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"Yitzchak entreated Hashem opposite his wife, because she was barren. Hashem allowed Himself to be entreated by him, and his wife Rivka conceived" (Bereishis 25:21).

Usually, when people pray, they do not know immediately if Hashem allowed Himself to be entreated and their request was granted or not. But the Mishnah relates (Berachos 5:5) that there were some who would know right away. "They say that Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa used to pray for the sick, and then would declare, 'This one will live and this one will die.' They asked him, 'How do you know?' He replied, 'If my prayer emerges from my mouth fluently, then I know that he was accepted. And if not, I know that he was rejected.'"

The Gemara (Yevamos 121b) relates another interesting story about how this saint knew whether one would live or die. Nechemia used to dig wells for the travelers who would visit the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Once, his daughter fell into a large well. When they informed Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa, he declared that she is surely well. Later, it was told that she was saved miraculously. When he was asked if he is a seer, the Rabbi responded, "I am not a seer nor the son of a seer. But I understood that something that a righteous man partook in could not be a source of strife for his children."

In Barechi Nafshi, Rabbi Zilberstein relates a modern day story, similar to the one in the Gemara. I don't know if the mother involved knew the original story or just understood the rule intuitively. In any event, it teaches us that we should never stop being involved in a mitzvah, even if the short term wins are not that substantial.

Not long ago, in the town of Ohr Yehudah, Israel, a child fell into a deep well. By the time he was pulled out, unconscious, and brought to the hospital, the doctors declared that there was practically no hope that he would ever function normally again. They prepared his mother for a situation in which he would be a "vegetable" for the rest of his life.

To their great surprise, the mother responded by stating, 'I solemnly swear that my son will recover completely and will function normally once again."

The doctors thought that the trauma had been too much for her and that she had suffered a nervous breakdown. However, she seemed to be perfectly normal in every other way except for this. Finally, they asked her how she could be so sure. At this point, she only responded, "You will all see soon that I am right."

Two days later, in the middle of the night, the child awoke, disconnected all of the machines which were keeping him alive, got off of the bed and, as far as he was concerned, was ready to go home. When the startled doctors arrived on the scene and examined him, they could not believe the results they were receiving from the tests. When they discharged him, they wrote in his file that he had undergone a "medical miracle."

But before he left, they asked the mother to reveal her secret and to tell them how she knew for sure that this miracle would occur. This time, the mother agreed to tell.

"I work in a holy job which involves water for purification (my guess is that she was either a supervisor of the mikveh or purified women's bodies for burial). My salary is very meager and barely covers my traveling expenses. Many times, over the past few years, I have considered quitting. Nevertheless, I stay on because I'm afraid that whoever takes my place may not do as meticulous a job as I do.

"When they called me to tell me that my son fell into a deep well, I knew that there is no way that Hashem would possible let my child suffer from something that I have dedicated my life to sacrificially. I was convinced that he would recover and you all see now that I was right."

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel