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The Unmerciful Doctor


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The following story is told about the Vilna Gaon who was called upon to decide a case of a bill that was due a doctor.

This doctor was a specialist who looked at pain and suffering as a blessing to the medical profession. He charged exorbitant sums for his services and never treated a needy person for free.

One day a poor woman became critically ill and the distraught husband ran to the spe­cialist and begged him to save her life.

“My dear man,” said the doctor coldly, “I may treat your wife for weeks and you don’t have sufficient funds to compensate me.”

“Doctor,” cried the desperate man, “you save her life and I’ll pay you every kopek even if I have to sell my house.”

“And suppose I can’t save her,” queried the physician, “won’t you pay me then?”

“I’ll pay you whether you cure her or kill her,” shouted the loyal husband.

After treating the woman a few weeks, she passed away.

With unseeming haste, the doctor sent the bereft man a bill for 1,000 rubles, but it received no attention. Subsequent letters were equally ignored. Eventually the doctor sued the delinquent defendant, referring the case to the Vilna Gaon.

The Gaon heard the arguments carefully and regarded the two litigants thoughtfully. It was unjust, thought the Gaon, to make the poor man sell his house and give the money to the avaricious practitioner and he determined to protect him.

After a few moments of thinking, the Gaon arose and called the doctor to him.

“What was your agreement with the de­fen­dant?” inquired the Gaon, again.

“Our agreement was that I was to get paid whether I cured or killed her.”

“Did you cure her?” asked the Gaon.

“No,” replied the doctor, reluctantly. “It was impossible.”

“Did you kill her?” was the next question.

“Oh no, I should say not,” answered the doctor.

“Then,” declared the Gaon, “you have no claim, for you neither cured her nor killed her.”

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When the soldiers heard this they exclaimed happily: “You mean this is the sacred Jewish fruit? Hurry, get on the horse. You are coming with us to the palace.”

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Now let me ask you, what would happen to an infantryman if he deserted his regiment and went to serve in the cavalry? He would be court-martialed, wouldn’t he?”

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So began a marvelous period of good fortune. He invested the twenty-four gold pieces in many types of businesses and everything his hand touched turned to gold.

Pressing close to the cage, the Ibn Ezra shouted the words, “Shema Yisrael…”

“You can have your choice,” said the wise king. “You can choose to take this gold, 100 pieces each, or I can give you each three pieces of advice.”

“It isn’t the work,” said Eliezer. “I want to learn our holy Torah.”

He followed her advice and, before departing, the rabbanim offered him a bracha. “Aba Yudin, may the Lord return your wealth, for all the kind deeds you do.”

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