Judaism has a deep and rich tradition of storytelling, of passing down stories from one generation to the next. To carry on that tradition, Stories We Tell, from ReformJudaism.org, will share a new story with you every Thursday. Whether you listen while driving to work, preparing Shabbat dinner, or taking your kids to school, each episode will give you a new story to reflect on and discuss with the people in your life. Stories We Tell is a project of the Union for Reform Judaism, a leading voice in the discussion of modern Jewish life.
What would you do if a stranger offered you all the money in the world? What would you do if you were offered your heart's desire? Would you share your gift, or keep it for yourself? One man and his wife are given the ultimate choice to make when a stranger makes them this exact offer. Listen to this story as told by Rabbi Mark Dov Shapiro to find out what happens.
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[URJ Intro:] Welcome back to "Stories We Tell," a podcast presented by Reform Judaism. That Judaism has always had a deep and rich tradition of storytelling passing our stories down orally from one generation to the next, and here each Thursday, we share a new story with you. This week, Rabbi Mark Dov Shapiro, the emeritus rabbi at Sinai temple in Springfield Massachusetts shares the story of "Elijah's Gift."
[Rabbi Mark:] This is a story about a wonderful visit from none other than Eliyahu HaNavi. Elijah the Prophet the visit changed the lives of Tuvia and Sara, a married couple, in a wonderful way.
It all happened years ago on a Thursday morning. Tuvia rose early that day to go to the market. He went there every Thursday because Tuvia was a porter. That meant that he would carry anything for anyone for even a small amount of money. He would carry crates or cartons or boxes or parcels and he would make enough money, he hoped, to come home and buy whatever he and Sarah and their children needed to have a lovely Shabbat on Friday evening. At any rate, that Thursday morning things did not go well for Tuvia. It was chilly. He had a very very thin coat. He wasn't feeling all that strong that day, and no one wanted to give him a job at all. He was almost certain that he would have to return home to Sarah with no money in his pockets. As he was thinking about how he might proceed, he suddenly felt a very strong hand on the back of his shoulder. He turned around to see a man who was perhaps twice his size, and he wondered who could this person possibly be.
The man spoke and he said, "Tuvia, God has given you seven years of good luck. You will have so much money starting this afternoon that you will be able to buy, if you wish, this entire city, all the stores, and everything here. Before the sun sets, your luck will glow like the sun at noon. But if you take the money now, you should know that you can only have it for seven years. However, if you wait, you could take it for the last seven years of your life, and then have all all the wealth and honor you could ever imagine."
Now of course, Tuvia did not know that the man speaking with him was Eliyahu HaNavi, Elijah the Prophet. In fact, he was pretty sure that a man was joking. But then he thought, maybe not. Perhaps the man really means to give me something, he thought. And then he said, "I'll tell you what, sir. I always ask my wife, Sarah, before I try anything new. Let me go and ask Sarah what she thinks.".
"A fine custom," said the man - Elijah, that is. "Go. I will wait for you."
So, Tuvia hurried home and immediately saw Sarah, looked at her and said, "I have a surprise. Someone is willing to give us all the money in the world either right now for seven years, or at the end of our lives. What should we do?".
As soon as Sarah heard the strangers' words, she knew. "We can't hesitate. Go," she said. "Tell that man for seven years must begin today."
"But what about our old age?"
"Blessed be God, day by day," said Sarah. "Look behind you. Do you see the children? They didn't go to school today. The teacher sent them home because we could not pay the money for them to go to school." When Tuvia heard this news, he shook his head and knew immediately. He went right back to Elijah --the Prophet, as it happened to be, and he said, "It is the wish of my Sarah and me that the seven years start right away," and that is what happened.
The stranger disappeared. Tuvia went home, and wouldn't you know it, the piles of dirt around his little shack had now turned to gold. Now he and his wife were wealthy, and so the good years began, and the time flew by seven years.
And the messenger returned to the town to find Tuvia. He looked all over and at last -- well, there in the marketplace, there was Tuvia! And there was Tuvia asking if he could carry things for various people. Tuvia with a little old coat. Tuvia shivering. Tuvia looking almost the same as he had seven years before the messenger.
That was when Elijah said, "Didn't I give you all the wealth in the world? Tell me, what have you done with it?"
So Tuviah said, "Well, follow me," and Elijah followed Tuvia to the little hut. But the little hut were Sara and Tuvia had lived was the same as it had been seven years before. And their clothes were the same as they had been seven years before. And Sara explained, "Well the food we eat is the same food. We haven't changed much, have we?" Well they hadn't changed much.
So, Elijah said, "But what did you do with the money?" Sara took Elijah around the back of their little hut, and to his surprise he saw a beautiful new building. Sara explained, "We used all of the money to build this new school, and now everyone, all the children in our town, can attend school. And it's all for free, because we can pay it. So all of them can learn Torah. And that's what we did with the money left with us on deposit."
Well what Elijah heard this he -- well, he didn't know what to do. So according to legend, he rose right up to heaven and asked, "What shall I do?" And the verdict was given right away. There could be no one who could care for the money better than Tuvia and Sarah. The deposit will stay with them forever. Torah was safe because Tuvia and Sarah would care for Torah and Jewish living as long as they were alive.
[URJ Outro:] After hearing the story "Elijah's Gift," I'm wondering if you've ever thought about what you would do if you received a gift that you could share with others. How much of it would you keep for yourself, and how much of it would you give away? If you want to share that with us, we'd love to hear a little bit about it on social media. You can find us at facebook.com/ReformJudaism, and on Twitter our handle is @ReformJudaism. Thanks for listening to "Stories We Tell." If you enjoyed this week's story, rate and review us on iTunes, and you can always find new episodes every Thursday on ReformJudaism.org, where you can also go to learn a little bit more about Jewish rituals, or culture, or holidays, and more. "Stories We Tell" is a project of the Union for Reform Judaism, a leading voice in the discussion of modern Jewish life.
Until next week -- l'hitraot!