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February 27, 2015 / 8 Adar , 5775
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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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Shmuel HaKatan shook his head and said: “No, what happened here today is a sign not of great love. On the contrary, it is a bad omen.”

The arguments, however, could never appease his wife and one Thursday she came to him for money to purchase food for Shabbos.

He walked out of the room, making sure to leave the door ajar so that the two litigants could hear his voice.

Don’t you know Avraham, the famous dry goods merchant, who lives near the lake in a big mansion?

“What could I do? Your wife is hard of hearing,” whispered the poor woman barely able to talk.

“I would appreciate if you could give me some pointers on how to improve my wine,” said the wine merchant eagerly.

“And what was your grandfather’s name?” asked the visitor. “The same as my name,” replied the child.

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