The Maharsha was building a new yeshiva. People from all parts of the country contributed money for this worthy cause. Finally, the day came when the cornerstone was to be laid. The entire town turned out for the event. As was the custom, the honor of laying the cornerstone was auctioned off. The name of the highest bidder would be engraved on the stone.
Before the bidding began, a pious man called over the shammos and said to him, “I want to purchase the honor of laying this stone at any price, but only on the condition that no one knows that it is I who is giving the money. It will have to be anonymous.” The shammos agreed.
The bidding reached the sum of 500 rubles. When the bidding stopped at this figure the shammos announced an anonymous bid to top it.
All the people wondered who could have bid so vast a sum anonymously.
“We’ll wait until the cornerstone laying ceremonies begin and then we’ll see who the man is, for he’ll have to come up to inscribe his name,” they said.
The shammos meanwhile approached the man quietly and asked him his advice as to how he wanted his name inscribed, and if he would personally lay the stone.
“No,” answered the man, “I will honor the Maharsha. He will lay the stone in my behalf. Don’t tell him it is I who is honoring him.”
And so it happened. All the people were amazed and curious but they could not find out who the anonymous donor was. After the people departed, the Maharsha called the shammos and said, “You must tell me who secretly gave so much money for this worthy cause.”
The shammos went to the man’s home and summoned him to the Maharsha, where he told the rav that in reality he was not a rich man and had to mortgage all of his possessions to meet his obligation.
“Then why did you do it?” asked the Maharsha.
“You see,” answered the man, “I am childless and I hoped that by giving so much charity G-d will have pity upon me and give me a son.”
The Maharsha was awed by this explanation and he blessed him that the following year he should have a son. “And furthermore,” said the Maharsha, “this son will study in this new yeshiva which is being built through your money.”
G-d listened to his prayer and the following year his wife gave birth to a son. When the son grew up and became bar mitzvah, the father wanted to enroll him in the yeshiva of the great Maharsha. But the enrollment committee refused, saying he was too young.
The father then approached the Maharsha and reminded him of his promise many years earlier. The Maharsha recalled the incident and he enrolled the boy in his yeshiva. The boy eventually grew up to be a great man.