming dirty, she instructed the maid to place the food and water directly into the coop, and to remove the ladder. From that day on, the chicks have been greatly distressed. Being young and small, they find it hard to fly, and now the pleasure of going up and down the ladder has been taken away from them.

“In their distress, the chicks have cheeped and chirped, and the sounds of their sorrow have risen to the Throne of Glory, where they stand as an accusation against your wife. Since then, she has been prevented from bearing children.”

The host listened to this revelation with amazement. At once, he ran to find the ladder that had stood by the chicken coop. He quickly picked it up and returned it to its original place, at the entrance to the coop.

It was not long before G‑d blessed the man’s wife, and she began to bear children as before.

Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from Stories My Grandfather Told Me, by Zev Greenwald, published by Mesorah.

Biographical note:
Rabbi Yitzchak Luria (1534–5 Av 1572), known as “the holy Ari,” revolutionized the study of Kabbalah and its integration into mainstream Judaism during the two years he spent in Tzfat before his death at 38. Much of chassidic thought is based on the Ari’s teachings, as recorded by his main disciple, Rabbi Chaim Vital.

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