Chazal say that on the New Year, the entire amount of a man’s sustenance is fixed, except for what he spends on Shabbos, Yomim Tovim, Rosh Chodesh and sichar limud. In these cases, if one spends more one receives more; if one spends less, one receives less.
Rabi Yochanan was once walking from Teverya to Sephoris with Rabi Chiya. They came to a certain country-house and Rabi Yochanan said, “This country-house was mine, and I sold it in order to acquire the Torah.”
They then passed a vineyard-dwelling and he said, “This vineyard-dwelling was mine, and I sold it in order to acquire the Torah.”
They came to a dwelling in an olive grove, and he said, “This dwelling in the olive grove was mine and I sold it in order to acquire Torah.”
Rabi Chiya began to weep.
“Why are you weeping?” asked Rabi Yochanan.
“Because you have nothing left in your old age,” he answered.
Rabi Yochanan answered, “I have sold a thing which was created in six days and acquired a thing which was given after forty days, as it says, ‘And he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights (Shemos 34:28).’ And it is written, ‘I lived in the mount forty days and forty nights’ (Devarim 9:9).”
Rabi Mana of Sha’ab and Rabi Yehoshua of Siknin said in the name of Rabi Levi, “It is like the case of a province that owed arrears to the king who came to collect them. When he was within ten miles of the province, the nobility came out and praised him, so he released them from a third of their tax. When he was within five miles, the middle class came out and praised him, so he released them from another third. When he entered the province, men, women and children came out and praised him, so he freed them from the whole sum. The king said to them, ‘Let bygones be bygones; from now on we shall start a new account.”
“In a similar manner, on Erev Rosh Hashanah the leaders of the generation fast, and Hakadosh Baruch Hu absolves them of a third of their iniquities. From Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur private individuals fast, and Hakadosh Baruch Hu absolves them of a third of their iniquities. On Yom Kippur everyone fasts, men, women, and children, and Hakadosh Baruch Hu says to Klal Yisrael, ‘Let bygones be bygones; from now onwards, we shall begin a new account.’
“From Yom Kippur to Sukkot all of Klal Yisrael are busy – one is busy with his sukkah, and one with his lulav. On the first day, all gather before Hakadosh Baruch Hu with their lulavim and esrogim and He says to them, ‘Let bygones be bygones; from now on we shall begin a new account.’
Once Rabi Chiya and Rabi Shimon ben Chalafta were studying in the Bais Medrash in Teverya on Erev Rosh Hashanah (some say on Erev Yom Kippur), and they heard the sound of people murmuring.
“What are these people doing,” asked Rabi Shimon (who was very poor) to Rabi Chiya.
Rabi Chiya answered, “He who has money is purchasing what he needs for Yom Tov, and he who has no money is going to his employer that he may give it to him.”
Rabi Shimon thought to himself, “If so, I will also go to my Master that he should give me money.” He went out and prayed in the famous grotto in Teverya and suddenly beheld a hand stretched forth, holding out to him a pearl. He accepted the pearl and took it to Rebbe (Rabi Yehudah HaNasi) who said to him, “Where did you get this? It is priceless! Take these three dinarim and go make preparations in honor of the day, and after the holiday we shall advertise it and whatever price we obtain, we shall have.” (Rabi Shimon did not reveal to Rebbe how he received the pearl.)
He took the three dinarim and purchased food for the holiday, and then he went home.
Seeing him home laden with so many supplies, his wife exclaimed, “Shimon! Have you turned thief? All of your possessions do not amount to anything. How did you manage to purchase so much food?”
He related to her the incident and how Rebbe loaned him the money to be repaid to him when the pearl would be sold.
“Is that right?” she said. “Do you desire that our chuppah (under which the righteous will sit in the World to Come) should contain one pearl less than our fellow men in the World to Come?”
“What is to be done?” he asked her.
She said to him, “Go and return your purchases to their owners and the dinarim to their owner and the pearl to its owner.”
When Rebbe heard of it, he was grieved and asked that she come see him. “How much anguish have you caused this righteous man?” he said to her.
“Do you, then, desire that his chuppah have one pearl less than yours in the World to Come?” she retorted.
He said to her, “And even if it does lack one pearl, can’t we make it up?”
“Rebbe,” she replied, “in this world we are assured of seeing your face, but in the World to Come, did not Reish Lakish (Reish Lakish lived a generation later but his name is used because his statement expresses her thought) say, ‘Every righteous man has his own chamber?’” (A person can’t help another in the next world. Each person builds his own chamber by the good deeds he accomplishes in this world.)
Rabi Yehudah HaNasi admitted that she was right and advised Rabi Shimon to return the pearl even though it is the custom of celestial beings to give but not to take back.