Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Last week we read about the leader of the city of Pressburg who came to the Chasam Sofer after having lost all of his own money, as well as the money of orphans and widows who had invested with him.

The Chasam Sofer gave him the money that he had set aside for his daughter’s dowry. He told the man, “I want you to take it and go to the Leipzig fair tomorrow. Once you are there, buy the very first merchandise that is offered you and Hashem will be with you and give you success.”


And that’s what he did. The man went to the fair and met an old friend who had coffee to sell, but no time to look for a buyer. “Please,” the friend said, “if you are willing, I will sell you the coffee for what I paid for it and the profit can be yours. I am even willing to accept promissory notes if you do not have the entire money now.”

Soon, the deal was completed, and the coffee was now the property of the communal leader of Pressburg. The words of the Chasam Sofer proved to be prophetic and he made an immense profit from it. He was saved. All that remained was to buy the Chasam Sofer a precious present for his wonderful kindness. So, before he returned to his town of Pressburg, he purchased a beautiful besamim box as a gift of appreciation for the Chasam Sofer.


A Gift For The Rav

Returning home he visited the Chasam Sofer, returned the 100 gold coins to him together with the beautiful box, and expressed his gratitude for the aid he received.

The Chasam Sofer looked the box over carefully and exclaimed, “What a beautiful box! Never have I seen anything as beautiful as this!”

The merchant was glad that the rav enjoyed his gift, and he beamed in happiness.

The Chasam Sofer called in his two sons and said, “Have you ever seen anything as beautiful as this box? Our friend here is giving it to me as a gift for a small loan, which I gave him.”

The children were amazed. It could not happen that their father, the holy rav, was now accepting a bribe from a person, for surely accepting this gift would be considered similar to interest, which is prohibited by the Torah. But they respected their father, so they remained silent.

Turning to the merchant, the Chasam Sofer said, “True, the besamim box is the most beautiful piece of workmanship I have ever seen, but I cannot accept it. It would be compared to accepting interest on my loan, which our Torah strictly forbids. If you would have given me this box before I gave you the loan I would have gladly accepted it from you.”

The merchant realized he had done something wrong by nearly causing the holy rav to commit a sin, so he was crestfallen as he took the box and departed.

The two children could not contain themselves any longer. “Father,” they said, “will you please explain your behavior? At first you were overjoyed at seeing this gift and then you returned it. Why were you so joyful in the beginning if it was prohibited?”

“My sons I learned this from my rebbe and teacher, Rav Nasan Adler.

“Many years ago, when I was still learning Torah at his feet, it happened that in the small town of Edenwald near Frankfurt, the non-Jews fabricated a malicious libel against the Jews of the town, and they succeeded in persuading the governor to expel all the Jews.

“The Jews of the town were in a panic and they sent a delegation to Rav Nasan begging him to intercede with the rulers and rescind the decree. They knew that Rav Nasan was a respected and honored man and that if anyone could help them it would be he.

“They arrived on Friday, a short while before Shabbos started, and had to wait over Shabbos until it was dark. That Shabbos was Shabbos Chanukah and a heavy snowstorm covered the area. Traveling was extremely hazardous, but Rav Nasan paid no attention to that. He only knew that a Jewish community was in trouble and that he had to help.

“As soon as it got dark he ordered us to hurry with the saying of havdala and the lighting of the Chanukah candles. We then set off immediately in a wagon pulled by just one horse.

“The night was dark and bitterly cold and the snow very deep. We had gone more than half of the way when suddenly the horse pulled up short. It had stepped into a deep snow bank and could go no further.

“There was nothing to do but to have the wagon driver go to the nearest village and get horses to pull the wagon out of the snow bank.

“After a while, we saw the driver returning with two animals. When Rav Nasan saw them, he suddenly got out of the wagon and began to dance happily in the snow and his face radiated joy and happiness.

“I looked at my teacher and could not understand what had come over him.

“‘Don’t you see?’ asked Rav Nasan. ‘Look at the animals that the gentile wagon driver brought.’

“I looked over the animals and for the first time I realized that they were two oxen. The wagon driver had hitched them together with the horse to pull the wagon.

“I ran over to the man and said to him, ‘I am sorry but we cannot use these animals. We are forbidden by the Torah to hitch two diverse animals together and you have brought oxen to go along with the horse.’

“The wagon driver was forced to go back to town and bring horses and I turned once again to Rav Nasan and asked him, ‘Rebbe, I still do not understand why you were so happy when you saw the oxen together with the horse. What made you so joyful that you danced in the snow?’

“He answered with a smile. ‘All my life, when I came to the prohibition against hitching diverse animals together, I felt sad. When would I ever have the opportunity to fulfill this commandment?’

“‘Here I sit, I told myself, all day in the beis midrash. When in the world could I possibly run across a situation that would permit me to obey this commandment? Suddenly, out of the blue, the chance had came. Should I not be overjoyed?’

“It is the same here,” said the Chasam Sofer to his sons. “I learned the lesson from my great teacher and thought of all the mitzvos I would probably never get the opportunity to obey and I felt sad.

“One of those mitzvos was the question of taking interest for a loan. When, I asked myself, does a poor rav have an opportunity to lend money? And if it does happen, who would make the mistake of trying to give the rav interest? No, I told myself, the opportunity to fulfill this commandment would probably never come to me.

“You can imagine my amazement and my great joy at the unexpected chance to fulfill this mitzvah. Should I not dance with joy? Should I not be happy?”


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