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The Czar's Rubles

The Czar's Rubles


The question is as old as theology: Why does G‑d, who lacks nothing, issue "commands" to us human beings? Elihu the Buzite (who joins the discussion between Job and his three friends toward the end of the Book of Job) said it quite nicely: "If you sin, how have you affected Him? If your transgressions multiply, what do you do to Him? If you are righteous, what do you give Him? What can He possibly receive from your hand?"

Chassidim would resort to the following parable:

A Russian peasant once said to his friend: "You know, Ivan, I have been thinking, it is really very stupid for us to pay taxes to the Czar."

"Why is that, Igor?" asked Ivan.

"Because do you know where all our rubles come from? Well, I'll tell you where from. The Czar himself has them minted in his palace, that's where."

"So what?" asked Ivan.

"So what? So why doesn't he just keep all the rubles he needs in the first place, and we'll keep ours!"

"Ah, Igor, you are very stupid" replied Ivan "That's the whole point! The Czar doesn't want his rubles. He wants your ruble!"

A popular teacher, musician and storyteller, Rabbi Tuvia Bolton is co-director of Yeshiva Ohr Tmimim in Kfar Chabad, Israel, and a senior lecturer there.
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Anonymous Ashkenaz November 3, 2014

I agree with the comment of Zalman from Australia. The connection between the question and the parable supposedly answering the question is not obwious (the ruble is not received from the Zar and is not given to him back). I understand this parable just as just a joke about simpletons. A know a version of it with Jews of Chelom as acting characters.

But there is a similar parable explaining the same problem more clearly.

A rabbi says: Each time as you perform a good deed there appear a new angel in Heaven and G-d rejoices at it. One of the audience asks: Why does G-d needs this angel - He can create as many angels as He needs? The rabbi answers: That's right, but He wants [b]your[/b] angel! Reply

Yaakov Krakow Alpharetta GA November 3, 2014

Economic mismatch Using the Czar story is not the best of choices. Indeed, a government mints its own coins, but it is the working populace that gives value to money. And working populace refers not to just laborers, but more so people who provide productive expansive creative input to society (inventors, Engineers, doctors, honest businessmen, etc.) The money only has value as a result of the the productivity of the populace. You could have a billion gold coins but they would be useless if no one wanted them and is willing to provide goods and services for them. This is one reason why basically free societies prosper so much more effectively than dictatorships (whether referring to old world monarchies or present day totalitarian despotism) Reply

Zalman Australia July 31, 2013

I didn't understand What's the connection from the first paragraph to the parable? Reply

Shahid October 13, 2010

Beautiful! What a beautiful piece! Reply

Ron Ledford Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine October 10, 2010

His Will, Not Ours Think of this universe as a whole of one being, G-d! When someone sins it takes away from part of the whole. G-d wants us to give back to make this world, universe, and ultimately Himself whole again. G-d can endure sin for awhile, but He doesn't want it, like it, or need it in this universe or in us. Reply

H. Hudspeth July 25, 2004

Simplicity / complexity I often find the most complex things within simplicity ( I think that's the word I want ).

You're saying that G-d wants something from me ( 'my ruble' ). To think that G-d desires my little 'ruble', which is already His just as I am His - what complexity within this simplicity!

And what simplicity within that complexity!

Thank you for writing this; it has great value.


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