25 Menachem Av 5774
As told over by Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi...
In the marketplace in Prague, in side by side stores with an adjoining wall, were stores owned by a crooked fragrance dealer and an honest oil merchant. The Jewish oil merchant had a good reputation and his business thrived, while the crooked fragrance dealer struggled to bring customers into his store.
One night after the market was closed the fragrance dealer drilled a small hole in the adjoining wall. He spent the next several days observing the oil merchant. He noticed that each night the oil merchant would count his daily revenue and place it into a red pouch that he would hide. This gave him an idea.
The next day he ran into the street screaming that his money had been robbed and he suspected the oil merchant since he is the only one who knew that he placed his money in a red pouch. Sure enough the police found the red pouch in the store of the oil merchant. Because of their respective reputations no one really believed the fragrance merchant but he told a good story and a trial was set to take place.
The talk of town was the big trial and the streets were full of debate as to who was the thief. Even the children talked voraciously about the upcoming trial. The ruler was in a conundrum and didn't know who to believe.
One night before the trial, the ruler walked the streets and overheard some Jewish children playing "court". One child presided, while arguments were made by other children pretending to be the two claimants. The ruler amusingly stood by listening to the proceedings.
After hearing both sides, the young judge asked them to bring a bowl of water. "We will put the coins in the water. If oil spots come floating to the top then we know the coins were handled by the oil dealer and he is innocent. If nothing floats to the top we will know that the rightful owner is the fragrance dealer and the oil merchant is a thief."
The very next day during the real trial before a packed courtroom, after hearing both side, the ruler asked for a bowl of water... The oil merchant was proven innocent and the liable was discovered. When all the townspeople praised the Ruler on his incredible wisdom, he said do not praise me but the little boy who gave me the idea.
That little boy whose name was Yehuda Lowe, said the Brisker Rov, is better known today as the Maharal MiPrague.