#169 (s5761-16 /15 Tevet 5761)


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.


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.

The division 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?"

One 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."

The next 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).]


Biographical note:
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.


Yrachmiel Tilles 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.
































































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