NOTE: "And thou shall teach it to thy children..." Our sages tell us that it is a mitzva to teach our children the stories relating to the holidays, again and again, un til they know them by heart. Thirty days before the holidays all Israel would gather in the houses of study and review these stories and laws. Therefore, we repeat these holy stories as they are narrated in the Talmud and the Midrash, and in the merit of our reading and studying them, may we all be blessed with a year of health, happiness, and good fortune.)
The ways of G-d are mysterious and defy ordinary understanding. One must never lose faith in the Almighty no matter how black things look. Reward and punishment are guaranteed by our Father in Heaven and one should always continue to do good even when the reward appears to be far away.
In the time of the Second Temple, two brothers lived in Hebron. One was named Nadav and the other was called Agur. As often happens, both brothers were as different as day is from night. Nadav was a generous and charitable man, always looking to help a person in need. Agur, on the other hand, was miserly and tight-fisted.
Nadav took pity on the numerous paupers in the city and would constantly invite them to be his guests. Even when the immense expenses began to eat into his income he did not cease to do charity. He sold his fields and his property and with the money he continued to do works of kindness.
The day soon arrived, however, when all that he owned was gone and he himself was now poor. His family had to struggle and there was little food in the house. As the holiday of Sukkot arrived, his wife gave him some money and said, "Here is money to buy food for the holidays. Be careful because it is all that we have left"
An Orphan Girl
Nadav took the money and set off to buy food for his family. When he arrived in town, however, he noticed the gabbai tzedaka (the charity officials) going about and collecting money. Going over to them he asked,
"Is there any special reason for your collecting money today?"
"Yes, there is" they replied. "A young orphan girl is homeless and without food and she is desperate. We are collecting emergency money for her."
When Nadav heard this he said: "I am poor today
my brothers, but when I cosider my situation as compared to this orphan girl I cannot rest. At least my children have a father and mother who will see to it that, somehow, they will always have some bread. But his poor child - if we will not help her - how will she live?"
And with this, Nadav thrust into their hands the money that his wife had given him to buy food for the holidays. The gabbaim looked at him and cried out: "May the Almighty bless you as you deserve!"
Nadav Cannot Return Home
Even though what he had done was generous, Nadav was concerned about going home and facing his wife. He wandered into the courtyard of a nearby synagogue and saw children playing with esrogim (it was Hoshana Rabba and there was no longer any more need for them).
He approached the children and asked, "If it is not too much to ask, may I have the esrogim you are playing with?"
The children knew of Nadav and gladly gave him what he asked for. Nadav then took all the esrogim, placed them in a sack, and set off for the nearby port. Perhaps if he left for a different land fortune might shine upon him...
The King Is Ill
The ship took Nadav to a foreign land whose king, at that very moment, lay ill. His doctors shook their heads gravely as they consulted together.
"There is no hope for him," they agreed. "This is a malady which is too mysterious and for which there is no known cure."
Gloom shrouded the palace as word spread that their king was doomed. That night, however, as the king lay in troubled sleep he had a remarkable dream. A figure appeared to him and said:
"Know you that there is still a way for you be saved from the terrible malady you have. If you can eat from the special fruit which the Jews bless G-d with on their holiday you will yet rise from the bed and live."
The Fruit Is Found
The king awoke in a frantic state and called for his servants. "Go, quickly, and scour the country. Perhaps there is someone who possesses the sacred Jewish fruit"
The servants began to hunt desperately throughout the land for the fruit but no one even knew what the fruit looked like. But the Hand of the Almighty was already thrust out in salvation. The ship carrying Nadav had docked and the forlorn man stepped ashore bearing his sack of esrogim. He sat down on the dock and opened the sack to inspect his possessions. At that moment two soldiers of the king rode up and shouted: "You, stranger, what have you in your hand?"
Nadav was petrified with fear. "Why, it is nothing, sires, It is only some fruit that I have brought with me from my native land and which I hope to sell here."
"We can see that it is fruit," answered the soldiers, "but it is a strange kind. What is it called?"
"We call it an esrog. It is a special fruit that we Jews bless G-d with on our holiday."
When the soldiers heard this they exclaimed happily: "You mean this is the sacred Jewish fruit? Hurry, get on the horse. You are coming with us to the palace."
The King Is Saved
Nadav was lifted on the horse and the soldiers charged swiftly through the city streets. He was terrified for his life and he prayed to G-d to save him from the hands of what, he thought, were evil kidnappers.
Arriving at the palace he was taken immediately to the king's room where all the ministers and officers were assembled about the bed. Seizing Nadav's sack they quickly gave the feeble king a bite from one of the esrogim. Nothing happened. The king lay still and white. They gave him a second bite and a third and then a miracle happened! The king's color returned to him and his breathing became even and strong. His eyelids fluttered and he opened his eyes to look about.
"It is a miracle," he said. "I feel strong and better. I shall live."
A shout of joy arose in the room and all began to laugh and talk excitedly.
"One moment," said the king. "Where is the Jew who brought the sacred fruit and who saved my life?"
Nadav was taken to the king's bedside and the king said: "You have saved my life. The bag of esrogim shall be emptied and filled instead with all the gold it can hold. Is there anything else that I can do for you?"
"I seek only to be able to regain my former land and holdings," replied Nadav.
"That shall be done," replied the king. "Let another sack be filled with gold and precious stones and with it redeem your possessions."
Nadav left the palace of the king as if in a dream. He ran to the dock and boarded another ship that took him back to the land of Judea. There he returned to his home in Hebron where the word had already preceded him.
The entire town came out to greet the good Nadav, crying: "May the Name of G-d be blessed, Who has aided and raised You."
And so the goodness that was his due had been given Nadav. He continued in the ways of charity and
kindness until the day he died.
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