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The Miser and the Dead Man

The Miser and the Dead Man

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Pinchas was a humble lumber merchant. With time, his business flourished and he became a wealthy man. At first, the community was pleased with the progress he had made, as his success was alsoHis donations dwindled, until they ceased completely good for the financial needs of the community. But little by little, Pinchas began to alienate himself from the community and their needs.

The time came when Pinchas no longer felt comfortable living in the Jewish community, and he moved to the other side of town where he built himself a large, well-guarded mansion.

His new choice of residence curtailed his giving of charity even more. At first, if someone knocked on the door, they’d receive a small sum. But soon enough, his donations dwindled, until they ceased completely. The administrators of the community funds removed his name from their lists of potential benefactors.

It happened one frigid night that a passerby noticed the mezuzah on Pinchas’s door and knocked. Luckily for the traveler, Pinchas was not home and the butler, feeling sorry for him, let him in.

The guest soon recovered from the cold, and the butler promptly told him about his boss’s history and character. He suggested that he find other accommodations, as his master did not like guests.

As they were talking, they heard a carriage pull up, and in walked Pinchas, wrapped in his fur coat. His reaction to the guest was quick. “What is this? A soup kitchen?! Get out of here now!” he shouted.

The next day, news spread that a stranger had died on the streets not far from Pinchas’s mansion. The story did not move Pinchas in the slightest. He knew who the person was, but he did not let it bother him.

That night, he had a dream. Two robust men broke into his house and began dragging him, saying, “Come with us.”

Pinchas asked in surprise, “Where are we going?”

“To a court case held by Rabbi Mordechai Shraga Friedman, the tzaddik [righteous person] and rebbe of Husyatin in Ukraine.”

“But why?” Pinchas asked.

“Everything will be known to you at the right time,” they answered bluntly.

He soon found himself in a large yard surrounding a beautiful house. At first he was intrigued by the scene, but when he was brought inside to a packed room, fear began to overtake him as he heard the masses call out that a path be made for the chief judge, the Rebbe of Husyatin. The rebbe entered and took his seat in between two other judges who were already waiting.

Pinchas immediately recognized the plaintiff; it was the poor traveler from the previous night. The dead man began his accusation by recounting how hungry and weak he was when he stood at the door of the mansion, while Pinchas stood there still as a stone and ignored his pleading. The man outlined the last few minutes of his life after he was thrown out, including all the grim details. “My last ounce of energy left me, and there was no salvation for me. After many days of existing on an empty stomach, my hunger and the bitter cold did me in.”

“Do you have anything to say in your defense?” asked the rebbe.

Pinchas was silent. For the first time he felt remorse and was embarrassed of his actions.

After deliberating with the other judges, the rebbe turned to Pinchas and said, “You should sell your property and divide it in two. One half you should give to the widow of the poor man, and the other half you should keep for your family. If you agree to this sentence, change your ways and open your doors to anyone who is poor your soul will have a tikkun (rectification).”

Pinchas woke up soaked in a sweat. He tried to ignore the dream, pushing it out of his mind. But it kept coming back. It gave him no rest until he decided to travel to Husyatin.

When he arrived at the rebbe’s house in Husyatin, his heart started pounding. He remembered the courtyard and the structure of the house from his dream! His knees were shaking as he walked into the study hall; it all looked exactly like the courtroom from his dream.

A large crowd was listening to a TorahHe tried to ignore the dream, but it kept coming back discourse that was being given by the rebbe. Under the cover of the crowd, Pinchas became more confident, and he tried to get a peek at the tzaddik. There was no doubt this was the chief judge from his dream.

Suddenly, a narrow path cleared. Pinchas didn’t understand the movement of the rebbe’s finger, gesturing for him to come forward. Those standing near him said, “The rebbe is summoning you.”

Pinchas felt faint. With shaky legs, he made his way up to the rebbe and came face to face with the tzaddik who said sharply, “Remember to follow the verdict and you will merit a tikkun.”

At that moment, Pinchas passed out. And when he came to, he was a changed man. Pinchas knew with absolute certainty that he would do as he was told. He was filled with deep remorse, and wanted to correct his wicked ways and return to his community.

(Translated and adapted from Sichat Hashavuah 607.)

Sefira Ross is a freelance designer and illustrator whose original creations grace many Chabad.org pages. Residing in Seattle, Washington, her days are spent between multitasking illustrations and being a mom.
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Anonymous August 11, 2017

Scared into teshuva, Oy, hope it doesn't have to be so hard for any more of us. K'siva V'chasima tova, l'shana tova u'mesuka! Todah! Reply

Michael KING Penmaenmawr via lchaim.org.uk August 10, 2017

Beautiful...such a lovely story which every one of us can relate to.
We are all guilty of selfish acts. So let this narrative be a reminder of our imperfections.
Thank you for reminding me...! Reply

Rishe Deitsch Brooklyn August 7, 2017

What a fantastic story! My heart is pounding and I am breathing fast.

great lesson too... and beautifully written

thank you Reply

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