Reb Daniel Yaffe, the wealthiest Jew in Berlin, had made a foolish bargain with his friend David when both were poor, whereby he promised to give the latter all the fortune he would make above 10,000 marks. Now, many years later, his impoverished friend has shown up seeking 1,000 marks for his daughter’s wedding. Daniel remembers the bargain and feels duty-bound to give up his fortune, but visits Rav Tzvi Hirsch Levin to see if he might have some answer for his predicament.
What Is Wrong?
“Reb Daniel? What is wrong? What has happened that causes you to weep?” asked Rav Tzvi Hirsch.
“Rebbe,” cried Reb Daniel, “I believe I have lost virtually my entire fortune and will be forced to become a beggar who goes from door to door seeking charity.”
Rav Tzvi Hirsch looked at the weeping man and answered in a soft voice: “Let us assume that what you say is true. Is that any reason for you to behave as though the world has come to an end? Listen to a brief story that I will tell you and perhaps you will feel better.
“Rav Shmuel HaNagid was one of Spain’s greatest scholars. He spent his days learning Torah and lived a simple life in poverty. He became beloved and famous throughout the Jewish community and even among the non-Jews.
“His name came to the attention of the king, who was so deeply impressed by him that he decided to appoint him as his finance minister. Rav Shmuel was very conscientious and successful and the king’s fortunes rose mightily. The other ministers became bitterly jealous of the Jewish scholar who was so obviously in the court’s favor and they decided to spread libels about the Jews.
“Going to the king, they said: ‘Your Majesty, we are convinced that Rav Shmuel has been using the office of the finance minister to line his pockets with money. He has been stealing from the royal treasury and robbing you.’”
Asks For Accounting
“The king refused to believe what he considered to be sheer nonsense. But the jealous ministers persisted in their fierce accusations and finally, to put the lies to rest, the king decided to have an accounting.
“Calling Rav Shmuel before him, he said: ‘Rav Shmuel, you are undoubtedly aware of the campaign that some of my ministers have launched against you. I know that the accusations are not true but I want to prove this to everyone’s satisfaction once and for all.
“‘I would like you to go home and give me an accounting of all your assets from the time that you became my finance minister.’”
King Is Amazed
“Rav Shmuel went home and appeared the following day before the king with his accounting. The king took it in his hands and studied it. As he read on, his face grew red with anger. Rav Shmuel had listed as his assets not more than 10 percent of the amount that the king himself estimated he had amassed.
“‘How dare you show me such a list?’ the king cried in fierce anger. ‘I myself gave you as personal gifts much more than you have listed here. There is no doubt in my mind that my ministers were correct and that you have stolen things from the treasury.’
“‘Allow me to explain,’ Rav Shmuel said. ‘You asked me to draw up a list of my assets, all the things that are mine, in his world.
“‘What you have given me is not really mine. At any moment you can grow angry with me and take it back. How can I list it then as my own?Rabbi Sholom Klass