When Spain expelled all of its Jews during the Inquisition, a group of exiles went to settle in Hebron. A despotic governor who hated Jews ruled over that city. He constantly sought ways to persecute his Jewish subjects and extort money from them.

One winter day, the governor summoned the leaders of the Jewish community. When they stood before him, he barked gruffly, "I am imposing a tax of one hundred thousand gold shekels upon you. The sum must be brought to me by the end of this month."

The Jewish leaders felt their hearts sink. With faltering voices they managed to say, "Where are we to come up with such a huge sum, Your Excellency?"

"...If the money is not produced within thirty days you will all be killed."

"That is your business, not mine. If the money is not produced within thirty days you will all be killed."

With heads bowed, the leaders returned to report the outcome of this meeting to the community. Since the demand was outrageously impossible, for they were all poor, the Jews turned to prayer and fasting. Every day they would congregate in their synagogue where they wept and prayed to G‑d, the only one who could help them out of the mortal danger which they faced.

The days crawled by and the deadline approached. But, the Jews were far from the required sum. They had not even collected close to half of it. They knew that only a miracle could help them. On the day before the time was to elapse, the leaders decided to petition the Patriarchs buried in the Ma'arat HaMachpela Burial Cave in their city to beseech the Heavens on their behalf. They would do this by means of a note. They realized this was their last and only hope.

In those days, Jews were forbidden to enter the Tomb. This was part of the oppression and persecution which they suffered at the hands of the cruel governor. How, then, were they to deliver their note? They decided to bribe the watchman at the gate. For a huge sum of money, he agreed to insert their note through the grating of the tomb.

That night the governor was unable to sleep. All his thoughts were on the huge sum which he would receive the following day.

Suddenly, three figures appeared before him. Three old men with flowing white beards and glowing faces. "If your life is dear to you," they warned him, "give us at once the very sum that you are demanding from the Jewish community."

He looked around him, but there was no one to come to his aid. Gripped by an abysmal fear, he scrambled out of bed and opened up his vault. His trembling fingers counted out one hundred thousand gold shekels. He placed this in a large metal chest and thrust it at the men, begging them not to harm him. As soon as they had the money, they disappeared. And the governor, suddenly relieved of his terrible fear, fell asleep at once and promptly forgot all about the money, dismissing the episode as a dream.

A unit of armed men...descended upon the synagogue...

The next morning he sent his soldiers to the Jewish community. A unit of armed men, their swords already unsheathed, descended upon the synagogue where they found everyone huddled together. They demanded the money.

Shivering and terror-stricken, the people stood helplessly by. Then, one man noticed a chest in a corner of the large synagogue. Unable to speak from sheer fright, he pointed to it with his finger. The soldiers approached the chest and opened it. They found a treasure of golden coins. Counting them, they discovered that it contained the required sum of one hundred thousand gold coins. They gathered it up and left, their heavy boots thundering in the silence of the large stone building.

The Jews heaved a sigh of relief. A miracle had indeed taken place.

When the chest was placed before the governor, he recognized it as his own and recalled the episode of the previous night. It was his turn to tremble with fear and awe. He summoned the heads of the Jewish community and told them what had happened.

"I am convinced," he said, "that those three visitors were none other than your three Patriarchs — Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They must have heard your prayers and come to help you, their descendants. Please, forgive me for having made such an unfair demand. I promise to treat you decently and fairly from now on. As for the money, take it; I don't want it." He was afraid to touch the money or the chest, lest a curse fall on him.

The Jews of Hebron celebrated the great miracle and established that day, the fourteenth of Tevet [a bit less than two weeks after Chanukah], as a festival, calling it "Purim Hebron".


Connection to Weekly Reading – Abraham's purchase of Machpela.
Seasonal Connection – 14th Tevet nearly always falls during the week of the Torah Reading of Vayechi.

[Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from "Tales of Tzaddikim" (ArtScroll) by G. MaTov]