The Miser

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21 Nov 2007

There was once a very great miser. He had amassed great wealth in his life. But he did not allow himself to “waste” the money, he was careful not to give out a single penny unless it was absolutely necessary, in order not to decrease his great wealth, which he wanted to increase more and more. Those who came to collect charity always left his house very disappointed.

The miser did not take proper care of himself either. He never bought any luxuries. He would say, it is best for a man to be satisfied with the barest minimum and he will never lack for money in a time of need. He would buy new clothing only every few years, and it was always the simplest kind possible. He would stand in a store for a long time comparing food prices, and he always took the cheapest brand he could find. Such items as a book, a game, or a toy could never be found in his house. It goes without saying that it never occurred to him to spend money on decorating his house with such items as pictures, plants, or other “useless” items.

The thing that upset him most was the amount of money that he spent on food. This was always his biggest expense, and it made him feel that he was wasting too much of his precious wealth. He said, “I must decrease how much I spend on food. I can get along with less to eat and I can buy simpler and cheaper foods. Nothing bad will happen if I learn to manage with less.” And he proceeded to do just that. From that day on he decreased his food expenses by teaching himself to eat less, in terms of both amount and quality.

For a while, the miser managed in his new situation, but ever so slowly his body began to demand what it needed. He became very weak, with strong headaches and other sicknesses. One time he became very ill, so that he could not avoid going to a doctor. The doctor checked him thoroughly and decided that he was in a generally weak condition, and that he must take some medicine that would help his body regain its strength. Afterwards, the man would be required to eat a nutritious and balanced diet, which would restore him to health. The medicine was very expensive, costing a few thousand Shekels, but the doctor said he had no choice.

The miser heard this and left the doctor`s office very disappointed. Of course, he decided, he would not allow himself to buy such expensive medicine. He would try to cure himself without resorting to such an expense. But the miser`s body would not listen to this foolish desire. His health became steadily worse, and eventually he was carried to the doctor`s office on a stretcher. This time he agreed to what the doctor prescribed. He paid the full price for the medicines, and the entire process of curing him cost hundreds of thousands of Shekels.

The doctor said to him: “Look how much your behavior cost you. If you had been smart you would have acted like other people from the very start and invested a small amount to maintain your health. If you had done this, you would not have become sick and not have been forced to spend so much money on a cure!”

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The Chafetz Chaim added the following note about this parable: Like this miser, we sometimes gather “small” sins which we could have easily avoided. But once we have become used to these actions and dirtied our souls, the cost of preventing further sins becomes very great indeed…

Source: Parables of the Chafetz Chaim. Reprinted with permission from Zomet Institute ( Translated from the Hebrew by Moshe Goldberg. To subscribe to receive the complete version of Shabbat B’Shabbato please write to

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.