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"If you take your fellow's garment as security, until sunset shall you return it to him. For it alone is his clothing, it is his garment for his skin -- in what should he lie down? -- so it will be that if he cries out to Me, I shall listen, for I am compassionate" (Mishpatim 22:25-26).
Hashem cares very much how we treat our fellowman. Sometimes, our haughtiness causes us to forget that He has promised to Personally protect the underdog and fight his battles for him. In the following, scary, story, retold by Rabbi Zilberstein shlita in his newest book, Borechi Nafshi, an otherwise wonderful person learned this lesson from his own difficult experience.
In a large, ultra-Orthodox community in the States, lives a very wealthy man who always knew how to properly use the treasure Hashem gave him. He is a generous philanthropist who donates huge sums to support Torah institutions and other charitable causes. Consequently, he is beloved by everyone who knows him. Everyone who ever passed his mansion felt jealous; not only of his financial status, but, most of all, of the many opportunities to do good deeds which he had and took advantage of.
And then, one day, tragedy struck. On a Friday night, the shrill of sirens were heard in the neighborhood, and the news quickly spread that the philanthropist's 11 year old daughter was ill. The horrified neighbors soon heard that the girl had suddenly collapsed, for no apparent reason, and had been rushed, in a coma, to the hospital.
The doctors tried to revive the girl and stabilize her condition, but they were not successful. She remained unconscious and her situation even got worse. The most puzzling thing, though, was that none of the medical tests showed anything wrong. Everything seemed to be normal; yet the child remained in a coma for over half a year.
Members of the family stayed at her bedside around the clock. In the eyes of the community, they had changed from being people everyone had envied and had become instead those whom everyone pitied. Finally, after about seven months, the girl's condition improved, little by little, until she returned to her health again.
All were amazed at what had occurred, and it seemed to them that the rich man had apparently been punished for something. But no one could even fathom what he possibly could have done wrong to have caused it. Until one day, a local Rabbi decided to ask the father bluntly, whether or not he had any inkling of why this tragedy befell him. Surprisingly, he immediately answered in the affirmative and he told that Rabbi that it was the result of a bad situation between him and one of his partners.
"After working together for many years," the rich man began his story, "we had a disagreement and decided that it was time for our ways to part. However, even after we split, the animosity between us remained, and even increased. It came to the point that whenever I heard that my former partner invested in a particular item, I would buy a large amount of it and sell it below cost, just to break the market and cause him financial loss. This went on for a while, until what began as a minor quarrel between us developed into a major battle.
"After a while, a good Jew decided he would attempt to make peace between us and succeeded to get us to meet together. My former partner asked me how I had the audacity to do such terrible things to him and intentionally cause him financial losses. 'Don't you believe that there is a Judge in Heaven Who will punish you for your actions?' he asked me.
"I replied that in business everything goes. We live in a free country and everyone can do what he pleases in order to succeed.
"My former partner replied, almost to himself, that the world is not hefker (without an owner) and that anyone who thinks that in business he can do whatever he wants to is greatly mistaken.
"I was infuriated by his words and I replied, 'Don't teach me what to do and don't tell me any mussar (words of reprimand).' "And then my former partner responded quietly, 'You're right. I won't teach you anything. But Hashem will teach you that there is a Judge Who runs the world!'
"That was the end of our conversation and of our meeting which took place on a Friday morning. That very evening, my daughter collapsed and the ambulance rushed her to the hospital in a coma where she remained in serious condition for over half a year. Can I have any doubts as to why I was punished? I can assure you that I learned my lesson too."
Shema Yisrael Torah Network