Monday, March 17, 2008

Missed Opportunities

Once, during a bitter Lithuanian winter, a yeshiva student approached a certain wealthy man. “Reb Yid, my shoes are torn and I have no money to buy new ones. Are you willing to loan me the money to buy a new pair?” he asked.

The wealthy man blandly responded, “I certainly could, but I don’t think it would be a kindness.” Warming to his subject, he began to lecture the young man. “You are suffering only because you don’t work, so I’d like to make you an offer instead. Come work for me in my factory! Why should you continue to study when it has brought you so low that you cannot even afford a pair of shoes? What will you do when you get married? How will you support your children? Take my advice and learn a trade. Anyway, it’s not likely that you will become a gadol b’Torah. Those who grow to greatness usually have the support of wealthy parents or in-laws so that they can learn undisturbed. Why should you waste your time?”

“I wasn’t asking you for advice!” retorted the young masmid. “I just asked for a loan. If you want to give it to me, I will purchase shoes and return to learning. If not, I will find a different solution or go back to learning without shoes!”

The wealthy man refused, and the young man went on his way.

Many years later, the Posek HaDor, Rav Yitzchak Elchonon Spector, zt”l, decided to print his groundbreaking chiddushim. Contributing to the project was considered a great zechus, and a certain wealthy man offered his assistance to the Rav.

The man said, “It would be a privilege to provide as much money as necessary to print your work!”

Rav Yitzchak Elchonon replied, “You may not remember me, but I once asked you for a loan to buy shoes. You refused and advised me to give up learning. You had your chance—now it is too late. I will not take your money!

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