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The Gold Coins That Went a Long Way

The Gold Coins That Went a Long Way

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Our story takes us to Szerdahely, Hungary (today Dunajská Streda, Slovakia), during the tenure of Rabbi Yehudah Aszod (1794-1866), who was well known for his brilliant understanding of Torah and his wise counsel.

Kalman, theAmong his many duties was the lighting of candles in the synagogue custodian of the local synagogue, was a sincere, upright and G‑d-fearing man who was admired by the townspeople for his sincerity.

Among his many duties was the lighting of candles in the synagogue, which he took very seriously. He prepared for it by donning his gartel (prayer sash), as if he were about to perform a mitzvah, and reciting a prayer: "May G‑d accept my handiwork as the work of the high priest who kindled the Menorah in the Holy Temple."

One day, Baruch the butcher, a simple man, came into the synagogue and observed how Kalman was engrossed in his ritual of lighting the candles. He was overcome with a sense of reverence and envy for the great privilege Kalman had.

A man of action, he approached Kalman with an offer: "I will pay you a decent amount if you will sell me the right to light the candles in the synagogue."

"I am not interested in money, but in the mitzvah itself,” Kalman replied gently but firmly.

The butcher did not give up and continued to badger Kalman daily for the right to light the candles. Kalman decided to bring the matter before wise Rabbi Aszad, saying, “I will do whatever you decide.”

After considering the matter, the rabbi began: "If you truly accept that all your actions are solely for the sake of heaven and not to receive a reward, then know that kindness toward a fellow Jew is a great mitzvah. My advice is that you give up the right to light the candles."

After a moment, the rabbi added: “Since one ought to pay for a mitzvah, you should take a gold coin every day from the butcher in exchange for the right to light the candles. Do not use the money. Rather put it aside, and one day you will know what to do with it."

Although Kalman had cherished the merit of lighting the candles, he accepted the decision without hesitation.

Thereafter, the butcher appeared at the synagogue daily, paid one gold coin to Kalman and proceeded to light the candles. The butcher knew nothing about the rabbi’s role in the matter, and that everything was done according to his instructions.

True to his word to the rabbi, Kalman set aside the gold coin every day and never used any of them.

Years passed. The economic situation took a downturn, and the butcher struggled for his livelihood. His desperation increased when his daughter was about to marry, and the poor man could not raise the dowry he had promised.

In his distress, the butcher knocked on the respected rabbi’s door. Ashamed, he told the rabbi that fortune had suddenly stopped smiling on him.

"How will I bring my daughter to the chuppah (marriage canopy)?" he asked in a pained voice. "Moreover," he added, "I have committed myself to provide a significant sum toward the dowry. My heart dreads hearing the groom's response when he hears that I can no longer give what I had promised!"

Rabbi Yehudah became thoughtful for a few moments and then said: "Have a seat in the next room and wait." In the meantime, the rabbi asked his assistant to summon Kalman.

"Ask him to bring the box of coins with him," he said.

Soon enough, Kalman appeared, carrying the cash-heavy box. The butcher was surprised by the unexpected appearance of Kalman, and Kalman was no less surprised.

"Open the box and empty its contents on the table," the rabbi instructed. After doing so, Kalman was asked to count the coins, which he did in the presence ofKalman was asked to count the coins the watchful eyes of the rabbi and the butcher. Lo and behold, the sum of the gold coins matched exactly the amount the butcher had pledged to his in-laws as a dowry.

"Now is the hour of the golden coins," the rabbi told Kalman. "They were used once for the mitzvah of lighting candles in the synagogue. It is time to do another great mitzvah and bring light to a Jewish home. Give them to the butcher so that his daughter can marry with a glad heart.”

Without a word, Kalman did as the rabbi instructed.

When telling this story, Rabbi Aszod would marvel, "Look at how many things can be learned from these simple sincere Jews.

“One can admire the righteousness of Kalman, who agreed to give up a mitzvah that he greatly cherished. Second, Baruch had always believed that he was giving his money to Kalman, and it was not until years later that he realized that his love of the mitzvah was really benefitting himself. Above all, the physical act of lighting the candles ignited the souls of Kalman and Baruch.”

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Ellie Alaska January 15, 2018

Beautiful story of selfishness and obedience Amazing story may we all learn to be obedient as Kalman Reply

Anonymous January 14, 2018

Amen! Beautifully said! Thanks for posting :) Reply

Alexander Javk Nigeria January 14, 2018

Add a comment...Instructive and interesting. Reply

zaneta garratt anderslöv June 16, 2017

a beautiful story-brings tears to the eyes Reply

Zev W. (Ben David) Coconut Grove, FL June 16, 2017

The stories from Chabad (.org) are always so beautiful and so healing and calming. Thank you for sharing such wonderful things. Reply

Anonymous toronto June 15, 2017

wow, how I wish to have such sincerity for every Mitzva I do. Reply