Reb Moshe looked around his barren house, but his search was in vain, for there was nothing of value left to pawn. His formerly elegant surroundings were bereft of their fine furniture, crystal chandeliers and French tapestries.

His formerly elegant surroundings were bereft...

It was almost impossible to believe, but Reb Moshe and his family were now paupers. Even their fine tailored clothing had been sold, and each remained with only one suit of clothes. Reb Moshe and his family took one last look at their beloved house, then turned to go out the door for the last time. The only possession they took was a small bundle of personal items of no special monetary value. They stood on their front steps with no particular place to go.

Reb Moshe was a follower of the great chassidic leader Rabbi Yitzchak Meir of Gur, and so he went to the rebbe for advice. Although he was now penniless, Reb Moshe still had a plan in mind. In a distant country he had very wealthy relatives who would certainly help him out of his difficult straits. They would surely lend him enough money to begin his business again.

When Reb Moshe entered the rebbe’s room, he poured out his broken heart, and then offered his solution. “I will travel to my relatives and ask them to help me. With a loan, which I will certainly be able to repay, I will be able to start my business again and save my family from this unbearable situation.”

But, to his great surprise, the rebbe shook his head “no.” Reb Moshe thought that perhaps the rebbe didn’t agree with the idea of his traveling, so he suggested an alternate plan: “Maybe I should just write to them and explain my situation. After all, they are close relatives, and they are easily able to send me enough money to get started.” But the rebbe shook his head again, “No, I am not in agreement with that suggestion.”

There was nothing to do but leave, and Reb Moshe departed with a heavy heart. He had no idea where to find his salvation. Still, he took his rebbe’s advice to heart and sought any kind of work to sustain his family, all to no avail.

Even bread was a luxury he could not afford.

At his wits’ end, Reb Moshe returned to Gur, hoping the rebbe would perhaps see things differently. But, no, the rebbe still didn’t countenance approaching the wealthy relatives. Now, things had become even more difficult. Even bread was a luxury he could not afford. His wife berated him, saying, “How can you watch your own flesh and blood suffer? Go to your relatives and get help for us!”

The man traveled to Gur one more time and stood before the rebbe, pleading, but the rebbe answered him, “I cannot change my opinion, regardless of how you ask and what you say.”

Finally, Reb Moshe could no longer restrain himself; he wrote a lengthy letter to his relatives. As he expected, he soon received a reply from them, with a generous sum of money to help him get back on his feet. Little by little he rebuilt his business connections. He bought new merchandise, he leased a new property, and his life began to resemble his former life of prosperity.

But just when he thought things were on an even keel, Reb Moshe fell ill. What began as a simple cold progressed to the point that he was bedridden, and the doctors pronounced his situation very dangerous. His one desire was to travel to Gur. But that was impossible: he was too weak to be moved. Instead he dispatched a close friend to go to the rebbe and speak for him.

The friend was ushered into the rebbe’s study, where he informed the rebbe of Reb Moshe’s precarious state. The rebbe was very pensive, and then spoke.

“Sometimes a person will find himself in a situation which he feels is unbearable. He may be ill, he may lose his fortune, any of the hundreds of calamities large or small that afflict the human race. But know that everything G‑d does is ultimately only for his good. Every soul must have its correction in this world to enable it to proceed to its higher level in the World of Truth. And so, even when things seem bad to the eyes of man, they are contrived Above only for his benefit.

...poverty is sometimes substituted for death by the heavenly court.

“There are times when, for a particular reason, the heavenly court decrees a sentence of death upon someone. But when an advocate intervenes on his behalf, the heavenly court is moved to lighten its verdict and to make the tikkun/correction to the person’s soul in another way, through a different type of atonement. Since ‘a pauper is considered [in some respects] as one who is dead’ (see Rashi to Exodus 4:19 and Genesis 29:11) poverty is sometimes substituted for death by the heavenly court.

“This is what happened to Reb Moshe. When he came to me for advice as to whether to accept help from his relatives, I could not agree, for I felt that it was not bashert [in tune with his destiny] for him to do so. When he asked me repeatedly for my agreement, I kept refusing, for my inner vision told me that he should not accept this help. But in the end, he was unable to restrain himself from accepting the money from his relatives. When he cast off from himself the burden of poverty, he removed from himself the substitute sentence, and his vital force was cut off.”

The friend left Gur quickly, hoping to return to Reb Moshe while the rebbe’s words could still be of help. But when he arrived home, his friend had departed from this world.

Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from the rendition in (#406).

Biographical note:
Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Rothenberg/Alter (1789–23 Adar 1866) of Gur was the successor to Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk and the founder of the Gur dynasty. He was popularly known as the Chiddushei HaRim, the title of his classic work of Torah analysis and interpretation. His charisma and concern for the masses resulted in Gerrer chassidut having a very large following.

Copyright 2003 by All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work or portions thereof, in any form, unless with permission, in writing, from Kabbalah Online.