A renowned doctor, an award winning professor of medicine, was in residence for a few months at the fortress. There he examined and treated the countess and other members of the noble family.
One day at tea, the countess said, “We have a local healer in our village, a righteous man whose medical expertise is indisputable.”
The doctor hid his sneer behind his handkerchief. “Oh, I’d love to meet him.” So, the countess sent for the Baal Shem Tov right away.
When he arrived the doctor grilled him. “Where did you study medicine? Who were your professors? What papers have you published?”
The Baal Shem Tov humbly shook his head and said, “God revealed to me various powerful cures and the local peasants showed me where the herbs grow.”
The doctor sniffed. “Well, I’m an expert in surgery as well as a world-famous diagnostician. I can diagnose even the rarest disease by taking the pulse.”
“Can you? Why not take my pulse and diagnose me, and then I can return the favor?” suggested the holy Baal Shem Tov.
The doctor took the Baal Shem Tov’s pulse. Suddenly he dropped his wrist. “This can’t be,” he muttered. “Why, your pulse is very faint and very fast. And you are a very sick man,” he declared.
“Yes, I am sick. I’m sick with love of the Creator,” said the Baal Shem Tov. “But never mind me, let me take your pulse now.”
Within moments of taking the healer’s wrist, the local healer turned to the countess. “Honorable countess, are you missing any valuables?” he asked.
“Why yes,” said the countess. “Several silver spoons and a necklace.”
“I know where they are,” he said sadly, shaking his head. “Go to the doctor’s room and there you will find them. You see, this doctor has the pulse of a thief.”
The doctor turned pale and nearly fainted. The servants searched the doctor’s quarters, and there, hidden in a sack beneath the bed, were the valuables. The doctor was driven out of town in disgrace, his reputation ruined.
The Spiritual Heart
The pulse (found in the wrist or the neck) is the rhythmic throbbing of the blood vessels as blood is propelled through them by the pumping action of the heart. The pulse is also the heart rate. The pumping of the heart is evidence of the life force. A person can be “brain dead” but if their heart is still beating, they are alive.
The pulse reveals some clues about the state of physical health, especially heart health. We also know it can indicate some emotional states, such as fear. But the Baal Shem Tov’s story shows us that the pulse can even reveal the deeper feelings and beliefs of a person, a person’s character. What a person feels deep within their heart.
To a healer of the Baal Shem Tov’s caliber, the pulse reveals the inner spiritual workings of the heart. He was able to “read” his patient’s spiritual status and determine the level of faith and understanding, and even a person’s actions.
The arrogant doctor, like most narcissists, believed himself to be above even the most Universal and basic moral codes. That’s why he had no problem indulging his greed by taking what didn’t belong to him. True understanding eluded him, which is why he believed that moral guidelines didn’t apply in his case.
In the end, his sense of entitlement didn’t pay off.
The Baal Shem Tov was the opposite. His desire, fueled by his love of the Divine and all God’s Creation, was to act morally, honestly, and compassionately. As a healer, he knew that the health of the mind and body can’t be separated from the health of the soul.
Photo by BonBosch: The actual fortress in Mezhibuzh, Ukraine where this story took place. The Baal Shem Tov was the great grandfather of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov.
Related: The Healing Dance of Body and Soul is a video class for women which explores the mystical teachings of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, the Baal Shem Tov, and others as they pertain to the mind/body/soul connection.