The Rebbe Rashab once made an extended trip to Petersburg. Upon retrieving his luggage from the freight car, he realized that one suitcase was missing. A number of his chassidim, headed by Reb Shmuel Michel, searched all over for it—to no avail. It had disappeared. The suitcase was full of books important to the rebbe, who was quite disturbed by the loss.

...he realized that one suitcase was missing.

A few days later, a young man, Avraham Eliyahu Gurary, son of Rabbi Shmuel Gurary, rabbi of the town of Chorol, came to visit the rebbe. He was recently married, and his bride’s wealthy parents had given him a dowry of ten thousand rubles. He went into business with the money, only to lose nearly all of it. As you might imagine, this downfall did not please his wife and in-laws, and his home life suffered accordingly. He didn’t know what to do.

When he heard that the Rebbe Rashab was in Petersburg, he immediately decided to ask his advice. Upon his arrival, the rebbe asked him to retrieve the suitcase, and gave him the luggage ticket. Avraham Eliyahu took it and set out for the train station, unaware of all the searches that had already been made for the missing valise.

It was unusually quiet when he got there. No trains were arriving or leaving. The young man decided to get something to drink from the cafeteria, and sat down at a table. While taking a cigarette out of his fancy cigarette case, he noticed a man at another table, a non-Jew, staring at him. The chassid promptly offered him a cigarette, which he accepted.

“What are you doing here, when no trains are coming or going?” the man asked him.

“I came to get the suitcase of Rabbi Schneersohn,” the Jew replied.

“Amazing!” the other exclaimed. “I’m the manager of the luggage depot here. Just give me your baggage claim ticket, and I’ll take care of it.”

Taking the ticket, he went to give it to his workers. They went into the storeroom, but emerged empty-handed a few minutes later, saying there was no such suitcase there. The manager raised his voice, “That’s not acceptable; it must be there. Look again, look well, and bring it to me, fast!”

The workers ran back to the storeroom and searched thoroughly. After moving every single piece of luggage out of the storeroom, they found it hidden in a corner, blocked by a very large package. The chassid thanked the manager and took the suitcase straight to the rebbe, who was overjoyed. “Avraham Eliyahu, I’m in your debt,” he said.

“Avraham Eliyahu, I’m in your debt.”

When Avraham Eliyahu subsequently gained a private audience, he told the rebbe all the details of his financial and personal woes. The rebbe asked him how much money he had left. Upon learning that only a thousand rubles remained, the rebbe said to him, “Go to the town of Kerch, and may G‑d Almighty cause you to prosper. And,” added the rebbe, “be sure to take along some provisions for the way.”

Avraham Eliyahu returned home to tell his wife all the Rebbe had said. He expressed his complete faith that surely now G‑d would help him. His wife, also joyful, prepared a variety of tasty baked goods for his journey. Equipped with his tallit, tefillin and package of food, he set out on his way.

It was a hot summer day when he arrived in Kerch, so he decided to go first for a swim in the Black Sea. While eating some of his wife’s baked goods after his swim, he noticed another man on the beach, a Jew, staring at him and his food. The chassid promptly shared something with him, and the two men entered into friendly conversation. When his new acquaintance asked him why he had come to Kerch, Avraham Eliyahu told him his whole story, how he had lost almost all his capital, and how the rebbe had blessed him and directed him to Kerch with his last thousand rubles. “Now that I’m here,” he finished, “I have no idea what I am supposed to do.”

“Perhaps I can help you,” the other man said. “Meet me here tomorrow at this time. Someone else will be with me, and we will arrange something for your benefit. And,” he added smilingly, “don’t you dare forget to bring with you those delicious pastries.”

The next day they met again, joined by a third man, who offered to sell Avraham Eliyahu a wagonload of cut cigarette papers for the thousand rubles, to enable him to make a nice profit.

After the chassid paid him, his benefactor suggested he go to Kremenchug, where there were a number of cigarette factories. When he got to Kremenchug, he went to the factory of Tzvi Gurary and offered him the wagonload of cigarette papers.

“How much do you want for them?” asked the factory owner.

“Ten thousand rubles,” he answered, determined to make back all his loss.

The factory owner smiled. “If I give you two thousand, that should be plenty—it’s double what you paid.” Avraham Eliyahu refused. “Three thousand,” the other said, and then upped it to four thousand when the young chassid stood fast. More than that he wouldn’t offer, so Avraham Eliyahu left to look for other buyers. He spoke to other tobacco merchants, one of whom offered him five thousand rubles.

...the naïve young chassid had not concealed anything from him.

Meanwhile the factory owner, Mr. Gurary, travelled straight to Kerch, for the naïve young chassid had not concealed anything from him. “Why should I buy from him, when I can also go to Kerch and get a wagonload for one thousand rubles, like he did?” the businessman said to himself.

After some investigation, he managed to locate the man who had sold to the young chassid. “I’m sorry,” the latter told him, “we already have orders for all of our paper. I just took pity on that nice young Jew and sold him one wagonload. Not only that,” he continued, “there is no cigarette paper available anywhere right now.”

When Tzvi Gurary heard that, he immediately sent a telegram to Avraham Eliyahu telling him not to sell his paper to anyone else, and that he would meet his price.

That is the story of how Avraham Eliyahu Gurary got all his money back. Of course, seeing how it worked out so well, he decided to go right back to the rebbe and ask his advice what to do next. In high spirits, he traveled to the rebbe and related to him the details of how everything had worked out so well. “What does the rebbe suggest I do next?” he asked.

“Avraham Eliyahu!” stated the Rebbe Rashab. “I’ve already paid my debt to you.”

Connection to Weekly Torah Reading: 32:25 and Rashi’s explanation.

Translated and retold from Stories and Tales by Rafael Nachman Kahan.

Biographical note:
Rabbi Sholom DovBer Schneersohn (20 Cheshvan 1860–2 Nissan 1920), known as the Rebbe Rashab, was the fifth rebbe of the Lubavitcher dynasty. He is the author of hundreds of major tracts on the exposition of chassidic thought.

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