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March 3, 2015 / 12 Adar , 5775
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Rav Akiva Eiger


When the cholera epidemic broke out in Prussia in 1831, Rav Akiva, though of an extremely delicate constitution, often spent whole nights at the bedside of the sick. He promulgated various sanitary laws of behavior, urged the people to boil their water, and through other practices of cleanliness, helped reduce the death toll in Posen and its surrounding communities.

This came to the attention of the Emperor, Frederick William III, who sent a special royal order of appreciation to the rabbi. An emissary of the Emperor came to the rav’s house to deliver this letter of commendation.

Upon entering the house, he was sur­prised to see a large bowl containing torn postage stamps.

“What are these torn postage stamps doing here?” the officer asked.

The Gaon answered, “I receive many inquiries every day from people throughout the country. I usually answer by send­ing them a letter with the proper reply. But sometimes I hear that one of my constitu­ents may be traveling in the neighborhood of the inquirer. So I give him the letter to deliver personally. However, by doing this I am making the government lose money by not purchasing postage stamps for the letter.  Therefore I purchase the stamp and tear it up and in this way the government is not cheated from its share of the delivery of this mail.”

The officer was astounded at such piety, and when he returned to the Emperor he narrated his experiences, pointing out the saintliness of this rav.

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“I wanted you to have a taste of the cold,” answered Rav Chaim. “This way, you too can feel the intense cold and realize the suffering of this man and his wife, who are now residing in a bitterly cold house.”

Gaonim-Midrash-logo-NEW

“Don’t worry,” said the king, “what could it be worth, two or three talents of gold? I’ll give you ten talents of gold, so you can forget about it.”

Shmuel HaKatan shook his head and said: “No, what happened here today is a sign not of great love. On the contrary, it is a bad omen.”

The arguments, however, could never appease his wife and one Thursday she came to him for money to purchase food for Shabbos.

He walked out of the room, making sure to leave the door ajar so that the two litigants could hear his voice.

Don’t you know Avraham, the famous dry goods merchant, who lives near the lake in a big mansion?

“What could I do? Your wife is hard of hearing,” whispered the poor woman barely able to talk.

“I would appreciate if you could give me some pointers on how to improve my wine,” said the wine merchant eagerly.

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