There once lived a certain pious, young Torah scholar, G‑d-fearing and pure of heart, who invested all his time and energy in Torah learning, intensive prayer and fulfillment of mitzvot. Every so often he would travel to his holy rebbe, the famed Chozeh (“Seer”) of Lublin, to draw as much spirituality and sacred emotion as he could. With each trip to Lublin, he grew to new heights in his rebbe’s inner circle of holy disciples. He would then return home to apply himself with even greater diligence and intensity to serving G‑d.

Fortunately, G‑d had provided him a devoted wife. She rejoiced over her lot and encouraged him in his spiritual endeavors, as she independently bore the burden of supporting the family. Their needs were few; they were content with the little profit the wife earned by selling apples in the market. They raised their children to fine character traits, and they enjoyed a wonderful life together.

But the years passed, and the children grew. Their oldest daughter reached marriageable age, and people began speaking of her great virtues. Unfortunately, every matchmaker with whom they consulted began by asking the sum they were prepared to give for the traditional dowry, and for this question the scholar and his wife had no reply. Thank G‑d, they had enough to eat, but they had not a penny for a dowry.

So one day the woman said to her husband: “Is our rebbe called the ‘Seer’ for no reason? His vision is inspired, and he sees that which is hidden. Go to him and ask how we will come up with a dowry for our daughter.”

“I’ll go,” the chassid agreed, “for women are granted unique wisdom.” He set out for Lublin to consult with his rebbe. But when he arrived, he forgot everything in the world. He drank in his master’s teachings, grew in knowledge and spirit, and experienced what he felt was a taste of the World to Come.

When he returned home, his wife asked him, “So, where is our dowry?”

“I forgot to ask,” he confessed. “Next time,” he promised, “I will remember.”

But during his next journey he was no less inspired than during the previous trip, and again he returned home empty-handed. When this was repeated a third and then a fourth time, the wife lost her patience.

“Our daughter is not getting any younger. If you forget, then I will go with you. I will come before the rebbe, and I will ask him.”

“Let me try once more,” he said. “In order to make sure that I don’t forget, I will tie a knot at the edge of my handkerchief. The knot will definitely remind me of why I had come.” He tied the knot and set out towards Lublin.

Our scholar traveled to Lublin and, as usual, when he stood before his rebbe he was inspired and uplifted to the point where he forgot everything. He sat to learn with great intensity in order to prepare himself for prayer, and he prayed with intense concentration that G‑d should open his heart to learn Torah. This repeated itself several times over.

One morning, the prayers with the rebbe, who resembled an angel, and his disciples was so intense that puddles of perspiration poured from him. In a brief moment of distraction, he placed his hand in his pocket to clean his forehead with his handkerchief, but it was tied in a knot. Who tied it? Suddenly he remembered his wife’s request. He held the handkerchief in his hand until after the conclusion of the prayers, and asked to be granted a private meeting with the rebbe.

This time, he stood before the holy tzaddik and told him of his daughter who sought to marry. The Seer asked the daughter’s age. When the man told him, he exclaimed, “Where have you been until now? Why haven’t you said anything?”

The disciple replied, “The rebbe is graced with divine inspiration; everything is revealed to him!”

The Seer smiled and said, “Nevertheless, you violated what is written in the Torah!”

The chassid shuddered. What violation did he commit? The Seer explained, “When a Jew discovers, to his horror, some discoloration in the walls of his house, the Torah commands him to come before the kohen and inform him that he spotted a blemish (Leviticus 14:35). He must not rely on the kohen’s divine inspiration. You should have come and told me.

“In any event, what was done is in the past. Now, I suggest that you travel to Cracow, and there the Almighty will provide money for a respectable dowry and all the wedding expenses. You will marry off your daughter honorably, and enjoy much nachas from her for many generations.”

Amen,” the man answered with great excitement. After obtaining a farewell blessing from his rebbe, he said goodbye to the other disciples and set off for the city of Cracow. As soon as he arrived in the city, he sought a Jewish inn for lodging. He requested a room in the first one he found, placed his tallit-and-tefillin bag on the counter, and asked the innkeeper for a Gemara (volume of Talmud). He then went directly downstairs to the dining room, found an empty table, opened the book, and began studying in depth with intense concentration, forgetting the world around him. When mealtime came, he had to be interrupted and reminded that a man must eat in order to be able to study, and those around him watched him as he meticulously washed his hands and recited the blessing with awe and sanctity. They also observed how he ate, and how he recited with devotion the long blessings after a meal. He immediately returned to his studies, until the time came for the afternoon prayer.

“Fortunate are we that we have merited such a guest,” the innkeeper said to his wife. “But the question is, does a scholar and chassid such as this have any money to pay for his stay in the hotel?”

One week passed, and then another. The innkeeper saw how the man sat and learned without stop all day, and did not engage in any other type of work. He wondered what was going on, so he initiated a conversation with him. He asked from where he had come and what he does.

“I am a simple Torah student,” the chassid replied. “I try to serve my Creator to the best of my ability.”

“If so,” the innkeeper pursued, “what led you to leave your hometown and come to Cracow?”

“My holy rebbe, the Seer of Lublin, ordered me to do so. He promised me that here I will find a dowry for my daughter, who has reached marriageable age.”

“How?” the innkeeper inquired.

“I don’t know,” the man replied, much to his host’s astonishment.

“But what about your lodging expenses?” the innkeeper asked. Naturally, this was the main question he had wanted to ask.

“Fear not,” the man calmly replied. “I will not leave here until I pay you in full for your services.” Then, turning the conversation around, he asked, “And you? What is your story?”

He was sincerely interested to hear about the innkeeper, who told him that he made a respectable livelihood, thank G‑d. He even had in the kitchen a reliable, trustworthy Jew who served as the chef, the baker and the kashrut supervisor. But in the past, the innkeeper reminisced, his situation had been much better. He had been among the most active merchants in the big market in Danzig. “But that is all in the past,” he concluded with a sigh.

“Why?” wondered the guest.

“A disaster occurred. I once borrowed a large sum of money to purchase a large amount of merchandise. I sold the merchandise at a huge profit, and returned home happy as could be. I counted the money and divided it into small bags—twenty bags in all, each containing a thousand rubles. Thirteen were to to pay my debts, and the other seven were to be my profits. I placed the bags in the drawer in my table, and went to the market to make some purchases for the inn. When I returned, I discovered, much to my horror, that the drawer had been opened. The money was gone.

“I immediately suspected the servant who cleaned the rooms. I spoke with him and even threatened him, but he denied everything. What could I do? I asked a rabbi, and he told me that I could not turn the man over to the authorities, who would torture him. And besides, he might be totally innocent. I fired him, and began paying my debts slowly and gradually. I no longer had capital for business ventures, and now I am supported only by the inn. I am about to finish paying my debts—if all my guests pay for their stay,” he remarked. The conclusion was a clear hint that could not be missed.

“G‑d shall assist you and provide you with honest guests,” the chasid said sincerely. “May the Almighty replenish that which was lost.”

Amen,” the innkeeper responded. “I have no complaints; may the Almighty continue to help me.”

The innkeeper left to tell his wife about their strange guest, and the chassid returned to his learning, forgetting the world and everything around him. But not for too long. He had another visitor at his table—the cook/kashrut supervisor from the kitchen.

“I know your story,” he said to the chassid. “The innkeeper came into the kitchen to tell his wife, and I overheard.”

“It is no secret,” said the man, shrugging his shoulders. “You heard; so what?”

“I know why your rebbe sent you here. Come, let me show you,” the chef said.

The man grew curious. Now, finally, the mystery will be solved. He closed his book and left with the chef. As they walked, the chef began talking. “You heard that the innkeeper used to be a successful businessman?”

“Yes, I did—until the robbery,” the man replied.

“Well, I am the thief.”

A sudden bolt of lightning and clap of thunder could not have stunned the man more than he was at that point.

“Yes,” the cook repeated. “I have worked here loyally for many years, and during that time I have earned a good reputation and acquired a good deal of trust. That day, I went up the stairs and saw the door open. The drawer was open, too, and I saw the rubles. Suddenly, a spirit of insanity overcame me temporarily, and I lost myself. I shoved them into my apron—twenty thousand in all. In just a single moment, I had become as fabulously wealthy as could be. And in just a single moment, I had become a miserable thief,” he said in a broken voice.

“I went back to the kitchen with thoughts bursting in my mind. ‘Thief! Thief!’ my conscience hollered. I regretted what I had done. I decided to go back, return the money and erase the shame. But just then, the door opened and the innkeeper came back inside. He had brought with him some things for the hotel. I quickly took off my apron and hung it on the hook, and went to help him bring the things inside. My opportunity was lost. If he saw me returning the stolen money, I would have been fired on the spot, and justifiably so. Please, tell me, what could I have done?”

The chassid stood there silently, shocked and bewildered. He kept in mind the famous saying of the sages, “Do not judge your fellow until you stand in his place.”

“The innkeeper went upstairs,” the chef continued, “and my heart dropped. I heard his cry of despair when he discovered that his money was stolen. I heard him accuse the servant and fire him, and I heard the servant plead with him, the poor man. My heart was torn inside me, but I had not the courage to come forward and confess.

“I did not touch the money,” the man continued. “I hid it in a safe hiding place. From that point on, I have fasted every Monday and Thursday, and I have prayed with all my heart every day that somehow I will find a way to return the money to the innkeeper without causing me shame and humiliation. This was only a momentary slip.

“I am sure,” the chef said, “that my prayer has been answered from the heavens, and that your holy rebbe saw my broken heart with his divinely inspired sight. He must have sent you here to accomplish the mitzvah to return the money. The innkeeper respects you as a pious person, and will not persist with questions if you remain silent as to how the money came into your possession.”

The chassid was still overcome by shock as the chef placed his hand into his apron and pulled out four bags. He then thrust his hands into his coat pockets, and pulled out four more from the right pocket and another four from the left. From his right pants pocket he drew four bags, and also from the left one. He then thrust all twenty bags into the arms of his amazed listener, and disappeared from sight. The man stood there, dumbfounded, trying to fit all the bags into his pockets.

The next day, the man sat and studied as usual, and the innkeeper approached his table. “With all due respect,” he said, “I consulted with my wife, and we decided that we cannot allow you to stay indefinitely without payment.”

“Well then,” the man said, “I will leave today.”

“And what about the payment?” the innkeeper asked.

“I am sure you will forgo the payment as soon as you realize the true purpose of my being here. I have come to return to you the money that was stolen from you several years ago.” The innkeeper stood there in shock as the guest drew four bags from his bosom, another four from one coat pocket, four more from the other pocket, and four and another four from his pants pockets.

“Is this really happening?” shouted the innkeeper in excitement. “How did you get it? Who gave it to you?”

When the chassid only smiled in response, making it clear he had no intention of divulging the source, the innkeeper smiled broadly too and said, “Never mind. The main thing is that it has been returned. What a miracle! I am so grateful.”

“But wait,” he exclaimed. “You said you came here to acquire a dowry for your daughter!”

After a moment of reflection, the innkeeper smiled and quietly added, “Oh, I understand. Your rebbe wanted this to be the payment for your mission.” He immediately took one of the bags of one thousand rubles and gave it to the man.

With this money, the chassid was able to marry off all of his children honorably.

When he excitedly related to his rebbe all that had happened, the Seer told him, “The cook’s remorse and impassioned prayers gave me no rest!”1

Biographical note: Chassidic master Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchok Horowitz (1745–1815), known as “The Seer (Chozeh) of Lublin,” was the successor to Rabbi Elimelech of Lizensk (1717–1787). The “Seer” led the spread of Chassidism in Poland.