Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vizhnitz once told the story of a chassid who came to Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev with the sorry account of his financial misfortunes. He had been extremely wealthy, but because of a number of calamitous investments he had fallen deep into debt, though no one yet knew of it.

“My advice,” said the tzaddik, “is that you should buy a lottery ticket, and, G‑d willing, you will be helped thereby.”

Replied the chassid: “I do not doubt for a moment that your promise will be fulfilled—but who knows when? It may take years to win with lottery tickets, and in the meantime my creditors will be after me. Besides, my daughter is not getting any younger, and I must marry her off.”

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak thereupon promised him that the Almighty would soon make money come his way, even before he won the lottery. In the same inn there was a Jew who owned a lottery ticket that was destined to win

The chassid, of course, immediately bought a lottery ticket.

On the way home, he stayed the night at a wayside inn. So too did a certain powerful noble, who had been riding about in his carriage. In the dead of night the noble dreamt that in the same inn there was a Jew who owned a lottery ticket that was destined to win; he should therefore find a way of exchanging his own worthless ticket with the one that was bound to bring riches to its bearer.

The noble awoke, and behold, it was but a dream—but when he fell asleep again, exactly the same dream repeated itself. This time he got out of bed and ordered his servant to investigate whether there was any Jewish stranger about, and if there was, to bring him at once. The Jew was found soon enough, and brought to the rich man’s room.

The noble asked whether he held a lottery ticket, and then said: “I also have one of those tickets. Let us exchange tickets, and I will add a few gold rubles to whatever it cost you.”

The Jew refused: “Even if you give me that number of rubles several times over, I will not exchange tickets with you.”

He ordered his servant to seize the ticket by force

The noble was so eager to settle his transaction that he kept on increasing his offer, until it reached one thousand rubles, but the Jew would not budge. By this time, the noble was fuming. He ordered his servant to seize the ticket by force—which he did, and handed the ticket to his master.

Then, thinking better of it, the noble said: “Look, I don’t want to really rob you altogether. Here, take the thousand gold rubles that I offered you before, as well as my lottery ticket.”

The Jew reluctantly accepted the money and the ticket from the noble, and soon resigned himself gladly to the workings of Providence, thinking that, anyway, this is certainly enough even for a fancy wedding, so “this, too, is for the best.”

He continued his journey home, where he married off his daughter in grand style. Not long after, the ticket which the noble foisted upon him against his will won a vast sum of money, and the chassid decided it was time to set out to visit his rebbe.

When he arrived, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak said: “I saw that your luck was running low indeed, so I had to send along the angelic Master of Dreams to persuade the noble to exchange tickets with you; I could see that his ticket was going to win, not yours. As for the thousand gold rubbles that he gave you in addition, that is because you said you had to marry off your daughter soon; and that is why you were granted a little salvation first, then later a great salvation.”

When the chassid returned home, he became more prosperous than he had ever been before.

When Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vizhnitz finished recounting this story, he said: This is what the Almighty meant when he said to the Patriarch Yaakov, “For I will not forsake you until I have done that which I have spoken of to you” (Genesis 28:15). Why “until I have done”? Would He forsake him after having fulfilled His promise that He return Yaakov safely to his home in Israel?! For no man could remain alive even one moment without the Almighty’s constant vigilance. The meaning of the verse is, rather, that He promises Yaakov that even until the great salvation comes He will not forsake him, and in the meantime will grant him a little salvation.”

Based on Sippurei Chassidim by Rabbi S. Y. Zevin, and other oral sources.

Biographical note:
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev (1740–25 Tishrei 1810) is one of the most popular rebbes in chassidic history. He was a close disciple of the Maggid of Mezeritch. He is best known for his love for every Jew, and his active efforts to intercede for them against (seemingly) adverse heavenly decrees. Many of his teachings are contained in the posthumously published Kedushat Levi.

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