As the first day of his journey came to a close, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev headed to a nearby town, located an inn, and settled in for the night. Laying out his few possessions, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak immediately realized his tallit and tefillin were not among them. In his haste to depart, they had been left behind.

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak considered his options. There was no time to return and retrieve the missing items, but he was not accustomed to using those of others, having so meticulously supervised the creation of his own, invoking many Kaballistic intentions during their design. Perhaps, he thought, the tallit could be replaced by accepting one from the villagers and retying the fringes himself. The tefillin, however, which require quite some time to manufacture, would be impossible to replace.

Like all Jewish towns, this one had its own burial society which occasionally conducted public sales of the tefillin collected from the deceased. One of the townspeople learned of the saintly rabbi’s dilemma and mentioned the tefillin box, intimating that perhaps the burial society would allow him to select a pair to his liking in exchange for a donation. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak agreed to take a look. The wooden crate was procured, and Rabbi Levi Yitzchak peered inside. An assortment of tefillin—some old and worn, others glossy and new—lay neatly arranged. Almost without a second glance, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak extricated a pair.

The representative of the burial society gently reminded the rabbi of the established custom—he’d have to bid on the tefillin together with the rest of the town. On a makeshift block surrounded by a growing crowd, an auctioneer announced the opening price. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak immediately raised it. Someone countered, and Rabbi Levi Yitzchak promptly followed with a higher offer. Each subsequent offer lasted no longer than a second as Rabbi Levi Yitzchak rushed to outbid it. His insistence to acquire that particular pair of tefillin puzzled the gathered crowd, who began to ogle them curiously. They seemed as plain as every other pair in the box. Buoyed by the ensuing excitement, the price only increased, eventually reaching the astronomical sum of 300 rubles.

At that point, the flustered gabbai interrupted the bidding.

“Rabbi,” he said, “you can take the tefillin free of charge! I only ask that you tell us the significance behind this particular pair.”

The crowd looked expectantly at Rabbi Levi Yitzchak.

“These are no ordinary tefillin,” replied Rabbi Levi Yitzchak. “Unbeknownst to the burial society, the man who wore these managed to have them made by the renowned brothers—Rabbi Elimelech and Rabbi Zusia. Such incredibly holy men, of course, included all the necessary Kabbalistic intentions; every step was deliberate and premeditated. These tefillin are truly unique, hence my strong desire to buy them.”

Certainly, after hearing his explanation, the burial society allowed the rabbi to keep the holy tefillin for himself. After all, who was more worthy to wear them than Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev himself?