And so, as he grew wealthy in material goods, he grew poorer and poorer in spiritual qualities. The piety and the humbleness that had characterized him before were no longer to be seen.
G-d Takes Away His Wealth
The Almighty was very disappointed.
“How this pious man has changed,” He said.
He called Eliyahu again and said, “Behold what wealth and riches have done to this man. Before, when he was poor in monetary resources, he was pious and good. Now, wealth and luxury have turned his heart away and made him forget the Torah. Go now and take back from him the gift I gave him.”
Eliyahu descended swiftly, and set out in search of the man. He found him seated in shul in a luxurious golden pew, reserved for the very rich.
“Peace be unto you,” said Eliyahu.
The man returned the greeting.
“I am afraid,” Eliyahu began, “that I must ask you to return the property I gave you for safekeeping.”
“What have you given me for safekeeping?” the man asked.
“Do you not remember? I left four gold zuzim with you for safekeeping.”
“I have no recollection of this,” the man said.
“Think hard,” said Eliyahu. “Do you remember a day many years ago, when you were poor, and stood in this same shul but in the back row, and prayed with fervor and feeling to G-d?”
The memory slowly returned to him.
“Yes, you are right. Here are four gold zuzim.”
“No,” replied Eliyahu. “I want the same four zuzim I gave you.”
“But that is impossible,” the man protested. “I have no idea where they are now.”
“Bring me your tzedakkah box,” ordered Eliyahu.
When it was brought, a miracle occurred and Eliyahu found the very same coins that he had given the man. He took them and left.
He Becomes Poor Again
From that day, bad fortune hounded the man. Business turned bad, loss followed loss until his entire fortune was gone and he was as poor as he had been on that day, many years ago, when he had first encountered Eliyahu.
The man finally understood what had happened. He realized that he was being punished for forgetting to live a life of Torah. He was truly sorry for his mistakes, and deeply repented his sins. Once again, he returned to the life of Torah he had once led, once again he prayed with fervor and meaning.
G-d Takes Pity Again
The Almighty saw the man’s teshuva and had pity on him. He asked Eliyahu to give the man some coins, but to warn him to never again forget that riches begin with leading a life of Torah and mitzvos.