12 Kislev 5781 / Saturday, November 28, 2020 | Torah Reading: Vayeitzei
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The Doctor and the Angel    

The Doctor and the Angel

The Kaiser's personal physician, Dr. Ernst Gordia, was an assimilated Jew who had long before forgotten anything about his Jewish heritage…


There once was a prominent and wealthy member of the community in Vilna, Lithuania, who, though he did not consider himself a Chassid, nonetheless longed to meet the leader of the Chassidic movement, the holy Maggid of Mezeritch, who was known far and wide for his brilliance and scholarship. He therefore traveled to Mezeritch, to the Maggid’s house of study, and waited patiently for his turn for a private audience with the Maggid.


When he finally had his opportunity, he was completely in a state of awe, being in the presence of this great holy man. The Maggid began speaking to him about his personal and business affairs. But then, he looked deep into his soul and said, “You should know that it’s not the wisdom of the doctor, nor his medicines that determine whether or not he’ll be successful. Rather, each doctor who treats a patient is accompanied by an angel, and it’s that angel who heals the patient. The greater the doctor, the greater the healing ability of the angel that accompanies him, and the greatest doctor is accompanied by the Angel of Healing, Raphael, himself.


With that, the holy Maggid indicated that the session was over. The rich man, for his part was completely bewildered: Why in the world would the Maggid speak to him about doctors and medicine? He wasn’t a doctor, he was a businessman! So for a while he tried to figure out what the message was that the Maggid was giving him, but after some time passed, he gradually forgot about the entire incident.


After a few weeks though, he suddenly became bedridden with illness. The doctors who were treating him indicated that he was suffering from a rare disease, of which they knew of no cure. The condition of the sick man continued to deteriorate, until one day he remembered the words that the Maggid had told him, and he immediately understood what he needed to do. With the little strength he had left, he called together all of his family members and asked them to make every effort to bring him the personal physician of the kaiser of Prussia, Dr. Gordia, the greatest doctor in the land. His family was puzzled by his request, but immediately tried to make all the necessary connections to fulfill his request. They soon realized, though, that such a mission was next to impossible, for because Dr. Gordia was in charge of the health of the kaiser and his family, there was no way for him to leave his palace duties without the direct authorization of the kaiser himself.


However, because the rich man was one of the prominent civic leaders in Vilna, community activists decided to nonetheless make every effort and send a special delegation to the kaiser to request an audience with him to discuss an urgent communal matter. But even before this plan could be brought to fruition, a pleasant surprise occurred. A relative of the sick man, who happened to own a luxury hotel in Vilna, received an urgent message: His royal majesty, the kaiser would be arriving that evening to stay overnight at the hotel, along with his entire entourage, including his personal physician. Without delay, the delegation immediately made its way to the hotel, where they met the kaiser’s doctor. After passionately beseeching him and explaining to him the status of the sick man, he agreed to look into the matter, and after receiving permission from the kaiser, himself, agreed to go with them to the sick man’s house.


When the doctor came in and saw the pallid face of the sick man, he immediately wanted to turn around and leave. “What am I, a miracle worker? Can I resurrect the dead?” he exclaimed. But after members of the delegation pleaded with him to reconsider, he agreed to examine the sick man. As he proceeded, he was astonished to see that the man’s condition suddenly improved ever so slightly. He immediately ordered his pharmacist to prepare a specific medicine. In the meantime, he continued his examination, and lo and behold, yet more unexpected signs of improvement! He therefore, instructed his assistant to quickly run to the pharmacist and change the formula based upon his improvement. No sooner had the assistant left, then again the doctor, discerning yet another positive change again had to change his formula. This time, though, as he turned around to continue his examination, before his very eyes, the formerly “deathly ill” patient was now sitting up in his bed, nearly completely recovered although quite fatigued from not eating or drinking. The doctor was absolutely astonished. When the man was strong enough to talk, the doctor asked him if he had any explanation for what had just taken place. The man told him the whole story of his audience with the Holy Maggid of Mezritch, and particularly emphasized the final point: that the greatest doctor is accompanied by the Angel Rafael himself.


This doctor, whose full name was Dr. Ernst (Aharon) Gordia, was an assimilated Jew who had long before forgotten anything about his Jewish heritage. Such an amazing demonstration of the healing power of the Torah and tzaddikim rekindled his spark of Jewishness. He traveled to Mezritch and met with the Maggid many times, until he eventually became a real ba’al teshuva and one of the Maggid’s closest students. It’s said of him that he continued to heal people, but instead of using secular medical wisdom, he now used the spirituality of the Torah to heal.

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