Dreaming of Moshiach

Thursday, October 19, 2006

How Much Money You Need?

A highly respected woman, the wife of a prosperous businessman in the Hungarian city of Pressburg, adopted the custom of periodically donating a sum of money to the yeshivah, on the condition that someone there recite Kaddish for the souls of those unfortunates who have no one to say it for them. [+/-] show/hide text
The yeshivah administration agreed, appointing one of the students to recite Kaddish for those departed souls.

After some time, the woman's husband passed away. His business suffered greatly without his leadership, and eventually fell into such dire straits that the woman was forced to close it down. Her financial situation worsened dramatically. As time passed, she was faced with a new problem. Her two daughters had reached marriageable age, but from where was the money to come for their weddings?

The mother bore her burdens in silence, courageously resigned to her fate. There was, however, one thing she was not willing to accept. The recitation of Kaddish must not stop just because she could no longer afford to pay her usual stipend. In great bitterness of spirit, she turned to the yeshivah administration, pleading with them to continue the Kaddish custom until her fortune turned and she would once again be able to pay.

The Yeshivah, moved by the widow's sincerity, agreed to do as she asked. The promise filled her with boundless joy. With beaming countenance, she left the yeshivah and started for home. Her situation did not press upon her quite as much as before. As long as Kaddish would be said, she felt she lacked nothing in this world. As far as her two daughters were concerned, she would place her trust in God. The merciful Father of orphans and the compassionate Judge of widows would surely see their poverty and supply them with suitable grooms and all their needs.

One day, as the woman stepped out into the street, she saw an elderly Jew approaching. His beard was full and white, and his face shone like the sun. The woman was startled by the warmth of his greeting -- after all, the old man was a stranger to her. Her surprise grew when he began conversing with her, asking about her situation and that of her children.

The woman sighed deeply, pouring out the tale of her hardships. She described her fall from prosperity to poverty, to the point that she lacked the means with which to marry off her grown daughters.

"How much do you estimate you need for their wedding expenses?" the old man asked.

"What's the difference?" she sighed. "With all due respect, why do you wish to know?"

Rather than responding, however, the man pressed her for an answer until she gave him the estimate he wanted. Immediately, he drew a page from his notebook and wrote instructions to the local bank to pay her the amount she had mentioned.

Because this was a very large sum of money, he suggested to the stupefied widow, it was preferable that the note be signed in the presence of witnesses. They would see with their own eyes that he was signing over the money, and would add their own signatures to that effect.

Astonished and shaken, the widow went to the yeshivah to request that two students accompany her. The old man asked them to witness his signature on the check. For additional security, he asked them for a piece of paper, on which he signed his name once again for authentication purposes. He handed the check to the woman with instructions to redeem it at the bank on the following morning.

The whole business seemed extraordinary to her. Why had the old man, a stranger to her, seen fit to show her such largess -- to the point of covering the entire wedding expenses for her two daughters? Nevertheless, she hurried to the bank the next day to try her luck.

When the bank clerk read the check, he stared at the widow in amazement. He looked at the check again, then again at the widow. In some confusion, he asked her to wait. Check in hand, he went into the manager's office.

The bank manager took one look at the check -- and fainted dead away!

A babble of distress and bewilderment arose from every corner of the bank. The clerks, hearing of the incident, hustled the widow into a small room and stood guard over her to make certain she did not leave. Clearly, something was amiss.

When the manager recovered consciousness, he demanded to see the woman who had brought in the check. As she stood before him, trembling, he demanded an accounting of how she had come by the check.

"I received it just yesterday from a very respectable Jew. There were two witnesses to his signature, too," she explained anxiously.

"Would you be able to identify the man who gave you the check, if you saw a picture of him?" the manager asked.

"Of course I could! And I have no doubt that the two yeshivah students who witnessed his signature could identify him as well."

The manager reached into his desk and pulled out a picture.

"Yes!" The woman beamed. "That's the man. He's the one who so generously gave me the check."

Slowly, the manager turned to his clerks. "Give this woman the money," he ordered. "And then let her go."

It was only after the widow's departure that he confided his story to those present, who were naturally agog with curiosity.

"The man who gave that woman the check," he said, "was my father -- who passed away 10 years ago. Last night, he appeared in a dream and told me these words: 'Know this. Since you strayed from Judaism and stopped reciting Kaddish for me, my soul found no rest -- until this woman, this widow, came and arranged for the recitation of Kaddish for those who have no one to say it for them. The Kaddish they said for me in the yeshivah, on that woman's instructions, led to ascendancy and peace for my soul.'

"'Tomorrow morning, this woman will appear in your bank with a check that I have given her to cover her daughters' wedding expenses.'

"When I woke up this morning, I was shaken by the dream. I described it to my wife, who just laughed. But when the woman appeared with the check, I realized that the dream had come true."

(Rabbi Chaim Sonnenfeld would tell this story, adding that he was one of the yeshivah boys who witnessed the signature.)

by Avraham Erlanger Published by ArtScroll/Mesorah Publications Ltd., Brooklyn, NY.




והיה השם למלך על כל הארץ, ביום ההוא יהיה השם אחד - ושמו אחד ישתבח שמו לעד לנצח נצחים בכל העולמות Blessed is His name for eternity in all worlds אין עוד מלבדו