24 Menachem Av 5774
As told over by Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi...
The wheel of fortune had taken a downturn for a once-wealthy Jew who lived in the Moroccan city of Rabat. He was forced to leave home and wander from city to city and town to town, in search of an appropriate business opportunity that would enable him to support the large extended family that had come to depend on him.
He experienced many difficulties, yet he maintained his faith in the One that provides all. Finally, after several failed attempts, he succeeded in amassing a significant amount of money. Now he would be able to return home.
On the way, he passed through the town of Sali, which is not far from Rabat. As it was already fairly late on Friday, he figured he had better remain in Sali for Shabbat. A good friend from his youth whom he had not seen in many years lived there, and he knew he would find a warm welcome at his house.
Indeed, as soon as his friend saw him, he insisted that his surprise guest remain for Shabbat. The weary traveler accepted the invitation happily. Before candle lighting, he gave his money pouch to his host for safekeeping, so that he wouldn't have to worry about it during the Day of Rest.
By Saturday night, the traveler was anxious to reach home. Immediately after Havdalah, he requested his money pouch back from his friend.
"What are you talking about?" denied his host. "You never left any money with me."
The stunned guest could not believe his ears. He almost fainted. When he recovered his senses, he begged his friend to return to him the money for which he had labored so long and hard, and which was critical to his family's survival.
The host was beside himself with indignation. "You have some nerve!" he shouted. "Aren't you embarrassed? You slept in my house, you ate at my table, and now you dare to hurl at me these false accusations!"
The man soon realized there was no chance that this conniver would return the money of his own accord. He decided he had better go right away to make a claim at the Beit Din(rabbinical court).
The rabbi of Sali at the time was the famous "Ohr HaChaim," Rabbi Chaim Ibn Atar. The two men went to his house. Rabbi Chaim listened carefully to both sides. He then addressed the host: "This Jew claims the money which he says he deposited with you before Shabbat eve. What do you say?"
"It never happened," the man answered. "This man is slandering me."
Rabbi Chaim turned to the guest. "Perhaps there was a witness at the time you say you handed your money to him?"
The dejected man now felt even worse. "No, there was no witness there. Just before Shabbat we sat under a tree. That is when I removed my pouch and gave it to him to hold for me until Saturday night."
"Under a tree? Very good!" cried out Rabbi Chaim excitedly. "Go back and summon that tree to be a witness on your behalf!"
The traveler was taken aback when it sunk in what the rabbi wanted him to do, but being well aware of Rabbi Chaims reputation as a miracle-worker, he stood up and left the house, without questioning the great rabbi's instructions.
After just a few minutes, the Ohr HaChaim remarked that certainly the man has already reached the tree.
"What do you mean, Rabbi?" said the other man. "That tree is quite far from here."
Looking sternly into the man's eyes, Rabbi Chaim declared: "Give that poor innocent Jew his money back, right now!" Seeing the surprise on the mans face, the Rabbi stroked his beard and added: "If you didn't receive the money from him under that tree, how is it that you know where the tree is?"
The man turned pale. Without saying another word, he promptly returned the money that had been entrusted to him.
After he finally reached home, the merchant utilized most of his hard-earned savings for wise investments, and with G-d's help became wealthy again as he had been once before.