The Donation

 

Many of the Baal Shem Tov's (the Besht's) ways might have seemed strange to an outsider. Reb Zev Wolf Kitzes, the Besht's constant companion, however, had enough confidence in his Rebbe never to doubt his actions. He knew that in the end -- even if it took years -- all would be for the best.

 

Reb Zev Wolf once accompanied the Besht on a visit to a certain simple Jew. The impoverished villager welcomed the Besht into his home.

 

"I must have a donation of eighteen rubles," the Besht requested. The poor man did not have this large sum. But, considering that it was the Besht making the request, he took his cow and some of his furniture and sold them, and gave the Besht the money. Reb Zev Wolf looked on silently while the Besht took the money and then departed.

 

Several days later, the villager's rent was due on his inn. He could not produce the sum and, as a result, was evicted by the landlord. The villager, seeing no future for himself in this small village, decided to try his luck elsewhere. He finally found himself a tiny hut in a different village with a different landlord. By selling some of his remaining possessions, the villager managed to buy a cow. The cow provided him with his sole source of income: he sold her milk and eked out a meager living.

 

Some time later, the landlord's cow became sick and her milk was unusable. One of the landlord's servants who knew of the new tenant quickly went to him to buy milk for the landlord.

 

When the landlord was served the milk, he commented, "This milk is of a superior quality. Tell the owner that I will pay handsomely for the privilege of being his only customer."

 

This incident turned the tide of fortune for the villager. Each day he delivered milk to the manor and each day the landlord commented on the quality of the milk and milk products derived from it. He grew fond of the Jew and began to consult with him about his business, slowly turning over to him many responsibilities. The landlord trusted him implicitly and appreciated the Jew's honesty, reliability, and faithful service.

 

The landlord's relationship and bond with the villager became so deep that, being childless, he transferred ownership of that village and the nearby city to the Jew. Feeling that everything was now in good hands, the landlord took leave and went abroad, after having given the Jew legal title to that area.

 

A few years later, Reb Zev Wolf came to the village of the new landlord collecting money on behalf of Jewish prisoners and captives. Reb Zev Wolf had already collected all but three hundred rubles of the sum which the Besht had designated.

 

Upon meeting with the village rabbi, Reb Zev Wolf questioned him as to why he was so festively attired.

 

"I am going, together with a group of the town dignitaries, to greet the landlord of this city who will be paying us a visit today. Why don't you come along with us? He is a Jew and will most probably be willing to contribute to your cause."

 

Reb Zev Wolf accompanied the rabbi and his companions. The landlord greeted the delegation warmly, paying special attention to Reb Zev Wolf. After a little while, the landlord took Reb Zev Wolf aside.

 

"You don't remember me, do you?" he began. Reb Zev Wolf could not place the wealthy man. The landlord went on to retell the story of his change of fortune. Then, he took out three hundred rubles and gave it to Reb Zev Wolf.

 

It was only upon returning to the Besht that Reb Zev Wolf understood the entire story. "The last three hundred rubles were donated by the village Jew whom you once asked for a donation of eighteen rubles. Today he is wealthy.

 

"Now let me tell you why I extracted that large sum from him when his circumstances were so difficult," began the Besht. "A change of fortune was awaiting him in the future but not in that place. It was necessary to bring him to the end of his rope so that he would be forced to leave and settle elsewhere. That is exactly what happened. The rest you already know."

 

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