"It is rare that I have such a captive audience," said the
retired teacher who gives an occasional Shabbos shiur
in our neighborhood, "and this true story is too good to
I attended a funeral in Bnei Brak last week. It was hot and
feeling completely drained afterwards, I found myself a small
kiosk at the far end of Rechov Ben Zakkai which borders on
Ramat Gan. I went in, bought myself a bun and a drink, and
seeing an empty chair, asked if I could sit down to eat.
"Help yourself," said the proprietor. After a few moments of
silence, broken by no customers, he suddenly began fidgeting.
"You're from Yerusholayim, aren't you?" he asked, opening the
conversation. "Do you have a moment to hear something that
happened to me?" Halfway through the bun and curious, I
"Well, about two and a half years ago, a young couple comes
into the store, not regular customers and obviously recent
baalei tshuva. The young man turns to me and says, `I
owe you a lot of money and I'd like to pay it up now.'
"`A lot of money?' I echoed foolishly. `I don't know you. I
never lent you any money.' He nodded, `True, but I stole
things from you. I attended Remez (a government school
nearby) as a kid and during recess I used to hang around here
a lot and take things. Now that I've changed, I'd like to pay
up.' I thought for a moment and taken by his sincerity, I
offered, `Give me fifty shekel and we'll call it a deal.'
"It was his turn to be thoughtful. `Only fifty shekel? Well,
alright, but you've got to take it and declare sincerely
three times, `I forgive you, Moshe ben Yitzchok*, I forgive
you...' I took the money and forgave him.
"Just last week, two young men come in, one of them vaguely
familiar. The second one takes out a wad of bills and
announces, `Listen here, a friend of ours owes you some money
and he sent me here to pay up.' My eyes widened at the size
of the wad. `I don't lend out money and I'm no big business
man. I don't even run this kiosk on credit. Besides, I don't
even know you, so how can you owe me any money?' He looks at
me and says, `You see, it's like this. My friend and I had a
classmate... He died just last week and came to me in a dream
last night. He confessed that during our school years in
Remez, he used to climb into the back window at night and
steal lots of merchandise. Over the years, it ran to a large
sum. He has no rest there in the other world, he told me in
the dream. They won't begin his judgment until he sets this
matter straight. So please, for his sake, accept this money
and forgive him.'
"I nodded my head slowly and said, `I'll settle with a fifty
shekel bill. Sure, I forgive him.' `But you've got to say it
aloud,' said the young man, who didn't look at all like what
I would expect of a Remez alumnus. `Say: I forgive you, Rami
ben Chaim*. Say it three times, and mean it'."
"I did so. The young man shoved the wad back into his pocket
and then confided, `You know, we went over to the principal
of the Beit Yaakov school not far from here. In our youth, we
broke in several times, just for the thrill of it. We stole
whatever we found worth taking but we caused them a lot of
damage, besides, by wantonly breaking windows and
furniture...' he sighed. `We wanted to pay for the vandalism,
but she said it was alright, she forgave us. Actually, she
was relatively new at the job, she said, but she insisted
that her predecessor would surely have been happy to see that
those hoodlums had done tshuva.' "
The kiosk man looked at me to see if I was as moved as he
was. I was sure this was not the first time he had told the
story, either. He concluded his strange tale, "What I would
really like to do is to look up the principal of the Remez
school and tell her what became of her students..."