One of the talmidim of the Bach, whom we’ll call Moshe, was extremely successful in business and became very wealthy. In order to ensure that his student would conduct his monetary dealings in strict accordance with halachah, the Bach took him as a chavrusah, and the two would study the laws of tzedakah together. Over the course of their study partnership, Moshe became thoroughly versed in all the intricacies of the hilchos tzedakah until he was an expert on the subject.
In the corporate world, Moshe was a powerful businessman, with many worthy contacts and connections. However, no matter how wealthy he became, he still considered himself first and foremost a student of the Bach. In addition to their daily seder, the Bach would often send him on missions, and he served his rebbi devotedly.
One day, a man named Reuven came to the Bach with a complaint. Reuven explained that he had been licensed by the local poritz as the sole alcohol supplier in the area. He earned a decent livelihood by supplying wine and liquor to all the shops in the surrounding villages. Recently, however, his parnasah had been threatened. Another Jew, Shimon, had attempted to bribe the poritz to license himself for the job instead of Reuven. This, according to Reuven, was an outright encroachment on his livelihood and was prohibited by halachah.
Unwilling to take Reuven’s word without investigating the other side of the story, the Bach made some inquiries and discovered that Reuven was telling the truth. From his previous dealings with Shimon, the Bach knew that latter would not obey his psak din. Therefore, he decided on a different course of action.
“I have a close talmid, Moshe, who has a lot of influence on the poritz,” The Bach told Reuven. “Go to Moshe, and tell him in my name that I would like him to ask the poritz to continue allowing the business only through you. He should do it in a way that you should be able to renew your license without any monetary losses, but also to be careful not to cause Shimon any damage, such as conviction or imprisonment.”
Reuven gratefully thanked the Bach and immediately hurried toward Moshe’s office. He found that the Bach’s talmid was an incredibly busy person, with endless tasks and people awaiting his attention. “Can I please speak to you for just a minute?” Reuven begged.
Moshe apologized, but explained that he was in a terrible hurry. There was a busy fair taking place in Leipzig, a nearby city, and he planned on doing a tremendous amount of business there. He was wrapping up some dealings and would be departing to Leipzig shortly.
“The Bach sent me to speak to you,” Reuven said quickly, after apologizing for disturbing him.
“The Bach?” Moshe pursed his lips for a moment, his eyes running over his over cluttered desk to clock in the corner of the room. “Can you speak quickly? I’m really in a major rush.”
“I’ll try,” Reuven promised. He recounted his story as quickly as he could. “The Bach asked that you please go speak to the poritz and restore my livelihood,” He concluded.
Moshe nodded. “Sure, I’ll be happy to speak to the poritz on your behalf. I hope to be able to take care of it in about a week.”
“A week!” Reuven was aghast. “I can’t wait a week! The poritz is on the verge of signing over the license to Shimon. I’m about to lose my parnasah!”
“I stand to lose a great deal of business if I take care of this now,” Moshe said tightly, beginning to lose patience.
Yet Reuven would not back down. “But your rebbi, the Bach, said you should take care of it!” He countered heatedly.
Moshe stood up from behind his desk. “Listen, R’ Yid,” He said, trying to keep the impatience from his voice. “I am a student of the Bach. I know him better than you do. The Bach has been telling me over and over that each person’s parnasah comes from Hashem. If Hashem wants someone to have a livelihood, he will. And if Hashem decides not, then he won’t. Hashem is the one who decides your parnasah, not the poritz. In a week or so, I will speak to the poritz, and if it is bashert, your parnasah will be waiting for you. You need to trust in Hashem.” He sat back down, satisfied with his little pep talk.
“Don’t try to sound like such a tzaddik, talking about bitachon,” Reuven responded bitterly. “You should obey your rebbi right away!”
“Don’t worry about it,” Moshe said, flipping through a pile of papers, his attention already directed elsewhere.
“Please, have pity on me,” Reuven pleaded. “Spare my family the shame and suffering of losing our parnasah! Please have pity!”
“I promise to take care of it as soon as I come back,” Moshe replied, not bothering to look up. “Have a good day.”
Deeply worried and disappointed, Reuven left the room. He was too ashamed to return to the Bach, and with no one else to turn to, he went home, mission unaccomplished. When his wife questioned the dejected look on his face, he related the day’s events, beginning with his visit to the Bach and ending with his failed meeting with Moshe.
When his wife heard about Moshe’s callous refusal to immediately intervene on their behalf, she burst into tears. “How could one Jew just push away another in distress?” She asked, sniffling into a tissue.
Feeling just as despondent, and at a loss on how to respond to her tears, Reuven began giving her the same pep talk Moshe had given him. He mumbled about parnasah being from Hashem and about having bitachon, hoping to calm her down.
His wife, however, was buying none of it. “What are you even saying?” She asked shrewdly, refusing to calm down. “Are you saying that we are supposed to rely on a miracle?”
Reuven had no response to this, so his wife continued to sob for the next week, as they waited tensely for Moshe to return home and follow through on his promise to speak to the poritz. By the time the week was over, the tension in their home was palpable. The couple was barely on speaking terms and neither of them were able to sleep at night.
At last, Moshe came home. He had done well at the fair, and he was in fine spirits. Immediately, as promised, he went to visit the poritz. Explaining the situation, he succeeded in obtaining a renewed license for Reuven to continue as the area’s sole alcohol supplier for an additional ten years.
Feeling validated that the fair in Leipzig had done nothing to ruin Reuven’s parnasah, Moshe went to his home to bring him the ten-year license. Both Reuven and his wife were overjoyed with the news, and they thanked their benefactor over and over. However, despite their intense joy, Reuven couldn’t help but feel a little resentful for the week of anguish he and his wife had suffered while they waited for Moshe. Still, he was grateful to Moshe for being the messenger to help restore his parnasah, and the two parted on good terms.
A few years later, Moshe passed away. He was still a young man in the prime of his life, yet Hashem decided that his time had run out and he departed from this world. Shortly thereafter, he appeared before the Bach in a dream.
In the dream, Moshe recounted that he had met the neshamos of two butchers who had resided in the same town as himself and the Bach. Both were Jews who had sold non-kosher meat, yet one of the two had eventually repented for this terrible sin. The butcher who had done teshuvah hadn’t been punished for his sin, yet the one who had not repented received a frightening judgement. He was accused by angels of destruction who appeared in the form of dogs, and they accused him of robbing them of their rights to the non-kosher meat, since instead of leaving it to the dogs, he sold it for profit. He was sentenced to a punishment too terrible for words.
After continuing on in this vein and telling the Bach about judgments concerning various other neshamos that he had witnessed, Moshe began
relating the story of his own din. “When they called my name, I was trembling in fear,” He began. “They went through each and every one of my deeds with meticulous precision until they finally determined, much to my utter relief that I would be getting Gan Eden. The angels rejoiced together with me as they led me toward the gate of Gan Eden. When we reached the entrance, these melachim had completed their mission, and they disappeared. I was about to pass through the entrance of Gan Eden when another malach appeared.
“ ‘What is going on here?’ The angel demanded. ‘How can it be that your judgement is already over, that you were given Gan Eden?’ I asked him who he was, and he explained that he was the angel who was created when I spoke to the poritz and salvaged Reuven’s livelihood. Although I had done a tremendous mitzvah, for an entire week, I had caused Reuven pain and I had made his wife cry. Since the judges understood that I waited a week since I stood to lose a lot of money, they didn’t withhold my Gan Eden from me. However, the malach made me wait at the entrance to Gan Eden for an entire week before he allowed me in as a punishment for making Reuven and his wife wait for a week.
“That week of waiting was incredibly difficult,” Moshe related. “There I was, just a few steps away from basking in the shadow of the Shechinah. With every fiber of my being, I longed to go in. And yet for second after excruciating second, for seven entire days, I was held back. I was forced to wait. The agony of the wait is impossible to fully describe, yet I earned it since although I gave Reuven a gift, I withheld it from him for a week.”
The Bach was very moved by his talmid’s story, and he repeated it over and over to his other students, teaching them the powerful lesson that every aspect of every action is remembered and recorded, and will eventually affect us in the Next World.