Many years ago there lived in Tunisia a wealthy Jew who was a most charitable man. Nothing made him happier than when he could be of some help to his fellow Jews when they were in need. Of all his good deeds, his favorite was to lend money without interest to small merchants, storekeepers, or workers who were hard up and in need of a loan to tide them over a difficult period.

Avraham never asked for security and charged no fee for his service. All he asked was that the borrower sign a note marked "I.O.U." for the amount borrowed. And when the due date for payment arrived, he never pressed for payment; he was ever ready to allow the debtor more time if needed.

Once a Jew came to this very kind man to seek his help. He told Avraham that he wished to open a store which he hoped would provide a living for his growing family. But this would require an amount of money which he did not have.

"How much money would you need to start you off in business?" asked the benefactor.

"I would need to borrow 500 rial," answered the man. "But it would take quite some time before I could repay it," he added hesitatingly.

"That is not a problem," Avraham reassured him. He gave the visitor the amount of money he needed, saying, "You need not worry about making any payment for the first twelve months. May G‑d bless you with success."

The man signed the I.O.U. note, thanked his benefactor gratefully, and left full of hope and with a light heart.

At the end of the twelve months, the man found that he was just where he had been a year earlier. He had not earned anything at all, but had only used up the loan to feed his family. Shamefaced and broken, he went to see the kind man who had lent him the money. He told his benefactor that he had lost all the money he had borrowed and that he had despaired of being able to make a living from the store which was empty of merchandise.

"A Jew must never despair and never lose hope. G‑d has many ways of providing a Jew with his material needs. You must have gained some experience during the twelve months you were a storekeeper. I will try to find you a job with a merchant who is a friend of mine."

True to his word, the good man did indeed speak to his friend, and the merchant happened to need a trustworthy person to help him in his business. The poor Jew was overjoyed at his good fortune, especially as he was given a very nice salary.

The first thing he did was to get a box in which to put his savings. Each week, when he received his salary, he put in it ten rial toward the debt which weighed so heavily on his mind.

Before the year was over, the box was full and added up to the amount of his debt. The man immediately took the money to Avraham. His face was all smiles as he handed over the money, saying "Today I am a very happy man, for G‑d has helped me and enabled me to repay my debt in full."

Avraham began to look for the I.O.U. note which the man had signed, in order to return it to him, but he could not find it.

"Excuse me," he said, "I know how eager you are to settle your debt, but I cannot accept the money from you until I find and return the note to you."

"Never mind the note," the man began to plead. "Please take the money; I was so looking forward to this moment. I am not worried about the note. I know you will destroy it when you find it, and it will not be used against me. If you could trust mea poor man, without security, I surely can trust you. Please, do me a favor, let me repay my debt now. Take it, please."

Reluctantly Avraham agreed to take the money, on condition that the man come back in a day or two to pick up the I.O.U. note, and the man left in a happy mood.

A few days later, Avraham suddenly passed away. The whole town mourned the passing of this wonderful Jew. Particularly saddened were the many poor and needy Jews whom Avraham had helped so generously.

After the week of mourning (shiva) the heirs began to look through their fathers papers. They came across the I.O.U. note in the amount of 500 rial. Knowing that their father was always careful to return or destroy an I.O.U. note that had been paid, the heirs felt certain that this debt had not been paid. So they came to the man who signed it and asked for payment of the debt, which was by now two years old.

The man was horrified and bewildered. "Please believe me," he pleaded, "I paid the money to your saintly father a few days before he passed away," and he went on to tell them what had happened. "You see, it was I who insisted that your father accept the money in payment of the debt, even though he could not find the note at once, for I was of course certain that as soon as he found it he would destroy it immediately. . . ."

The heirs, two sons of Avraham, were not entirely convinced, and suggested they take the matter to the Rabbi of the community.

The Rabbi carefully heard both parties in the case. He examined the I.O.U. note, and asked the defendant if the signature on the note was his.

"Yes, Rabbi, the signature is mine; I did sign it. I do not deny that I borrowed the money on the note, but G‑d is my witness, I paid the debt."

The Rabbi gave the matter some thought, then said, "It is a difficult case; I must give it further thought before I can make a decision. Come back tomorrow."

The Rabbi handed the note back to the two brothers. "Hold on to it, and bring it back with you tomorrow."

The following day, when the claimants and the defendant appeared before the Rabbi again, the Rabbi wanted to have another look at the note. When it was handed to him, he unfolded it and everyone was astonished to see that the note had a long tear right where the signature was!

The two brothers stared at each other.

"Did you tear the I.O.U. note?" they burst out simultaneously.

"No, of course not!" was the answer.

"My dear friends," interrupted the Rabbi, "Let me explain what happened. Your father, may he rest in peace, was truly a saintly man. In his lifetime he never touched a cent that was not his, and never wronged anyone. Yes, he was blessed with riches, but he knew what to do with it; he was most generous in helping others in every way possible. Now that his soul is in heaven, he certainly does not wish to wrong anyone, nor to see anyone hurt by him, however indirectly. Obviously, he could not look down from heaven and see an innocent Jew hurt on account of him, nor to see you, his beloved sons, doing something wrong, even if unintentionally. . . .

"It is clear, therefore, that it was your father himself who is responsible for tearing up the I.O.U. to prevent it from being used to collect a debt that had already been paid. May he be a source of inspiration and blessing to you and all the Jewish people."