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Therefore, does the Psalmist say, “The L-rd raises the meek and elevates the poor.”

The Rich Who Appear As Poor


Shlomo HaMelech (Mishlei 13:7), said, “There is he who makes himself [who appears to be] rich, yet has nothing; and there is he who makes himself poor and yet has great riches.”

The section of Eretz Yisrael that belonged to Asher was famous for its supply of olive oil; it was produced vir­tually as if it had gushed from a well.

Once the city of Laodiceans sent an agent to Yerushalayim with instructions to purchase a million dinarim worth of oil.

In Yerushalayim, he was told to proceed to Tyre. At Tyre he was told to go to Gush Chalav, a city bordering the land of Asher. At that city he was directed to the house of a prominent merchant who dealt in oil.

Entering the fields of the merchant, he saw a man digging around his olive trees.

“Are you the person who can supply me with a million dinarim worth of olive oil?” he asked.

“Yes,” he answered. “But you will have to wait until I finish my work.”

The agent sat down to wait. Mean­while, the proprietor continued digging. When he had finished his work, he tied his pack onto his back, as did his worker, and started for home. On the way he saw a stone lying in the path. He bent down and pushed it aside.

The agent, watching his behavior, thought to himself, “Could this man, who appears so poor, have so much oil to sell? Surely, the people in the town were making fun of me.”

When they reached the merchant’s home, a female slave brought hot water for him to wash his hands and feet and a golden bowl of oil to dip them in afterwards. After they had eaten together, the merchant measured out before him the million dinarim worth of oil.

“Do you need more oil?” the merchant asked.

“Yes,” answered the agent. “However, I don’t have any more money on me.”

“That’s okay,” said the merchant. “Buy it now and I will go with you to your city for the money.”

He then measured out another 180,000 dinarim worth of oil. There was so much oil that they had to hire every horse, mule, camel and beast of burden they could find to carry it all.

When the agent neared his city, all the people turned out to meet him to com­pliment him on his good service in secur­ing so much oil.

“Don’t praise me,” said the agent, “but him, my companion, to whom I owe 180,000 dinarim. You could never tell by looking at him that he is one of the richest men, in oil, in Israel.”

Thus do the truly rich appear humble and unassuming.