Baron Mayer Amschel Rothschild was
the founder of the Rothschild Family
Banking Empire in the 1760s, which
became one of the most successful
business families in history. In
2005, he was ranked 7th on the
Forbes Magazine list of The Twenty
Most Influential Businessmen Of
The following story tells how this all
Before he was married, Mayer Amschel
Rothschild was an attendant of Rabbi Zvi
Hirsch of Chortkov, helping him in his duties as community Rabbi and leader. Shortly before Pesach one year, Mayer
Amschel married, and opened a small store which did quite well.
It was the night before Pesach, and the household of Rabbi Zvi Hirsch was busy taking part in the annual Search for Chametz, making sure their house was Chametz free.
Rabbi Hirsch had saved up 500 gold ducats – a very large sum in those days – as a dowry for his daughter who was soon to be married. He kept this fortune
hidden in a desk-drawer in his house, and hardly ever opened it, except for the evening before Seder night, when he searched for Chametz. This year, as
all other years, the Rabbi opened up the desk-drawer, but to his shock and horror found that the wallet had disappeared!
Suspicion immediately fell on Mayer Amschel. The fact that he had opened a store and was successful, convinced the Rabbi’s household that he had taken the money.
The Rabbi refused to listen to their comments, but after much badgering, he finally agreed to travel to his former attendant and question him.
With a heavy heart, Rabbi Zvi Hirsch recounted his misfortune to Mayer Amschel and told him his household thought he was guilty.
“They are right,” Mayer Amschel was quick to confess, “I took the money. At the moment though, I only have about 200 ducats. I’ll give it to you now and the rest I will return within a short time.” The Rabbi returned home, much relieved, and in due course, the rest of the money was returned to him.
But the story does not end here....
A maid from one of the nearby villages had been hired to help clean the house of the Rabbi, as Pesach was fast approaching. The locked drawer in his study
fascinated her. She managed to find a key, and saw the fortune in gold coins that was locked inside! The temptation proved too much for the maid and she secretly stole the purse,bringing it home to her husband.
For a while they did not use the money at all, waiting for the matter to die down. Soon however, they started spending and their friends became suspicious of their new-found wealth. One night at the tavern after a few drinks, the peasant let slip the whole story of his wife’s escapade, even telling them where the treasure was buried!
His friends hurried to the governor, telling him all that had transpired, and a group was sent off to dig in the peasant’s backyard, where they found the missing treasure.
After sending for Rabbi Hirsch and finding out the story of the missing purse, the governor promptly handed the ducats over to their rightful owner and told him what had happened.
Rabbi Hirsch returned home with mixed feelings: overjoyed at the discovery that his former employee was indeed an upright man, and terribly upset that he had suspected him. He immediately went to Mayer Amschel, asking him why he admitted to a crime he did not commit.
Mayer Amschel answered very simply: “I saw how distressed you were Rabbi, and realized that if you were to return to your family emptyhanded, both you and they would be in even deeper anguish. I therefore decided to say I had stolen the money, and gave away my entire life’s savings, selling and mortgaging everything I owned.”
Amazed, Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch begged his forgiveness. He returned the money to his trusted attendant, and blessed him that G-d grant him much wealth to continue in his family for many generations.
And so the blessing was fulfilled. Because of his great concern for his fellow Jew, Mayer Amschel Rothschild grew to become the founder of one of the richest dynasties in the modern world!