The power of faith is unmatched; it can lift man above adversity and help him climb the highest of mountains. It can help him overcome pain and torture. It can make him see the light in a night that is inky in its darkness. The Gaon Rav Tzvi Hirsh Levin manifested such a faith when he was a starving and poverty-stricken rav in Halberstat.
Halberstat was a small and very poor town that was proud to have the great scholar as its spiritual leader. Unfortunately, their love for him was greater than their capacity to pay his salary and he was forced to live a life of abject poverty.
He never paid any attention to his meager existence, because the opportunity to sit and study Torah more than compensated for the lack of material benefits, but his wife and children suffered greatly from deprivation.
The rebbetzin, who was a good woman, could stand it no longer and her patience and stoicism finally broke down. One day, when the rav returned from the Beis Medrash, he found his wife in tears.
“Why are you crying?” he asked.
“How can I not cry?” retorted the wife. “We have no money and all the inheritance that I received from my mother is almost gone.
“I sit each day counting every coin and worrying. Every day is another worry for me while you do not care about our desperate financial plight.”
Rav Tzvi Hirsh felt very bad about his wife’s anguish sand he tried to comfort her with a smile and a little joke.
“It is not true that I do not worry about our economic plight,” he said. “You know, however, that your mother chose me for a son-in-law because I was reputed to have a sharp mind.
“What is the difference between someone who has such a mind and someone who does not? The latter takes a long time to understand while the former grasps the situation quickly.
“It takes you a long time to understand our plight and so you worry some every day. I understand it right away and I do all your worrying in a moment.”
Naturally the wife was hardly satisfied with this “answer” and she berated him for his lack of compassion.
Rav Tzvi Hirsh began to remind her that a Jew must never lose faith in the Al-Mighty, but must rather always look to the heavens and anticipate aid and comfort. His wife, however, refused to listen.
“How can we expect help when there is not a piece of bread in the house and not a coin in our pockets? Who will feed the children tonight?”
“But you still have things of value left, do you not?” asked Rav Tzvi Hirsh. “Pawn the jewelry and the silverware that remain from the inheritance and buy food with the money that you get from them.”
“And what will happen when they are all gone?”
“At that time we will worry. I am convinced, however, that when we have nothing left the Almighty will surely come to our aid as He always does.”
The months passed and the family lived on the money that came from selling and pawning their valuables. This could only go on for so long, however, and the day arrived when the rebbetzin, once again, came to her husband with tears and said, “All that we have is now gone except for one teaspoon. What shall we do? How shall we live?”
“Will the teaspoon buy us breakfast?” asked the rabbi.
“Then sell it and let us eat breakfast. Afterwards we will sit and discuss the future.”
With a heave sigh, that is what the rebbetzin did. The family sat down to eat the bread and butter she bought with the money. She, however, ate nothing. Her heart was too filled with pain and worry.
The rav saw his wife’s misery and asked gently, “Why do you not eat? Have you not learned that the salvation of the L-rd comes as the blinking of an eye? This means that just when the eyelids of a man are about to close through weakness, and he sees no help on the horizon, that is the time when he can expect the Almighty to come to his rescue.”
A Knock On The Door
No sooner had he finished saying these words when a knock was heard on the door. It was the mailman and he had a letter that came all the way from London. Rav Hirsh opened the letter with great puzzlement and read it.