Rabbi Yosef Goldberg was a teacher for over 15 years and later worked for the New York City Department for the Aging.
One Shabbos, the phone in our home started ringing. Of course, we didn’t answer the phone on Shabbos, but it kept ringing and ringing.
Whoever was calling finally rang our landlord, and we learned that the son of my grandfather’s friends had fallen into a deep coma and was in critical condition; his parents were calling because they wanted us to go to the Rebbe for a blessing.
I was selected to be the one to ask the Rebbe.
After Shabbos, I went to the Rebbe’s office. When he saw me standing outside his door, he invited me in, and I related their request.
His instructions to me were to go to the hospital and scream in the man’s ear first the Previous Rebbe’s name and mother’s name, and then the man’s name and his mother’s name.
Interestingly enough, earlier that year (1951) the Rebbe related that, one time, a woman had fallen into a deep coma and the Previous Rebbe instructed her relatives to whisper his name into her ear. When they did so, she immediately began to stir and a short while made a full recovery.
So I did this. I went to the hospital and saw this man – his name was Noach Daniel, he was a department head in New York City’s Department of Taxation and Finance – lying there, white as a sheet.
I put my lips to his ear and screamed as loud as I could what the Rebbe told me. Suddenly, he began to shake forcefully! Everybody watching was amazed. But he was still very much out of it. The doctors told his family that he was at death’s door. Even if he survived, he would never be normal again; likely, he would live out the rest of his life in a vegetative state.
I reported this to the Rebbe, who told me to come to him every day and he would give me instructions what to do next. And that’s what I did. Each day, he gave me a directive. One day he told me to put a mezuzah on the door to his cubicle in the intensive care unit. Another time, he told me to put a book of Chassidic teachings under his pillow.
This went on for quite a while, and when I couldn’t go, my brother took my place.
Then one day, on a Friday afternoon, Noach Daniel woke up and, as if nothing had happened, started reciting verses from the Patach Eliyahu, the opening of the Zohar, the chief work of Kabbalah; these verses are customarily recited before Shabbos, and he seemed keenly aware of what day it was.
In every respect, he was completely normal, and his doctors were amazed. He is still alive today – well into his nineties.
And then the Rebbe’s blessing saved my grandfather from having an operation.
This was in the early 1950s, around the time when I bought myself a new car, a Dodge, for the wild sum (in those days) of $1,500. And seeing me in it, the yeshiva’s driver asked if I would give a few driving lessons to the Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, the Rebbe’s wife.
She had an interim license, which meant she couldn’t just drive anywhere, but she needed to practice. So I took her to Canarsie, to a site where people learn motorcycle riding, and she was able to brush up there.
It was at this time that my grandfather fell ill, and the doctors said that he had to have an urgent operation on his eye, or he would go blind.
Arrangements were made immediately for an operation at Maimonides Hospital. The day before the surgery was to take place, I saw the Rebbetzin, and I asked her for a favor.
I said, “If you don’t mind, could you mention my grandfather’s name to the Rebbe? He’s having an operation tomorrow. He’s in danger of losing his sight, and he needs the Rebbe’s blessing.”
She agreed. The next day, when they laid my grandfather on the operating table, they examined him and saw that there was nothing there to operate on. They sent him home, and he was fine.
In 1988, I faced my own health crisis, and the Rebbe’s advice saved me as well.
It started with a persistent pain in my stomach. I went to Dr. Wolfson, a gastroenterologist, who performed an endoscopy and colonoscopy, and said he would call me with the results.
A week later, the phone rang at eight in the morning. It was Dr. Wolfson. Why was he calling so early? As he put it, “You’ve got big problems. Your life is in danger. You have to have an operation on your stomach.”
Immediately, I called the Rebbe’s office and spoke with the Rebbe’s secretary. The answer I got was to check the mezuzahs in my home and also my tefillin.
We had 14 mezuzahs on the various doorways of our home, and I took them all down and packed them up along with my two sets of tefillin. I sent them all to a scribe to be checked, while I went to various doctors’ appointments who all confirmed that surgery was necessary.
After I returned home, I called the scribe, who demanded that I come over. So I did. When I arrived in his workshop, he showed me something that amazed me, especially so because my tefillin had been checked only two months before: Two letters of the tefillin scroll were obliterated by a blot. The letters were zayin and chof, which together spell zach meaning “clear.” These letters were part of the word u’lizikaron, meaning “and it will be a reminder.”
I nearly fell down when I saw this.
“You can’t use these tefillin,” the scribe said. Of course, there was no question about that, and I immediately bought new, kosher parchments.
As soon as I got home I called the Rebbe’s office to thank him. And the message I got back was “That is the real medicine.”
Shortly after, I had the operation and everything was all right.