Reb Shalom was poverty-stricken. It’s not that he did his job poorly, but his livelihood hinged on whether something in Opatow, Poland, needed repairing. His handiwork was good and the townsfolk found him reliable and hired him to work on odd jobs. But the inconsistent nature of his work meant there simply wasn’t enough income to support a growing family.

At home, Reb Shalom’s daughter waited to be wed, but without a somewhat respectable dowry her chances of meriting a fine groom were virtually nonexistent.

This thought plagued Reb Shalom, clinging to him like a shadow. His daughter, She harbored her pain silentlyhowever, harbored her pain silently. She knew all too well that her father barely eked out a living. His wife, on the other hand, gave the matter no rest, constantly fretting about the spinsterhood she was sure would be her daughter’s lot.

One day, still no closer to unraveling his predicament, Reb Shalom walked into the study of Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Heschel, the great rebbe of Opatow, who was known as the Ohev Yisrael, Lover of Israel.

“I’m too poor to provide for my daughter’s marriage,” he blurted out. “She is kind, wise, and modest—the apple of my eye—but I’m unable to do anything about it.”

The rebbe studied Reb Shalom. It was obvious the handyman wasn’t looking for an easy handout. “You have nothing at all to pawn?” asked the rebbe. “Perhaps some savings you’ve managed to hide away or something valuable you can sell?”

“No.”

“What about a loan? How much would you need?”

“Around 100 zloty.”

“So,” said the rebbe, sounding relieved. “Why don’t you borrow it?”

Reb Shalom stared at the floor. “I don’t know anyone who could loan me that much money. I also don’t know if I can pay back such a large sum.”

“Nonsense,” said the rebbe, dismissing Reb Shalom’s concern with the wave of his holy hand. “When a Jew borrows money for holy purposes, G‑d always arranges for it to be returned. Think a little harder. There has to be something you can sell.”

“I do have a set of Talmud printed in Slavuta,” Reb Shalom said after a moment’s thought, referring to the legendary Chassidic publishing house whose products were prized for their beauty and sacredness.

“Please bring it here, then,” the rebbe requested.

When the entire set of Talmud sat in an impressive row on his desk, the rebbe couldn’t hide the excitement in his voice. “This is worth more than 100 zloty! If you deposit it as some sort of guarantee, I’m sure you’ll be able to find someone to lend you even 200 zloty.”

Then the rebbe slid open the drawer to his side, rummaged around, and pulled out a wad of bills. Two hundred zloty. The sudden, kind gesture stole Reb Shalom’s breath. He stared at the money, trying to recover from the surprising turn of events. But there was no time to lose. Thanking the rabbi profusely, he took the money and left.

Now that she had a substantial dowry, it didn’t take long for Reb Shalom’s daughter to find her match. As well-wishers flowed through the house, Reb Shalom stood in the small living room, thanking his guests, while his wife and daughter looked on with delight. Though he expected the gifts and had arranged a special corner for them, Reb Shalom did not know how to react when he found his old Talmud being lugged in by a man he didn’t recognize.

“The rebbe sent me,” the man explained, setting the enormous books down with a sigh. “He said these sefarim are too precious to be sitting in his home. He doesn’t want to take responsibly in case of theft or loss. They belong here, where you will certainly keep a watchful eye.”

And with that, the man was gone.

Soon enough, Reb Shalom and his wife, together with his daughter and other children, visited the rebbe. It was customary for bride and groom to receive a blessing for success before the holiest moment of their lives. When the rebbe finished imparting his felicitations and everyone turned to leave, he indicated that Reb Shalom should stay.

“I’m happy to announce that the loan I gave you is henceforth a gift! You don’t owe “You don’t owe me a penny” me a penny,” said the rebbe. Two hundred zloty was a lot of money. Reb Shalom struggled to find an appropriate response, but all he managed was, “Wha-? Why?”

The rebbe smiled. “As I’m sure you know, G‑d created the world for His children. It would make sense that we should have all our needs cared for with ease. The reality is, however, that we are in a state of exile, galut, when this truth is often obscured, and we must worry and struggle mightily.

“It seems to me that there should be a moment in life where one doesn’t have to worry about anything. All problems should cease to exist at this time. And when is that? When one marries off his own children. The blissful joy! Everything taking a toll on him vanishes and he rises above the difficulties of life.

“I worried that you won’t be able to relax after your daughter’s wedding. Seeing the Talmud and remembering your debt would surely dampen your joy. And I want no part in that. After all, wasn’t the world created solely for His children? I therefore decided to forgive the loan and give it as a gift. Mazal tov, Reb Shalom!”

Adapted from Sichat Hashavua #937.