Fair Wages

She stretches out her hand to the poor; yea, she reaches her hands to the needy. (Proverbs 31:20)

The wife of a holy rabbi once gave a beautiful piece of cloth to a tailor so that he might sew her a dress. When the tailor finished the dress, he carried it to the holy rabbi’s wife, set it down and sighed deeply.

“What’s the matter?” the the holy woman asked. “Why are you so unhappy with the dress? It is truly beautiful and a credit to your skills”

In great pain, the tailor answered, “My daughter has become engaged to a fine young man. One day, seeing me sewing such a beautiful dress, the young man thought that it was for his bride. Learning that it would not be hers has filled him with sorrow.”

Women's Stories

The holy woman was filled with care and kindness that she picked up the dress and handed it to the tailor. “This is a present for your daughter, the kallah (bride), for are we not taught, ‘Lift up your eyes round about and see; all these gather together and come to you. As I live, says the L-rd, you shall surely clothe yourself with them all as with an ornament and bind them on yourself like a bride. (Isaiah 49:18) ‘” she said warmly.

The tailor was speechless and gathered up the dress and thanked the holy woman for her gift. He was about to leave when the holy woman called him back as she took out her purse and handed the tailor 5 gold coins.

The confused tailor looked at her and asked, “What is this? You have graciously given my daughter this beautiful dress and her heart will be filled with joy.” The holy woman looked at the surprised tailor and answered, “You worked hard for a full week making this fine dress for me, and not for your daughter. With tired eyes and strained fingers you worked hard so that you might earn a little money for your family. Now I ask you, what will you and your family eat? Just because I gave you a gift for your daughter, does that mean that you should not be paid a fair wage for your work?”

May all your tales end with Shalom (peace)

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The Cracked Bucket

In a small village there was a widow that supported herself and her children by carrying water from the nearby river to the Jewish homes. She had two water buckets which were attached to a sturdy yoke. Each day she would wake up early say a prayer to the Holy One, blessed be He, bless her children before she sent them off to learn the Holy Writings, then put the heavy yoke over her shoulders and went down to the river. At the river she would let down the yoke and filled her buckets with water. Once the buckets were filled she would lift the heavy yoke upon her shoulders and walk back to the village.

Everyday bucket on the right side of the yoke was fine and sturdy always filled when she returned to the village, but the bucket on the left had a small crack in it and by the time the woman arrived back in the village, a lot of the water was usually gone.

The cracked water bucket always felt very bad and was ashamed that it was cracked and wasn’t pulling its weight. One day the cracked bucket turned to the woman and apologized for being cracked. The woman smiled gently and said, “Did you think I didn’t know that you had a crack, and water dripped from you? We learn, “Water shall flow from his buckets, and his seed shall have abundant water” (Numbers 24:7)

Cracked Bucket

Look at the path from the river to the village. Do you see all the beautiful flowers that are growing on the side of the path? Those are the flowers that I planted there, that you watered every day as I walked from the river to the village. How many students have stopped and said a blessing over the beauty of the flowers? How many of those flowers brightened the Shabbos (Sabbath) or Yom Tov (holiday) table? How many words of Torah were said as holy men walked along the path?”

May all your tales end with Shalom (peace)

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What Do We Know?

We rely so much on how we see and understand the world. We trust our senses to define the world and understand what is around us by our limited knowledge and wisdom. Therefore we often feel we know who other people are and what the events of our lives are about forgetting “If you wish to be pure in mind, guard your senses. (Apocrypha, Patriarchs, Reuben 6:1)

Sadly, the truth is, we can only understand a very little about the world and people around us. With our limited understanding can we really be aware of the depth, gifts and beauty of another person? Can we begin to fathom the Divine Wisdom and Purpose hidden in everything around us? “Without understanding no knowledge; without knowledge no understanding. “ (Mishnah Avos 3:17)

There once was a young man who studied Torah (Scriptures and Holy Writings) every day and with each new lesson he challenged himself farther. He followed the instruction, “This Book of the Law shall not depart out of your mouth; you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall be successful.” (Joshua 1:8)

After a time he became known as a genius of the revealed and hidden Torah. When the time came, he married the daughter of a holy rabbi. There was much joy in the home of the young rabbi and his wife. Together they learned and built a home based on faith and Torah (Scriptures).

A year went by and everything seemed to go well when one day the young rabbi grew very sick. The best doctors were called, but sadly, not one of them could do anything to help him. So the father of the young rabbi went to the holy rabbi, (the young rabbi’s father-in-law) and begged him, “Rabbi, I’m afraid for my son he became sick and no one seems to be able to help him. Please pray for my son. You know how much he is learned, how devoted he is to Torah. Surely if someone as holy as you reminds heaven of his greatness, he will be found worthy, and he will live!”

But the holy rabbi only answered, “you call him learned? You call him devoted? What he’s done is nothing. Nothing at all!”

The father was shocked. “Rabbi, what are you saying? My son is young, yet he already knows the revealed and hidden Torah by heart!  Are we not taught, “A house where Torah is studied at night will not be ruined.” (Eruvin 18b)

The holy rabbi looked at the troubled father and shook his head, murmuring under his breath, “he’s done nothing. Nothing at all.” No matter how much the troubled father praised his son and tried to convince the rabbi how accomplished the young man was, the holy rabbi’s did nothing but to criticize him. The poor father just couldn’t understand what was going on.

The holy rabbi went into his study and locked the door. He placed two candles on his reading table, wrapped himself in his tallis (prayer shawl) and began to pray:

Compassionate and Merciful G-d, show us Your love and heal us. Send complete healing to all Your holy people who are sick. In particular to Yitzchak Yaakov the son of Sarah.

Master of the Universe! You are “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” (Psalm 103:8) I humbly ask, has this child completed his holy task, is his purpose in this life yet fulfilled?  May we remember and realize as it is written: “For the Lord is compassionate and merciful; he forgives sins and saves in time of distress. (Sirach 2:11) Master of the World who is Most Compassionate and Merciful. Please remember these tender children and lengthen their days with benevolence and their years with pleasantness, in order that they toil in Your Torah and its commandments all their days. Amen

A few days later, the most wonderful thing happened. The young man got up out of bed, his appeared to be completely healed. His father was overjoyed, but he was still troubled about his meeting with the holy rabbi. He spoke to his son, “I know your father-in-law is a great rabbi in a very holy man, but to tell you the truth, I really don’t understand him. I went with him with so much respect for to ask him to pray for you. And I praised you so much I was sure that if he reminded the Heavenly Court of your learning and knowledge you would be found worthy of the greatest miracles. Yet he wouldn’t even listen to me. No matter what I said he just replied, “you call that learning? It’s nothing, nothing at all.”

The looked at his father and smiled, “Wonders of Wonders, father, is he not a truly holy rabbi. Such wisdom, you thought that by praising you would help me. But really the opposite was true. You see, every person comes into this world to accomplish one special task. To make one special fixing or change in the world, and once he has done this, there is no longer any need for him to stay here in olam hazeh – this world.


Torah - Scriptures Tree of Life

 “My father-in-law knew that I had only come into this world to learn Torah (Scriptures and Holy Writings), and that if Heaven thought that I already learned everything I needed to know, there was no way to save my life. So when he kept answering, ‘what, you call this learning? It’s nothing!’ he was actually saying to Heaven, This young man has only begun to accomplish his task. His work isn’t finished yet – there is no more he needs to learn. Heavenly court you have to give him more time

And this is what saved my life….

And so you see — what do we know?  You never know….

May all your tales end with Shalom (peace)

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Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation. (Joel 1:3) Please share this story with family, friends and others. We welcome your comments and discussions about this story

Oil, Wicks and the Cave of Matisyahu

In a nearby village there was a merchant who would carefully select olives and press them into oil and bring it to the holy rabbi, and the rabbi would use it to light his menorah. The merchant did this for many years.

One year the winter was hard, the snow blew everywhere, and travel was just about impossible. The eve of Chanukah arrived and the merchant was still planning to deliver the fresh pressed oil. His family pleaded with him not to go, but he was determined, and in the end he set out across the deep snow.

That morning he entered the forest that separated his village from the village where the holy rabbi lived, and the moment he did, it began to snowheavily. The wind blew strong and the snow fell so fast that it covered every landmark, and when at last it stopped, the merchant found that he was lost. The whole world was covered with snow

Now the merchant began to regret not listening to his family. Surely the holy rabbi would have forgiven his absence. Meanwhile, it had become so cold that he began to fear he might freeze. He realized that if he were to die there in the forest, he might not even be buried in a Jewish way. That is when he remembered the oil he was carrying. In order to save his life, he would have to use it. There was no other choice.

chanukah

As quickly as his numb fingers could move, he tore some of the lining out of his coat and fashioned it into a wick, and he put that wick into the snow. Then he poured oil on it and prayed with great intensity. Finally, he lit the first light of Chanukah, and the flame seemed to light up the whole forest. It seemed that even the wolves saw that light and lifted their heads in song..

After this the exhausted Merchant lay down on the snow and fell asleep. He dreamed he was walking in a warm land, and before him he saw a great mountain, and next to that mountain stood a palm tree. At the foot of the mountain was the opening of a cave. In the dream, the merchant entered the cave and found a lamp burning there. He picked up that lamp, and it lit the way for him until he came to a large cavern, where an old man with a very long beard was seated. There was a sword on his thigh, and his hands were busy making wicks. All of that cavern was piled high with bundles of wicks. The old man looked up when the merchant entered and said: “Shalom Aleichem (Peace be unto you).”

The merchant answered, ”Aleichem Shalom (Unto you peace).” and asked him who he was. He answered: “I am Matisyahu, father of the Maccabees. During my life­time I lit a big torch. I hoped that all of Israel would join me, but only a few answered my call. Now heaven has sent me to watch for the little lamps in the houses of Israel to come together to form a very big flame will announce the Time of Peace that we are all waiting for.”

“Meanwhile, I prepare the wicks for the day when everyone will contribute his light to this great flame. And now, there is something you must do for me. When you reach the holy rabbi, tell him that the wicks are ready, and he should do whatever he can to light the flame that we have awaited so long.”

Amazed at all he had heard, the merchant promised to give the message to the rabbi. As he turned to leave the cave, he awoke and found himself standing in front of the holy rabbi’s house. Just then the rabbi himself opened the door, and his face was glowing. He said: “The power of lighting the Chanukah menorah is very great. Whoever dedicates his soul to this deed brings the Time of Peace that much closer.” (Shabbos 21b)

May your oil burn clean, warm your soul and shine bright with the light of  Shalom (peace)

chanukah

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Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation. (Joel 1:3) Please share this story with family and friends and let us know what you feel about the stories in a comment or two. Like us on Facebook 

The Chanukah Gift of Stories

What does a story teller give as gifts for Chanukah?

Stories of course.

Please read and enjoy the stories below about Chanukah. Share them with others, comment, join in a discussion, or just “like” the stories and tell us which are your favorites.

Chanukah

 Chanukah during the Holocaust, 20th Century Miracle – An Article from 1981

Chanukah stories

Chanukah and Passover are celbrations of freedom. What do they have in common?Chanukah – Egypt – Passover: Is There a Connection

Chanukah stories

The Jewish people have fought throughout history for faith, Chanuka and the Fighters

Chanukah stories

Chanukah is a celebration of Jewish Women, Chanukah: The Dedication of Jewish women


Chanukah stories

The flame of faith burns bright on Chanukah, The Chanukah Flame of Faith

Chanukah stories

Dreidel is more than just a game, The Mystery of the Dreidel

Chanukah Stories

a short Chanukah story about growth and self improvement, A short Chanukah story, Can One Fix a Spirit on Chanukah

Chanukah Stories

There is more to see than just the menorah, Chanukah Lights and the Blessings of Sight, allows one to see others in a special light.

Chanukah Stories

The lights of the menorah warms people to their very soul and  brings about  Shalom Bayis, Torah and the Menorah of Peace

Chanukah Stories

May all your tales end with Shalom (peace)

Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation. (Joel 1:3) Please share these gifts of wonderful stories with others

The Story Tour Blog has grown to over 250 short stories about faith. Many visitors to the Story Tour Blog have requested that the stories be gathered together into a book. 72 of these special tales are now available in the new book that would make a special gift for Chanukah

ORDER YOURS TODAY 

Story Tour: The Journey Begins

StoryTourBook1

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Click here for the the new book, Story Tour: The Journey Begins filled with 72 stories from the Story Tour Blog

The Farmer and Faith

The world of science and technology, instant answers and quick responses are common. People becoming more and more dependent on all of the “gifts” that science and technology provide. One of the most wonderful gifts that people have is the ability to learn, to understand, and to grow in the belief of what they have learned. Sadly, many people no longer understand the most basic when it comes to matters of faith.

Too many times, people respond, “I make it a rule to believe only what I understand.” Yet those very same people have decided to depend upon other means to think and understand for them. They don’t understand that the answers they get from science and technology are based upon their questions. Limited questions result in limited answers.

Once there was a man who lived his whole life in the city who decided that he would like to become a farmer. He believed he had a good understanding of agriculture went to a farmer to learn about farming. The farmer took him to his field and asked him what he saw. He saw a beautiful piece of land full of grass and pleasing to the eye.

Then the man stood shocked as the farmer plowed up the grass and turned the beautiful green field into a mass of brown ditches. “Why did you ruin the field?” asked the man.

“Be patient and you will see,” answered the farmer.

Then the farmer showed him a sack full of plump kernels of wheat and asked him what he sees. The visitor described the nutritious inviting grain and then once more watched in shock as the farmer ruined something beautiful. This time he walked up and down the furrows and dropped kernels into the open ground wherever he went, then he covered them up with clods of soil. “Are you insane,” the man asked, “first you destroy the field, then you take this beautiful grain, and you throw it underneath.”

Ancient Farmer1

The farmer answered, “Be patient and you will see.”

 Time went by, and once more the farmer took the man out into field. Now they saw endless straight rows and green stalks sprouting up from all of the furrows. The visitor smiled broadly, “I apologize, now I understand what you were doing, you made the field more beautiful than ever; the art of farming is truly marvelous. “No,” said the farmer, “we are not done, you must still be patient.” More time went by and the stalks were fully grown, then the farmer came with a sickle and chopped them all down as his visitor watched openmouthed, seeing how the orderly field became an ugly scene of destruction.

The farmer bound the fallen stalks into bundles and decorated the field with them. Later he took the bundles to another area, where he beat and crushed them until they became a mass of straw and loose kernels. Then he separated the kernels from the chaff and piled them up in a huge hill.

Always he told his protesting visitor, “Be patient we are not done.”

Then the farmer came with the wagon and piled it high with grain which he took to the mill. There this beautiful grain was ground into formless choking dust. The visitor complained again, “You have taken beautiful grain and transformed it into dust.”

Again the farmer responded, “Be patient and you will see.”

The farmer put the dust into sacks and took it back home. He took some dust and mixed it with water, while his guest marveled at the foolishness of making whitish mud. Then the farmer fashioned the mud into the shape of a loaf. The visitor saw the perfectly formed loaf and smiled broadly, but his happiness did not last. The farmer lit a fire and put the loaf into the oven. “Now I know you’re insane, after all that work you burn what you make.”

The farmer looked at him and laughed, “Have I not told you to be patient?”

Finally, the farmer opened the oven took out the freshly baked golden brown bread with an aroma that made the man’s mouth water. “Come,” the farmer said. He led the man to the kitchen table where he cut the bread, and he offered his now-pleased visitor a liberally buttered slice. “Now,” the farmer said, “Now you understand.”

Among all kinds of grain flour there is no more precious than the fine wheat flour which sticks to the sieve; the words of Torah are more precious than it, as it is written, sweeter than honey and flour dust.” (Tanchuma Eikev 1) Many today can be compared to one who “has a piece of bread in his basket asks, what will I eat tomorrow?” they belong to those who are of little faith (Sota 48b). Sadly when it comes to matters of faith and one does not understand, to many times they are ashamed to admit it.

Too many don’t know that “the more Torah (Scriptures), the more life; the more thought, the more wisdom; the more counsel, the more understanding; the more righteousness, the more peace” (Avos 2:8) All of this is within our grasp, but science and technology has labeled this as old and archaic. One cannot appreciate the wonders of the world or the beauty of life without faith.

The Holy One, blessed be He is the farmer, and we are the fools who do not begin to understand his ways or the outcome of his plan. Only when the process is complete will all people know why all this happened. Then, when the Messiah has finally come, we will know why all of this had to be. Until then we must be patient and have faith that everything, even when it seems destructive and painful, is part of the process that will produce goodness and beauty.

May all your tales end with Shalom (peace)

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Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation. (Joel 1:3) Please share this story with family, friends and others. We welcome your comments and discussions about this story

Rabbi Yoshua b. Hananiah and the Emperor’s Daughter

Once upon a time the daughter of the Emperor asked Rabbi Yoshua ben Chananiah, “Is it very strange that there is so much Torah (Scriptural learning) and wisdom in you and you are so terribly ugly? So much wisdom in such a disgusting vessel!”

“Let me ask, where do you keep your wine? In what kind of vessels?” Rabbi Yoshua inquired.  The daughter of the Emperor answered, “We keep our wine in simple earthen­ware vessels, because for many years past wine has always been kept in earthen vessels.”

Jewish Stories

Rabbi Yoshua suggested, “You are very wealthy people, you ought to keep your wine in vessels of silver only, the ordinary people keep it in earthen jars.” So she went and told the Emperor, who poured all the wine into silver jars. Within a short time the wine turned sour, and they reported to the Emperor that all his wine had turned into vinegar. Then the Emperor asked his daughter, “Who advised you to pour the wine into silver jars?” The princess replied, “Rabbi Yoshua ben Chananiah.” So the Emperor sent for Rabbi Yoshua and asked him, “Why did you give such advice to my daughter so that all my wine has turned to vinegar?” Rabbi Yoshua replied, “As she spoke to me so I spoke to her. She said to me, what a pity such great learning is in such a contemptible vessel. So I said to her, ‘Why do you keep wine in a cheap vessel?’ I also said that as the Torah does not stay with a man of handsome appearance, so wine does not keep in a silver vessel.” The Emperor said, “But there are many good looking men who possess learning.” Then Rabbi Yoshua replied, “If they were not so handsome they would be more learned still, for a man of handsome appearance is not a man of modesty, and therefore he forgets the Torah which he has learned.”

Based on B. Ta 7a-b; B. Ned 50b and Ma’asah Book #35

May all your tales end with Shalom (peace)

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To Build a Succah of Peace

Tam knew it was hard for the poor among the Jewish community found it hard to gather the materials needed to build   the walls of their succahs and it was always a problem. So every year as the month of Elul would come to a close, he would speak to his friend Chacham and they would both set out to help the poor. Chacham would have lulavim and esrogim for the poor while Tam would have a supply of boards and lumber for succahs.

One year, on the very eve of   Succos, the town water carrier with his bent back and pain wracked body, made his way up to the door of Tam’s house. In a voice as broken with shame, the poor water carrier asked, “Could I please maybe get just a few planks for my succah?” Tam went and looked, but there were none left.

Tam watched from his window and he saw the poor ragged water carrier trudge from house to house, still in search of a few boards. He his heart was so broken that he burst into tears.

succah 

“Ribbono shel Olam, Master of the Universe!” he cried. “Just look how Your Children cherish the mitzvah of living in a succah! See with what self-sacrifice they are determined to fulfill it! It’s raining outside. The roads are full of mud and mire. Yet there he tramps, that ragged bent water carrier wearing torn shoes –   looking for boards for a succah! Look down, then, Master of the Universe, from Your holy dwelling-place in heavens. Bless Your People, Ufros Aleinu Succas Shlomecha – and spread out over them Your Succah of peace.

Tam then went into his study a took an old bookcase apart and handed the boards to one of his students telling him that he should run after the water carrier, and he should help him to build his succah.

That night there was whispering around the table in the candlelit succah and students waiting for Tam to burst out in song or a lesson. Tam came into his succah, smiled at his students, and sat down. He began,

Lulav Story Tour

“Succos’s is a truly blessed time. It is time to realize the greatness of the Holy One, blessed be He and the true gifts that he is given to the whole world. Every day we say in the Hashkiveinu prayer, “Cause us, O L-rd our G-d, to lie down in peace, and raise us up, O our King, to life. – Ufros Aleinu Succas Shlomecha – and   Spread over us the succah the of Your peace.”  We should become intensely aware that we are spinning with our words and faith a protective covering of warmth and love around ourselves as a means of protecting our souls from the world around us.”

“In Hebrew the word succas or shelter, also refers to a succah (a temporary structure that we construct for the holiday). We build the succah, eat and sleep in it as a reminder of how the world is ever changing and many conditions are temporary. The succah reminds us of the importance of faith. In other words, almost everything in life is temporary. We remember that our ancestors traveled in the desert for 40 years and then when they came to the holy land and would harvest their crops, they lived in succahs, they were not made to be permanent but very portable.”

“A shelter of peace is created in many ways through a safe home, loving friends, and a connected community. The root of the Hebrew word “shalom” refers to wholeness or completeness; once you have wholeness, peace is possible. We ask that the master of the universe bless us with peace, but we forget that peace is a proactive process. We must work every day that we can attain wholeness by bringing spirituality and holiness to our family, community and the world at large. Each and every one of us must begin the process of constructing a Succas Shlomecha (shelter of peace) within ourselves before we can begin the holy work of creating sense of shalom (peace) for others.”

Tam closed his eyes and began to hum a melody that touched each and every person in the succah that night and they seem to be aglow that no one could explain. When Tam opened his eyes, he smiled and said,

“May we all be messengers of our merciful father in heaven and create ways to ‘Ufros Aleinu Succas Shlomecha – spread over us Your shelter of peace’.

 May all your tales end with Shalom (peace)

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Horses and Rosh haShanah

On Rosh Hashanah we are very aware that the Book of Life is opened and that it is a time of justice, mercy and faith. I was recently at a ceremony at a farm and was struck by the beauty and majesty of the horses when I remembered a story about the inter-relationship of man and horse that taught a very important lesson.

Torah graphic1b

At first G-d thought to create the world through the quality of judgment (din), but realizing that the world could not endure at this level. G-d added on the quality of compassion (rachamim).

—Midrash Bereishis Raba 12:15

One Friday morning a group of students set out to spend the Sabbath with their teacher, a holy rabbi. Dovid, whose deep love for animals earned him a reputation as a gifted horse whisperer, was among this group of students. After encountering several obstacles and delays on their journey, the group arrived just as the sun was about to set Friday afternoon. Fearing they would be late for Sabbath prayers and miss the holy rabbi’s teachings, the group hastily abandoned their horse and carriage and ran off to the synagogue everyone that is, except Dovid. When the holy rabbi realized that Dovid was missing, he sent the some of the students to look for him. Where did they find him? In the barn, feeding and brushing the horses. When they asked him what he was doing there, he responded that all the others had run off without thinking to feed and water the horses, who were weary from the demanding journey, and so he had stayed behind to do just that.

 Dovid was a holy soul in the truest way, a lover of the Divine, and his love for G-d was expressed through his deep compassion for all creatures and all living things. It was absolutely clear to Dovid that by observing the mitzvah of tzaar ba’alei chaim, the commandment to prevent the suffering of animals, he would obtain more closeness to G-d than by seeking spiritual satisfaction in the synagogue. Dovid understood that it is in the expression of compassion, the love and care we extend to all living things that we find the Divine presence; for ultimately compassion, or rachamim, as it is called in Hebrew, is G-d’s very essence.

Jewish mysticism teaches that we come close to G-d only when we “walk in G-d’s ways” – that is, when we embody the divine quality of compassion. In the following, the thirteen attributes of Divine mercy revealed to Moses at Mount Sinai form the template for the practice of compassion:

“Walking in all His ways. (Deuteronomy 5:22). What are the ways of the Holy One, blessed be He?  “A G-d compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and faithfulness, extending kindness to the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin” (Exodus 34:6).

This means that just as G-d is gracious and compassionate, we too must be gracious and compassionate. . . Just as G-d gives freely to all, we too must give freely to all. Just as G-d is loving, we too must be loving.

Spiritual development, according to the teachings of the rabbis, is measured by how much compassion and mercy we show to one another everyday.

Rosh Hashanah Greeting

May you be inscribed in the Book of Life for a sweet year and blessings

May all your tales end with Shalom (peace)

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Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation. (Joel 1:3) Please share this story with family, friends and others. We welcome your comments and discussions about this story

A Holy Woman

There once was merchant who is very wealthy in many ways. He had a wife whose natural beauty shone bright every day. The rabbis of old wrote about such women when they said “The noblest of all ornaments is modesty. (Rokeach, 13th cent.)”

The merchant traveled all over the world and trusted his wife without question. She wisely conducted his business at home while he traded in faraway lands.

Jewish Stories

The wealthy merchant was aboard a ship which carried his wares, when suddenly the sky grew dark and the sea became violent as a storm struck and huge waves pounded the ship. Everyone on board was afraid that the ship would sink in the storm. Merchants, travelers and sailors went to different places on the ship to pray that they be saved from life-threatening storm. The wealthy merchant prayed to the Holy One, blessed be He that in the merit of his wife’s wisdom, modesty and holiness that he be allowed to return to his loving wife and home. A stranger stood nearby and was amazed to hear the merchant praying and mentioning the merits of his wife, and commented, “women are easily swayed and most are untrue”. The wealthy merchant answered, “A woman of valor who can find? For her value is far above that of rubies” (Proverbs 31:10). The stranger countered, “Beauty has beguiled you, and passion has perverted your heart” (Susanna 56). The wealthy merchant laughed and replied, “you do not know my wife. It is as it was written so long ago ‘The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain in fortune.’ (Proverbs 31:11) It is because of my good wife that I am a successful merchant.” The stranger answered with a sneer, “I shall go and seduce her. What sign do you require of me?” The husband answered that she wore a fine ring on her hand, and if he brought it, then the husband would know that he had indeed seduced her. They risked all their wares on this bet.

The stranger went to seduce the wife of the wealthy merchant and could not even come near her because he failed to understand that “nothing is more precious to the Holy One then modesty” (Pesikta Rabbasi ch. 45). He returned several times but she paid him no attention. At length he bribed her maidservant to steal her ring from her, and then took the ring to the wealthy merchant. He gleefully took all the wares of the wealthy merchant as was agreed according to their bet.

The wealthy merchant returned home empty-handed. When the woman heard that her husband had returned, she prepared herself and put on a fine dress and happily went out to meet him, with all their long-established words of love and affection. Her husband did not even embrace her, but turned away from her and sent her away from him on the ship which had brought him across the sea.

He disguised himself, changed his manner of speech and behaved as a stranger so that she should not recognize him, and acted as the ship’s captain. The woman spent several days on board ship without food and drink, and begged the captain to give her some food. “Kiss me and I shall give you whatever you wish,” said he, but she refused .

Jewish Stories

The woman lived on dried bread crusts and water and when land was spotted from the ship, she begged to be let go.

The ship came to land. The woman went ashore and searched for food and found two trees. Being hungry, she reached up and took the fruit of one of the trees and began to eat. Her hand became leprous and she began to cry. She then went to the other tree and ate a fruit from that tree the leprosy was miraculously healed. She went and filled her bag with fruits from both of the trees and began to walk in the hopes of finding a town.

After walking for three days, she came to a large city where everyone seemed to be sad. She asked a woman she saw why everyone was so upset. “The king has been stricken with a terrible disease and if a cure is not found soon he will surely die. The woman disguised herself as a man and went to the royal palace. She told the guards by the gate that she was a doctor and that she might be able to cure the king of his disease. She was let into the king’s chamber and examined the king and saw that he had leprosy on his hands and face. She called to a servant and told them to boil some water and bring it to her quickly. She pulled from her bag one of the wonderful fruits that still had some leaves attached to it, she crumbled the leaves into the hot water and cut the fruit into pieces. She told the king to eat fruit and to drink the tea and then they waited. In an hour, the king’s face began to clear and in two hours leprosy had left his body. The king was very happy and rewarded her with many riches.

Woman was endowed with a special intelligence (Nidah 45b) and so the woman went to the seashore where the two fruit trees grew. She built a house and began to cure people that came to her with various diseases. Many months later her husband came and did not recognize her, as he was stricken with the disease that had taken most of his sight. She examined him and told him she might be able to cure him. She asked him what sin he was guilty of because that was the source of his disease. The merchant spoke and said that he was once happily married to a woman he thought was wonderful and modest, but he found out that she was not truly virtuous. The woman asked him, “did you ever speak to your wife to hear what she had to say?” The merchant thought and then told the doctor that he had proof that his wife was not what he believed. The woman told him to close his eyes and listen carefully and she told him because of his blindness was that he spoke ill of his wife and believed false gossip. As she washed his face and eyes, the man began to cry and when he opened his eyes she told him that she was his wife. His wife and told him that they can rebuild their house in trust and love.

After all, “A pious wife, remaining modestly within her domestic circle, is like the altar, in atoning power for her household” (Tanchuma VaYishlach 6).

The husband investigated the matter, and found out that the stranger had lied about her, and he was brought to judgment and was forced to return all of the wealthy merchant’s property and banished from the city.

May all your tales end with Shalom (peace)

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