Rav Moshe Sofer (The Chasam Sofer), one of the greatest Gaonim in his generation, always preached and practiced charity and kindness towards his fellow man. His door was always open to the poor and to the needy for help and advice.
Once, on a cold wintry day, in the city of Pressburg, the Chasam Sofer was studying the Talmud with his two sons, when he heard an urgent knock on his door.
“It must be a poor man seeking alms,” he remarked as he opened the door. Imagine his surprise when he saw the leading member of his congregation standing at his door, looking like a beggar.
“Do not be surprised at my appearance, Rebbe,” he said, “I am in great trouble and I need your help. I would like to talk to you privately.”
Motioning to the man to enter, the Chasam Sofer told his children to leave the room while he made the merchant comfortable. “What happened to you? Why are you looking so sad?” he asked.
“A terrible misfortune has happened to me,” the man responded. “I was a very wealthy man and as you know I became a banker. But through a series of misfortunes, I lost all my money and now I am penniless. I have practically become a beggar.”
“Do not lose faith in G-d,” answered the Chasam Sofer, while pity welled up in his heart. “You still have your good name, people will remember all the charity you have given and they will surely give you a helping hand. G-d may have taken your money only temporarily to test you.
“It isn’t my money which I am worried about,” cried the banker, but about the money of others, the widows and orphans, who trusted me. It is also gone. I will have to sit in the debtor’s prison.”
“No! No!” cried the Chasam Sofer, “It will never happen that the most charitable man in the community, its leader and banker, will sit in prison.”
The Chasam Sofer began to think of ways and means to help this unfortunate man. Suddenly, his face brightened. He approached his closet, and removed a small bag of coins, which he had been saving for a dowry for his daughter.
“In this bag is a hundred gold coins,” he said. “I am giving this to you as a loan. Now, go immediately to the city of Leipzig, and the first piece of merchandise that you will see, purchase it with these gold coins. And may Hashem be with you and make you prosper.”
The banker was reluctant to accept the money. He knew that the Chasam Sofer was not a rich man and it must have taken him a long time to accumulate this money. “Rebbe,” he said, “I cannot take this money for I cannot promise to return it to you and if I lose this money too, then I will also cause you grief.”
“The help of G-d comes momentarily,” replied the Chasam Sofer, “Do you think I would give you this money if I was not certain that G-d will see to it that you make good and you will return it to me very soon. You must never lose faith and trust in G-d. Remember, go to Leipzig and the first merchandise you see be sure to purchase.”
Meets An Old Friend
The following morning the merchant banker traveled to Leipzig and entered the trading market. He wandered around until he suddenly heard a voice call him. It was a merchant friend whom he had not seen for many years.
“It must be a stroke of luck that made me meet you here,” the friend said. “Only today a boatload of coffee arrived and I haven’t the time to make arrangements to sell it. Will you take care of it for me? You can pay me in three months. Only give me a hundred coins as a binder. I know you for many years and I trust you. I’ll sell it to you for the amount it cost me as long as I don’t lose anything on the transaction.”
The banker remembered the admonition of the Chasam Sofer to enter into the first business deal he sees, so he agreed. He signed the necessary papers and have him the deposit.
Rabbi Sholom Klass