Shlomo Ezagui

The rich man’s life depended on this.

Maayan Nemanov

Here’s a story demonstrating the importance of respecting everyone because your life may depend on it.

The saintly Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov (founder of Chassidism, also known by the acronym “Besht”) was sitting in his room. A light knock on the door interrupted his thoughts.

“I have heard of the fame of the saintly Rabbi. I wished to see the Rabbi’s holy face and receive his blessing,” said the visitor.

The Besht said, “It is written, ‘God directs the steps of man.’ This means it is impossible to go anywhere without being directed by Divine Providence.”

The gentleman looked puzzled, and the Besht began to tell a story:

“Once, there lived two boys who were the best of friends. Soon the boys were married businessmen. At first, both did very well. Later, however, one lost his entire fortune.

The poor man, arriving at his friend’s house, was warmly welcomed. They chatted, and the host asked his old friend why he had visited. The visitor poured his heart out, confessing that he had come to seek help.

The host called his bookkeeper and transferred half his fortune to his impoverished friend. ‘My friend,’ he said, ‘we always shared everything. I am now going to share everything I have with you again!’

The poor man returned home and once again became prosperous. The wealthy friend’s fortune took a turn for the worse, and he became poor.

It was his turn to seek his friend’s aid, whom he had helped in his hour of need. He went to his friend’s house, and the servant came out to the visitor saying his master was too busy to see him.

The poor man could hardly believe his ears. There was nothing for him to do but return home.

He could not overcome the humiliation and disappointment and soon died.

On the same day, the rich man in the other town had an accident and died too. The two souls ascended to heaven and appeared for judgment. The soul of the poor man who had treated his friend so generously was told of his great reward, but the other soul was condemned.

The first soul said sadly, ‘How can I enjoy the happiness of Paradise knowing that my friend is being punished on my account?’ The soul was given permission to pronounce judgment in this case. The soul said that both of them should again be sent into bodies so the other soul could make amends where it had failed. This soul selflessly accepted a life of poverty again to help the other soul.

Some time afterward, two baby boys were born in two different towns, one rich and one poor. One day the poor arrived in the town where the rich man lived and knocked at his door. ‘You are a stranger in this town,’ the rich man said. ‘Do you not know that I do not give alms to any beggar, not even local ones?’

The beggar had not eaten for three days. He collapsed and died.”
“Now, what do you think of this rich man?” the saintly Baal Shem Tov concluded, his keen eyes piercing through the visitor.

The Baal Shem Tov’s visitor grew pale and frightened, for he remembered the beggar who had knocked at his door only a few days before he made his way to the Baal Shem Tov. The pale and haggard face of the dead beggar, which had made no impression on him then, began tormenting him.

“Is there anything I can do to save my soul?” the visitor pleaded.

The Baal Shem Tov replied, “Yes, there is something you can do. You must try to find the survivors of the poor man and ask for their forgiveness. You must provide them with all their needs for the rest of their lives and distribute the rest of your fortune to the poor and needy. Then, pray to God with all your heart, for He is near to all who call unto Him, in truth.”

This story reminds us that everyone and everything has a deeper, intended reason for why and where it is. We must always have faith in and respect for God’s ways, which underlie everything in our lives.

Chapter 63

About the Author
Rabbi Shlomo Ezagui is an author and lecturer. "A Spiritual Soul Book" ( & "Maimonides Advice for the 21st Century" ( In 1987, Rabbi Ezagui opened the first Chabad Center in Palm Beach County, Florida, and the first Orthodox Synagogue on the island of Palm Beach, Florida.
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