“Let me give you advice,” said Rav Eliyahu Chaim. “Never take other people’s money. It is a terrible sin, regardless if one were a Jew or a Gentile. This money was never counterfeit but I am doing this to save your soul.”
The following day the Gaon returned the money to the Gentile who thanked and blessed him profusely.
The Stolen Sweepstake Ticket
Once a poor person came before Rav Eliyahu Chaim and complained that a certain merchant stole many thousands of rubles from him.
The Gaon interrupted him, “If you want to summon him before me to a Din Torah then I must stop you, for I can not hear only your side. He has to be present when you make your charges against him.”
“No,” cried the poor person. “Unfortunately, I have no evidence to present against him. I only came to you for advice. Do you have a way to recover the money from this thief?”
“Very well, tell me the full story.”
“I am a very poor person and I have marriageable daughters, but I do not have a penny to my name. I thought of the sweepstakes, perhaps G-d would be kind to me and permit me to win some money. So I scraped together a few rubles and I purchased a sweepstake ticket.
“Last week the merchant came to me and congratulated me on winning a free ticket on the next sweepstake. ‘While this ticket didn’t pay off.’ he said, ‘perhaps the next one would be the lucky one.’ He then requested I return the ticket I was holding and he gave me another one in exchange.
Ticket Wins 40,000 Rubles
“The following morning I read in the papers that my first ticket had won forty thousand rubles. You can just imagine my anguish. So I rushed over to the merchant and began to shout, “Thief, crook! Give me back my ticket for I know that I won forty thousand rubles.’ Of course he denied my allegations and he told me that his son-in-law bought the ticket.
“Now, Rav Eliyahu Chaim,” pleaded the poor man, “what can I do? Surely you in your wisdom will devise a way to secure the money, which is rightfully mine. You will save my life.”
“Don’t worry,” said the rav, “I’ll see what I can do.”
After he left the rav summoned the merchant to appear before him. Coming straight to the point the rav said, “A poor man came to me and said that you stole a sweepstake ticket from him. But I cannot believe that such a prominent and honorable person as you would do such a thing.”
“May the rav be blessed,” answered the merchant. “I am glad that you realize that I would never do such a thing. It would ruin my reputation in town.”
“True,” replied Rav Eliyahu Chaim. “I could never believe such a thing.”
Suddenly the rav clapped his forehead and said, “I just reminded myself of something important. Do you have a pen and paper?”
The merchant took out a pad from his pocket and wanted to tear out a page but the rav stopped him saying, “It isn’t necessary to tear anything, give me your entire pad. I’ll find an empty spot on one of the pages.”
Saying this, he took the pad and began to leaf through it as if he was looking for a blank page. While turning the pages he came across many entries with the names of people who bought sweepstake tickets and of the money they paid and won. On the last page he saw the name of the poor person who had been in his office earlier and alongside of it was the sum of forty thousand rubles won.
“Aha!” shouted the Gaon. “You are a thief. You stole forty thousand rubles from this poor person. Return the ticket to him immediately or I personally will press charges against you!”
The merchant’s face turned various colors and he was forced to admit to his thievery. He returned the ticket to its proper owner who collected the grand prize.