Getzel Shlomo was his name. He was a pauper who went around begging from door to door.

If anyone had pity on him and gave him something, he would say, by way of thanks, "Shema Yisrael." On the other hand, if he received nothing, but an apologetic "some other time," or the like, he also said, "Shema Yisrael." These were the only two Hebrew words he was ever heard to utter. Naturally enough, people regarded him as a half-wit. They were too busy with their own affairs and troubles to worry about Getzel Shlomo, or his young son, Chaim Shmuel.

Chaim Shmuel grew up with little parental attention. When he was due to become bar mitzvah, a teacher in town took pity on him and taught him to read in the siddur, and to put on tefillin and say basic prayers.

When the poor, neglected boy became fourteen years old, he left town to seek his fortune elsewhere. He wandered through towns and villages, but he was no schnorrer: he would not beg for alms.

Instead, he was ready to do whatever work came his way.

Sometimes he hired himself out as a shepherd boy; at other times he worked in the fields or gardens. Mostly his work was temporary, but somehow he managed to make his living. Thus ten years passed, and this lonely lad developed into a fine young man.

Many were the temptations that beset Chaim Shmuel's path, but whilst he felt responsible to no person, an inner fineness kept him honest and upright. Eventually, he married when he was close to thirty years of age. His wife was the daughter of a humble Jewish villager.

Meanwhile, his father Getzel Shlomo, remained in his native town, Harki (Russia), where he continued as of old, begging from door to door, and still speaking only the two words, "Shema Yisrael." When Getzel Shlomo felt that he was nearing his end, he called the sexton of the local burial society (chevra kadisha) and said to him: "I would like to inform the warden of the chevreh kaddishah that my last request is that I be buried in the poorest part of the cemetery. I only ask that I should be buried in the beginning of a new row." He then gave the sexton a basket which he asked should be buried with him.

"I am sorry to say," he explained, "I have no money to pay for my burial, and so I have tried at least to be as little trouble as possible to the society. There, in the corner of the room, you will find a barrel of water, so that you should not have to bother bringing any for my `bath of purification.' "

The sexton looked, and sure enough, the barrel stood where the dying man had indicated. Plain shrouds were also there in readiness.

The sexton hurried off to his friends, the other grave-diggers, full of mirth at what he considered a huge joke. "What do you think, my friends? Getzel Shlomo has actually requested that he be given the worst part of the cemetery as his burial place! As if he had any choice in the matter. But, mark you, he wants to be the first of a new row! Well, all I can say is that it will have to be a row of crazies!"

As they joined in the laughter, the first gravedigger showed his friends the basket which Getzel Shlomo had asked should be buried with him in his grave. They all looked at it curiously, wondering what it contained. One of them shook it and said: "It's not empty, let us look inside and see what it contains!" They opened it and saw some manuscripts there. "Maybe it is a literary work that Getzel Shlomo has written," one of them said laughingly. "We really ought to go back and see if he doesn't forget to say Shema Yisrael after all!" He roared at his own witticism.

When they returned to Getzel Sholomo's room, they found the dying man reciting "Vidui" with eyes closed. This man whom no one had considered capable of saying more than "Shema Yisrael!" how could it be possible? A few moments later, Getzel Shlomo drew his last breath.

The Rav of Harki, Rabbi Nachman Yitzchak, always made it a practice to attend all funerals.

And so when he heard of the death of poor Getzel Shlomo, he asked that he be given notice of the time of the funeral.

When he arrived at the funeral, the sexton, who was given the basket with the manuscripts or documents, or whatever they were, came up to Rabbi Nachman Yitzchak and told him that Getzel Shlomo had asked that it be buried along with him. The sexton wanted the Rav's confirmation that it would be in order to do as the dying man had requested.

Rabbi Nachman Yitzchak took the basket with the papers and examined them. To his great astonishment, he found that they were accounts which Getzel Shlomo had kept for years!

The Rabbi scrutinized them all and discovered that they represented the sums of money which the "beggar" Getzel Shlomo had collected every day. All the money had been accounted for by Getzel Shlomo, showing that he had distributed the money among poor and needy people, who felt too proud to stretch out their hands to ask for help.

And so, Getzel Shlomo had saved them from this "shame" by doing the begging for them in order to be able to provide them with their needs!

Now that it came to light that the deceased had been one of the hidden tzaddikim (righteous men) all his life, the Rav saw to it that he should be laid to rest with the honor and reverence due to him. The Rav himself undertook to recite the kaddish until the tzaddik's son could be found and informed of his father's death.

It was not until two years later that Chaim Shmuel learned of his father's death and what a great tzaddik he had been. That was when he returned with his family to settle in Harki. He rented lodgings on the outskirts of the town, where rent was cheapest. For although he worked hard to make a living by traveling in the surrounding villages, he barely managed to make ends meet. He was, in fact, very poor. To add to his misfortune, he had ailing children. Yet never a word of complaint passed the lips of this saintly man. He never questioned the ways of G‑d.

Chaim Shmuel could have greatly improved his situation by taking advantage of the fact that he was the son of the tzaddik Getzel Shlomo, whose memory the Jews of Harki now revered so much; they used to go to his grave on special occasions to pray to Hashem at his holy resting place. But Chaim Shmuel would not dream of using his saintly father's memory for his or his family's benefit. He lived unobtrusively and was absent so much in search of a living, that no one gave him a thought.

One person, however, took a special interest in Chaim Shmuel. That was none other than the saintly Baal Shem Tov. He had several secret followers in Harki, and soon after Chaim Shmuel's return, the Baal Shem Tov instructed them to take him under their wing.

The Besht told them, "Chaim Shmuel is a man with a lofty soul, and many good things have been decreed for him in Heaven, including considerable wealth. He is to become a rich man, in the material as well as spiritual sense."

Under the loving care of the Besht's secret followers in Harki, Chaim Shmuel threw himself heart and soul into his Torah studies and made remarkable progress. Materially, also he was so successful that before very long he became a rich man. He was most generous in support of the poor and needy and played an important role in the Jewish life of his town.

Chaim Shmuel was an active member of the secret group of Chassidim in Harki doing their good works secretly, for the time was not yet ripe for the Baal Shem Tov and his followers to reveal themselves.