He was a short man, less than five-and-a-half feet tall, with brown eyes that darted about like a bird. He was thin, bald, heavily wrinkled, and in his late eighties. He wore the same second-hand suit for twelve years - a brown pinstripe - with no tie. When he walked, he moved slowly, helped by a cane. His hands were big for a man his size and heavily calloused, the hands of a man who was powerful in his youth.

He wore the same second-hand suit for twelve years - a brown pinstripe He came to services at the synagogue, Bais Simcha, every Saturday morning. Each time, he arrived ten minutes after everyone, entered from the back door, and sat in the last seat in the last row of the synagogue by himself. He prayed quietly, without a prayer-book, and then left ten minutes before the service was over, through the same back door. He spoke to no one.

Members of the congregation asked about him from time to time, and each time, Rabbi Levi answered the same way: "His name is Sam Spiegel. He lives at the Gardens Senior Court around the corner. More than that, I do not know."

Rabbi Levi had two cell-phones charging on his night table. When the one with the special private number started vibrating, it wrenched him out of a deep sleep. He opened it and listened.

"Someone is asking for you." It was Ben.

"What time is it?" Rabbi Levi whispered.

"2:00 AM."

"Who's asking?"

"He says his name is Sam Spiegel."

"Can't it wait?"

"Sure. You and I, we can wait … but G‑d, well, I can't speak for Him."

"Okay, I get the hint. Where are you?"

"The Health Center. Room 180."

"I'm coming."

Rabbi Levi grabbed his clothes in the dark, and not wishing to awaken Rebecca, tiptoed from his bedroom to the bathroom, put on the light and got dressed. He rubbed the sleep out of his tired brown eyes, and quickly straightened his long salt-and-pepper beard as best he could. He went to the kitchen and wrote a quick note: "Becca, I went to the hospital. I'll call later. Yankee."

Sam reached out and took Rabbi Levi's handRabbi Levi found Room 180. The door was open and Dr. Ben Schwartz was standing by the bed, his stethoscope hanging from his ears, listening to Sam Spiegel's chest. Ben wore his white hospital coat, and his blue eyes were sharp and focused, even at that late hour. His hair was pure white and wispy, and at sixty-two, there was not a wrinkle on his face.

Rabbi Levi looked at Sam Spiegel, whose breathing was labored, his skin an ashen gray. When Sam opened his eyes, he looked very weak. He reached out and took Rabbi Levi's hand. With his other hand, he pulled on Dr. Schwartz's hospital coat, and then pointed to the door. When Dr. Schwartz did not move, Sam pulled again, and pointed again.

"Okay, I can take a hint!" Ben said with a small smile. He put away his stethoscope and looked over at Rabbi Levi. He pointed to his cell phone and mouthed the words, "Call me if you need me." Then he left them alone.

Rabbi Levi looked down at the old man and sighed. It was sad to come to this, he thought, dying all alone in a hospital room, with no family or friends to give testimony to the life he led. The only one in the world who cared was a rabbi, and this rabbi barely knew more than the man's name.

Rabbi Levi began saying the twenty-third psalm, the one that began with "The L‑rd is My Shepherd." Toward the end of the psalm, he felt a tugging on his hand. Sam was pointing to an envelope lying on the table by the side of the bed, next to his water.

"For you," Sam said, barely above a whisper.

Rabbi Levi nodded his head, took the envelope, and put it in his coat pocket.

"Is there anything you want to tell me, Sam?" Rabbi Levi asked.

"Yes … I want to say … thank you … Rabbi."

Then, Sam Spiegel passed from this world.

Rabbi Levi could not help himself. He cried. He looked up to the Heavens and beseeched the Holy One, Blessed be He, to accept the quiet and lonely soul of the man that lay there.

Rabbi Levi did not return home until 5:00 AM. He undressed quietly and got back into bed. He slept fitfully, only to wake up late. He was alone in the house, Rebecca and the children were already up and out at school.

Rabbi Levi could not help himself. He cried.Rabbi Levi showered, dressed, and brushed his teeth quickly, then rushed out of their house to the synagogue. He arrived at the end of morning services, just as Avi Fingerboard, the seventy-five-year old cantor who was really eighty-two, was asking if anyone wanted to say kaddish, the prayer for the departed. Rabbi Levi stepped forward, put on his tallit, and began: "Yitgadal vayitkadash shmei rabbah…"

When Rabbi Levi finished, he turned to his small congregation and said, "Maybe some of you were wondering why I was saying kaddish.

"I was saying it for Sam Spiegel, who died early this morning."

He waited for the whispers and murmurs to quiet down.

"He will be buried at 6:00 o'clock tonight, at a graveside service, over at Sunshine Memorial Cemetery. I would like as many of you as possible to show up so we can have a minyan. Can I see a show of hands of those of you that can make it?"

Only five men, out of the fifteen present, raised their hands. Rabbi Levi sighed, and continued.

"It's very important to me to have a minyan tonight. I realize Sam was a quiet man and practically a stranger to us, but I want to say kaddish for him when we put him to rest. I don't think he has anyone else that can do it. Can I please see another show of hands of everyone who can make it tonight … as a special favor to me?"

Slowly, more hands went up… eight… nine… ten… eleven… until all the hands were raised.

"Thank you," Rabbi Levi said. He turned back around, faced the Torah ark, and began wrapping tefillin around his arm so he could finish his morning prayers.

"I have to bury a member of the congregation, and the emergency fund is short"There was $736 in the Bais Simcha Emergency Fund. It was going to cost slightly more than $5,000 for the casket, the burial preparation, and the cemetery plot for Sam Spiegel. Rabbi Levi shrugged, and then went where he always went when there was a financial emergency and not enough money in the emergency fund – to Michael Fein, the attorney and richest Jew in Sunshine, Florida, their little town west of Miami.

As he sat in the waiting room of the Fein Law Firm, he felt something in his inside coat pocket. He pulled out the envelope he stuck there, the envelope from Sam Spiegel's bedside. He opened the envelope and there were two sets of papers. The first set contained a single handwritten sheet of paper stapled to a certificate of some kind. It read:

Last Will and Testament of Samuel P. Spiegel

I, Samuel P. Spiegel, being of sound mind and body, and having no one else in this life, leave all my worldly belongings to Beis Simcha of Sunshine, Florida, namely the one share of stock attached.

"Rabbi Levi, Mr. Fein will see you now," the receptionist said, interrupting him. He folded up the papers, put them back in the envelope and stuffed it into his coat pocket. Michael Fein was sitting behind his polished mahogany desk, every hair on his head combed perfectly in place. His Pierre Cardin suit was stylish and expensive-looking. When Rabbi Levi walked in, Michael Fein looked up from the legal brief he was concentrating on and smiled. He stood up, reached out, and Rabbi Levi moved forward and shook his hand warmly.

"Well, Rabbi, what a pleasant surprise. What brings you here today?"

"I was just in the neighborhood and thought I would come by and see how you were doing."

"Oh, G‑d, no! Not the 'just in the neighborhood excuse'… every time you use that I know it's going to be an expensive visit."

"What, I can't come by and just say hello?"

"I should live so long."

They both laughed and sat down. Rabbi Levi began:

"I have to bury a member of the congregation, and the emergency fund is short."

Michael Fein narrowed his eyes, and studied the rabbi.

"Rabbi, didn't I give you an extra four thousand dollars last month for new children's desks for the school?"

"Yes, Moshe."

"Oh, no… now you are calling me Moshe."

Rabbi Levi smiled. "That's because I am summoning your Jewish soul."

"My Jewish soul is slowly going broke, Rabbi. Better you should summon my secular soul. That still has a few bucks left."

"Moshe, please. You know I wouldn't come to you if there were someone else that could help on such short notice."

"Who is it for?"

"Sam Spiegel."


"The elderly man who sat alone in the last row on Shabbat."

"The old guy who wore the same brown suit and never stayed around to talk?"


"He didn't leave anything?"

"Just one share of stock in some company."

"One share… a big businessman, huh?"

"You aren't going to need any help from me, Rabbi"Rabbi Levi reached into his pocket, opened the envelope, and handed the top paper to Michael Fein. Michael read the will quickly, turned the page over and studied the stock certificate. He turned to his computer, clicked on a stock tracker, and typed in some letters. He turned back to the rabbi shaking his head up and down. Rabbi Levi waited for Michael to say something, and when he didn't, he punctuated the silence with:


"You aren't going to need any help from me, Rabbi."

"What do you mean?"

"That company he left you stock in is Berkshire Hathaway."


"Each share is worth more than $100,000."

Dear Rabbi Levi,

I had Jack write this for me two nights ago when my heart felt like it was going to stop and I started to feel like I wasn't going to be around anymore. Jack lives near me in the Gardens and used to work for an attorney. He also wrote the will for me and made sure it was legal.

Rabbi, my parents and I came here from Russia when I was ten. They contracted tuberculosis on the ship, and my first act in America was to bury them in unmarked graves in Queens, New York. My Aunt Ida and Uncle Izzy took me in, but they were crowded into a two-bedroom apartment along with their five children, with barely enough to eat, so I stopped coming to their place and slept out in the streets. I stood outside restaurants and begged for food or ate from garbage cans, like an animal.

One morning, I was awakened by the owner of a truck that I was sleeping in, and he offered me the first and only job I ever had, working at his septic tank company. I never went to school, and didn't learn how to read or write, so I figured it wasn't such a bad job, making septic tanks. We used to dig them out by hand and make the tanks out of bricks and mortar, until we learned how to make them with machines and pre-formed cement. When I got into my forties, my back and knees started to bother me, so Charlie, the owner of the company, put me on the special truck he bought to pump out the tanks when they got full. The customers liked me and asked for me. They called me Septic Sam, and the nickname stuck for more than twenty years, until I retired at sixty-seven.

I suddenly felt deep inside my soul that G‑d loved me and appreciated the work I did in my lifeI never got married or had any children, but I never forgot I was a Jew. I could not afford the synagogue dues when I lived in New York, so I didn't attend services, but each morning and each night, I said the Shema prayer. I moved down to Florida when my bones could not take the cold New York winters, and the Gardens Senior Court in Sunshine was the only place that would accept social security as full payment. I used to go for walks in the neighborhood and one day, I noticed that someone had turned the old, boarded-up building down the street into a synagogue. When you were outside painting the trim, I asked what the dues were, and when you told me you didn't have dues, I started to go to synagogue on Shabbat.

I didn't want to disturb anyone and take advantage, so I stayed in the back. I couldn't read the prayer-book, so I just sat and prayed from my heart. In the beginning, I felt a little embarrassed because I wasn't paying or helping out, but then something happened to change me. One day, while I was praying, I suddenly felt deep inside my soul that G‑d loved me and appreciated the work I did in my life, that it was necessary work, and someone had to do it. That made me feel good, that I didn't waste the life G‑d gave me.

The only thing I have in this world is the one share of stock I bought over forty years ago from a man named Warren. He was standing next to me in the subway station near Columbia University, and when we spoke, he seemed smart and honest, and he didn't talk down to me.

Afterwards, I invested a hundred dollars in his company. It was the only investment I ever made because I never made much money to invest. I do not know what it is worth today, but if it has some value, I would like you to use it to educate a Jewish child so he or she will have more than I had in this life.

Rabbi, thank you for opening the synagogue and allowing me to come on Shabbat and pray with your minyan. It gave me comfort in my last years. May God bless you and keep you.

Sam Spiegel

Rabbi Levi cashed in the one share of stock in Berkshire Hathaway, paid for Sam Spiegel's funeral, and then went to the bank and purchased a Certificate of Deposit. It gave Rabbi Levi a special feeling at the beginning of every school year to present a needy Jewish child with the Sam Spiegel Memorial Scholarship. He smiled and thought of Sam, and how the blessings of G‑d come in many forms and in through many different people.