When R’ Yaakov Orenstein (1755-1839), author of the Yeshuot Yaakov, served as Rabbi of Lvov, the synagogue shammash (caretaker) once confided that he was considering leaving his position. He had a litany of good reasons: The work was hard, he didn’t have sufficient time to study Torah, and the community leaders were not treating him well.

“Had you come to me a week ago,” the Rabbi told him, “I would have agreed with you. I was thinking of quitting myself. But something happened last week that made me think twice about leaving this community.

“I have a friend who studied with me in yeshivah. After we both got married, we parted ways. I became a rabbi and he became a businessman. He was successful for many years and was quite wealthy, but then his fortune took a turn for the worse. Impoverished, he could not provide food for his children and certainly did not have funds to marry off his daughter, who had come of age.

“So he came to visit me in Lvov, hoping that I could help him raise the money from our generous community. I was overjoyed to see him after so many years and agreed to help him to the best of my ability. We went to the synagogue for the evening service, after which he sat down to learn Torah. I didn’t want to disturb him so I left him there, assuming he’d find his way to my house when he was done.

“He was so tired from his trip that he nodded off, and when he awoke it was very late at night. He went to my home, but we were all asleep, and the gate was locked. He was wandering the streets when he encountered a Jewish man dressed in modern clothes, who invited him to spend the night at his home. The next morning, the man lent him a tallit and tefillin with which to pray, and served him a fine breakfast. The host then asked him what brought him to town. After hearing the man’s tale of woe, he brought him to his place of business and asked his bookkeeper how much money they had on the premises, all of which he promptly gave to the visitor.

“The generous benefactor then ushered him out of the store and wished him well.

“After the magnitude of what had happened sunk in, my friend tried to find the man who had so generously come to his aid, but to no avail. He finally came back to my home and told me what happened.

“After hearing his story, I decided that if this city has such fine, humble, generous folk, how could I ever think of stopping to serve? And if I am staying put, so should you.”

Hearing this, the shammash agreed to stay, doing his job until his final day.

Food for thought:

Do we experience negative thoughts discouraging us from continuing a mitzvah? Can we think of a positive thought to keep us going?