The wheel of fortune had taken a downward turn for a once-wealthy Jew who lived in the Moroccan city of Rabat. He was forced to leave home and wander from town to town in search of an appropriate business opportunity that would enable him to support the large extended family that had come to depend on him. His faith in the One who provides all was strong, but still, the forging of a receptacle for the Almighty’s blessing was proving to be difficult. ...he gave his money pouch to his host for safekeeping...

Finally, after several failed attempts, he succeeded in amassing a significant amount of money. He was finally able to return home.

On the way, he passed through the town of Sale, which is not far from Rabat. As it was already fairly late on Friday, he figured he had better remain in Sale for Shabbat. A good friend from his youth whom he had not seen in many years lived there, and he knew he would find a warm welcome at his house.

Indeed, as soon as his friend saw him, he insisted that his surprise guest remain for Shabbat. The weary traveler accepted the invitation happily. Before candle-lighting he gave his money pouch to his host for safekeeping, so that he wouldn’t have to worry about it during the Day of Rest.

By Saturday night, the traveler was anxious to reach home. Immediately after havdalah, he requested his money pouch back from his friend.

“What are you talking about?” said his host. “You never left any money with me.”

The stunned guest could not believe his ears. He almost fainted. When he recovered his senses, he begged his (former) friend to return to him the money for which he had labored so long and hard, and that it was critical for his family’s survival.

The host blew up. “You have some nerve!” he yelled. “Aren’t you embarrassed? You slept in my house, you ate at my table, and now you dare hurl at me these false accusations!” Just before Shabbat we sat under a tree...

Seeing the “righteous” indignation on his host’s face, the man realized there was no chance that this conniver would admit what he had done and give back the money willingly. He decided he had better go right away to make a claim at beit din (rabbinical court).

The rabbi of Sale at the time was the famous Ohr HaChaim, Rabbi Chaim ibn Attar. The two men went to his house. Rabbi Chaim listened carefully to both sides. He then addressed the host: “This Jew claims the money that he says he deposited with you on Shabbat eve. What do you say?”

“It never happened,” the man answered glibly. “He is making it up and slandering me.”

Rabbi Chaim turned to the hapless guest. “Perhaps there was a witness at the time you say you handed your money to him?”

The dejected man now felt even worse. “No, there was no witness there. Just before Shabbat we sat under a tree. That is when I took my pouch out of my pocket and gave it to him to hold for me until Saturday night.”

“Under a tree? Very good!” cried out the Ohr HaChaim excitedly. “Go back and summon that tree to be a witness on your behalf!” Without saying another word, he promptly returned the money...

The traveler was shocked when it sunk in what the rabbi wanted him to do. But, being well aware of the Ohr HaChaim’s reputation as a miracle worker, he stood up and left the house without questioning the great rabbi’s instructions.

After just a few minutes, the Ohr HaChaim remarked casually that for sure the man has already reached the tree.

“What do you mean, Rabbi?” responded the other man spontaneously. “That tree is quite far from here.”

With a hard stare right at the man’s eyes, the Ohr HaChaim declared: “Give that poor innocent Jew his money back, right now!” Seeing the surprise on the man’s face, the rabbi stroked his beard and added: “If you didn’t receive the money from him under that tree, how is it that you know where the tree is!”

The man turned pale. Without saying another word, he promptly returned the money that had been entrusted to him.

After he finally reached home, the merchant applied most of his hard-earned savings to wise investments, and, with G‑d’s help, became wealthy again, as he had been once before.

Adapted from Echyeh v’Asaper, pp. 145–146 (first published in Kfar Chabad Magazine).

Biographical note:
Rabbi Chaim (ben Moshe) ibn Attar (Sale, western Morocco, 1696–Jerusalem, 1743) is best known as the author of one of the most important and popular commentaries on the Torah: the Ohr HaChaim, printed in Venice in 1741, while the author was on his way to the Holy Land. Rabbi Chaim acquired a reputation as a miracle worker, hence his title “the holy,” although some apply this title only to his Torah commentary. He is buried outside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem.

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