BEFORE I began my training in pathology, I worked for a short time as a general practitioner in the Catskill Mountains of New York, near my home in the small village of Liberty. The area was the site of numerous resort hotels and summer camps, among which were a few that were owned by Chasidic Jews from Brooklyn. These are Jews who belong to deeply religious (indeed, ultraorthodox) sects, dress in distinctive and antique black garb, and blend traditional piety with fervent mysticism. Being a moderately traditional if not overly pious Jew, I related well to the occasional Chasidic patient.
Close to midnight on a Friday evening I received an urgent call from a Chasidic hotel that some catastrophe had overtaken the Rabbi (their spiritual and secular leader) and that I must immediately be on my way to save him. I negotiated ten miles of dark, twisting mountain roads in