Wonder Rabbis

Commentary by Dr. Ursula A. Falk


The Wunder Rebbis Wunder or the Wonder Rabbi's Powers


Wunder Rabbis  were in existence centuries before modern science found cures for  complicated and relentless plagues.  There were a number of very famous rabbis who were able to not only perform great miracles in relation to sickness and health but they were able to conquer the persecution of the Jews in various ways that gave hope and courage to the victims of anti-Semitism.    One such Rabbi was said to have been connected with the famous Judah Loew b. Bezalel of Prague. It is a local legend of Prague connected with the Altneuschul synagogue and with an explanation of special practices in the prayers of the congregation of that city.  According to this story, Rabbi Loew created the golem so that he would serve him and  and his people in time of need.  Should the golem, however, misbehave he could be restored to dust by the good Rabbi.  The Golem of Prague was especially useful on the Schabbat since he could act as the “Shabbes Goi”.  Couldn’t we all use such a servant today?

Wunder Rebbis  had great powers.  They could heal incurable diseases merely by the wave of a hand, an intonation, a prayer.  They had these abilities because they were very moral, just and learned people who fulfilled the karyagim mitzwot (the 613 commands or blessings).  These Rabbis were Tzadikim and their stories were passed down for the last three hundred years, both orally and more recently  in writing, from Chassid to Chassid.  There were the legends of the Baal Shem Tov (Master of the Good Name) and all of the “miracles” that he performed.  Often individuals who were desperate because some unbearable misfortune had befallen them would visit the Baal Shem Tov and would ask for his intervention with Hashem.  There were innumerable stories about these encounters and one is retold below:

A very rich Jewish man that lived in Vienna during the first half of the eighteenth century had a twelve year old daughter who became paralyzed.  The heartbroken father took his daughter to all the great physicians that lived in and around Vienna.  The daughter did not improve and so he took her in his carriage from city to city searching for a cure for his beloved child.  The rich man was an observant Jew like most Jews at that time.  Still, he did not believe in miracles and especially not in mystics that could perform these miracles.  He considered mystics to be charlatans who took advantage of the misfortunes of their Jewish brethren.  For months the father took his beautiful young daughter to the very best  European physicians, all to no avail.  The Dad became more and more desperate until he ultimately decided to take his daughter on the long journey to Medzibush , the town in which  the Baal Shem Tov lived, and to ask him for a blessing to cure his child of her paralysis.  As they neared Medzibush he heard many legends about the wonder Rabbi at the various inns where they stayed at night.  The stories were unbelievable and the rich man began to feel more and more like a fool. When the father and daughter reached Medzibush the Dad drove his carriage to the Bait Medrash of the Holy Rabbi.  As always, a steady stream of guests were lined up outside of the Baal Shem Tov’s office, each seeking his help for their own personal problems.  After hours of waiting and getting ever more disgusted with the gibberish of the peasants, the secretary of the Baal Shem Tov escorted the father into the room filled with holy books where the Baal Shem Tov was sitting with an open holy book in front of him. “Rabbi, here is my Kvittle (a note with the request to the Rabbi)” and he handed the note to the Baal Shem Tov.  The Baal Shem Tov looked directly into the eyes of the rich man and then turned his attention to the Kvittel.  “By the way, Rabbi, here is some money for you,” and he placed a bag of gold coins on the corner of the desk for the Baal Shem Tov.  The Wunder Rabbi looked up from the Kvittle and blessed the girl that with Hashem’s help, she would be completely healed and would move about as she had before being paralyzed.  Then the Baal Shem Tov picked up the bag of gold, stated he had no use for the gold and  threw the money out of the open window.  The father thanked the Baal Shem Tov, and went outside to find his daughter.  The rich man was startled to see his daughter off the carriage running around collecting the gold coins that were scattered about the ground. “Quick” yelled the father, “get in the carriage and let’s go.  He”, pointing through the window at the smiling Baal Shem Tov, “will think he is the one that healed you.”


As recent as the 1930’s Wunder Rebbis performed “miracles” in Germany and other European countries.  Mrs. Abraham, a very orthodox young woman, had a post partum depression after delivering her second daughter.  She was despondent, and  hardly interacted with her husband and young children.  The physicians that she visited were unable to “fix it” and her depression deepened daily.  Her mother, who also was  an observant Jew, recommended a Wunder Rebbi to her.  In desperation Ingrid traveled several hours to reach the much sought after Rabbi.  He took one look at the woman, asked her a few questions, inquired about the foods she consumes frequently and said a few prayers.  Following a number of directives he cautioned her not to eat cottage cheese in the foreseeable  future (the only dairy product that she consumed on a regular basis).  He also looked directly into her eyes and assured  her that upon leaving his office her depression would  be gone.  As soon as the Rabbi’s door was closed Ingrid felt jubilant.  She did not seem to have a care.  In later years whenever Ingrid would eat cottage cheese her cheeks would  become flushed and she was reminded of the Wunder Rebbi’s dictum. 


In looking at these cases from a psychological viewpoint it is clearly seen that body and mind are closely connected, that the Rabbis/teachers of long ago already knew a great deal about the psychological influence on diseases of both body, spirit and mind.  These early teachers seemed to know about allergies which in the early years were ignored by much of the medical profession; they knew about hypnosis; the unconscious (although in an unlabeled way), the power of positive thinking and the joy of life.  They knew about the  necessity of  a trusting relationship between the healer and the healed and the influence of that relationship on a positive outcome.

Isn’t it remarkable that the old German/Jewish  adage holds true: “In unserem Talmad kann man vieles lesen und alles is schon einmal da gewesen".  (In our Talmud we read a great deal and realize that the occurrences of today have already occurred  in Biblical times).  The Wunder Rebbis of yesterday were the forerunners of the psychologists, physicians and healers of today.


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