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Only The Money Was In Exile

The Baal Shem Tov had two grandsons, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Ephraim and Rabbi Baruch. While both were pious and well educated in Torah, Rabbi Moshe lived a frugal and poor life, while his brother, Rabbi Baruch, became very wealthy.

One day, the rich Rabbi Baruch decided to spend Shabbos with his poor brother. Rabbi Moshe was honored and he told his wife to try and order the best of everything in honor of his brother. The poor woman sighed as she counted her few pennies, but as a dutiful wife she borrowed enough money and went to the marketplace to purchase extra food for Shabbos.

That night, when the two brothers came home from shul they entered the poor house and here they saw two small candles burning from an earthen dish, a white tablecloth spread out over the table, and two small challos on it. There was also a small bottle of watered-down wine, and a wooden bowl containing salted herring and onions.

They made Kiddush and sat down to eat the meager Shabbos meal.

The rich Baruch turned to his poor brother and sighing, said, "Woe is to me, my brother, that I see you in such a poor state. How do you manage to exist in such poverty?"

"Why do you speak this way to me?" Moshe innocently replied. "Is there anything missing here?"

"Everything is missing,' he said. "In my home we have silver candle holders, beautiful furniture, the wine is poured into silver cups, and on the table we have enough food fit for a king."

"Where do you get so much money to be able to purchase all these fine things?" asked Reb Moshe Chaim Ephraim.

"Don't you know?" replied the brother. "I have to travel all week from town to town, buying and.selling merchandise, so I accumulate money to buy the finest things for Shabbos."

"Then you are worse off than I am," replied the poor brother. "Your gold, silver and money is in your home, while you have to wander from town to town as if you are in exile. While my money is in exile, in other people's hands, still I am at home the entire week enjoying the company of my wife and children and enjoying the study of the Torah. Who leds a happier life?"

The Young Genius

When Reb Moshe Chaim Ephraim was a young boy he was known as a genius. Many people who opposed his grandfather, the Baal Shem Tov, would come to his home with difficult questions, attempting to confuse his grandfather. His grandfather would usually call upon his little grandson for the answer, and to the amazement of all, he would always give the proper answer.

One day, a prominent rabbi visited their home and he posed a difficult question to the Baal Shem Tov.

"Will the master be able to answer a question I have on this week's portion about Korach?" the rabbi asked. "We are told in Sanhedrin 108a that the Jews in the generation of the wilderness have no part in the World to Come, for the Torah (Numbers 14:35) states: 'In this wilderness they shall be consumed and there they shall die. Rabbi Akiva explains the words 'consumed' and 'die' to represent death in both worlds.

"Further on, Rabbi Akiva states that Korach and his group also suffered the same fate as he expounds the sentence in the Torah (Numbers 16:33): 'And the earth closed upon them' as referring to this world. 'And they perished from among the assembly' refers to the next world.

"Now the question arises, why did Rabbi Akiva have to repeat the same remarks about Korach when he already deduced that the Jews of the generation in the wilderness, which included Korach, had no part in the World to Come? Korach was also in that generation and he would have been included in the first remarks of Rabbi Akiva?"

The Baal Shem Tov smiled as he turned to his young grandson and told him to answer the question.

The child didn't hesitate a minute as he replied, "The answer is simple. The first sentence of 'in the wilderness they shall be consumed and there they shall die' was referring to the spies. They were punished for bringing back a bad report. The spies represented every tribe in Israel with the exception of the tribe of Levi. Therefore, the tribe of Levi was not included in this punishment. Korach was a descendent of the tribe of Levi, therefore Rabbi Akiva had to reiterate that Korach had no share in the next world only because of his sin of revolting against Moses not because of the punishment of the spies."

Counting Every Word In The Portion

On another occasion, the young, eight-year-old genius was asked why at the end of the weekly portion of Miketz there is a line denoting that this sidra contains 2,025 words. The other sidrot do not have the words counted.

The child replied, "The holiday of Chanukah usually falls at the time of the year when we read Miketz. On Chanukah we light the candle, ner, eight times. The letters of the word ner represents 250; eight times 250 equals 2,000. The first candle is lit on the 25th day of Kislev. Add this to the 2,000 and we have 2,025, the number of words in this sidra. This is a hidden prophecy that the holiday of Chanukah would come out during that week."

Waited 99 Years To Fulfill Mitzvah

Once the young genius was asked the following question: The Talmud (Kiddushin 82a) tells us that Abraham observed all the mitzvos of the Torah. If that be the case, why did he have to wait until he was told by G-d at the age of 99 to circumcise himself? Why didn t he do it when he was younger?

When this same question was put to the Vilna Gaon he was five years old. He replied this way, "Our sages (Kiddushin 31a) stated that a person who is told to do a mitzvah and does it, receives a greater reward than one who is not told and does the mitzvah. Therefore, Abraham waited for this mitzvah until he was told, for he could have redone all the other mitzvos after he was told, but not circumcision. Once performed, it can never be repeated."

However, young Moshe Chaim Ephraim had this answer to this question, "Abraham was able to fulfill all of the mitzvos of the Torah because there was no sin or prohibition attached to their fulfillment. But circumcision would have been a sin if he attempted it before he was told to do so by G-d. For the Gemara (Baba Kamma 91b) specifically prohibits a person from injuring himself. Therefore, unless it was a Divine commandment, Abraham was not allowed to circumcise himself."

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