In the city of Antioch there lived a man of remarkable generosity by the name of Aba Yehudah. He was a man who gave to all, whenever there was a need. Rabi Yehoshua and several other rabbanim arrived in the city one day on an urgent mission to collect money for the unfortunate needy. They knew that Aba Yehudah always gave a generous contribution so they looked forward to seeing him.
What the rabbanim did not know was that Aba Yehudah had fallen on hard times. Business had been bad and his once great wealth was no more. Aba Yehudah knew the rabbanim were in the city but he avoided them, thinking, “I have fallen upon evil days. I have no ready cash. So how can I face them?”
And so he stayed home, sick at heart.
His wife, who was a generous and charitable woman, saw how despondent he was.
“Why are you sad, my husband? Why do you sigh as if your heart will break?”
“My heart is heavy,” Aba Yehudah replied. “Since I lost my wealth I am unable to give charity as I was always accustomed to, and I have to avoid facing the rabbanim who have come here to collect for an urgent cause.”
“You can still give charity,” his wife replied. “After all, we do have a small field left. Sell half of the field and give the proceeds to them. We can live well enough from what the other half will bring us.”
Aba Yehudah’s face lit up as he heard his wife’s words.
“You are truly a woman of valor. I will do as you say and give the rabbanim the money.”
Rushing out of the house, Aba Yehudah hurried to find a buyer for half of his field. After a short search he concluded the transaction and ran to find the rabbanim.
“Rabi Yehoshua,” he cried. “Thank G-d that I have found you. Allow me to add my contribution to your noble cause. It is not as much as usual, but accept it nevertheless!”
Rabi Yehoshua understood that something had gone wrong for Aba Yehudah, and as he accepted the money he declared:
“Oh, G-d of Israel! Please send Your blessing on all the handiwork of Aba Yehudah.”
The following day Aba Yehudah went down to the remaining part of his field in order to plow it. Hitching the plow to his cow, the only one he had left, he began to work. Suddenly, the cow stumbled and fell. As it lay in pain, Aba Yehudah realized that she had broken her leg.
“Woe is me,” cried the man briefly. “My fortunes continue to deteriorate daily.”
Taking his shovel, he attempted to put it under his cow to enable her to rise. As he dug his spade into the ground he heard it strike something metallic.
“What is that?” he thought.
Beginning to dig, he uncovered a large hole and, to his amazement, it was filled with gold, silver and precious gems.
“It is a miracle,” he cried happily. “It was for my benefit that my cow stumbled.”
Gathering up the fortune, he ran home to show it to his wife.
“May the name of G-d be blessed!” cried the good woman. “He has bestowed His blessings upon us once again.”
Aba Yehudah took the money and bought houses and fields, vineyards and orchards. Never did he waver from his previous life of charity and good deeds.
Rabi Yehoshua Returns
Some time later, Rabi Yehoshua and the other rabbanim returned to Antioch. When Aba Yehudah heard this he hurried to greet them.
“Welcome,” he cried. “I thank you for the blessing you gave me. It has brought me fruit beyond my wildest dreams.”
Aba Yehudah then told them all that had happened, how he had lost his money and then discovered the fortune.
Hearing all this, Rabi Yehoshua answered, “I am very happy to hear this. I want you to know that though you only gave a small amount the last time we were here, we placed your name at the very top of the list.”
Aba Yehudah heard these words and asked, “I am deeply touched. But why did you do this?”
“We knew that your desire to give was greater than your ability,” replied Rabi Yehoshua.
And taking out the list, Rabi Yehoshua showed him that his name was, indeed, at the top, far above others who gave greater amounts. Taking him by the hand, Rabi Yehoshua placed him at the head of the leaders of the city, saying, “That which a man gives shall broaden him, and before the great will it place him.”Rabbi Sholom Klass
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