Weekly Chasidic Story #1006 (s5777-24 / 16 Adar 5777)

Only Three Coins

"Hey! You! Wait! The Rebbe [Elimelech of Lizhensk] wants His money back!"

Connection: Seasonal-Adar 21 (Saturday night-Sunday) is the 230th yahrzeit of the Rebbe Elimelech.

Only Three Coins


Boruch was in trouble. His daughter was twenty five, getting older every day and he had no dowry to offer a prospective groom. In fact he, as all the Jews in the area, barely had enough to live on.

And it was all because of the cruel Poritz (Landowner), who not only charged ridiculously high rent but also regularly imposed bizarre fines and taxes on the Jews to cover his lavish life style and gambling debts.

To top it all off, one day a matchmaker came up with a good suggestion for his daughter!!

Indeed it was a good suggestion, but all poor Boruch had to offer were debts! And the 'suggestion' himself was in the same economic bracket.

With no alternative Boruch set out by foot to see the great tzadik (holy Jew) Rebbe Elimelich of Lizhensk [One of the foremost pupils of the Magid of Mezeritch, the successor of the Baal Shem Tov] for help.

Two days later he was standing before the tzadik humbly pouring out his heart.

The Rebbe heard the story and, smiling assuringly, told him that there was nothing to worry about. He then took three ten-kopek coins from his desk drawer and put them on the table before Boruch as if to say, 'Here's what you've been waiting for'!

Boruch looked at the coins and almost began to cry from confusion. It made no sense. Thirty kopeks was close to nothing. There was no possibility that Rebbe misunderstood what he said. But thirty kopeks? A wedding with one musician costs at least ten thousand kopeks (1000 rubles]. What could he possibly do with thirty kopeks?!

But, reminding himself that the Rebbe certainly knew what he was doing and hoping that the Rebbe didn't notice his dismay, he took the coins as though they were worth millions, forced a smile and a thank you, and tried his best to look grateful as he backed out of the room.

Trodding slowly on the road towards home, he couldn't help thinking negative thoughts. What would he tell his wife and daughter? What would he say to his friends? To the groom? The groom's family? The matchmaker? This was the end--no one can make a wedding with thirty kopeks!

As he was leaving the city boundary, disillusioned and depressed, he heard someone yelling "Stop! Stop!" in the distance from behind him.

He turned, and saw one of the Rebbe's chasidim running after him waving his arms.

'Aha!' he thought to himself. "The Rebbe had been testing me! He wanted to see how I would react. What a fool I was for doubting! For sure he has now sent the rest of the money!" The chasid arrived, still huffing and puffing as he began to speak.

"The Rebbe sent me to say that he wants you to give back one of the coins. He said he gave you too much."

Boruch was too stunned to say a word. He mechanically took one of the three coins from his pocket, and handed it over. The chasid put it in his own pocket and then with a brisk 'Thank you, have a good journey,' hurried back to the city, leaving the perplexed Boruch alone to resume his trip--ten kopeks poorer.

Now he was even more confused. And he worried that his bad thoughts would slowly drive him insane! But then a famous chasidic saying popped into his mind: "Think good and it will be good."

An hour later, trying to keep positive, he saw up the road a group of three young ruffians huddled over a bonfire off to a side. "Oy!" he thought to himself. "This means trouble."

But this time, instead of cowering as usual, he remembered his resolution, and picturing his Rebbe's face, he stood straight, smiling.

When the gentiles noticed him, they stood up and approached. One of them held up a leather bag. "Hello there, Jew! Want to buy a good purse?"

He shook their hands, took the bag and had a look. It was truly a fine piece of work, well sewn with golden inlays. He opened it to have a look at the lining, and lo, there was a bunch of notes of large denominations in German currency! He counted. There were twenty! A fortune! The peasant boys must not have had any idea what they were, but he recognized them.

"Sure, you can have the pictures too." They said. "Just give us thirty Kopeks and it's all yours."

Boruch almost fainted! Thirty kopeks? Why that is exactly what the Rebbe had given him…at first! But now, "Oh, no! All I have is twenty!" he thought to himself and began to get depressed and confused again, as always. But the two coins in his pocket reminded him to be positive. He remained calm, closed his eyes and prayed for an idea…. And suddenly he had it!"

"Listen fellows. You know what?" he heard himself say confidently, "I don't have enough for the bag. But I'll give you twenty kopeks for the pictures."

The boys looked at each other, trying to hide their glee. What a fool! Twenty kopeks for paper? Now they could sell the purse twice!

They took the coins, shook his hand again and let him take the paper pictures, while they gladly held on to the purse.

As soon as Boruch was out of their sight, he took out the bills and counted. Twenty bills, each worth the equivalent of five thousand kopeks. He was rich beyond imagining! He and his daughter's marriage were saved. What a miracle!

But when he arrived home his wife, although overjoyed, reminded him that he couldn't take the money until he was sure it was ownerless.

So a few days later he returned to Lizhensk, first to find out if anyone there knew to whom the purse belonged, and if not, to give the Rebbe a big donation and invite him to his daughter's wedding. But before he reached the Rebbe's house he felt someone staring at him. He turned to look and it was one of those gentile boys that had sold him the 'pictures', but now he was bandaged and beaten. Reb Boruch nodded and the boy began to talk.

"Hello again, Jew. You're the one we met with the purse, right? Well you'll never guess what happened. As soon as you left we got into an argument about how to divide the coins and the purse--you know, who gets what. Well, somehow the purse fell into the fire and one corner burned off. So we just left it there to finish burning. Who would buy a singed purse?

"Then, about five minutes later this huge wagon comes storming up from the direction of the city, stops where we are, and who gets out but that devil the Poritz. He was screaming about his missing purse.

"Well, when he saw the remains there in the fire he started cursing, jumping around and screaming at us like a mad man. All for a stupid purse! He began beating us with his cane and ordered his servants to do the same. What a maniac! For a lousy purse? And he's supposed to be a rich man!

"Then he jumped into his carriage and drove back to where he came from. Lucky you that you didn't buy the purse, and that he didn't continue straight, in your direction. If he would have seen you he probably would have killed you. He hates you Jews. He almost killed us!"

Suddenly Boruch understood. If he would have had the third ten-kopek coin to buy the purse, the Poritz would have continued down the road, found him with the purse and maybe even killed him. Now, it was clear that the Poritz gave up all hope of recovering the money, thus relinquishing ownership. The money was his to keep!

The twenty kopeks the Rebbe gave Boruch was just enough money to make him rich and to keep him safe…and change forever his attitude about seeming bad luck.

Source: Adapted and supplemented by Yerachmiel Tilles from the rendition of Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on //ohrtmimim.org/torah (submitted by Daniel Keren).

Biographical note:
Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk [of blessed memory:5477 - 21 Adar 5547 (1717 - March 1787 C.E.)], was a leading disciple of the Maggid of Mezritch, successor to the Baal Shem Tov, and the leading Rebbe of the subsequent generation in Poland-Gallitzia. Most of the great Chassidic dynasties in that area stem from his disciples. His book, Noam Elimelech, is one of the most popular of all Chassidic works.

Connection: Seasonal-Adar 21 (Saturday night-Sunday) is the 230th yahrzeit of the Rebbe Elimelech.

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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