There was a drought in Eretz Yisrael and the people prayed to G-d for rain, but none came. The rabbanim fasted and still no rain. But that night they had a dream, a malach stood in front of them and said, “Your prayers will not be answered by G-d, but the prayers of the mule driver, who resides at the outskirts of your city, will be heard.”
That morning, the rabbanim realized that they all had the same dream. “It must be true if we all had the same dream,” they said. “Let us visit the mule driver and see what wonderful attributes he may have.”
They visited the mule driver and after greeting him, asked what his occupation was.
“I rent my mule to serve as a beast of burden to pull a plow and other menial work on the field,” the man replied.
“We do not see your mule. Where is it?” they asked him.
“I have sold it,” he replied.
They were amazed at his answer. Why would such a man sell his mule, his only visible means of support? And even if he did, why should it be considered so great in the eyes of G-d that if he were to pray, G-d would immediately hearken to his pleas.
“Tell us, what wonderful thing did you do?” they asked him.
“I do nothing worthwhile,” he modestly replied and refused to discuss any of his deeds. But the rabbanim persisted until he agreed.
“One day, a woman came to me to rent my mule. She gave me the few coins I normally charge for its hire.
“But as she turned away, leading the animal behind her, I heard her sob. I walked over to her and asked why she was crying.
“She turned to me, and in bitter tears said, ‘My husband is sitting in jail for an unpaid debt and I don’t have the funds to redeem him. I thought that I would hire your mule to plough and plant the ground behind my house and when the wheat grows I would sell it and with these funds redeem my husband.’
“‘And what will you do if the wheat does not grow soon, or if it be a drought and none will grow at all?’ I asked her.
“I don’t know. My children are starving and I am at my wits end. I’ll do anything.’ She began to cry bitter tears.”
With a sigh, the mule keeper continued his story. “I took pity on her. I invited the woman into my home. ‘Stay here until I return from the market place,’ I said to her. ‘I will secure for you the money to redeem your husband.’
“I took the mule with me to the market place and I sold it to the highest bidder. Although this was a great sacrifice for me as it was my means of support, I never hesitated. I gave it to the poor woman and said, ‘Here is enough money to free your husband from jail and may G-d bless you that you may never again know any trouble.’
“The woman fell at my feet crying in appreciation, and she then departed, happier than she had ever been in her life. That is my story.”
“How do you support yourself now,” they asked him.
“It is not easy,” he replied. “But I hire myself out as a laborer to work on other people’s fields. I work long hours to make up for the money I would have earned through my mule.”
The rabbanim were awed by the story told by this simple man. “You are worthy that G-d should always listen to your prayers and we are worthy to have had the honor to know you. May the merit of your wonderful deed protect all Israel from famine.”