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The Small Mitzvah

The Small Mitzvah

Ethics 2:1

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“Rabbi (Yehudah HaNassi) used to say; “Be careful about how you do a small mitzvah, just as if it were a big one, for you do not know the reward of mitzvot.” (Avot 2:1)

"A poor beggar appeared out of no where, and pulled him out of the water."
"A poor beggar appeared out of no where, and pulled him out of the water."
Once Rabbi Yitzchak was on his way to the synagogue. He met a poor man holding a small coin in his hand worth only half a ma’ah, which was the smallest currency in those days.

“Please Rabbi,” the man said, “have pity on me. I have no food or money. My family have not eaten for days. Can you give me something?”

Rabbi Yitzchak looked sad. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I also have no money. How shall I help you?” He dug deep into his pocket. “All I have is this coin. It’s only half a ma’ah.”

“Bless you Rabbi,” said the poor man, “Your half a coin and my half a coin will make a whole coin, and that will be enough to buy a loaf of bread for my family.”

Rabbi Yitzchak forgot about the incident.

That night, however, he had a frightening dream. He dreamt he was standing by the sea, when a group of murderers suddenly grabbed him, and threw him into the water. Rabbi Yitzchak could not swim, and was about to drown…

Suddenly he saw his teacher, the great Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. He was filled with hope. Rabbi Shimon saw his distress, and stretched out his arms to save him; but no matter how hard he tried, he could not reach Rabbi Yitzchak.

Rabbi Yitzchak was about to give up hope. Suddenly, in his dream, a poor beggar appeared out of nowhere, and pulled Rabbi Yitzchak out of the water. It was the same man to whom he had given the half a coin that morning.

Rabbi Yitzchak woke up with a start, wet with perspiration, and trembling with fear. “Oh,” he cried, “what a strange dream! What could it mean?”

As he thought about it, he said to himself, “This is truly extraordinary! I must have been in terrible danger. Even my great teacher, Rabbi Shimon, could not help me, despite all his merit. Thank G‑d, I helped that poor beggar. If I have been spared, it is only because of the charity I gave to him!”

Courtesy of Tzivos Hashem and the archives of The Moshiach Times children's magazine. If you would like to subscribe to The Moshiach Times, click here to contact Tzivos Hashem.
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Ethics of the Fathers is a tractate of the Mishna that details the Torah's views on ethics and interpersonal relationships. Enjoy insights, audio classes and stories on these fascinating topics.