Thursday, December 19, 2013

Honest Money

A Talk from Reb Levi Yitschak Bender z”l
Talk 62
Translated by Rabbi Perets Auerbach

Care in Monetary Laws:
Not to Touch a Penny of Another

In Uman there was a certain wealthy woman who feared Hashem. In the past she was involved in business transactions with Reb Moshe Breslover.[1] Due to this, he owed her a nice sum of money.

This woman looked for a chance to meet Reb Moshe, in order to remind him about the money. She heard that he always prayed as the shaliach tsibbur [cantor] for Minchah on the day before Rosh HaShanah. So she decided that this would be a good time to remind him of the debt.

On the day before Rosh HaShanah, as the day grew late, she waited for Reb Moshe at the door to the Breslover Kloyz. When he arrived, she called to him only one word: “Nu?!

Meaning – where is the money?

Some of the supporters of the congregation who understood what was going on inquired about the details of the debt. They promised to return the money to her immediately after Rosh HaShanah. She calmed down.


Let us come and think: Reb Moshe Breslover—do we have any idea who Reb Moshe Breslover was? He was a tsaddik, a Torah scholar, someone who grasped Divinity, one of the “lions” of the disciples of Reb Noson. But despite all this, when he owed her money, that righeous woman who feared Hashem approached him directly, without shame, on the very day before Rosh HaShanah and demanded what was coming to her: “Nu, nu…”

He was the shaliach tsibbur of the Kloyz, a tsaddik, someone who served Hashem, and a Torah scholar. But what about the money he owed?


By the way, once a great sum of money was stolen from Reb Moshe Breslover. What could be done to restore the money? He sat down to learn Likutey Halakhos on the laws of theft and stealing. And the money was immediately returned to him in a wondrous way.

Be Careful Not to Have Debts

The Rebbe warned us very much not to have debts—not to borrow money. The practice to live through borrowing is a terrible illness, physically and spiritually. So much so that debts are counted among the things that prevent teshuvah. As the Rebbe writes in Sefer HaMidos, Teshuvah 46: “One who wants to repent should be careful not to have debts.”

AnaSH (our circle of Breslover Chassidim) would say a nice interpretation: The Mishnah states, “Repent one day before your death”[2] – meaning that one should repent today, lest he die tomorrow.[3] If so, how can one go and borrow money from people? Who knows what may happen to him, chas vi-shalom? Therefore, debts obstruct teshuvah.[4]

R. Levy Yitschak would say, “My whole life, I never took any credit in a store – even from one day to the next.”[5]

When a person abstains from borrowing, only then can he be careful that someone else’s kapik [penny] is holy in his eyes.

Is It Clean Without Any Stain?

There are things that must be spoken about: even though a person might be a tsaddik and a scholar, holy and pure, one of the “masters of spiritual account”—it is also imperative to make a thorough investigation from time to time: is one’s money absolutely his? Is one totally clean of any stain of touching someone else’s money? Are there no questions about your money? Is there not mixed with your finances something that belongs to someone else?

And if it becomes clear to a person that he has to return something—he must return it on the spot! Do not hold onto money that is not yours, even for a short time. Before strife breaks out, avoid any negotiation and conflict, even if you think you are right. Return the money and prevent problems!

And if doubts are stirred up within you—to whom does certain money belong?—be stringent. Give back more, until all doubt leaves your heart.

Pure Air – Through Pure Money!

The Rebbe says that through charity the air becomes clean and pure.[6]

Every talk of the Rebbe, each statement, is a gift of healing granted to us by the Rebbe, an amazing remedy to heal spiritual ailments. The lessons of the Rebbe are a spirtual “drugstore.” When one learns some lesson or talk, it is necessary to look into it deeply, to descend to the depths of the matter in order to know specifically what is incumbent upon us to do. For the remedy to work and do good for those who use it,  it is necessary to be exacting with the words of the Rebbe, at least like people who are exacting about medicine.

Therefore, let us come and hear what the Rebbe says.

The Rebbe says that through charity the air is made clean and pure. Meaning, if we want that among us, the people of the Tsaddik should rest in clear, pure air, without a storm wind breaking out—how can this be accomplished? Through the charity that one gives to his friend.

It is imperative to strive that calm, clean air should rest upon our friends. From this it is possible to learn that that initially it is incumbent upon us to be on guard and careful with all types of care from touching someone else’s money illegally. Not to touch it—that’s that! And also one must examine oneself deeply over everything concerning others—small and large, whatever it may be. Make sure you are acting properly, whether in monetary matters, whether in general offences, “stinging and stabbing.” Be careful not to make a “nothing” into something. Take stock of the day’s occurrences in these matters too.

It rests upon us to know that relations between people are not insignificant. This is not at all something trivial. It is something foundational, from the basics of being Jewish. And nothing helps for this, not rolling in the snow, and not fasts and mortifications.

When there is a monetary question, it needs to be resolved according to Torah law. There is no other solution.

Behold, we need to hear what is spoken and what is learned. When the air is not calm and clear, the topic is not heard.

This is simple and clear. When there is no perfection and cleanness of hands in finances, calm clear air is not produced. Automatically, one does not hear the words that the tsaddik speaks to us – to each one of us…

Someone Else’s Money – Something that the Soul Depends Upon!

It is necessary to be extremely careful in monetary laws!

Reb Moshe Breslover was a scholar and a tsaddik. When he owed money, that woman knew that he was pure and holy. She wanted him to fix this. She called, “Nu – what about the money?”

The topic is something that the soul depends upon—someone else’s money! It has no tikkun and solution except to return it.

May Hashem help that we be complete in this fundamental matter.

The Complication and Solution in Merit of Standing Tests

There is a well-known story of Reb Shimon, a disciple of the Rebbe, that the Rebbe once lent him money. He got caught in a bad deal and was left owing money to the Rebbe.

One day the Rebbe spoke about him and said: “Er hut dezervd men zol im farshikin (He deserves to be banished).”

Things happened—it was from Hashem, that due to the business he had done, he traveled far away and wandered deep into the vastness of the great Russia. There range countless areas spanning thousands of kilometers where there is no remembrance of any Jew and Judaism. So in the way of nature, he already had no possibility of returning to his place and his city. Three full years he wandered in the colossal region of Russia.

Now, Reb Shimon was the first disciple of the Rebbe. He was a tremendous holy and pure soul. He wandered in a strange, distant land, but he strayed there in order to be tested. Since he was also outwardly handsome to behold, a certain gentile woman from the ruling class tried to seduce him to sin. Reb Shimon – the holy Rebbe Shimon!

Seeing into what difficult circumstances he had fallen, knowing that it would be hard to get away from her, he stood up and with great power, grabbed his lip and ripped it deeply. Much blood immediately broke out and poured onto his beard and his garments,

She could not stand before the great mesirus nefesh of Reb Shimon. Seeing this, she left him alone.


At that very time, when Reb Shimon withstood the great test with mesirus nefesh, the Rebbe sat with his Chassidim. He spoke up and said, “S’iz shoin af im a rachmanus. Medarf im aros nemin fun dort (It is a pity on him! We have to immediately take him out of there)!”

Immediately after this, everything turned around, and Reb Shimon left the place of his banishment and returned to the Rebbe.


Reb Shimon was holy and pure on such a lofty level that the Rebbe testified about him that his name hinted to his nature: Shin-Mem-Ayin-Vav-Nun (Shimon) may be rearranged as Ayin-Vav-Nun-Mem-Shin, which spell avon mash (“void of sin”).[7] We see from here that even Reb Shimon had to go through a difficult tikkun related to monetary matters. He got caught in a problem and ended up wandering in exile for three years, until by merit of the test that he withstood, he merited to return to the Rebbe.[8]


May Hashem Yisbarach help that we hear and listen to the voice of the Rebbe in everything he says. And that we fulfill all of his advice. And that we do not turn from his words to the right or left—including the severe directive to take care in monetary matters!

[1] Reb Moshe was one of the leading disciples of Reb Noson
[2] Avos 2:10
[3] Avos d’R Nasan 15:4
[4] Siach Sarfei Kodesh 4:65
[5] Ibid 6:475
[6] Likutey Moharan I, 17:5
[7] Sichos HaRan 44
[8] The story does not in the least imply that Reb Shimon actually did anything wrong. Rather, the Rebbe saw that he had some tikkun in going through exile and tests, and used the matter between them as a way of bringing this about for his ultimate good. But the fact that the whole matter was staged through a monetary issue does come to demonstrate how careful one has to be in these things.

No comments:

Post a Comment