Yossel was arrested on suspicion of theft nonetheless. The town was in an uproar… an innocent man languished in jail while his wife and children were bereft of their breadwinner. At the same time, the postal service offered a reward of 500 gulden to anyone who would be of help in recovering the stolen money.
Yossel’s agitated wife retrieved the envelope from its hiding place and made her way to R’ Baruch Frankel-Teomim, who was widely known for his extraordinary wisdom and perceptiveness.
As she neared the rav‘s home she could hear him learning with his talmidim. Not wishing to disrupt their Torah study, she discreetly tossed the envelope through an open window of the rav’s study and left before anyone noticed her presence.
When the rav saw the markings on the envelope, he instantly knew it was the one poor Yossel had been accused of stealing. R’ Baruch Taam was in a quandary… if he returned the money to the postal authorities, the simple truth of how he had acquired it could possibly create a worse predicament for the city’s Jews, who might then all be accused of collaborating together to cover the crime of one of their own.
R’ Baruch stepped out to clear his mind and reflect upon this unexpected dilemma that had literally landed at his feet. On his walk he encountered none other than the city’s priest who greeted him warmly. The rav’s deep contemplation had the priest inquire whether he could be of any help.
Turning to face the priest, R’ Baruch asked, “If someone confides something to you in the way of a confession, are you obligated to keep it a secret?”
“Of course,” replied the priest. “These are confidences I am not permitted to reveal to anyone!”
After ascertaining that the priest was allowed to receive confession from “outsiders” as well, the rav said he had a confession to make – with one caveat: that it take place in the priest’s home rather than in the church. The bewildered priest agreed; an exception could certainly be made for the rabbi whom he held in high esteem.
At the appointed time, R’ Baruch appeared at the home of the priest, where he confessed the truth about how he had obtained the envelope in his possession. The rav then asked the priest to take it from him and present it to the postal authorities, having “received it in the process of confession.” The priest would not be obliged to reveal any further detail, for confessions were known to be held in the strictest of confidentialities.
The priest was pleased with R’ Baruch’s proposal, and by the following day word quickly circulated that the money had been found. Yossel was promptly freed and sent home.
Effusive in her praise of R’ Baruch and his wisdom, Yossel’s wife advised him to pay the rav a visit to personally convey his gratitude in person and to confess the entire truth to him.
R’ Baruch was overjoyed at seeing Yossel before him – who, in turn, let the rav know that he was not innocent and expressed his sincere regret at having had allowed himself to fall prey to his evil inclination.
Just then the priest stopped by to give the rav the reward money from the postal authorities. Declining to accept it, the rav insisted the money belonged to the priest who had extricated him from his untoward dilemma. The priest adamantly refused to take ‘payment’ for his deed and advised the rav to give it to the poor if he didn’t wish to keep it for himself.