The Wise Messenger
"The tongue of the wise uses knowledge..." (Proverbs 15:2).
The Dubner Magid explains the meaning of this proverb with the following parable:
To be a meshulach, (a professional tzedakah collector), in Warsaw required unimpeachable integrity and great physical strength, and also brains and a wise tongue. This was because the roads leading to the Polish metropolis were infested with bandits.
One day Yankel the meshulach was traveling to Warsaw and stopped on the road to daven Mincha.
"Your money or yur life!" roared a gruff voice in his ears.
Opening his eyes, Yankel saw a huge peasant pointing a shotgun at him. Resistance was out of the question and the trustworthy messenger, in mortal anguish, turned over all the tzedakah money he was carrying to the bandit.
As the highwayman was leaving, Yankel turned to him and with tears in his eyes said, "My friend, I am ruined. No one will believe me that I was robbed. They will think I have taken the money for myself. Please shoot a bullet through my cap so there will be proof I was robbed."
The bandit was moved by his pleas and took Yankel's cap, hung it on a branch and fired a shot through it. "Please do me a favor," entreated Yankel, "and fire another shot at my overcoat"
The bandit granted his request.
"I don't know how to thank you for your kindness," said Yankel, "but would it be too much if I ask you to fire one more shot at my pants?"
"I'd gladly do it for you," responded the bandit, "but I have no more bullets."
"Aha!" exclaimed Yankel, You have no more shots?" Moving closer he proceeded to beat the bandit with his fists.
The bandit ended up sprawled on the ground. Yankel recovered the tzedakah money and continued on his way to Warsaw.
The Unmerciful Doctor
The following story is told about the Vilna Gaon who was called upon to decide a case of a bill that was due to a doctor. The doctor was a specialist who looked at pain and suffering as a blessing to the medical profession.
He charged exorbitant sums for his services and never treated a needy person for free.
One day a poor woman became critically ill and her distraught husband ran to the specialist and begged him to save her life.
"My dear man," said the doctor coldly. "I may treat your wife for weeks and you won't have sufficient needs to compensate me."
"Doctor," cried the desperate man, "you save her life and I'll pay you every kopeck, even if I have to sell my house."
"And suppose I cant save her," queried the physician, "won't you pay me then?"
"I'll pay you whether you cure her or kill her," shouted the loyal husband.
After treating the woman for a week, she passed away.
With unseeming haste, the doctor sent the bereft man a bill for 1,000 rubles, but it received no attention. Subsequent letters were equally ignored. Eventually, the doctor sued the delinquent debtor, and the judge, seeing the poverty-stricken defendant, referred the case to the Vilna Gaon.
The Gaon heard the arguments carefully and regarded the two litigants thoughtfully. It was unjust, thought the Gaon, to make the poor man sell his house and give the money to the avaricious practitioner and he decided to protect him.
After a few moments of hard thinking the Gaon arose and called the doctor to him.
"What was your agreement with the defendant? inquired the Gaon, again.
"Our agreement was that I was to get paid whether I cured her or killed her."
"Did you cure her?" asked the Gaon.
"No," replied the doctor, reluctantly. "It was impossible:"
"Did you kill her?" was the next question.
"Oh, no, I should say not," answered the doctor.
"Then," declared the Gaon, "you have no claim, for you neither cured her nor killed her."
The Rabbi Returns The Lost Money
Once a poor man came to the Gaon Rabbi Ezekiel Landau in great distress. He had lost his life's savings – a few hundred rubles – and without it life wasn’t worth living. The Rabbi promised to help and he posted a notice in all the synagogues. But no one came forward.
The following week, the Gaon called in the poor man and said to him, "Here is the money you lost, count it and see if it's right. By mistake, however, I threw the pocketbook away. I'm sure you don't mind."
The poor man was overjoyed and he kissed the Gaon's s hand with gratitude.
Only later, when the real money was found and returned to the poor man, was it discovered that the Gaon had given his own money so that the poor man shouldn't feel bad. The poor man eventually returned the money to the Gaon, and this pious deed of Rabbi Ezekiel Landau was the talk of the city of Prague.
The Power Of Repentance
A wonderful story is recorded about the Maharil (Rabbi Yaakov ben Moshe Levi Moelin) who proved the power of repentance.
The Maharil was the first rabbi to bear the title moreinu (our teacher). He was considered the greatest authority of his time, and communities far and wide sought his advice.
The Gaon Moelin lived during the period of the Hussite wars, which brought misery upon the Jews of the Rhine, Thuringia and Bavaria. The mercenary soldiers entered the Jewish homes at will and took everything they could lay their hands on. If anyone protested, they were killed on the spot. The Jews appealed to the Gaon to intercede with G-d for them.
When the Gaon received their desperate appeal, he sent messengers to the neighboring communities, urging them to institute a general season of fasting and prayer. The German communities, obeying the call, fasted for seven days (September 1241).
The day following the fast, the grand duke, who had mobilized the large army, was suddenly stricken and died. Soon afterwards, the imperial army and the mercenaries who were mobilized at Saaz dispersed, and the very soldiers who had threatened and molested the Jews now came to them begging for bread. Under the orders of the Gaon they were given bread and lodging. When they departed they blessed the Jews and their G-d for treating them so kindly after having suffered so much at their hands and many of them became Jews.
This was a dramatic episode on the immediate results of the power of repentance and prayer.
(Jew. Ency. Moelin; G. Pollak, Halikot Kedem, p. 79; Gratz, Gesch, 2nd ed. 8:136; Zunz, S.P. p. 48)
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