Rabbi Moshe Leib of Sassov dedicated his life to pidyon shevuyim, rescuing hapless Jews who had been imprisoned for “crimes” such as falling behind on their rent or otherwise incurring the disfavor of local landowners.

Rabbi Moshe Leib traveled from city to city, and whenever he heard of a fellow Jew languishing in prison, he endeavored to meet with the landlord and do what he could to secure the unfortunate prisoner’s release. Generally, the negotiations were clinched by substantial sums of money that Rabbi Moshe Leib raised from good-hearted local Jews.

The story is told that when Rabbi Moshe Leib’s days on earth came to an end and his soul ascended on high, he immediately felt dejected. How He immediately felt dejectedwas he going to serve G‑d in the world to come, where there were no challenges and G‑d would demand nothing from him?

As he was pondering, another thought crossed his mind. Humbly believing himself to be a sinner, he decided that surely he wouldn’t merit the rewards of Gan Eden, but would be sent to Gehinnom (Purgatory).

He then realized that there was something he could do for G‑d. He could run with alacrity to Gehinnom, thus fulfilling G‑d’s will. Not waiting another moment, he jumped into the fiery depths of Gehinnom.

The angels immediately flew into panic: how terrible it would be if the pure soul of Rabbi Moshe Leib would be harmed! Left with no alternative, they cooled down the fires of Gehinnom and approached Rabbi Moshe Leib, hoping to convince him to take his rightful place amongst the holy souls so that they could turn the heat back up.

Rabbi Moshe Leib was quick to respond. “If my presence here is bringing respite to so many tortured souls,” he said, “how can I possibly leave? During my lifetime, I was constantly involved in pidyon shevuyim, and now is no different. I am ready to go to Gan Eden, but only on the condition that I can take my new companions with me.”

Not knowing how to respond to the strange request, the angels submitted Rabbi Moshe Leib’s case to the heavenly court.

After much deliberation, the response was handed down: Rabbi Moshe Leib’s deeds were to be examined. If indeed his performance of pidyon shevuyim had been flawless, then he would be allowed to do the mitzvah one last time. However, if it would be After much deliberation, the response was handed downfound that he neglected to save the unjustly imprisoned even once, his demand would not be honored.

Sure enough, it was revealed that Rabbi Moshe Leib had been perfect in his performance of the mitzvah. Never once had he failed to come to the rescue of those in need.

On that day, the story concludes, Gehinnom emptied out, as Rabbi Moshe Leib led the long line of sinners on their way to the delights of Gan Eden.

Adapted from Otzar HaSipurim 14:5.