Translation and Commentary by Rabbi Dr. Eliezer Shore
Everyone knew of the tzadik from Sassov, Rabbi Moshe Leib. Thousands of people constantly streamed to him to ask for blessings and advice on personal and business matters, and he never refused them his precious time.
Once, when Rabbi Moshe Leib was visiting the town of Brod, a wealthy woman came to him to ask him to pray for the recovery of her daughter who was seriously ill. When the woman introduced herself and mentioned her father's name, Rabbi Moshe Leib realized that he knew of her family, who were famous for their generosity to the needy. As the conversation progressed the wealthy woman described her child's illness, and the tzadik promised to pray for her. As it was customary to give the tzadik a monetary donation to distribute among the poor or for a specific urgent cause, the woman removed an envelope from her purse and placed it on the table, but Rabbi Moshe Leib refused to accept it. "I don't want money from you!" he said.
"But Rabbi, what do you mean? What is it that you want from me? I will do anything in the world to help my daughter!"
"I know that you have a very beautiful and precious Chanuka menora. That is what I want!" Rabbi Moshe Leib said quietly.
"Rabbi, I do have the menora you describe, but it is a family heirloom and my most precious possession. However, if you want it, I will gladly give it to you!"
The Rebbe listened carefully, nodding his head. "I am aware that the menora is very special and precious to your family. If you agree to let me have it, you must mean this most sincerely; you must give it to me with no compunctions or inner doubts whatsoever."
"I understand completely, and I agree wholeheartedly. The menora is yours; I will bring it to you today," the woman said in a strong, firm voice.
That evening, when she came and presented the menora to Rabbi Moshe Leib, his students were buzzing with amazement. How had the Rebbe known about the menora's existence? Why had the Rebbe asked for a gift, something so far out of character? And why in the world did he want it anyway, when it was a known fact that he used only the menora he had received from his teacher and Rebbe, Reb Shmelke of Nicholsburg?
On the first night of Chanuka, as the Rebbe prepared to light the first wick, Reb Yechiel Tzoref the silversmith stood at his side. He had no idea why he had been chosen for this great honor, but he was beaming with happiness. After the light was kindled, the Rebbe beckoned to Reb Yechiel to enter his study. "I want to tell you a story about your grandfather, may he rest in peace, for whom you were named.
"When the time came for your grandfather to arrange a match for his daughter, he was so poor, he couldn't find a suitor. No one would lend him money, since it was obvious he could never return the loan. After exhausting all of his acquaintances he decided to approach a certain very wealthy man. When he asked him to lend him money to arrange a marriage for his daughter, the wealthy man replied, 'I know you will never be able to repay me, but I will make a deal with you. I know that you own a very beautiful menora, the likes of which I have never seen. If you will give it to me, I will give you 10,000 gulden, enough for the marriage and even more!'
"When Reb Yechiel heard the demand, he was shocked. It was his most precious possession. He, himself, had made it from silver coins that his Rebbe, Reb Zushe of Anipoli, had distributed to his Chasidim each year as Chanuka 'gelt.' Reb Yechiel had collected the prized coins year by year. When he had amassed quite a collection, Reb Yechiel melted them down and formed from them a magnificent menora. It was this menora which the rich man wanted. No, thought Reb Yechiel, he couldn't even think of relinquishing it.
"Having refused the rich man's offer, Reb Yechiel went everywhere to try to borrow the money, but in the end he failed. He had no choice but to accept the rich man's terms and part with his beloved menora. When the wealthy man passed away and stood before the Heavenly Court there was great confusion as to how to rule in his case. On the one hand, the rich man had certainly performed the mitzva of giving money to help poor brides. But on the other hand, he had coveted the prized possession of a poor man and caused him great pain.
"Finally, the Court reached a decision. The wealthy man's reward would be withheld, since the mitzva was intertwined with the sin of coveting the possession of another. "That is why I have arranged to return the menora to you, his grandson. The sin has now been atoned for, and the wealthy benefactor of your grandfather will rest in peace, enjoying his eternal reward."