There was once a Torah scholar
named Yosef who lived in the city of Nikopol, in northern Bulgaria. Although Rabbi
Yosef's main interest and joy in life was the study of Torah, he insisted on supporting
his family through the sweat of his own labor. To that end, he entered into a
business partnership with an acquaintance and opened a store.
of labor would prove to be problematic. R. Yosef's daily schedule was as follows:
After early morning prayers, he would go to the study hall for several hours;
thus he never arrived at the store until noon. His partner, who had already been
dealing with customers for several hours, eventually began to resent this arrangement.
He respected his partner's diligence in Torah study, but at the same time needed
help with the practical aspect of running a business.
R. Yosef realized
that his partner was right and remained silent. "But what can I do,"
he thought to himself, "if my love of Torah is so strong?"
morning, someone in the study hall raised a particularly complex question in Torah
law. The heated discussion that ensued lasted for hours as all the scholars in
the study hall attempted to answer it. By the time R. Yosef looked up from his
volume of Talmud it was already late in the afternoon.
When R. Yosef finally
arrived at the store his partner was furious. "That's it!" he fumed.
"I've had enough of this joint venture!"
R. Yosef asked his partner
to wait one more day before dissolving the partnership, as he wished to consult
with his wife. That evening he went home and asked her opinion on whether he should
continue as he had been doing, or should he reduce significantly his attendance
at the study hall. His wife, a righteous woman, advised him to continue learning,
and not lessen the number of hours he devoted to Torah study. "If your partner
wishes to close one door to you, I have full faith that G-d, who opens the gates
of salvation, will surely unlock other channels through which to send His blessing."
Encouraged by his wife's words, R. Yosef returned to the store the next
day and announced that he was willing to end the partnership amicably. R. Yosef
was given half the value of the store's holdings and suddenly found himself unemployed.
"There's no point in letting the money just sit at home," his
wife advised him the following morning. "Why don't you go to the marketplace
and look for another business venture?" R. Yosef agreed it was a good idea
and set out at once. But he was so involved in his Torah thoughts that by force
of habit his feet led him in the direction of the study hall, where he remained
until evening. Only when his wife questioned him that night did he remember what
he had set out to do. "Don't worry," he told her, "G-d will surely
send something my way tomorrow."
The next day R. Yosef had barely
entered the marketplace when an unusually tall man approached him with a huge
mortar and pestle for sale. R. Yosef handed over all his money and bought the
mortar and pestle with his last cent.
"What will we do with this old
mortar and pestle?" his wife wondered when he returned home. But R. Yosef
wasn't worried and went off to the study hall.
Two days later R. Yosef
had a curious dream in which the tall man who had sold him the mortar and pestle
told him a secret. "You should know," he revealed, "that good fortune
has long been awaiting you, which was not meant to be shared by your former partner.
That is why it was necessary that you part ways. But now that you're on your own,
your hour has come.
"The mortar and pestle I sold you," he continued,
"is made out of pure gold. You must learn its true worth before you can receive
fair compensation. Then you must leave this place, as it is not where you belong.
Go to the Land of Israel, and live in the city of Tsfat."
morning R. Yosef recounted his dream to his wife, who immediately summoned a goldsmith
for an appraisal. The goldsmith rubbed off the accumulated dust and dirt and was
astonished by what he saw. "This mortar and pestle is made out of pure gold!"
he told them, and determined that it was worth a fortune.
The mortar and
pestle were quickly sold, and R. Yosef and his wife moved to the Land of Israel
and settled in Tsfat. The money they received from the sale was enough to support
them for the rest of their lives.
What pleased R. Yosef most was that the
wealth finally enabled him to publish his two greatest works, the Beit Yosef
and Shulchan Aruch. For R. Yosef was none other than Rabbi Yosef Karo,
the famous 16th century codifer of Rabbinic law.
[Based on an
article in L'Chaim (20 Sivan 5760).]
Rabbi Yosef Caro [1488-13 Nissan 1575] is one of the most
important and influential Jewish scholars of the last thousand years. Born in
either Spain or Portugal,he lived in Turkey from 1497 till 1536, when he made
aliyah to Zefat. He served as the head of the Zefat Beit Din (Rabbinical Court)
as well as its Chief Rabbi for over 35 years.
is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and editor of Ascent
Quarterly and the AscentOfSafed.com and KabbalaOnline.org websites. He has hundreds
of published stories to his credit.