A Lesson For the Children – The following is a story about a learned man who was both pious and modest. This Chassid knew that he had a large place reserved for him in the world to come, and he was anxious to know who would share his place with him. He hoped that he might be able to learn from this man’s actions in the present world. The Chassid fasted for many days and prayed with great feeling, and finally he was told in a dream, “The butcher will be your companion in the world to come.”
The man woke from his sleep worried and with a deep sigh, troubled and angry. He assumed that the butcher did not have an especially roomy place in the world to come, and this meant that he himself would be restricted to a small place. The Chassid hoped that this dream was a mistake, and he prayed and fasted once more to G-d, asking to be shown the truth. But he was only sent the same message: “You have already been told that your companion in the world to come will be the butcher.” When the Chassid heard this he was shocked, and he sighed and wept greatly. In the end, he decided to visit the butcher and see if perhaps he did not understand how truly great a man he was.
The next day the learned man rose early and went to the butcher’s shop. He greeted the man and sat with him for a while. He then asked the man to join him in a hidden corner of the shop, and he said: “Please tell me about your righteous deeds.” After much begging and cajoling, the butcher agreed to tell his story:
It happened many years ago. One day a caravan of Gentiles arrived, with a group of captives, including a weeping young girl. I went to her and asked, “My dear, why are you crying?” And she replied, “Sir, I am a Jew, and I am afraid that these non-Jews will force me to abandon my religion.” When I heard her, I took pity on her and redeemed her for a very large sum of money.
The girl was twelve years old, and I adopted her as my daughter. I provided all her needs for many years, and when she grew up I suggested to my only son that he marry her, and he agreed. I was very happy and I made all the preparations, including a large meal for the wedding. Many people from the city were invited, in addition to many poor people. They all enjoyed their meal, and then sang and danced till the very heavens shook. A few moments before the ceremony, I saw that in a corner of the room there was a young man weeping bitterly, and soon everybody near him had also started to weep and sigh.
I took the young man aside and tried to understand what had happened. At first he refused to tell me, but in the end he agreed. In the midst of his deep sobs, he said, “I am crying about the bride. Before the evil men captured her, she was betrothed to me. I looked for my bride for many years, and now I have finally found her – but she is about to marry another man. How could I not weep?”
I did not hesitate for a moment. I immediately called my son and explained the situation to him. We both agreed that he would give up his bride. He gave all the jewels and the wedding clothes that I had prepared to the poor young man. I gave the banquet that I had prepared to the couple. All the invited guests remained, only the groom had been replaced. After a short delay, the wedding began – but the groom was the poor guest and not my son. My unfortunate son, whose joyous occasion had been cut short, did not show his sorrow at all, and he was happy for the strange young man and the adopted girl, almost as if the man had been his own brother.
The young couple stayed with me for a long time, happy and in good spirits, and I took care of all of their needs. This continued for several years, until they decided that they wanted to return to their own distant city, and I gave them presents and sent them on their way. I am still in contact with them, and I visit them often and care about their affairs.
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When the righteous man heard the butcher’s story, he fell on his face and said to him: “How blessed you are! I am very happy to know that you will be my companion in the world to come!”
Source: Eisenstein, “Treasury of Midrashim”. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with reactions and suggestions for stories. Reprinted with permission from Zomet Institute (www.zomet.org.il). Translated from the Hebrew by Moshe Goldberg. To subscribe to receive the complete version of Shabbat BeShabbato please write to email@example.com.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.