Name of student_________________________
(Even if your intent is just to give pain to another or to borrow without permission - even with intent to repay double..." [Mesechta Baba Metzia 71b]
This story took place when the famous Baal Shem Tov, HaKodesh, was on his way to the Chatanah (wedding) of his daughter. He was traveling with some of the greatest Talmidei Chachamim and Tzadikim of his generation. He had honored his friend and Talmid, the famous Toldos Yankov Yosef, with the position of being Mesader Kiddushin (Master of the wedding service). Together with many Talmidim they went to the location where the Chatanah was to beheld.
While walking down the road in a line the Talmidim noticed a wagon coming in the opposite direction. Suddenly, as the wagon came near the Baal Shem Tov stepped out of the line and caused the wagon to stop. He then leaned over and whispered something in the ear of the wagon driver. Shortly thereafter the wagon driver returned in the direction he came from and the Baal Shem Tov returned to the line.
The Talmidim were extremely curious to find out who this person was. The person must have been a hidden Tzadik, to make their Rebbe turn aside from his journey to his only in order to speak to him.Some of the younger Talmidim followed the wagon driver to a nearby village to find out what special holiness he possessed. When they caught up with him in a small courtyard, and explained to him that it trying to hide from them: He must be a hidden Tzadik and there was proof; the fact that their Rebbe had stopped on the way to the Chatanah just to say a few words to him. The man flatly denied that he was a Tzadik of any kind at all. He was not even a Rav.
They continued to press him to admit that he was a Tzadik and he continued to deny everything until he couldn't take their questioning any longer. Finally, he told them what had really happened on the road:
I am truly not a Tzadik or a Rav or anyone special that your Rebbe should want to talk to me, but I will tell you my story and you will know just how great a Tzadik your Rebbe is.
About a week ago I was living a normal life in this town. I had a close friend who lived right accross the road. We shared our good times and our bad times together. We cared for each other as we would ourselves. My friend had a business going from farm to farm taking goods on credit to sell in the big city. Every week or so he would make a trip to the city and sell whatever he had. He then would bring back the money and pay whatever he owed and the rest he would live on.
One day I was in his house after he returned from one of his trips and I was looking around for some smoking tobacco for my pipe. I didn't find any in the usual place so I looked in his cabinet as I had done many times before with his permission. Just then some unexpected guests who had come to stay with him arrived.
Since he was busy with his guests, I decided to help myself to some tobacco. Just then I noticed that he had left his money out where anyone could see it and take it. I became upset with my friends' carelessness because he a large family to support and they needed more money very badly.
I decided to teach him a lesson. I wanted him to learn that he should be more careful with his money or it could really get stolen some day.I took the money and hid it in my pocket just to make him worry. Later I was going to tell him what I had done.
I went home and left my friend with his guests. I forgot about the time and hours went by. I heard a lot of yelling and crying from across the street. I went outside and noticed a lot of people were standing around outside my friends house. I asked them what was going on. They answered that someone had stolen my friends money from his house and they were searching every possible place and trying to figure out how it might have happened.
Since I was such a close friend, nobody thought for a minute that I might have stolen the money. I was going to tell them right away what I had done and why but when I came into the house and saw everyone so upset I became nervous. I didn't want them to be upset at me for causing them so much pain. I thought maybe I could return the money to them later when all the excitement had calmed down.
It didn't work the way I planned. Instead of everyone going home more people came. In fact many of the farmers started to come around. They were talking outside at first. They were saying that my friend was lying. The farmers thought that my friend was trying to get out of paying them the money he owed them by saying that it was stolen.
Some of the farmers even came into his house to yell and scream at him. They told him he was lying and that he would be punished if he didn't pay them. I wanted to run in there and tell them the truth, but I was scared. I thought at this point everyone would think that I took the money to steal it and not to teach him a lesson. Instead I just went home to think of a plan.
I couldn't think of anything and days went by. I finally decided that it was too hard to tell the truth. I was sure no one would believe me. The decision I made was to move to another town and begin working there. I would send for my family later after I was set up properly. I would pretend to do well in my new home and use the money myself. The Yetzer Harah had really gotten a hold of me.
I was on my way to the new town when I passed by your Rebbe. He leaned over and whispered to me that it was not worth it to do what I was about to do. He said that I should go back home and return the money to my friend. He also said that if anyone did not believe that I had taken the money just to teach my friend a lesson, he would come to testify himself that I had not meant to keep the money for myself. I was so shocked that the Rebbe knew what I had done, I turned around and came right back home; as he instructed me to.
Now you know how great your Rebbe really is!
[Stealing is not permissible even just to teach someone a lesson. Even if you think they "deserve" it! Certainly it is also not permissible to take something from another person to play a trick.]