The holy rabbi was in the habit of strolling through the streets of the village every night. During his walks he listened as many “lifted up their voice, and cried, and the people wept that night” (Num. 14:1) praying from their broken hearts to the Holy One. Blessed be He.
One night after hearing a heartfelt prayer from a small house, the holy rabbi went to the house of a certain bank manager who had left the ways of his father. The banker considered himself a modern man, not someone held back by old and outdated ways.
The holy rabbi knocked on the door and was greeted by a servant, who was a bit confused. The servant could not understand why the holy rabbi would come to the house of the bank manager, but invited him in.
The host received his distinguished guest with all the respect and politeness. The holy rabbi, for his part, took the seat that was offered him and sat for quite some time without saying a word. Considering that it would disrespectful to ask the holy rabbi directly for the purpose of his visit, the host whispered his question to the attendant, but was made none the wiser.
After sometime, the holy rabbi bid the banker farewell, and rose to leave. As a mark of respect, the host accompanied him in silence all the way to his home, but at the last minute, when he was about to leave, his understandable curiosity got the better of him, and he turned to the holy rabbi: “Holy rabbi, pardon my question, but it would hardly have been proper for me to ask when we were in my home, so I am taking the liberty of asking now. Why did you honor me with a visit?”
“I went to your home in order to fulfill a mitzvah,” answered the holy rabbi, “and, thank G‑d, I was able to fulfill it.”
“Which mitzvah?” asked the bank manager.
The holy rabbi explained: “We are taught in the TaNaCh (Scriptures), ‘Who is a mighty one like unto You, O L-rd?’ (Ps. 89:9). Who is like You, mighty in self-restraint? Though You heard the insults and reviling of a scoundrel, yet You kept silent! Gittin 55b-57a; Genesis. Rabbah. 10:7. Our sages teach that ‘Just as it is a mitzvah to say that which will be heard, so is it a mitzvah not to say that which will not be listened to. For there is ‘a time to keep silence, and a time to speak’ (Ecclesiastes 3:7)
Now if I remain in my house and you remain in yours, what kind of a mitzvah is it that I refrain from telling you ‘that which will not be listened to’?
“In order to fulfill the mitzvah properly, one obviously must go to the house of the man who will not listen, and once there refrain from speaking to him. And that is exactly what I did.”
“Perhaps, Holy rabbi,” said the bank manager, “you would be so good as to tell me what this thing is? Who knows, perhaps I will listen?”
“I’m afraid not,” said the holy rabbi. “I am certain that you will not.”
“Why do you believe that I will not listen to what you have to say?” asked the banker.
The holy rabbi answered: “You have said you are a modern man and not bound by the old ways of our beliefs. We are taught that ‘the prudent shall keep silence in that time; for it is an evil time. (Amos 5:13).
The longer the holy rabbi refused, the greater grew the curiosity of the banker to know his secret, and he continued to press him to reveal “that which would not be listened to.”
“Very well,” said the holy rabbi at length. “A certain penniless widow owes your bank a great deal of money for the mortgage of her house. Within a few days your bank is going to sell her house by public sale, and she will be out on the street with nowhere to go. I had wanted to ask you to overlook her debt, but didn’t—because of the mitzvah of ‘not saying.’”
“Be realistic rabbi,” the bank manager answered in amazement. “Surely you realize that the debt is not owed to me personally, but to the bank, and I am only its manager, not its owner, and the debt runs to several hundred, and if so…”
The holy rabbi interrupted him: “It’s exactly as I said all along—that you would not want to hear. Even if I could ‘give you counsel, you will not listen to me.’ “(Jeremiah 38:15)
With that, the holy rabbi ended the conversation and entered his house.
The bank manager also went home—but the holy rabbi’s words found their way into his heart and gave him no rest. He remembered back many many years when he began in business and his father advised him to always remember that “He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow” (Deut. 10:18). The banker paid all the money owed by the widow to save her house out of his very own pocket.
While thinking of his father, who left for the World of Truth many years earlier, the banker began to explore the ways of faith and became an observant man.
May all your tales end with Shalom (peace)
Listen to more stories told by the Master Storyteller, Rabbi Rachmiel Tobesman – The Treasures of the King, the Princess and the Peat Digger, Seven Jewish stories, on iTunes and Amazon or Coins, Candles and Faith, eight stories of faith on iTunes and Amazon