The Human Side of the Story

For the week ending 31 December 2011 / 4 Tevet 5772

The Silent Appeal

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
Library Library Library

The Vishnitzer Rebbe of blessed memory was in the habit of taking a short evening stroll for his health in the company of some of his followers. One evening he stopped in front of the luxurious home of the Jewish head of a local bank and informed his escorts that he was going inside for a visit. This raised some eyebrows, for this banker was not a particularly observant Jew and certainly not one of the rabbi’s followers.

The banker was even more surprised as he invited the rabbi to sit down. To his even greater surprise the rabbi took a seat but uttered not a word. His continued silence so rattled the nerves of his host that he finally asked him the purpose of his visit.

"I came to fulfill a mitzvah," explained the rabbi. "Our Sages rule that just as it is a mitzvah to admonish someone who will heed your reproof, it is a mitzvah to refrain from saying something which will not be heeded. I am convinced that what I want to say to you will be ignored but if I stay home and refrain from saying it I will not really be fulfilling that mitzvah. I therefore came here where I have the opportunity to say it, and refrain from doing so because it will be counterproductive in making your guilt greater by ignoring the reproof."

The banker’s curiosity was aroused and he repeatedly begged the rabbi to reveal the nature of this secret message. The rabbi then told him that the bank he heads was about to foreclose its mortgage on the home of a widow in the community and he wanted him to show special consideration for her. The banker countered by pointing out the large sum of money involved and the fact that he was only the manager and not the owner of the bank.

"You see," said the rabbi as he rose to leave, "I told you that I didn’t want to say anything because I knew you wouldn’t listen."

The banker’s conscience, however, was so touched that a few days later he took money from his own pocket to save the widow’s home.

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