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Cherish the Mitzvah

Behar (Leviticus 25:1-26:2 )


One of the most prominent citizens of Pressburg came to Rabbi Moshe Schreiber (Chasam Sofer) and asked for a private audience. He burst into tears and told the rabbi that although he had always been a successful businessman, he had recently suffered unexpected losses and was on the verge of bankruptcy.

“As soon as I default on my first loan, the word will get out and I will be ruined. Furthermore, I have never missed a trip to the marketplace in Leipzig, which is coming up shortly. If I don't go to Leipzig, people will suspect that something is wrong. I don't even have enough money for the trip,” he said.

"What are the expenses of a trip to Leipzig?” Rabbi Schreiber asked.

“I used to travel in luxury,” he said. “I cannot even think of that. Just to get there and have accommodations would cost one hundred gulden.”

“One hundred gulden, is that all?” Rabbi Schreiber asked. He opened his drawer and took out the money that comprised his entire savings. “I will lend you one hundred gulden. Go to Leipzig and may God bless you with success.”

The man refused to take the money. “I didn't come to you for money,” he said, “but just to unburden myself of my distress.”

Rabbi Schreiber insisted, however, that he take the money.

At Leipzig, the man met a merchant who suggested that he buy a huge amount of coffee, and knowing him to be a prosperous businessman, he sold it to him on credit. The next day there was a sizeable increase in the price of coffee and he sold it at a large profit. He made several other transactions which were very profitable, and was convinced that the Chasam Sofer's blessing had brought him this good fortune.

“I must bring the rabbi a gift,” he said. Knowing that Rabbi Schreiber was an expert on diamonds, he bought a diamond ring.

On returning to Pressburg he returned the hundred gulden and gave the rabbi the ring. The rabbi admired the ring. “It is indeed a beautiful diamond,” he said. He continued to examine the ring, repeatedly praising its beauty, its color, its purity. He then gave the ring to the merchant, saying, “It is a very beautiful ring. Use it in good health.”

“But I brought the ring for you, rabbi,” the merchant said. “It was only by virtue of your blessing that I had this extraordinary success.”

The Chasam Sofer said, “Had I not lent you the money, I might have accepted the gift. However, inasmuch as I lent you the money, taking anything more than what I lent you might constitute taking interest.”

After the merchant left, one of the Chasam Sofer's students asked him, “Why were you so lavish in praising the ring?”

The Chasam Sofer answered, “Businessmen lend money, and they have the opportunity to fulfill the mitzvah of not lending on interest, as the Torah says, 'If your brother becomes impoverished and his means falter… you shall strengthen him… Do not take from him interest and increase' (Vayikra 25:35-36). As a rabbi, when do I have the opportunity to fulfill this mitzvah? No one comes to me for a loan. Here I was presented with the unusual opportunity to fulfill this mitzvah by refusing the ring. The ring was a vehicle whereby I could fulfill this mitzvah by returning it. How could I not praise something that enabled me to fulfill a mitzvah?"

We are blessed with the opportunity to do mitzvot. We should cherish these precious opportunities.


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