Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Money in Exile: a story

Excerpt from Tales From Our Gaonim by Rabbi Sholom Klass:

The Baal Shem Tov had two grandsons, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Ephraim and Rabbi Baruch. While both were pious and well educated in Torah, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Ephraim lived a frugal and poor life, while his brother, Rabbi Baruch, became very wealthy.

One day the rich Rabbi Baruch decided to spend Shabbos with his poor brother. Rabbi Moshe Chaim Ephraim was honored and he told his wife to try and order the best of everything in honor of his brother. The poor woman sighed as she counted her few pennies but as a dutiful wife she went to the market and borrowed enough money to purchase extra food for Shabbos.

That night, when the two brothers came home from shul, they entered the poor house and there they saw two small candles burning from an earthen dish, a white tablecloth spread out over the table and two small challas on it. A small bottle of watered-down wine was near the challas and a wooden bowl containing salted herring and onions stood near it. They made kiddush and they sat down to eat the Shabbos meal, which was very little. The rich Rabbi Baruch turned to his poor brother and sighing said, "Woe is to me, my brother, that I see you in such a poor state. How do you manage to exist in such poverty?"

"Why do you speak this way to me?" Rabbi Moshe Chaim Ephraim innocently replied, "Is there anything missing here?"

"Everything is missing," he said "In my home we have silver candle holders, beautiful furniture, the wine is poured into silver cups and on the table we have enough food fit for a king."

"Where do you get so much money to be able to purchase all these fine things?" asked Rabbi Moshe Chaim Ephraim.

"Don't you know?" replied his brother. "I have to travel all week from town to town, buying and selling merchandise so I accumulate enough money to buy the finest things for Shabbos.

"Then you are worse off than I am," replied the poor brother. "Your gold, silver and money is in your home while you have to wander from town to town as if you are in exile. While my money is in exile, in other peoples' hands, still I am at home the entire week enjoying the company of my wife and children and enjoying the study of the Torah. Who leads a happier life?"


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