The rabbi’s presence at the rich man’s funeral was an anomaly and the subject of much speculation in the town of Berditchev.

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev loved his community dearly, but it was uncommon for the venerable rabbi to join a funeral procession. In due time the good people of Berditchev posed the question to the rabbi himself. Why had he attended the magnate’s funeral?

“He earned it with his good deeds,” said Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, known far and wide for his love for all Jews. “Allow me to share with you two stories to demonstrate what I mean.”

“A man here in town once struggled mightily to put bread on the table. Anything he did tended to spiral downward and end in failure. And aside from the headache of how to pay for his expenses, the man would return home to his sullen and overtaxed wife, who would berate him for their household’s dire financial state. He could find no rest.

“The idea of traveling someplace else for business enticed him very much. Perhaps G‑d would pity him there and help him make some money. After all, it’s known that a man’s fortune can change with a simple relocation. But the man shuddered at the thought of what his wife might say if she heard his plan. She would never allow him to leave town with no guarantee of finding work elsewhere and no way to support the family during his absence. A daring idea then crossed his mind. Coming home one day with an assumed air of confident enthusiasm, the man shared the ‘good news’ with his wife:

“‘Thank G‑d, I finally found something! This man (“the wealthy magnate whose funeral I attended,” explained Rabbi Levi Yitzchak) offered me a position as an agent to sell his wares. I will have to travel to various towns as part of the job, and you will be picking up my salary. Every month, walk over to the factory and wait in line to be paid by the manager.’

“He knew there would be no salary waiting for his wife, but the fellow thought he would still come out ahead. He was so accustomed to her wrath that he was not concerned about what would happen when she found out his ruse. In the end, he figured, the fruits of G‑d’s blessings would no doubt pacify her.

“The man packed his meager satchel and left.

“Soon the time came to pick up her husband’s salary. Standing in line with the rest of the workers, the man’s wife waited for her turn patiently, mindful that she was finally about to see the first results of her husband’s disastrous career attempts.


“The wife stepped forward and stated her husband’s name.

“‘Erm, I don’t see his name here,’ said the manager, consulting his list somewhat apologetically. ‘I don’t know. Maybe it’s a mistake—’

“If the manager had tried to speak further, it would have been impossible. The poor wife’s bellowed accusations burst forth:

“‘You are stealing my husband’s wages! They are his rightful earnings as a traveling agent of this company, and I am here to collect his salary as he instructed me before he left! No— I will not be quiet—!’

“Sitting in his upstairs office, the wealthy man heard the woman’s accusations through the open window. He stopped what he was doing and called his manager over.

“‘What she says is true, and all my fault,’ the wealthy man told the manager, ‘I forgot to tell the office about my latest hire. Write his name down and make sure to pay his wife every month. Also, ask her to forgive me, and tell her I regret this misunderstanding.’

“The manager returned to the woman and handed her the money, along with an apology on behalf of his boss. From then on, the woman would turn up at the factory and receive her husband’s ‘salary,’ remaining oblivious to her husband’s deceit and the tremendous kindness bestowed upon her family by this wealthy man.

“Meanwhile, her erstwhile unsuccessful husband began investing to his heart’s content, and to his surprise, his fortune began to turn, landing successful bids and pulling in significant sums of money. After eight months of hard work, Passover approached, and the man decided that it was time to come home. Standing at the doorstep of his home, the man steeled himself for a bitter greeting, hoping that his bountiful earnings would soon balance things out.

“So it was that the warm welcome from his calm wife and happy household was the last thing he expected, and his wife’s content demeanor unnerved him more than anything. What could possibly have contributed to this state of affairs? Carefully treading around the subject of his ‘job,’ he finally learned what had happened. The first time his wife went to the factory, she said, the manager apparently tried ‘stealing’ his salary. Only after she loudly complained did the owner apologize for the unfortunate oversight, and she had been getting paid every month now.

“The wealthy man’s largesse struck her husband as nothing less than extraordinary. Taking the entire amount of money his wife had been paid (after all, he was well off himself now), he went directly to the wealthy man. The exchange between them was short, as the magnate would not hear of being repaid for what he had given with a sincere and open heart.

“Eventually, the two came to me to resolve this issue,” concluded the rabbi, “and that’s how I came to learn of this man’s kindness.”

“The second story,” continued Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, ”happened with a small-town merchant who was on his way to Berditchev, his pocket stuffed with cash, much of it borrowed. His village didn’t have a big enough bazaar for everything he needed, and so he traveled to Berditchev to restock his inventory.

“Upon entering Berditchev, the man patted his pocket, absentmindedly as usual, and froze. No, it couldn’t be true. His pocket was empty. What was he supposed to do? The merchant stood silently, in shock. Finally, he could not contain himself and began sobbing in the streets, bewailing his fate between loud moans.

“A sympathetic crowd formed around the man, who repeated his tale of woe to anyone who would listen. The spectacle caught the attention of the wealthy man as he strolled through the market. Hearing what had happened, he pushed himself into the circle and asked the desperate man:

“‘Can you describe exactly the denominations you lost? Was it in coins or bills? Because an hour ago, I found some money, which I have already taken home. If it’s your money, I’ll be glad to return it.’

“Immediately, dumbfounded at his good luck, the man listed an amount of hundreds and fifties.

“‘Wait for me here. I’ll hop over home and check if that’s what I found,’ said the wealthy man as he broke from the crowd. Back home, the wealthy man opened his safe and counted off the amount of bills the man had lost, tucking them into his pocket. One can only imagine how the man’s face lit up at the sight of ‘his’ money being returned to him. He thanked the wealthy man profusely, showering him with blessings and good wishes.

“Watching this entire spectacle unfold was the thief himself. When the wealthy man returned with the money, he was quite thunderstruck. The display of kindness left him so astonished that he began to regret his treachery. With the stolen money now burning a hole in his pocket, he made his way over to the wealthy man and asked him to take the cash from him.

“The wealthy man refused, stating that the money he had given was charity and he did not wish to have it replaced. The now repentant thief insisted that he take it. The two argued for a while and finally decided to bring the case to me. And so it was that I saw the wealthy man once more, this time with a thief, to hopefully resolve this issue in a Jewish court.

“These are just two examples of this man’s incredible and discreet kindness,” said Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, his eyes twinkling, “and now you know why I felt compelled to attend the funeral of such an extraordinary person.”