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"If despite this you do not heed Me, then I shall punish you further, seven ways for your sins" (Vayikra 26:18). Rashi explains that the seven punishments correspond to the seven sins mentioned earlier in the chapter.

It is well known that Hashem deals with people "measure for measure." The person himself sets the tone, for better or for worse. It is none other than he who sets into motion the way Hashem behaves with him, and he reaps the fruit of his own labors.

Before the great tzaddik Reb Zishe, ztvk"l, became renowned, he was considered by many to be just an average Torah learner and was nicknamed Reb Zishe Batlan. Consequently, he was considerably poor and served Hashem under difficult, trying conditions. Nevertheless, he was extremely devout, pious and happy.

There was an innkeeper who would give charity with an open hand. His wife, who was very righteous and modest, noticed how poor Reb Zishe was and recommended to her husband that he give him a tzvantziger (lit. a twenty; an amount of money) every week. From then on, the innkeeper began to succeed in everything he put his hand to; much more than he should have naturally. As his wealth increased, so did his hospitality. He opened his house to the poor and always welcomed guests.

One day he told his wife that he is flabbergasted at the unusual success he has been having. He couldn't attribute it to any specific improvement in his own Torah study or observance; yet he was obviously receiving an abundance of blessings from Heaven. His wife replied that she had noticed it too, and had come to the conclusion that it was in the merit of the support they had been giving to Reb Zishe. On the spot, they decided that they would designate a room of their home for Reb Zishe to live in and learn Torah and serve Hashem in tranquility.

From that day on, the innkeeper's businesses boomed and he became one of the wealthiest people in his town. Simultaneously, he distributed large sums of charity to the poor and supported Torah institutions and projects; prominent rabbis and simple people were constant guests at his home since he knew, without doubt, that his sustenance was a reward from Hashem for supporting Reb Zishe.

Several years later, the Maggid of Brod came to town. It went without saying that his place of lodging was with the innkeeper who catered to all of his needs with a big smile. During his visit, though, the Maggid heard a lot of noise coming from a side room. He asked the innkeeper what the commotion was all about and he answered that he is supporting a devout person, Reb Zishe Batlan, and he is convinced that Hashem has blessed him for it. The noise he heard, he explained, is Reb Zishe learning and praying.

The Maggid replied that the innkeeper was surely doing a very commendable thing but he asked why waste so much money on a simple person? The Maggid said that he could send the great Rosh Yeshiva of Brod, who is a giant Torah personality, to live here, "and your investments will bring much bigger dividends."

The innkeeper agreed to the proposal immediately and that very same day he called Reb Zisha and explained to him that after supporting him for several years, he now needed the place for a big talmid chacham (Torah scholar). Reb Zisha thanked the innkeeper for his years of hospitality and took his knapsack and returned to his previous life of wandering in poverty. However, a short while later people began to recognize his greatness and it did not take long before he was accepted as a prominent Chassidic Rebbe of many Chassidim. At the same time, though, the successes of the innkeeper reversed drastically from the day Reb Zisha left his home. Realizing that he had made a grave mistake, the innkeeper inquired as to the whereabouts of Reb Zisha Batlan, and was not too surprised to hear that he was now one of the prominent rabbis of the community who helped many people with his blessings and prayers for their welfare. He decided that, although he had embarrassed Reb Zisha by sending him away, nevertheless, he would go before him and remind him of all of the years he had supported him and ask for his help. Surely he would be kind to him.

The innkeeper came before the Rebbe, Reb Zisha and poured out his heart to him. He asked his forgiveness and admitted that he had made a terrible mistake. Since he had left, he told him, his luck had changed radically and every day things got worse and worse. He begged the Rebbe to forgive him and to bless him that he be successful again.

The Rebbe replied that he held no grievances against him but that, unfortunately, he could not help him. The innkeeper began to cry bitterly and then he argued that actually he had done the Rebbe a big favor by sending him away because only then were people able to recognize his true greatness and, as a result, he had became famous.

But the Rebbe explained that his pleas were in vain because he did not understand what had actually transpired. "I am really not such a big tzaddik," said the Rebbe modestly, "but as long as you did not "check my credentials," Hashem did not check yours either and He repaid you for your kindness to me. But once you decided that you only wanted to support someone who is a real talmid chacham, Hashem decided that He too would grant His blessings to someone who not only gave charity but served Him properly in other ways too. Unfortunately, Hashem transferred your prosperity to someone else and I cannot do anything to get it back to you."

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel