Weekly Chasidic Story #1052 (s5778-21/ 20 Shevat 5778)

Rewards for Refusing Rewards

"In eight days, the Jews of Prague must hand over the sum of 20,000 pieces of silver to the royal treasury, or else..."

Connection: Weekly Reading of Mishpatim -- Returning lost objects (Ex. 23:4...see also Deut. 22:1-3)

Rewards for Refusing Rewards


In the course of this long and bitter exile the Jews have suffered many trials and tribulations at the hands of gentile monarchs who sought to line their treasure chests with Jewish money.

Once, in the kingdom of Bohemia, King Wenzel found himself in a predicament common to the aristocracy - he needed gold! And as always, he turned to his Jewish subjects to fill his coffers.

The Jewish community was accustomed to the cruel demands of the king, but this time the demand was more exorbitant than ever. Reb Shmuel, the leader of the community, was presented with an ultimatum: "In eight days, the Jews of Prague must hand over the sum of 20,000 pieces of silver. If you fail to do so, the king will withdraw his protection from the Jews of the realm."

Panic spread throughout the community, as word of the royal edict became known. Not long before, dozens of Jews had been massacred by wild mobs. If not for the intervention of the king's soldiers, who knows how many more would have died? The city elders calculated the total worth of the community. Even if the Jews sold all of their possessions, they could never hope to meet the king's demands.

Then Reb Shmuel stood up. "I am a descendant of King David and I am sure that his merit will protect me. I will intercede before the king."

The next day, all the congregation gathered to pray for Reb Shmuel's success. As for himself, Reb Shmuel had a plan. Together with his beautiful and intelligent daughter, Reb Shmuel headed for the palace, but first, he had one stop to make.

Many years before, as he traveled through the forest, Reb Shmuel chanced upon a leather casket. Upon examination he realized it belonged to the local landowner, and he rode off to return it to its rightful owner. The grateful nobleman offered a reward, but Reb Shmuel refused, saying, "Our Torah teaches that we are obliged to return lost objects."

"I will never forget your kindness, and I am at your service if you ever need a friend," the noble swore.

Now was the time to collect this debt. Reb Shmuel explained the situation to his noble friend.

"As you are aware, the king does not receive Jews without their being summoned. However, he is always interested in beautiful women. Perhaps he will receive your daughter," replied the noble.

This is exactly what Reb Shmuel had expected when he framed his plan.

Days later, all eyes focused on the young Jewish woman as Rachel entered the king's throne room.

"Ah, so you wish to speak to me. Well, I will hear you, but first, you must kiss this bridegroom who stands before you," and the king pointed to a large Christian statue which stood behind his throne.

"Your majesty," Rachel replied, "it is customary for the groom to approach the bride, and so I will wait for him to come to me."

The king laughed out loud at her clever response. "I see she is not only beautiful, but very bright. Allow the Jewess to speak!"

"Your Majesty, my father asks permission to say four words to the King."

"Four words! What could he say in only four words?! Very well, admit him, but if this is a joke this day will be your last!"

Reb Shmuel entered and stood before the throne. "G-d said to Satan!" he pronounced in a booming voice.

The king waited to see what would follow, but Reb Shmuel said nothing. "Very clever, Jew. Well, go on now and explain yourself."

"Your Majesty, these words are from the book of Job, when the L-rd condescended to speak to the lowest of the angels, Satan. Therefore, Sire, I infer that Your Majesty will deign to speak with me, the lowest of your subjects."

"Well said. Since you compare G-d and myself, I shall speak with you."

Then Reb Shmuel threw himself at the king's feet, beseeching him to rescind his onerous demand. When Reb Shmuel had finished, the king spoke: "I will forgive the Jews this time. But, tell me, what do you wish for yourself? Every messenger wants something for himself."

"No, Your Majesty, I desire nothing for myself at all."

"No, that is not acceptable. It will not be said that King Wenzel fails to repay any good deed. From this time forth, you will be admitted to my presence at will, and you will be the official representative of the Jews in the royal court."

And then, as an afterthought, the king asked, "What is your name, Jew?" "My name is Shmuel," he replied.

"Shmuel is your given name. From this day, I decree that your family name will be that of the angel to whom G-d spoke. You and your descendants will forevermore be called 'Satan.'"
And so, to this day, descendants of this brave and righteous man who risked his life and that of his beloved daughter to save the Jews of Prague bear the strange last name of Satan.
Source: Supplemented by Yerachmiel Tilles from LchaimWeekly.org (#1052) with permission.
Connection: Weekly Reading of Mishpatim -- Returning lost objects (Ex.23:4...see also Deut. 22:1-3).


Yerachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and chief editor of this website (and of KabbalaOnline.org). He has hundreds of published stories to his credit, and many have been translated into other languages. He tells them live at Ascent nearly every Saturday night.

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