Shmuel was a religious, G‑d-fearing Jew. He was a Torah scholar and was much admired and greatly respected by everyone.

There was a squire who owned the entire town where Shmuel lived. The squire heard of Shmuel’s wisdom and honesty, and appointed him as his business manager.

The squire had complete trust in his Jewish manager. Shmuel was the only person to whom he gave the keys to his safe, knowing that Shmuel would never touch a thing that belonged to another person.

In the squire’s court there was another person who worked as Shmuel’s assistant, who was extremely jealous of his Jewish boss. He was looking for some way of making trouble for Shmuel, hoping to take his place.

Once, when the squire returned from a trip, he made a big party, inviting many guests. He related to his guests the virtues of his Jewish business manager, who was also one of the invited guests, though he could not partake of any of the food served at the party.

The squire then asked Shmuel to bring from his safe the famous diamond he had inherited from his parents. The diamond was known to be one of the largest diamonds in the world, and it was priceless.

All the guests waited breathlessly to behold this rare, precious gem.

A few minutes later Shmuel entered, bearing a golden box decorated with many beautiful gems.

The guests moved forward to get close to the squire and to get the best possible view of this remarkable diamond. But the squire seemed in no special hurry to open the box. First, he gave a lengthy talk on the history of the diamond, and then, finally, he opened the box.

To the horror of all present, the box was empty! The squire was speechless and looked ready to break into tears.

Some of the guests began to shout, “Hang the Jew!”

But the squire could still not believe that Shmuel was guilty of such an act, especially to steal something so precious belonging to his employer. Yet, if Shmuel was the only person who had the keys to the safe, who else could have been the thief?

Turning to his Jewish business manager, the squire said: “It is true that you have served me honestly and devotedly for many years, but it appears that you were not able to resist temptation this time, when you saw this unique gem. Because of your past loyal service, I promise you I will not punish you if you confess your guilt and give me back my precious diamond.”

“Heaven forbid,” called out Shmuel. “I would never steal anything, especially anything belonging to you, my kind and generous employer. I can see that, under the present circumstances, you cannot believe otherwise. But please, I beg you, give me an opportunity to clear myself.”

Shmuel asked the squire to keep all the guests in the hall, for the real thief was present there. Then he asked for permission to go home and bring something which would reveal the identity of the thief.

A short while later Shmuel returned, and, to everyone’s astonishment, he had a black rooster in his hand.

“Honored guests,” called out Shmuel. “I have here a remarkable rooster. It will allow any honest person to stroke it, but no sooner would a thief do so than it would flap its wings and burst out in a cry of cock-a-doodle-doo! And, as the real thief is among us here today, I shall ask all present to come forward, one at a time, and stroke the rooster with their right hand. When the rooster starts to crow—you will know who the thief is.”

Breathlessly and eagerly, the assembled participated in this strange procedure. But when the last of the guests had stroked the rooster and it still remained silent, all the guests began to shout:

“How dare the Jew make a laughingstock out of us with his crazy suggestion!”

“Patience, dear guests. Don’t get excited. I haven’t finished yet,” said Shmuel calmly. “You will soon know who the real thief is.”

Thereupon Shmuel asked the guests to lift up their right hands. They did so, and what the assembled saw were black hands except for one white hand. The white hand was that of Shmuel’s assistant.

“There is the thief,” called out Shmuel. “The rooster I brought is a rooster like any other. All I did was smear its back with soot. I knew that the real thief would be afraid to stroke the rooster, in case it would begin to crow. So he just pretended to stroke the rooster’s back, but didn’t really touch it. So you see, the hands of the innocent guests were black, while the hand of the thief remained white and clean, though in truth, it was the dirtiest in the entire hall.”

“Bravo!” cried all the guests, and made a rush to grab the thief. The culprit had no choice but confess that he had managed to get copies made of the keys to the squire’s safe. He had been quite sure that the Jew would be blamed for the theft. The thief received his just punishment, while Shmuel was reinstated in his important trusted position.