First Things First 

Gold and Silver by Bentzion Elisha

(Originally told by the Bobover Rebbe, Rabbi Shlomo Halberstam, at a community gathering.)

A follower of the chassidic leader Reb Mottel of Chernobyl had a particular habit which came to light when he visited Reb Mottel to request a blessing. Reb Mottel asked the visitor to recount his typical daily schedule. The young man explained that he began each day by buying goods for his business from the local landowner. Following that, he would recite the morning prayers, after which he began to sell his wares.

He didn’t know where to hide his money bags“Why do you buy your merchandise before you pray in the morning?” asked Reb Mottel.

The young man explained, “Why, if I waited until after prayers, the only goods remaining would be of inferior quality, if not sold out entirely!”

Upon hearing that, Reb Mottel shared a story with his follower.

There was once a teacher of Jewish studies, whose livelihood entailed traveling far from his hometown to teach Jewish children in distant cities. He was often away from his home for a year or more at a time. Meanwhile his wife and children lived the year without him, borrowing and living on credit.

This teacher was paid for his services with coins. The wealthy gave him gold coins, the middle class paid with silver coins, and people of more modest means paid with copper or nickel coins.

The teacher had made a belt for himself where he would hang the various bags. Each bag carried a different type of coin. He had a bag for his gold coins, a bag for his silver coins, a bag for his nickel coins and a bag for his copper coins.

After the year of teaching was up, he headed back home. As the first Shabbat on his voyage approached, he knew he would have to remove his belt, as carrying money on Shabbat is forbidden. But he didn’t know where to hide his money bags.

He decided to bury his earnings in the ground, and retrieve them after Shabbat. But just as he was about to finish his digging, he heard some people in the distance. Paranoia set in, and he became alarmed by the possibility that if he could hear them, they could probably see him, and his money wasn’t safe.

Now pressed for time, he grabbed the belt with the bags of coins and ran to the local Jewish inn, where he handed the innkeeper the entire bundle in a furious hurry for safekeeping. Shabbat began, and the teacher was livid with himself. He had just given the innkeeper his entire year’s earnings without even a note or receipt mentioning the amount of money being held. It would be so easy for the innkeeper to deny safeguarding the coins, and his whole year’s pay would be lost.

Thoughts of his wife and children flooded his mind. What would they do? How would they face the creditors? His imagination took off, leaving him worried and on edge for the entire Shabbat.

The innkeeper sensed his guest’s troubled condition and, as soon as Shabbat departed, he recited the evening prayers very quickly, and placed the belt with the bags of coins in front of the teacher, who was still reciting the silent Amidah prayer.

To the amazement of the innkeeper, in the middle of his supplications the teacher opened the bag of gold coins and started counting them one by one. He saw that all the coins were still there. Nevertheless, he took out the bag with the silver coins and started counting them next. All the silver coins were also still there, yet his concern and worry did not dissipate. He then started counting the nickel coins, and then the copper coins, and finally returned to his prayers. The innkeeper, who had observed the entire process, was taken aback and perplexed.

When the teacher finished his prayers, the innkeeper confronted him. “After you saw I hadn’t taken any of your gold coins, why did you not trust that I hadn’t taken any of your silver coins, which are much less valuable? And after you counted the silver coins too, and saw I took nothing, why didn’t you trust me then? You continued to count the ridiculously less valuable nickel and copper coins.”

I want to ask you the same question the innkeeper asked the teacherReb Mottel of Chernobyl turned to the young man before him and said, “I want to ask you the same question the innkeeper asked the teacher. Every single morning, G‑d has given you back your soul, your body, your very life—the equivalent of gold and silver coins. What makes you think he won’t also give you your livelihood—your nickel and copper coins? You should increase your trust, and believe that G‑d will give you your physical sustenance too. There is no need to rush off to buy goods before morning prayers.”

— Bentzion Elisha

[SOURCE:http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1640911/jewish/Gold-and-Silver.htm Rabbi Bentzion Elisha is an award-winning chassidic photographer and writer, based in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, New York, where he resides with his family.The content on this page is copyrighted by the author, publisher and/or Chabad.org, and is produced by Chabad.org. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with the copyright policy.]

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About Paul Wharton

I am a cradle Catholic, a native West Virginian, and a priest since April 24, 1982. Spiritual Direction has made a tremendous difference in my life and I encourage people to try it out. My motto is "Progress not perfection." I am grateful that God has done for me what I could not do for myself.
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2 Responses to First Things First 

  1. Anne Comeaux says:

    I serve on the Stewarship council at my parish. I plan to share this with them at our next meeting. Thanks again.

  2. Denise says:

    This is very deep and can be applied to most of life experiences. I urge everyone to read and re-read to understand the depth of the message.

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