Change of Heart
Avraham’s parents tried their hardest, but in those days it was a struggle to put bread on the table. If he wanted any extras – a toy, a candy, a new suit – he would have to earn the money himself. And so little Avraham went out in search of after school jobs.
One of Avraham’s jobs was as a delivery boy for a local grocery store. By the end of the week, the job would earn him a whole five dollars. If he was lucky, he might get a ten or even twenty cent tip from a customer.
One afternoon, Avraham was sent to deliver groceries to Rebetzin Chana, the mother of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Avraham went and knocked on the door. As the door opened, Avraham was surprised to see none other than the Lubavitcher Rebbe himself, welcoming Avraham into the house.
Avraham carefully placed the bags on the floor, and turned to leave. The Rebbe thanked Avraham for his services and handed him a tip. Avraham looked at the bill in his hand, and his eyes grew wide.
Ten dollars! A ten dollar tip! He thanked the Rebbe profusely, and started to run home, eager to show his mother his new found wealth. As he left Rebetzin Chana’s house, he was approached by several Lubavitcher chasidim.
“Did you see the Rebbe?” one man inquired. “Did he give you a tip?”
Proudly, Avraham showed the men the ten dollar bill.
“I’ll make you a deal” the man offered. “I’ll give you this twenty dollar bill, in exchange for your ten.”
Twenty dollars! A whole month’s salary! Avraham eagerly handed the man the ten dollar bill. As promised, the man presented Avraham with twenty dollars. Avraham ran home and showed his mother the money. Immediately, the two of them went out to buy a new suit for him.
When Avraham’s father got home, he was very surprised to see his son’s purchase, and inquired as to where Avraham got the money to pay for a new suit. Avraham related the story of the Rebbe’s tip, and the subsequent deal that Avraham made. Avraham’s father was not pleased.
Two weeks later, Avraham’s father took him to the Rebbe’s tisch. When the two of them approached the Rebbe for a blessing, Avraham’s father asked the Rebbe if he recognized Avraham.
“Of course!” replied the Rebbe. “You delivered groceries to my mother.”
Avraham’s father told the Rebbe about the deal that Avraham made. Far from being upset, the Rebbe seemed to enjoy the story.
Avraham continued his delivery work, occasionally making deliveries to Rebetzin Chana. One day, Avraham knocked on the Rebetzin’s door, and, once again, it was opened by her son, the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Avraham brought in the groceries. Once again, the Rebbe extended a ten dollar bill to the boy.
“Take this and put it in your pocket” the Rebbe instructed. He then handed Avraham another ten dollar bill, and said “you can sell this one to the chasidim outside.”
This is the story, as related by Avraham, the protagonist.
Let us examine a legal aspect of the story. Was it, in fact, permitted for the chasidim to exchange bills with Avraham?
Answer of Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, shlita:
It is certainly prohibited for the chasidim to trade Avraham for the ten dollar bill which he received from the Rebbe. A minor who earns money takes possession of the money, and a minor is not capable of transferring ownership of his property to someone else. Therefore, in actuality, the chasidim committed theft.
In addition, it is important to note that, not only did they commit theft, but the premise of their intended transaction was incorrect. Merely taking possession of the ten dollar bill was insufficient to bestow blessing upon them. The blessing came from the Rebbe, not from owning the bill. Therefore, the blessing remained in the possession of the child.
If the child were above the age of bar mitzva, there would not have been a problem of theft. However, it seems that there would have been a transgression of the prohibition “lo tachmod” (do not covet), in that the chasid desired the boy’s property, and enticed the boy to sell it, despite the fact that the boy did not fully understand the implications of the transaction.
Translated by Avigail Kirsch