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Piece of Cake

Rabbi Zvi Meir Steinmetz was a noted Hebrew poet known by his pen name, Zvi Yair. Among his many accomplishments, he composed many poems about the Lubavitcher Rebbe and the Rebbetzin, and for this he received the Rebbe’s thanks and appreciation. He also merited to experience a number of wonders and miracles with the Rebbe.

His wife, Mrs. Devorah Steinmetz, was a remarkable woman in her own right, devoted for many years to serving the community. One day, she suddenly began to experience excruciating pain in her back. At first she thought that she simply needed to rest, and she tried to cut back some of her activities. She also tried various pain relief methods suggested by her friends. However, the pain did not abate and also spread to her leg, until it became unbearable.

She went to see a doctor who sent her to a specialist who diagnosed her with a herniated disc in her back. The doctor said there was no choice but to operate.

Mrs. Steinmetz was reluctant to agree to undergo back surgery. She and her husband decided they would turn to the Lubavitcher Rebbe to request his advice and blessing. Rabbi Steinmetz arranged for a private audience with the Rebbe at the earliest possible opportunity.

On the appointed day in the wee hours of the morning, Rabbi Steinmetz entered the Rebbe’s office and presented the full details of his wife’s medical history. He concluded that the doctors unequivocally recommended surgery.

To his surprise, the Rebbe strongly opposed the surgery.

Naturally, Rabbi Steinmetz did not dispute the Rebbe’s words. It was clear in his mind whose advice he would follow. But if not surgery, what options did they have? The doctors had not offered any other treatment.

He returned home and informed his wife of the Rebbe’s advice. She, too, accepted the Rebbe’s suggestion not to undergo surgery, and they tried to research other treatment options. Finally, after great effort they learned of another method of treatment. Rabbi Steinmetz wrote to the Rebbe regarding this option but the Rebbe recommended against it as well.

Rabbi Steinmetz left no stone unturned to find relief for his wife’s pain. He consulted with other experts and she followed one recommendation for complete bed rest for several weeks. The rest was beneficial for her but did nothing to relieve her back pain. Injections helped relieve the pain, but only slightly. As time went on, they made very little progress towards finding a cure, and the pain had become seriously disruptive to her ability to function.

One day Rabbi Steinmetz wrote to the Rebbe that they were already at their wits’ end. His wife was suffering terribly and they could no longer endure her suffering. If she did not find immediate relief, it seemed that surgery was the only remaining option.

The next day was the 10th of Shvat, the yahrtzeit of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, the Rebbe’s father-in-law Rabbi Joseph I. Schneerson. As was his custom the Rebbe held a public gathering, which Rabbi Steinmetz attended. Suddenly he heard his name being called to approach the Rebbe. The Rebbe took a slice of cake from a platter in front of him, wrapped it in napkins and said (in Yiddish): “far di balabuste” [for your wife]. The Rebbe also poured for him a cup of wine and told him to say l’chaim.

After the gathering ended, Rabbi Steinmetz returned home. For the past few months, he was used to hearing his wife groaning in pain, and he heard her as he entered the door. “I brought you a piece of cake that the Rebbe sent for you,” he said in a joyous voice.

In the past few months the pain had gotten so bad that Mrs. Steinmetz was hardly able to eat. Therefore, Rabbi Steinmetz was very happy to see her try to take a bite of the cake, and she actually succeeded in eating the whole thing.

The next day Rabbi Steinmetz went to work as usual. In the afternoon he called his wife to ask how she was doing. Her voice sounded completely different, relaxed and full of life. “I can’t even remember which foot was hurting me…” she said.

When Rabbi Steinmetz informed the Rebbe about this miracle, the Rebbe smiled and said, “Nu, do you want more cake?”


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