Winning For A Good Cause
The gaon, Rav Akiva Eiger, was well known for his piety and love for his fellow human being.
Once on a cold winter night, a poor young girl came to his home and in a tearful voice, related a tragic tale. Her father had recently died and now her poor mother was home alone. They had no food or wood for the stove. They were desperate and in need of immediate help.
The gaon looked through all of his pockets but he couldn't even find a penny. Telling the girl to remain in his home, he left the house to visit some of his rich ba’al habatim to appeal for help.
Passing a hall, he heard a commotion and entering it, he saw a large group of people playing cards. When the people saw the rav, they jumped up with a guilty look on their faces.
"What are you doing here, rebbe?" they asked.
"Be seated gentlemen," said the gaon, "and continue with your game of cards. If I bring good luck to one of you gentlemen, will you promise me a reward for a poor child?"
One man immediately agreed and the gaon took a seat behind him. Soon the man won a large sum of money. The gaon rose and put the money in a bag and said: "You only won because of the poor girl who is now waiting in my home, starving from hunger. Therefore, the money is rightfully hers. Good night, gentlemen."
Rav Akiva Eiger rushed home and gave the money to the poor child who thanked him profusely.
Mitzvahs Worth More Than Money
In previous generations people were not as materialistic as we are now. They lived a harder life but a more enjoyable one. There is a story told about the sainted Reb Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev who had to decide, in a din Torah, who deserved credit for a huge mitzvah.
A merchant traveling home from the city of Leipzig passed through the town of Berditchev. Stopping over for a meal, he soon realized that he had lost his wallet containing his entire fortune. He became frantic and began to cry and moan. A young man passing by saw the commotion and, after learning its cause, asked the man how much money he lost and in what denominations they were.
The poor merchant told him.
"Why, that is the amount I found today," said the young man. "I have it in my home. Wait for me and I'll bring it to you."
The young man rushed home and returned with the money. The merchant was overjoyed and practically kissed the young man. Pocketing the money, the merchant traveled home.
One week later a man called at the home of the merchant carrying a pocketbook of money. "Here is you money that I found a few days ago," he said. "You name and address is in this pocketbook, therefore I am returning the money to you."
Finds Lost Money
The merchant was dumbstruck. "But I have my money," he said. "It was returned to me last week."
"It can’t be," said the man. "I just found it, and won't allow you to do me out of the great mitzvah of returning lost money'."
They both visited the house of the young man and confronted him with the evidence of the found money.
"It is true," said the young man, "I gave you my own money when I saw you in such great distress. But I don't want it back. I want the mitzvah of ‘returning lost money.'"
They began to quarrel. No one wanted the money. The merchant said he didn't want charity and the other two claimed they wanted the reward of the mitzvah and not the money. They then decided to go to Reb Levi Yitzchak for a din Torah to decide the case.
When the sainted rav heard the case, he looked up towards Heaven and exclaimed, "G-d, Lord of the Universe! If you have found any fault in your children, the people of Israel, look down now and witness their holiness. No other people can boast of such piety."
He then issued the following statement: "Since all partners were in on this deal, therefore, they all shared in this great mitzvah of returning the lost money. The additional money will be distributed to the poor and then they will also receive a bonus mitzvah, that of charity to the poor."
Tzaddikim Even When Young
The great tzaddik and saint, Rav Yisroel Meir Hakohen Kagan, known throughout the world as the Chofetz Chaim, was pious even when he was a child. The following story is from a time when the tzaddik was in cheder.
Before the era of pipes and modern plumbing, it was the custom to secure the house water from the well, which was usually situated on the outskirts of the town. Every town would have a poor man who was the water-carrier for the people. His lot was not an easy one and his earnings were usually very meager.
In the town where the Chofetz Chaim lived there was such a man who resided in a little room. Every night, after his hard day's toil, he would leave his empty pails outside of his door. In the morning he would trudge to the well and deliver water to the town’s people.
The classmates of the Chofetz Chaim decided to play a prank on this water-carrier. When the man retired for the night, they filled the pails with water. In the morning when he arose, he found the pails to be frozen solid.
It took him a long time to chop the ice and clean out the pails. The children watched him work and danced with joy at the trick they played on him.
The Chofetz Chaim felt very bad about this trick and decided to do something about it. That night, when the children repeated their trick, he waited until they went home and then emptied the pails. The following morning when the children rushed over to see the fun, they were amazed to see the pails empty. They couldn't understand what happened and tried the same trick again the following night. Again the Chofetz Chaim emptied the water and they became more perplexed and frightened.
"It must be an angel who empties the water every night," they said and from that day onward they never attempted to play any more pranks on the poor old man.
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Page last updated - 01/28/2011