The sheik had been right all along. But how did he know? What magic had he performed?
Damascus, 17th Century
The sheik was gone for a very long time. The family members wailed in agony, fanning the hot faces of their children. The faces of the two boys were turning white as the snake venom pumped through their veins.
Finally, the sheik reappeared. He was sweating and his hands were shaking. Wiping his forehead, he steadied himself and drew himself up to his full height before addressing the anxious family members.
“Do not ask me any questions about where I went. I will not tell you anything. But about your children, the one who is lying over here to my left — he will live. The other one will not survive.” The sheik hung his head. “I am so sorry and I wish there was something else I could do for you.”
“Preposterous!” the family cried. “If you indeed saved the life of one of the boys, why can the other one not be helped as well? Go back to where you came from and do it all over again! Please, you must change this!”
“There is nothing that can be changed! Whatever I have shared with you will come to pass and I am powerless to stop it. I can only do so much, and now I have done everything I could for you. I am sorry, but there is nothing else to discuss.”
The family picked up the boys and marched out, wailing the whole time. In their hearts they did not fully believe the sheik. They knew the snake venom was extremely powerful. If one of the boys would die from it, so would the other. It would make no sense for one to survive and the other to die, when they had been bitten by the same species. And even more unlikely was the sheik’s prediction that one of the boy’s would live through it; that was simply so unlikely. The family left assuming the sheik was a fraud.
But the next day, as the sun rose over the horizon, the family saw that one of the boys had passed away and the other boy was looking and feeling much better. The sheik had been right all along. But how did he know? What magic had he performed?
The sheik’s popularity and success grew after that incident. Arabs from far and wide traveled to sit at the sheik’s feet and hear if they would be successful, if they would be healed, and if they would yet live to see another day. The sheik somehow had knowledge that no one else had, and the people flocked to hear his almost prophetic predictions.
It did not take long for the rumors to begin spreading in the Jewish community as well. And one day the topic was brought up by the table of a tremendous tzaddik and mekubal who happened to be sojourning in Damascus at the time, the saintly Rav Moshe Galante. Rav Galante was the son of the illustrious Reb Yehonasan who had learned together with Reb Yosef Karo, author of the Shulchan Aruch. Rav Moshe was the head dayan in Yerushalayim and his grandson was the holy and famous chassidishe rebbe, Reb Yehuda Aryeh Leib Alter of Ger, the Sfas Emes!
On this day two Jews were talking excitedly before Rav Moshe about this sheik.
“Did you hear that he possesses powers that are, l’havdil, like the powers of Reb Chanina ben Dosa? He can heal people through his prayers and tell people if they will survive their sickness or perish — and he is always right!”
“And on top of all that, he also knows all seven branches of worldly wisdom there are in This World!”
“Where does this sheik live?” Rav Moshe interjected, his interest piqued. “How can someone who is not learned in Torah possess such powers? What devices is he using to access such koach?”
Rav Moshe was genuinely perplexed. Was such a thing possible? An Arab sheik who had never learned a word of Torah, neither the revealed or hidden portions, could possess greater abilities than someone like himself and his chaverim who spent their entire lives connected to Hashem through Torah and mitzvos?
“Are you sure all of the stories about this sheik are accurate? Do you have firsthand information?”
“Oh, I certainly do have firsthand information,” replied one of the men. “The sheik predicted that my wife would survive a very severe sickness a few months ago that had claimed the lives of five other people in my community. I visited him, he listened to my story, and then disappeared for around a half hour. When he returned, he told me with a big smile that my wife would certainly have a speedy and successful recovery and that all would be alright. And, of course, his words came true.”
“I must meet such person and find out his secret.”
“I’m afraid that cannot happen. The sheik is notorious for guarding his secret extremely carefully and he will never reveal even a hint about how he gets his incredible powers.”
to be continued…
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 875)
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