|Art: The Laundress by Greuze|
Miriam, a worthy and modest woman, visited the house of Reb Shloimele, the Rebbe of Zevihl zt"l every week. After exchanging a few words of greeting, she would set to work doing the household laundry. Swiftly and reliably, she would soak, soap, scrub and rinse the clothes. She felt it was an honor to care for the garments of the Rebbe and the members of his household.
She was very pious and would fast frequently; all her adult life she fasted every Monday and Thursday, and every day of the month of Elul too. Prayers were constantly on her lips and her heart was always filled with a strong desire to fulfill Hashem's will.
There was always a tinge of sadness in her eyes though, even on joyous occasions, for she was childless. She never complained, neither did she speak very much about her situation. As the years passed, however, she decided to make use of her presence in the Rebbe's house and ask him to pray for her and bless her with offspring.
One day, when her work was finished, she stood in the doorway of the Rebbe's room and asked him to give her his blessing that she have a child. The Rebbe was immersed in his holy thoughts. After a few minutes he shook his head in the negative and told her, "I can't help you." She was stunned by this reply, but after a few moments the Rebbe added, "I give you my blessing that in your merit, others should merit having children . . ."
Miriam carried the Rebbe's promise with her for many years, until she passed away in 5724 (1964). Her petiroh went all but unnoticed. She had no son to say Kaddish after her. On the stone over her grave the following words were inscribed, "Here lies the woman Miriam bas Mamah a'h. She passed away on the twenty-fourth of Teves 5724." Nobody knew about the Rebbe's promise to her.
Twenty-nine years later, in 5753 (1993), the time arrived for the promise to be kept. One of her neighbors described a dream in which Miriam had appeared to her and said: "I was the laundress in the house of the Admor, Reb Shloimele of Zevihl. I was childless and I asked him for a blessing and for salvation. The Rebbe said, `I can't help you but I give you my blessing that in your merit, others should merit having children . . .' The time has arrived for holy souls to descend to Olam Hazeh. I request that people go to my grave and pray for the elevation of my neshama. I promise barren women that they will have children. Here are the exact details of how to find the grave . . ."
The woman who had the dream told one of her friends about it and it was mentioned at a shiur for ladies in Yerushalayim. People followed the directions to the grave and found it easily, though it was just one among thousands of others on Har HaMenuchot.
On Sunday, the twenty-fourth of Teves 5753, the pathways of Har Hamenuchot were crowded with people. One after another, buses arrived and disgorged more and more visitors, all headed for the grave of Miriam bas Mamah a'h.
An avreich stood at the graveside emotionally reciting Kaddish in a tear-choked voice for the elevation of the soul of the childless laundress. "Yisgadeil veyiskadeish Shemei rabbo . . ." and the crowd responded "Amein!"
People were weeping as they called in unison: "Yehei . . .Shemei . . .rabbo . . .mevorach . . .le'olam . . .ule'olmei . . olmayo!"
There were many emotional dambursts that day; many long-pent- up tears were shed by the side of the grave that had suddenly become a source of hope for childless women.
The prayers and supplications for the soul of the deceased woman ascended Heavenward. There are thirty-two known cases of women who prayed at the graveside and had children that first year. The grave has since been renovated and enlarged. The candle flames that flicker and dance there bear witness to the power of a single righteous woman who served Hashem with all her might, in anonymity and through her love of Hashem and His people, merited becoming the bearer of their prayers to their Father in Heaven.