During the winter of 5663 (1903), when I accompanied my father for a couple of months during which time he spent consulting medical specialists in Vienna, he would sometimes go out in the evening to visit the shtiblach (small houses of prayer and study) of the local Polish Jews—to be among Chassidim, to hear a story from their mouths, to listen to a Chassidic saying, and to observe their fine conduct and refined character.
One Wednesday night, on the eve of the Fifteenth of Shevat, Tu Bishvat, my father visited one of these shtiblach, where several elder Chassidim were sitting around together and sharing stories of Tzadikim (holy and righteous individuals). As my father and I drew nearer, we heard that they were telling stories of the saintly Rabbi Meir of Premishlan.*
Among other things, they related that the mikveh (ritual bath) in Rabbi Meir’s neighborhood stood at the foot of a steep mountain. When the winter weather came, everyone had to walk all the way around for fear of slipping on the mountain path and breaking their bones—everyone, that is, except for the holy Rabbi Meir, who walked down that mountain path whatever the weather, and never slipped.
One icy day, Rabbi Meir set out as usual to take the direct route to the mikveh. Two guests were staying in the area, sons of the rich who had come under the influence of the “Enlightenment” movement. These two young men did not believe in supernatural achievements, and when they saw Rabbi Meir striding downhill with sure steps as if he were on a solidly paved road, they wanted to demonstrate that they too could negotiate the hazardous mountain path. As soon as Rabbi Meir entered the mikveh building, they took to the road. After only a few steps they stumbled and slipped and needed serious medical treatment for their injuries.
Now one of them was the son of one of Rabbi Meir’s close Chassidim and when he was fully healed, he mustered the courage to approach the tzaddik with his question: “Why was it that no man could cope with the treacherous path, yet the Rebbe never stumbled?”
Replied Rabbi Meir: “If a man is bound up on High, he doesn’t fall down below. Meir’l is bound up on High, so he does not fall below. And that is why he can go up and down, even on a slippery hill.”
The Previous Rebbe continues with personal lessons he learned from this story. See Likkutei Dibburim, volume 2, likkut 15, for the continuation of this encounter.
From Chabad.org. Originally from Likkutei Dibburim, a collection of transcribed talks by the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson, of blessed memory. Translated by Uri Kaploun.
*Reb Meir of Premishlan 1783-1850. His father was Reb Aharon Leib of Premishlan. His grandfather, Reb Meir the Elder, was a disciple of the Baal Shem Tov.
The city of Premishlan is in Ukraine. Reb Meir was known as a child prodigy and a holy child. Amazing stories of his prophetic abilities from childhood are recounted. When he became the Rebbe of Premishlan, his love, and humility, and awesome miracles became legendary and brought many to bask in his presence.
This story can be also be found in Sippurei Chassidim on Moadim #246 by Rabbi Zevin, z’l.