Author’s note: Top Ten Jewish Folktales is a writing project that I’ve been working on to retell my favorite classic Jewish folktales.Enjoy!
The Holy Ark
One Shabbat, Rabbi Levi saw a poor and hungry man weeping in the back row of the synagogue.
That afternoon, the Rabbi had lunch with a very rich man. They drank, and then the rich man said: “Rabbi, I have to be honest. I buy many things but I use them and am not satisfied. I feel empty. What should I do? “ The Rabbi said: “You should learn to give. Each Friday morning, come to the synagogue and put two challahs, a bottle of wine, and a kugel into the holy ark as a way of saying thank you to God for your abundant wealth.
Later that day the poor man spoke with the rabbi. “Rabbi, he said, “I can not feed my family. So I am very angry. All day I walk the streets upset.” “You should learn to open your heart,” the Rabbi said, “come on Friday afternoon to the synagogue. Speak to God with all your heart. Then open the ark, and God will give you all that you need.”
The next Friday, the rich man placed two challahs, a bottle of wine, and a kugel into the ark. He felt good giving in this way. The poor man prayed before the ark, opened it, and found the food. He was delighted.
This went on for many years. Then one morning, the rich man did not come. The poor man came, prayed, opened the ark and found nothing. His family would go hungry. He turned around to leave the synagogue, when in came the rich man, carrying two challahs, a bottle of wine and a kugel. “What are you doing with that food?” the poor man asked. “I’m putting it in the ark” the rich man said. The poor man looked confused.
“Don’t be upset,” the rich man said, “the Rabbi told me to do this.”
The poor man looked at the food and then said: “Upset? How can I be upset? God usually leaves food for my family in the ark, but today, I’m getting it hand delivered by a messenger!”
The rich man handed him the food and wine with a smile.