One of the many Chassidim of the Ruzhiner Rebbe made his living by building copper tanks for whiskey for a gentile landowner. His assistants began to siphon off amounts of copper until eventually there was a sizeable shortfall. Fearing that they would soon be caught, they decided to go to the landowner and inform him that it was the Jew, their immediate superior, who had actually stolen the missing copper.
A trial was held, the copper was weighed, and a considerable amount was found to be missing. Typical of eastern-European justice in the early 1800s, the Yid was rapidly convicted and sentenced to death.
In desperation, after paying a huge sum of money as a bribe, he was allowed to travel under heavy guard for one last visit to his Rebbe in Ruzhin. Upon return, he was told, the execution would take place.
Arriving at the Rebbe’s court, he discovered, much to his dismay, that the Rebbe was not granting any audiences. The Rebbe’s oldest son, Shalom Yosef, a child of seven or eight at the time, noticed the Jew surrounded by armed guards and weeping hysterically. He went over to him and asked him what had occurred.
The Chassid poured out his heart to young Shalom Yosef, telling him his tale of woe. He told him that his time was almost up; the guards were about to forcibly return him to face his death sentence. Shalom Yosef turned to the man and said, “Across the road a chasunah is being delayed. The kallah does not have the six reinush to pay for the tallis that is customarily sent to the chassan. The chassan is not willing to go to the chuppah unless at the very least he is given money for a tallis.
“Give me the six reinush,” young Shalom Yosef instructed confidently. “Then travel back to the judge who decided your case and demand a new trial.”
The Yid handed the young boy six reinush, and was forcibly escorted back to his home town. Following the instructions of the Rebbe’s young son, he requested a new trial, which was refused. But his prosecutors did agree to re-weigh the copper involved. To their astonishment, not only was there sufficient copper — there was even more than they had originally expected! They freed the Yid immediately, and actually paid him for the extra copper.
Some time later, the Chassid made his way back to Ruzhin and told the Rebbe the amazing story of the miracle that young Shalom Yosef had wrought.
The Rebbe immediately summoned his young son and asked, “Tell me, what did you do?”
“He told me that weight was missing on the scale,” young Shalom Yosef said. “They needed more weight, so I simply took the groom, the bride and the tallis and placed them on the scale. There was more than enough to weigh it down.”
Shabbos, 11 Elul, is the yahrtzeit of Harav Shalom Yosef, who was niftar only a few months after his father, the saintly Ruzhiner. The lesson he taught about the power of tzedakah is an eternal one.
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This week we learn that the descendants of Ammon and Moav were prohibited from marrying into Klal Yisrael because “they did not greet you with bread and water on the way, when you left Egypt, and because he hired Bilam the son of Beor from Pethor in Aram Naharayim against you, to curse you” (Devarim 23:4–5).
Rashi states an additional reason: because they caused Bnei Yisrael to sin (during the episode involving Zimri).
The Zera Shimshon explains that the primary wrongdoing of the Moabites and Ammonites was the fact that they caused Bnei Yisrael to sin. But had they had the merit of greeting them with bread and water, this achdus would have sufficed to preclude their male descendants from being eternally barred from marrying Jews.
Ordinarily these countries could have argued that it wasn’t an act of malice on their part, but rather financial considerations; giving away enough bread and water for such a large populace as Bnei Yisrael would have been very expensive for them. But when it came to hiring Bilam to curse Bnei Yisrael, Moav had no inclination to pinch pennies. Bilam was notorious for his greed, yet Moav was fully ready to pay whatever he would charge.
With this last defense having crumbled away, and left without the merit of this chessed, these nations lost the right to marry Jews forever.
On a daily basis, Jews lend a helping hand and dig deep into almost empty pockets to help their fellow Jews, earning mountains of merits along the way.