19 Iyar 5779 / Friday, May 24, 2019 | Torah Reading: Bechukotai
dot  Add to favorites   dot  Set as homepage  
    Create an account    |    Sign in
    My Account     Orders History     Help
  My Country:  
  United States   
   My Currency:  
  US Dollar   
Home Page Breslev Judaism Society Family Spirituality and Faith Torah Portion Holidays and Fast Days
   Pesach     Holocaust Day     Yom HaZikaron     Sefirat HaOmer and Lag B’Omer             
HomeHolidays and Fast DaysChanukahEighteen Coins
  Advanced Search

Eighteen Coins    

Eighteen Coins

"Tonight you have received Chanukah gelt," the Rebbe continued. "You are now the owner of your wealth. Just make sure that from this night on you behave...


It was many a chassid that dreamed of hosting the illustrious Reb Mordechai of Chernobyl for tea, but few could afford it because tea with the Rebbe was no ordinary affair.
The Rebbe would arrive at the host's home with dozens of his followers - all of whom were quite hungry from their journey - and they would expect to be treated to a sumptuous tea complete with cakes and cookies and some brandy for a l'chaim. However, it was not just the body that was refreshed at these gatherings because as the chassidim enjoyed the gastronomical delicacies, Reb Mordechai would speak words of Torah that delighted the soul.
At the end of the visit, the host was required to present the Rebbe with eighteen gold coins - which was no small sum in those days. The Rebbe, in turn, would shower the host with blessings for prosperity and good health. Since it was a well-known fact that the Rebbe's blessings were always fulfilled, the hosts naturally always felt that they had gained more than they had given.
But blessings were not the only reason that the chassidim dreamed of having the Rebbe to tea. It was also known that Reb Mordechai had taken upon himself the responsibility of supporting the thirty-six hidden tzaddikim of his generation - those righteous individuals who guaranteed the continued existence of the world through their many, albeit secret, acts of kindness. The "thirty-six" were supported by the eighteen gold coins that the Rebbe collected from the hosts of these tea parties, and so who wouldn't want to have a share in such an important mitzva?
Actually, there was someone - a Jew by the name of Itche - who was willing to let the mitzvah pass him by. Although his father had been a faithful follower of the Chernobyl Rebbe, Itche had other things on his mind. His father had left him a small fortune, which Itche had turned into a big fortune, and taking care of his many business concerns and his luxurious home occupied most of his time.
However, his reluctance to host the tea party wasn't just due to the fact that Itche was too busy to make the arrangements or that, God forbid, he did not have respect for the Rebbe. Itche still observed all the mitzvot and even considered himself to be a chassid of Reb Mordechai. It was just that every time Itche thought of the price that had to be paid to host the Rebbe, he let out a shudder.
Itche, unfortunately, was a terrible miser. Although he was willing to open up his wallet to pay for a rare painting or an exquisitely cut crystal vase, that very same wallet was always firmly snapped shut whenever he was asked to give to others. So even though the thought sometimes occurred to him that it would be nice to invite the Rebbe for tea, he would always quickly come back to his senses.
"Eighteen gold coins for a tea party!" he would chide himself. "Why, that's a small fortune. And that's only the beginning of the expense involved. If it were just a matter of hosting the Rebbe, perhaps I would do it. But he always brings along all those chassidim.
"I'd have to buy dozens of cakes and who knows how much brandy," Itche continued. "And those chassidim have no respect for the finer things in life. They'll be so anxious to get close to the Rebbe when he begins to speak that they'll tramp all over my expensive carpets with their muddy boots and knock the crystal vases off the tables and do all sorts of damage to my beautiful home. No, tea with the Rebbe is out of the question. I simply cannot afford to do it."
And there the matter rested, since the Rebbe never came to Itche's town and Itche never sought the Rebbe out. But one Chanukah, all that changed.
It was a few days before the Festival of Lights when the news spread through Itche's town like wildfire.
"The Chernobyl Rebbe is coming!" one chassid exclaimed excitedly to another. "Reb Mordechai will be here for the first night of Chanukah!"
"You know what that means, don't you?" the second chassid replied. "One of us will have the honor of hosting the Rebbe for tea - and the rest of us will have the honor of hearing the Rebbe speak!"
When the eagerly awaited day arrived all the chassidim went down to the train station to welcome Reb Mordechai, as was the custom. Even Itche decided to go down and greet the Rebbe. After all, it didn't cost anything to meet an arriving train.
The excitement mounted as the Rebbe's train approached the station. The chassidim crowded closer and even Itche got caught up in the joyous fervor of the moment. When the train came to a halt and let out one last gasp of steam, Itche forgot his usual staid and imposing demeanor. He began to push and shove his way to the front of the platform like all the others so that he could catch a glimpse of the Rebbe's face.
At last the door of the train compartment swung open and Reb Mordechai appeared. A hush fell over the group as the throng of chassidim waited for the Rebbe to speak. Reb Mordechai slowly cast his gaze over the dozens of upturned faces and then he allowed his eyes to rest on one of them.
"Itche, is that you?" the Rebbe asked with wonder.
Itche was so overcome by emotion at being personally addressed by the Rebbe that he barely had the presence of mind to reply, "Yes, Rebbe."
Then a slight smile appeared on the Rebbe's lips and he said, "It's suddenly occurred to me, Itche, that you have never invited me to tea."
"Tea, Rebbe?" Itche stammered. "I…uh…no…I mean, yes. Yes, Rebbe, I would be honored. Truly. It would be my pleasure to invite the holy Rebbe to my home for tea. This evening. Right after the time for lighting the first candle of Chanukah."
With those words, Itche suddenly felt as if a great weight had been lifted from his heart. After all, what were eighteen gold coins? Surely that was a small price to pay for the privilege of hosting this great tzaddik.
But then someone in the crowd shouted out "Bravo!" - for the entire town knew how difficult it was for Itche to part with so much as a small copper coin - and Itche just as suddenly returned to his senses. As his eyes took in the huge crowd that would be trampling through his home in just a few hours, he panicked.
"What have I done?" a voice inside him moaned. "My house will be ruined. My carpets, my furniture, my paintings. Oy, what have I gotten myself into?"
Then an idea came to him. At the appointed time, he could stand guard at his door. When the Rebbe arrived, he would open his door just wide enough to let the Rebbe in and then he would quickly shut the door before anyone else could get inside. Itche was quite pleased with this plan and was beginning to breathe normally again when he was once again caught off guard by the Rebbe.
"Will you be so kind as to make arrangements to transport us from our lodgings to your home?" asked the Rebbe.
Itche hesitated for a moment as he tried to sort out this new complication. If he personally went to pick up the Rebbe, he would not be able to stand guard at the door. But as it was unthinkable to send a servant in his place, he could only weakly reply, ""Yes, Rebbe. I would be honored to escort you to my home."
When the hour arrived to kindle the first light of Chanukah, Itche was a nervous wreck. His hands shook so much that he spilled the oil all over his fine lace tablecloth. During his search for the matches, he knocked over a costly statuette and it smashed into dozens of pieces when it crashed against the polished parquet floor. Finally, when everything was ready he tried to compose himself so he could light the Chanukah menorah with appropriate concentration. However, just at that moment his grandchildren came charging into the room.
"We want our Chanukah gelt. Give us our Chanukah gelt!" the children exclaimed.
Itche angrily chased the children out of the room and then, while still angry and frazzled, quickly lit the menorah. The holiday was not getting off to a good start.
The hour had now arrived to pick up the Rebbe. As Itche prepared to leave, he looked longingly about his beautiful home as if this was the last time he would ever see it. Then he stepped into his elegant carriage and signaled for the driver to drive off.
When Itche arrived at the Rebbe's lodgings, Reb Mordechai was just about to light his menorah. As he kindled the first light and lovingly chanted the traditional blessings with a soft, melodious voice, the Rebbe gazed at the menorah with intense concentration. Afterwards the chassidim began to sing, but the Rebbe never took his gaze off the tiny flame that was now locked in an intense fight with the darkness that surrounded it.
For poor Itche, whose only wish was that the evening would finally be over, each moment at the Rebbe's lodgings was agony. He could neither join in with the cheerful singing of the chassidim or appreciate the soulful musings of the Rebbe. He was therefore greatly relieved when Reb Mordechai finally roused himself from his reverie and signaled to Itche that the time had come to leave.
Itche helped the Rebbe into the fine carriage and they drove off. Itche was quite relieved to see that the chassidim, who had to follow on foot, were soon lagging some distance behind the carriage. He was about to give a small sigh of relief when Reb Mordechai asked him to stop the carriage.
"Is something wrong, Rebbe?" Itche worriedly inquired.
"I did not realize how far it is to your house," the Rebbe replied. "The distance we have traveled thus far is already worth eighteen gold coins. If you would like me to continue the rest of the distance it will cost you another eighteen coins."
When he heard these words, Itche felt as if he had just received a swift kick to his stomach. He had made peace with the idea of handing over eighteen of his hard-earned gold coins to the Rebbe, but saying good-bye to thirty-six of them was practically more than he could bear. Yet how could he say no to the Rebbe? And if he didn't say "yes" soon, the chassidim would catch up with the carriage.
"Replacing just one Turkish carpet will cost more than thirty-six gold coins," Itche quickly calculated. "Better to say yes and get going."
The carriage started up again and within a few minutes the Rebbe and Itche arrived at an imposing mansion. Itche quickly jumped down from the carriage and gave his hand to the Rebbe.
The Rebbe took his time getting down from the carriage and then he stood a few minutes to take in the fine scene. Ordinarily Itche would have been quite proud to show off the finely landscaped grounds, but tonight his one thought was to get the Rebbe inside his door as quickly as possible.
"Please, Rebbe, this way," Itche said as he pointed to the front steps.
Reb Mordechai approached the steps and gazed at them in wonder.
"Itche, I had no idea that your house has so many steps," the Rebbe said. "Having to ascend so many steps was not included in my original price quote. If you want me to continue, you must pay me eighteen gold coins for each one of these steps."
Itche gasped. There were fifteen steps leading up to his front door. If he wanted to host the Rebbe, it would now cost him more than three hundred gold coins. When he visualized himself handing over that princely amount of money to the Rebbe, he nearly fainted. But then he remembered something.
"When it's all over, the Rebbe will give me his blessing for continued prosperity. I will make back that sum and more, so I really have nothing to lose. The main thing is not to let those chassidim …"
But it was too late. The throngs of chassidim had already caught up with them and now they were joyfully bounding up those fifteen steps and cheerfully escorting the Rebbe through the wide open door.
The scene inside was just as Itche had painfully imagined it. Chassidim tramped across the plush carpets and leaned against freshly painted walls. Crumbs were dropped and brandy glasses were spilt. The elegant salon was in a shambles.
Itche was so distraught that he couldn't concentrate for a moment on the Rebbe's speech. All he could think about was how much this evening was going to cost him. And then he remembered the blessings.
"The blessings," he whispered to himself. "I must gather the children and the grandchildren. The Rebbe will return to his lodgings at the end of his talk. We must get his blessings before he leaves."
Itche ran to assemble his family and he somehow managed to get all of them together just as the Rebbe arrived at the front door.
"Please, Rebbe, these are my children and my grandchildren," said Itche. "Please bless them."
"Bless them?" the Rebbe replied in wonder. "Why do you ask me to bless them? I have no blessing for them."
At first Itche couldn't believe his ears and when the full import of the Rebbe's words did finally penetrate, he felt as if his heart was going to break into a million pieces. This evening had cost him a fortune and, even worse, he had obviously offended the Rebbe. This was no small matter and so who knew what other misfortunes were now laying in wait outside his door?
"Rebbe, please, don't leave," Itche pleaded. "Tell me what to do."
Reb Mordechai gazed at the distraught man for several long moments.
"If you want a blessing, you must sign over all your assets to me," the Rebbe calmly replied.
Itche felt as if the ground was opening up under his feet. Sign over all his assets? Become a pauper? How could he do such thing? How would he live? His fine house. His beautiful possessions. How could he live without them? How? He felt like he was drowning. He couldn't breathe. He couldn't think. He thought he would go mad from the deafening sound of his heart pumping furiously against his chest.
But then through the fog of his tortured thoughts he felt as if someone was slowly lifting up his eyes. Now that he was looking straight ahead, he could see gazing back at him the kind eyes of the Rebbe. Once Itche looked into those eyes, he felt as if a lifeline was being thrown out to him. At that moment all that mattered was that he was drowning and the Rebbe was the only one who could save him. Without taking his eyes off the Rebbe's face, Itche took a deep breathe and whispered, "So be it!"
Then the poor man fell to the floor in a dead faint.
As he slowly regained consciousness, Itche could hear the muffled sounds of several chassidim calling for a glass of water, a doctor, smelling salts and various other remedies. Then he heard the voice of the Rebbe loudly calling out: "Mazel tov! Mazel tov!"
Itche slowly opened his eyes and felt himself begin gently lifted him to a sitting position.
"Mazel tov, Itche," the Rebbe joyfully exclaimed. "I bless you and your children and your grandchildren with good health and great wealth and much happiness. May everything you turn your hand to be blessed."
The Rebbe continued to heap blessing upon blessing upon Itche's dazed head. With each blessing, the color began to return to Itche's pale cheeks and within a few minutes he was strong enough to stand unaided.
"You must know that you have just fought a terrible battle," Reb Mordechai explained. "Until this evening, your vast fortune was owned by your Evil Inclination. You had no control over it at all. When you signed over all your money to me, I was able to wrest it from the forces of evil. I now return it to you so that you will be able to use it for good.
"Tonight you have received Chanukah gelt," the Rebbe continued. "You are now the owner of your wealth. Just make sure that from this night on you behave wisely so that you do not lose this wonderful gift a second time."
"Thank you, Rebbe," Itche said with a trembling voice. Then he took out his wallet from his coat pocket. "Allow me to pay you, Rebbe, for the honor of having you in my home for tea."
Itche began to take out several large bank notes from his wallet, but Reb Mordechai stopped him.
"It is my custom to accept eighteen gold coins for tea," said the Rebbe. "That is all that you owe me."
Itche gratefully handed Reb Mordechai the requested amount and the Rebbe quickly went on his way. From that night on, Itche was a different man. His door was now wide open to whomever was in need and his face seemed to glow with a special light whenever he had the chance to give some of his "Chanukah gelt" to others.
Libi Astaire is the author of several volumes of Chassidic tales, as well as the novel Terra Incognita. Visit her website at www.libiastaire.weebly.com

New Comment    New Comment
   See More Articles By Libi Astaire
   Read more about Chanukah

Top of article    Top of article       Email This Article    Email This Article          Share to Facebook       Print version    Print version

 Join the distribution list Join the distribution list
If you would like to receive other related articles or Breslev.co.il features via e-mail, please enter your e-mail address here:


 Related Articles Related Articles

Shared Secrets               A No-Debt Chanuka               Chanukah and the Paradox of Jewish Unity
 Shared Secrets  A No-Debt Chanuka  Chanukah and the Paradox of Jewish Unity

  0 Talkbacks for this article     

Add Your CommentAdd Your Comment    Add Your Comment    

In Honor of:    In Memory of:
Like What You Read?
Help Breslev Israel spread the light of Rebbe Nachman
across the globe, and be a partner in making a better world.
Click here to support Breslev.co.il
 Products of the Day Products of the Day
Back  1 2 3  Next
Back  1 2 3  Next
 Most talked about Most talked about
Up  1 2 3  Down
 Most read Most read
Up  1 2 3  Down
 Facebook Facebook
 Mailing List Mailing List
Subscribe Here:   


open toolbar