It was with an uneasy heart that Reb Yitzchak entered the study of his Rebbe, Rabbi Moshe of Kovrin. For decades he had been visiting and consulting with the Chassidic master, but never before had it entered his mind to approach him on the subject which he now intended to raise.

Always, when he spoke to a Rebbe it was about his spiritual affairs only. Reb Yitzchak lived in grinding poverty: so it had been since his youth and so he imagined it would always be. But is that any reason to interrupt a tzaddik from his holy work? Yitzchak was fond of saying that G‑d doesn't need advice from anyone, not even the Righteous, about who to make rich. No, the only justification to bother a tzaddik was to elicit help and instruction from him in how to serve G‑d properly and not to slip from the true path.

Indeed, Reb Yitzchak never let his desperate economic plight trouble him; not even for a moment. Always he was cheerful, and full of gratitude to G‑d for his lot. "Rejoice my stomach," he would say, "that you are light and not a heavy burden to carry around."

But now a number of his daughters were nearly of marriageable age, and there wasn't a coin in the house to make them a wedding and to help set them up. His wife and daughters were sunk in bitter depression over the situation, and as one of the great Rebbes had said, depression is a highly contagious disease that infects anyone who comes into its presence. He already noticed that it was affecting his ability to serve G‑d purely.

So here he was, about to do the unthinkable. He was going to ask his Rebbe to bless him that G‑d should send him a respectable livelihood.

"Rebbe, I... I..." The words froze in his mouth. He felt like a thief caught in the act. "Rebbe, I... I ... I can't.... M-m-my wife, my daughters...." He froze again, in mid-sentence, too embarrassed to continue.

But it was enough. The Rebbe raised his eyebrows quizzically and said, "Yitzchak, is it a comfortable life you want? Is that it? Well, I will grant it to you, but only if you do one thing for me first.

"Take these two gold coins," the Rebbe instructed the dumbstruck Chassid, "and when you get home, spend both of them on the fanciest, most expensive food you can find. Good wine, the choicest meats, gourmet dishes, and an assortment of fresh fruits, sweets and baked goods for dessert. Don't leave anything out and don't let a single penny be left over. Bring it all into your house and set it out on your table for a banquet. There should be enough for two full meals for one person, one in the day and one in the evening.

"What you must do," concluded the Chassidic master, "is eat it all up, both meals, all by yourself, in utter silence. If your wife or your children ask to eat some of it, or just to taste, ignore them. And say not a word in explanation. I'm warning you, do exactly like I am telling you. Exactly! Afterwards, come back here, and I will grant you what you ask."

All the way home, Yitzchak marveled at what he had promised the Rebbe to do. How could he spend all that money on fancy food? And how could he eat it all? Who cares about food anyway! And how would he be able to not share any of it with his family?

It turned out to be even harder than he expected. He sat down to the table with all the dishes of food set out just for him, while his family looked on pleadingly. He could barely manage to swallow it down. Each mouthful was more painful than the last. "G‑d, take my soul and spare me this terrible trial," he screamed silently.

By now all his children were wailing and his wife was sobbing and castigating him for his cruelty. "G‑d in Heaven! His own children are begging him for scraps and he has no mercy for them. They cry and he averts his eyes. Only he can eat! Yitzchak, have you gone out of your mind?!"

With those words, his poor wife collapsed and fainted. Reb Yitzchak the Chassid did not faint. He gulped down the last morsel and turned his face toward Kovrin.

"Welcome, Yitzchak!" the Rebbe called to him. "I presume you did what I told you to. You did, didn't you?"

"Yes," murmured Yitzchak, his eyes glistening with tears.

The Rebbe noticed, of course. "And now, Yitzchak," he continued gently, "are you prepared for G‑d's blessing for wealth that will enable your house to be filled with all the good and desirable things that money can buy? Are you ready for that lifestyle? Are you ready to eat like you did that day in your house at my command? For what difference does it make if your wife and children share your table? Even if you dispense generously of your blessings to the needy—what about all those who you won't feed, the many thousands of impoverished families, your brothers and sisters and their sons and daughters? They will all be hungrily longing for what is on your plate. Do you want the pleasure of wealth like you had at that meal? If so, take it; it's yours. Will you? Can you, Yitzchak?"

"No," Yitzchak whispered. "No!" he said more firmly. "No, I can't and no, I don't want to..."

Biographical note: Rabbi Moshe Pallier of Kovrin (1784-1858) was a close follower of the Cassidic master Rabbi Mordechai of Lechovitch and afterwards of his son, Rabbi Noach. In 1833 he became the first Rebbe of the Kovrin dynasty, with thousands of Chassidim, many of whom subsequently moved to the Land of Israel.