Halacha for Thursday 1 Iyar 5784 May 9 2024

One Who Honors the Torah

The Mishnah (Pirkei Avot, Chapter 4) states: “Rabbi Yose says: If one honors the Torah, one himself is honored by people.” This means that when one realizes the intrinsic value of the Torah and honors the Torah and its sages, one will likewise be respected by others. Indeed, Rabbeinu Yonah comments on this Mishnah that it is nearly impossible to tell whether someone is righteous or wicked just by looking at them, however, if one hears an individual constantly praising Torah sages, this is an indication that this individual is truly righteous at heart since he respects the Torah. In contrast, if every time one hears an individual criticize Torah scholars every time they are mentioned, it is apparent that this individual hates the Torah and is not righteous at heart.

Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l (as quoted in his Anaf Etz Avot, page 258) would recount the following story: Once, Hagaon Harav Tzemach Tzarfati zt”l (great Tunisian luminary who live approximately three-hundred years ago) was once sitting in his home and delving in Torah late at night by candlelight. As the time was nearing midnight, the candle went out and it was a stormy night with torrential downpours and strong winds blowing outside for hours. The rabbi looked all around the house for a means to light the candle but to no avail.

In a nearby house, there was a bakery where the Arab baker slept. The rabbi went and knocked on the door of the bakery and asked the baker, “Dear sir, would you be so kind as to light my candle? I must study and there is no light in my house.” The baker lit the candle for him and the rabbi thanked him profusely. The rabbi walked with the candle and tried to protect it from the strong winds with his robe, however, a strong gust came and extinguished the candle. The rabbi returned to the baker’s home and said, “Please forgive me but the candle went out in the wind. Do you mind lighting it for me again?” However, this time too, a strong gust of wind extinguished the flame.

The rabbi returned to the baker for a third time and asked him to light the candle once again. The baker angrily told the rabbi, “Look how much you are bothering me! Every time you come, I have to lift the large and heavy beam that is used to lock the door of the bakery! I have to wake up before the crack of dawn in the morning in order to bake the breads. How do you expect me to function tomorrow?”

Rav Tzemach apologized profusely to the baker and said, “I bless you that you should be rewarded in gold and silver equal to the weight of the beam I made you lift every time.” The baker heard this and was very happy, for he knew about the rabbi’s holiness and that anything he said would come true. He told the rabbi, “Let me light it for you and I’ll take it over to your house myself so that it does not go out again.” The rabbi was then able to learn until dawn and was happy that he did not need to change his routine.

One day, when the Arab baker was walking in the street, and stranger who was not from the city encountered him and inquired, “Where do you work and how much do you make?” He replied that he worked in the local bakery and earned two francs per day. The man asked him, “Would you like to work for me for two months and I will pay you ten francs a day?” The baker replied in the affirmative. The man said, “I must first blindfold you because the place where you will be working is top secret and I do not want you to see how to get there.” The baker agreed and the other man guided him along the way for the next several minutes until they arrived. When they arrived at a large house, the man removed the blindfold and let the baker to the basement. The room was filled with many sacks filled with precious gems and pearls. The man told the baker, “Your job is to go through every bag and sort all the stones. However, you may not tell a soul about the nature of your work.” The job lasted for two months at the end of which the man paid the baker his wages and even threw in a nice bonus.

A few days later when the baker was passing through the marketplace, he heard a government official announcing that a certain house was being auctioned for sale as this house belonged to a foreigner who died suddenly and did not leave a will. The baker thought to himself, “Maybe this is the house where I worked sorting precious gems?” He placed a high bid on the house and won the auction. The baker gathered all of his savings and took loans from many acquaintances in order to make the payment for the purchase of the house. He was tremendously overjoyed when he entered the house and realized this was the house where he had been working and that all of the sacks of precious gems were still precisely where he had left them in the basement. In one moment, he had turned into a tremendously wealthy individual. Not long after, he traveled to Istanbul where he became the richest man in all of Turkey.

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