The Treasure Chest

hero image
Treasure Chest

A Lesson For the Children – The old shoemaker was very lonely. His wife had died, their three sons had grown up and married, and he remained alone in his meager home. His children would sometimes visit him on Shabbat, but most of the time he was alone. He tried to get them to visit him more often but without much success.

One day the old shoemaker made a decision. He went to his neighbor the carpenter and asked for a large wooden chest, sturdy and impressive. He filled it with pieces of broken glass and locked it securely with two locks.

The next time one of his sons came to visit he saw the heavy wooden chest. He told his brothers about it, and they all agreed that their father had probably filled it with a treasure of gold and silver that he had managed to save during the years. “But what will happen if – G-d forbid – somebody tries to steal the chest or damage it in some way? After all, our father is no longer able to protect his chest!” one of the sons said. The three sons thought about the matter and they decided that one of them would stay at home with their father all the time, on a rotation basis, in order to guard over the treasure, at the same time helping with the chores in the house. They also decided to keep track of the expenses that each one incurred during the rotation, so that when they opened the chest they would be able to deduct their expenses before dividing the treasure.

Starting from that day on, the three brothers made sure that one of them was always in the house with their father, in order to guard the treasure chest. Finally, the old man had somebody with him all the time who could listen to him sympathetically and help take care of him. Now all of his meals were ready on time, and he could lean on his son and walk to the synagogue. The old father was very happy.

Years passed. And then the old man became ill and died. The three sons gathered together and arranged for a large funeral for their father. They did not hold back on the expenses, and they even ordered an expensive gravestone, prepared by the best known artisans.

The seven days of mourning ended. With beating hearts, the brothers went to the locked chest. The room was filled with a very high tension. His hand shaking, the firstborn son opened the locks and lifted the cover of the chest. And a great cry burst forth from his lips! A huge pile of broken glass filled the chest to the top. The disappointment of the three brothers knew no bounds. All of their hopes for a large inheritance were shattered, as if they had been made of glass. Their father had been poor, and he had not hidden any treasure from them.

When they calmed down a bit they realized what their father had done, and they understood that the only reason for having the chest was to cause them to spend time with their father and take care of him. The youngest son seethed with anger and was almost ready to smash the magnificent gravestone. But the second son held him tightly and tried to calm him down. “We must understand our poor father. He evidently didn’t have any alternative but to trick us into taking care of him in this way.”

The oldest son was silent, but his shoulders trembled, and it was clear that he was crying. And he raised his head and said: “My dear brothers, just look to what depths we have fallen. We should not complain about our father but about us. Was this the only way to make us understand our obligation to our own father? What a disgrace it is when a father is forced to trick his sons into paying attention to his needs! We shouldn’t shatter his gravestone, just the opposite! We should visit his grave and ask for forgiveness for all the years when we maintained contact with him only because of the imaginary treasure and not because of who he was…”

Source: “The Jewish Book of Imagination”. Email with reactions and Suggestions for Stories. Reprinted with permission from Zomet Institute ( Translated from the Hebrew by Moshe Goldberg. To subscribe to receive the complete version of Shabbat BeShabbato 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.