Chassidic Story #208

(s5762-04 / posted 23 Tishrei 5762)


When Yishaya Shlomo lamented long and loud on his economic straits yet another time, the saintly Rabbi Yechiel-Michil of Zlotchov told him to travel to a certain rich person. “From this man you can learn what it means to genuinely trust in G-d.”



Yishaya Shlomo, a chassid of the saintly Rabbi Yechiel Michil of Zlotchov, used to often complain about his poverty to his Rebbe. The tsaddik always responded by encouraging him to have greater reliance on G-d. This response never quite soothed the chassid; he felt the rebbe was pushing him off without getting truly involved.

Once, when Shaya lamented long and loud on his economic straits yet another time, R. Michel told him to travel to Berdichev, and there to seek out a certain rich person and ask to stay in his house for a while. "Observe his conduct," said the tsaddik. "From this man you can learn what it means to genuinely trust in G-d."

Although he couldn't afford it, Shaya borrowed some money and made the journey. The rich man welcomed him with courtesy and warmth, and told the chassid he could stay with him for as long as he liked. Shaya settled in and began to obey the Rebbe's instructions, carefully noting as much as he could of everything that his host did.

One thing quickly became clear. His wealthy host's business involvements were many and extensive. Huge sums of money flowed through the house as deals were struck, merchandise was bought and sold, and debts were paid and collected.

Shaya couldn't understand what his Rebbe had in mind when he sent him here. What could he possibly learn from such a wealthy man that could apply to his own life? "If I had his kind of money," he thought longingly, "I'd be able to relax and lead a tranquil life with no worries. Then I too could sit back and trust in G-d."

What amazed Shaya most about his host was how he gave tsedakah. He had never seen anything like it in his life. Not once did he ever turn down a person in need, and the amount of money that he gave away on a regular basis was enormous.

More days went by. Finally Shaya asked the rich man to speak to him privately. He then told him the "mission" upon which the Rebbe had sent him. "I've observed the high-level business matters you are involved in and the extraordinary deeds of kindness that you do," he continued, "but I must confess I am stymied in relation to what the Rebbe expected of me. "How can a poor man like me learn from a rich person like yourself the attribute of total trust in the One above?"

His host burst into amicable laughter. "No doubt you've noticed," he said, "that whenever I have to pay out a significantly large sum of money, I retreat into a certain room and stay there all alone. What do you suppose is in that room?" he asked the astonished chassid.

"I presume it is your 'treasure room,' answered Shaya innocently. "There you store your money and take however much you need whenever required."

"That's right!" the wealthy man approved delightedly. "That room is where my treasure is to be found. So how about you come there with me this one time?"

Shaya admitted he was curious. He followed his host into the room and glanced around. His jaw dropped in surprise. The room contained a table, a chair, and four bare walls. That was all.

"Yes," said the rich man mysteriously, "in this room is hidden all my wealth." He went on to explain. "I have no reserves. Whenever I have to pay an obligation or donate a significant sum to tsedakah, I come in here. I sit on the chair next to the table, and plead and cry to G-d Al-mighty that he should rescue me. As you have seen for yourself, He never fails me."

While they were still talking, a servant knocked on the door and presented his master with a bill for 1000 rubles that he had obligated himself to pay before nightfall. The wealthy man closed himself in the room alone for a while. Almost as soon as he emerged, a Jewish military officer came to the front door and asked to speak with him privately. He told that he was about to go off to war, so he had brought his life-savings of 10,000 rubles which he requested the rich man to hold for him and invest as he saw fit, and "keep 1000 for yourself as payment for the responsibility."

"See how G-d's salvation can happen in an instant," the rich man said afterwards to his guest. "Go home and from now on trust G-d completely. Don't worry about anything."

"But I don't have the money to get home with," whined Shaya plaintively.

"Aha! I see you still haven't learned anything," commented his host, and immediately gave him a generous 200 rubles for travel expenses.

* * *
Yishaya Shlomo set out on his way. Although he had been a guest for only a week, he realized that he was strongly affected by all that he had witnessed. As he thought about the remarkable deeds of his host, he felt himself to be changing inside. His worries about his personal economic situation were being peeled away by the powerful new thoughts that were bubbling in their place. He felt a wave of simple trust in G-d coursing through him, and made a firm decision to flow with whatever divine providence had in store for him, come what may. At that moment, he felt as if a heavy burden had slipped off him.

Lost in thought, he looked up and saw two women being pulled in chains by armed guards. A number of children were running behind them and crying. He inquired and was told that the women were going to be thrown in prison; their husbands had failed to pay their debts to the lord of the village. He felt so sorry for them. Suddenly, he thrust out the 200 rubles that his wealthy acquaintance had provided him and paid the debts of the two suffering families.

The women barely managed to thank him before he already continued on his journey. Once again he was without a kopeck to his name, but this time he had no complaints. Instead he basked in the joy of the big mitzvah he had been given the opportunity to do, and felt even more deeply committed to completely trust in G-d.

While looking to arrange a place to sleep for the night, Shaya joined up with another traveler, a businessman. The two fell to swapping plans and life-stories. After a while his companion said to him, "You know what, you could do me a favor! I just came into a major inheritance and I have to split it with a relative of mine that lives in your town, in Zlotchov. If you would deliver his half to him, you will save me a lot of time and trouble."

Shaya agreed readily. As soon as he was back in Zlotchov, he right away enquired about the man to whom he was supposed to deliver the rather large amount of money he was carrying, but was unable to find him. Not only that, people insisted that no such person had ever lived there. The chassid felt confused. He had to keep his promise and deliver the money, but now he didn't know how to go about it.

He decided to consult the Rebbe, R. Michel. Anyway he had to report to him about his extraordinary trip.

When he was able to get in to see the tsaddik, Shaya told him all that had happened: what he had witnessed and learned at the rich man's house, how he had been privileged to rescue the two women from a terrible fate, and the mission the stranger had entrusted him with yet he seemed to be unable to fulfill.

"Please relax," smiled the Rebbe. "What everyone was telling you today is correct; the man to whom you were supposed to deliver the inheritance has never lived here. Not only that, the businessman you met who entrusted you with the money was not a flesh-and-blood human! He was an angel created by the great mitzvah you did of ransoming Jewish lives. You can keep the money in good conscience, for that was his intention. You earned it honestly!

"You should know," the tsaddik ended, "the Baal Shem Tov taught that it is impossible for a man who trusts absolutely in Heaven to be punished by Heaven. All that can be done is to take away some measure of his trust-that is the only form of punishment possible for a person with genuine trust."


[Translated-adapted by Yrachmiel Tilles (and first published in Kfar Chabad Magazine - English) from Shemu V'tchi Nafshechem #96.
You may pass on this email rendition to whomever you wish as long as you give full credit, including Ascent's email and internet addresses.]

Biographical note:
Rabbi Yechiel Michil (1731-25 Elul 1786), son of Rabbi Yitzchak of Drohovitch, was introduced by his father to the Baal Shem Tov at a young age. He also became a disciple of the Maggid of Mezritch. It is said that his sermons consistently aroused his listeners to repentance. Many of his teachings are collected in Mayim Rabim.

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