Two simple tailors worked as partners in Vilna. They weren’t making much money in the large city, where there were already many established and well-known tailors around.

They decided to circulate among the small cities of the region to find their luck. With G‑d’s help, they were successful, serving simple villagers and peasants.

In one town they passed through, they saw that the Jewish village manager was distraught. He explained that the nobleman, who was the local landowner, would soon be holding a wedding, and had asked the manager to bring the best Jewish tailors to his service. However, the nobleman had not been satisfied with any of the work and was now threatening to fire the manager, and perhaps also expel the Jewish tenants from his properties.

Upon hearing this, the tailors said, “Why don’t you present us to the nobleman?”

“Well,” the manager warily replied, “you aren’t acquainted with high fashion clothing.”

“True,” they replied, “but the nobleman has been dismissing the high fashion, so maybe he’ll appreciate our simpler style.” The manager agreed to give it a shot.

The nobleman asked for a sample dress, and after seeing what they had created, he was thrilled. He contracted them to tailor the wedding clothing for his entire extended family and all of his servants.

After the job was done, they walked away with a hefty sum of money. They also felt good that they had saved the livelihood of the village manager and the Jewish people of the vicinity.

When the tailors were about to leave town, the nobleman’s wife spoke to her husband. “Look,” she said. “We see how these Jews care so much about their co-religionists. Perhaps we should tell them about our Jewish prisoner who couldn't pay the rent for his inn and is still languishing in prison. Maybe these tailors would care enough to pay off his debt and free him.”

She approached the Jewish tailors. When they asked how much the man owed, they were told that he owed 300 rubles. One tailor said that this was too steep a price to pay. The other, however, said, “How can I just walk away from another Jew’s plight?”

He told his partner: “Let us split up our partnership, and see how much each of us truly owns.” It turned out that each was left with precisely the amount needed—300 rubles. The generous tailor immediately gave the money to the nobleman’s wife, and said, “Let the prisoner go free.”

Both tailors returned to Vilna. The one who kept his money was able to establish a professional business in the big city. The other was empty-handed, with no partner, and no cash with which to restart his business. He fell into a deep depression, and the only thing he could manage was to collect donations. He became a beggar, and it seemed to the local population that he had lost his mind.

Very desperate one day, he directly approached a wealthy man, asking him to spare a few coins. The wealthy man asked what he would receive in return, and the beggar answered, “I will pray for you.”

The wealthy man chuckled, and said: “What will your prayer do for me? But here’s a few coins either way.” The wealthy man went on with his business meetings that day and was very successful. He thought that perhaps it had something to do with the beggar’s blessing.

So the next time he was to have a business meeting, he made a point to pass by the beggar again. After giving him a few coins, he asked for a blessing. Again, he was fabulously successful with his business affairs.

This went on for quite a few months, until one day, while gathered with family, they asked what was the secret to his newfound, absolute success. He told them about the blessings he made sure to receive, and how they were always fulfilled.

Before long, the erstwhile tailor had a large following of people who would seek his blessings, which consistently came true.

A group of the Baal Shem Tov’s disciples were passing through town and heard the peculiar story of the beggar whose blessings were always fulfilled. They told their master about it, and he said that this must be a very special man, with an especially lofty soul. “Bring him to me,” he said. “I’d like to speak with him.”

The Baal Shem Tov questioned him, asking what special deeds he had done. The beggar said that he really did not know of any exceptional heroics he could claim. “I’m just a simple man,” he said, “No one unique or important.”

The Baal Shem Tov had the man tell his entire life story. When he reached the part where he parted with 300 rubles to save a man from prison, the Baal Shem Tov exclaimed, “Aha! This is it! This eminent and selfless action of yours is what causes your blessings to come true.”

Hearing this from the Baal Shem Tov, and realizing the uniqueness of his act, left a great impression on the man, and he was able to crawl out of his depression.

The Baal Shem Tov spent time with the sincere tailor and taught him Torah. Eventually, he became an accomplished scholar and a great tzaddik.

Have we had opportunities to effect profound positive change in another’s life? When have we done so? Can we help ourselves and others appreciate the good we have caused—as the Baal Shem Tov did?

(Adapted from The Storyteller, vol. 5, pg. 145)