Section: Tzedaka Category: Story
|Rav Yehonoson Eibshitz Cries Over The Quick Return Of His Fortune|
Rav Sholom Schwadron told the following chilling story about Rav Yehonoson Eibshitz. Rav Yehonoson Eibshitz received a very large dowry of three thousand gold coins for his dowry. It was enough to live comfortably and learn with peace of mind. Rav Yehonoson sat learning day and night with his chavrusa.
One day the municipality decide to build a church next door to Rav Yehonoson's Bais Medrash. This strategic placement greatly angered the Jews but what could they do. Rav Yehonoson's chavrusa who was a big Kana'i could not hold himself back and one night under the cover of darkness he broke into the church and went up to the roof where he smashed the statue proudly displayed there. The church was ready for this and had guards secretly stationed, prepared for exactly this sort of event.
The next day the people of the Bais Medrash wondered where Rav Yehonoson's chavrusa disappeared to. He was gone without a trace. The search continued for a number of days until one day a man appeared before one of the leaders of the community and told him the story and that the person was being held in the basement of the church. He was sentenced to death by fire. For a fee of no less than three thousand gold coins, he told him that he can arrange his escape.
This amount was an impossible sum to raise, but for Pidyon Shvu'im there was no choice. When Rav Yehonoson heard about this he immediately took his entire dowry and brought it to the guards house. When the fundraisers found out what happened they brought all the money they had raised, although significantly shot of the full price, to Rav Yehonoson. Rav Yehonoson refused to take it, although they insisted that they also should have share in the mitzva. Rav Yehonoson said that he already paid the money and he didn't want to take money from others.
The fundraisers left in despair being shut out of the mitzva. In the meantime Rav Yehonoson was worried about his wife's reaction to his giving away of their life's fortune. He decided that he will leave town for a few days. In the interim he knew his wife would find out what he did and would have time to get over it before he returned.
When the church found out that their prisoner had escaped, they suspected that the guard was the one who was behind it. As the noose tightened around the guard's neck he decided to flee the city for his life. However he had accumulated much money over the years from stealing from the church and he wanted to keep his fortune safe in case he would one day return.
He decided that only the saintly Rav Yehonoson, who paid the exorbitant ransom from his own pocket, was trustworthy to watch his money. When he arrived at Rav Yehonoson's house, his wife told him that he was away for a few days. The guard told his wife that he wanted to return the three thousand gold coins and that Rav Yehonoson should watch the rest of the fortune until he one day returns.
The guard left and fled for his life. It didn't take long for the church to catch up with him and when they did he was killed on the spot. Rav Yehonoson's wife heard about this and thanked Hashem for the great reward that her husband received for his virtuous act.
When Rav Yehonoson returned while his wife joyfully filled him in on the whole story Rav Yehonoson began to cry bitterly. I was paid back so fast, said Rav Yehonoson, that it is apparent that in Shamayim they have rejected my mitzva and threw it back at me! Unconsoled, Rav Yehonoson decided to fast for three days and then do a Shailas Chalom to find out if and why his mitzva was rejected.
The response he received from Shamayim was that indeed his mitzva was rejected. The reason why Hashem did not want his mitzva was because he refused to allow the Tzibbur to partake in it with him. "If you want the whole mitzva without anyone else, then take it is yours not ours!"