The Dishonest Hotelier
Once, a merchant from the city of Lomza came to see the chief rabbi of Lodz, Rabbi Elijah Chaim Maizel.
“Rabbi,” he said, “I am in trouble and only you can help me.” He then told the following story:
“A few days ago I arrived in your city of Lodz to purchase some merchandise for my business. I stopped at your local hotel where I remained for the past few days. Last night, having completed my mission I paid the hotelier for my board and retired very early to make the early morning train back home. I put my wallet and watch under my pillow as is my custom for many years.
“When I arrived at the train station I discovered I had forgotten my wallet and my watch.
“I rushed back to the hotel and told the innkeeper my predicament. The innkeeper then said ‘No one has as yet been up in your room. Come, let us both enter the room at the same time.’
“But as soon as I entered the room I knew that someone had already been in there. With a heavy heart I looked under the pillow and I began to feel sick. There was no watch or pocketbook.
“The hotelier then began to sympathize with me. ‘In Lodz there are many thieves,’ he said ‘It is possible that your pocket may have been picked.’
“Angrily, I shouted at him that it was not stolen outside. It was stolen in this hotel. I am positive that I left it under my pillow last night.
“The hotelier appeared to be hurt at my words. ‘You are accusing me unjustly,’ he said. ‘And unless you stop these accusation I will have you arrested for slander.’
“Realizing that I could do nothing to him I immediately came to your home, O Rabbi, for I have heard such wonderful things about how you help the unfortunate.”
Rabbi Elijah Chaim knew that this hotelier had a shady past. There had been many complaints against him, and there was still a thievery case pending against him. Telling the merchant to wait in another room, the Rabbi sent for the hotelier. Thinking that the Rabbi was summoning him to discuss his previous case, the hotelier immediately responded and appeared before the rabbi.
The hotelier began to discuss his previous case and the Rabbi seemed to be shaking his head in agreement. While he was talking he took out a beautiful silver snuff case and began to inhale.
“May I have some of your snuff?” asked the Rabbi.
The hotelier gave him the case and continued to talk. Suddenly, the Rabbi interrupted him saying that something important came up. Leaving him for a moment he entered another room and called over his shammas and instructed him to visit the hotel and tell the hotelier’s wife to give him the pocketbook and watch which the merchant had left over the previous day. As a sign, he would show her the snuff case which her husband owned and that would be proof that it was he who was requesting it.
The shammas rushed over to the hotel and a few minutes later he returned with the missing pocketbook and watch. The rabbi then reentered the room and returned the snuff case to its owner. He then dismissed the hotelier and called in the visiting merchant.
“Can you identify your lost items?” the Rabbi asked him.
When he did so, the Rabbi returned the lost goods to him. The merchant thanked the rabbi with tears in his eyes and departed happily.
The Watered Milk
Once a delegation of Jews appeared before the Gaon, Rabbi Elijah Chaim, to complain that the milk which was being sold in the city of Lodz contained water. The Jewish owners of the farms were dishonest and had formed an association amongst themselves to cheat the public. The delegation appealed to the rabbi to intercede and help the poor consumers.
The following day the Rabbi summoned the leaders of the dairy companies to appear before him. When they arrived, he addressed them as follows:
“Gentlemen, a grave problem has come before me on the question of kashruth. It is a matter of the mixing of meat with milk which is now being served in the city’s charitable homes. After searching through many seforim, looking through the works of the Poskim, of the Rishonim and Acharonim I have come to one conclusion. The food would be considered kosher if I knew for sure that the milk was not pure but was adulterated.
“We can assure you, Rabbi” they replied, “that the milk is adulterated. We pour water into every container of milk.”
“Do you all do this?” asked the Rabbi. “Is it possible that there is one among you who sells 100 percent pure milk?”
“We can vouch that everyone does the same thing,” they replied. “We made an agreement amongst ourselves to do the same thing.”
Jumping to his feet, the Gaon shouted in anger, “You do not feel ashamed to tell me personally of your thievery and crime of fooling the public. I am warning you that as of now, if you do not sell 100 percent pure milk, without water added, I will declare an issur, a ban upon you all, and no Jew will partake of your milk. Your milk will be worse than Chazir and the Jews will purchase their supplies from the neighboring towns.”
The dairy owners became frightened and they swore that they would never again add water to their milk. And from that day onward the city of Lodz had pure milk.
Proper Food For children
The Gaon, Rabbi Elijah Chaim Maizel would take a special interest in the welfare of the children of his city of Lodz. He would look after the poor children who studied in the yeshivos. He made sure that they were well fed and clothed.
Once, during a depression year, the charity cases were the first to suffer. Money was scarce, and the poor suffered greatly. The leaders of the city, seeing a way to economize, began cutting down on the food given to the poor pupils of the yeshivos.
It was Rosh Chodesh Av, the beginning of the Nine Days of mourning, and of course, no respectable Jews would eat meat on these days. So a limited amount of dairy food was served to the poor students of the yeshivos. This way they managed to save money.
When the Gaon, Rabbi Elijah Chaim heard of this he summoned the leaders of the community.
“Why aren’t you serving the children of the yeshiva meat?” he asked them in an angry voice.
“Master, you must be mistaken,” they answered him. “It is the Nine Days of Av and no Jews is permitted to eat meat, therefore we are serving the pupils dairy food.”
“That is the forbidden food I am referring to,” replied the Gaon. “The students of the yeshiva are poor and undernourished, for the Torah weakens a person. Therefore, they need the rich meat meals to regain their strength. Regardless of whether it is the Nine Days, their health comes first. Therefore, you are committing a sin if you deprive them of this meat.”
Inviting A Guest
The Gaon Rabbi Elijah Chaim would go out of his way to invite guests to his home every night. He would feed them and provide them lodging and when the guest would object that the Gaon himself was serving him, something below his dignity, the Gaon would angrily exclaim: “The mitzvoh of tending to a guest is greater than even greeting the Holy Spirit of G-d. (Shabbos 127). Do you want me to lose this wonderful mitzvoh?”
Once , when the Gaon invited a poor person to a night’s lodging he noticed that his boots were torn. That night, while the poor man slept, the Gaon entered his room and replaced the torn boots with a pair of his own.
The Guest Comes First
Once on Friday night, when the Gaon Elijah Chaim was about to leave the synagogue for home, he noticed a group of people who had not been invited to anyone’s home. Apparently, they had been overlooked by the members of his congregation.
“Brethren,” he greeted them, “You are welcome to enjoy the Shabbos with me.”
When he entered his home, his wife nearly fainted. Besides the normal complement of guests who were present in their home, the Rabbi was now bringing home a large group of people. And she had not prepared for such a large crowd.
Seeing her look if despair, the Gaon said, “Come, let us make Kiddush and we can give our meal to our new guests. You know that we usually enjoy eating only a piece of challah dipped in honey and some fruit juices.”
That Shabbos the guests ate the fish, meat and all the delicacies, while the Rabbi and his family had to be content with challah dipped in honey and fruit juices. But he thing they all enjoyed equally – the Torah which the Gaon expounded to them that Shabbos.
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Page last updated - 08/10/2006