Tuesday. The international stock exchange is plummeting to frightening lows. The Wall Street exchange has shut down due to the drastic drops and the Dow Jones index has fallen almost 600 points. In Tel Aviv there has been a corresponding plunge. Wednesday: stabilization. The Dow Jones is up again, by 480 points. Thursday: after the sharp decline of the past few days, there was a hopeful recovery in the world markets, and stocks and commodities in the Tel Aviv exchange shot up in the tailfire of the Wall Street market's skyrocketing. Friday: again steep drops on the world exchanges. Many investors have lost millions and even billions, and top economists predict a recurrent decline in the world bourses.
These are the ups and downs of the Monopoly games of business and chance in the world markets. Everyone is rushing to either buy or sell stocks, despite the risk that a disastrous gamble may make them lose everything. Many investors, despite all the crises and upheavals that haunt the markets with the frequency of overnight mushrooms, continue to take risks, to invest, withdraw and invest again in the hope of getting- rich- quick. This, after all, is the very name of the game.
There is one stock exchange, also involved in active trade, which is different from all others in the fact that it only deals with profits. There are no losses here. This `exchange' was founded by the Alter of Novardok zy'o; it operated throughout the network of Novardok yeshivos the length and breadth of Russia and Europe.
This is how it worked: at designated hours the students would gather en masse, and engage in heated exchange. They would seek advice and `hot tips' on such `stocks' as diligence in Torah study, pure yiras Shomayim, emunah, bitochon, humility and the other worthy attributes upon which a high value have been placed by our sages throughout the ages.
A stranger finding himself here would see `business partners' young and old circulating in the yeshiva hall, involved in energetic dealings, no different than those on the floor of a stock exchange, and he might even mistakenly conclude that this was such a bourse. A closer look, however, would reveal to him the deeper seriousness and intensity surrounding the traders who were involved in matters wholly spiritual.
The Alter of Novardok used to say that just like a regular stock exchange determines the rates of currency, stocks and bonds, in its rises and falls, so does `our stock exchange' test and set the status of the spirit, its rating, in rise and decline of good deeds and character development.
Needless to say that among traders such as they, serious individuals who invested nights and days in the prodigious, indefatigable toil of Torah, whose rate was a steady incline in self improvement, and who were avidly involved in the spiritual stock exchange of the Novardok market, it was inevitable that great men develop, men rich in spiritual wealth, in mussar. This exchange produced stalwart, cedarlike roshei yeshiva, dayanim, and rabbinical figures and great leaders who cultivated, enriched and fertilized the vineyard of Jewry with their Torah and piety.
One of the spiritual magnates who reaped a fortune in the stocks of Novardok, a unique product, star disciple of the Alter, was HaRav Dovid Bleicher ztvk'l, founder and rosh yeshivas Novardok in Mezeritch.
Just to provide an inkling of his greatness in the area of bitochon, let us glimpse at an episode, one of many included in Kuntres Chasdei Dovid, appendixed to his work, Divrei Mussar Uvino.
It was shortly before Pesach when he found himself at an impasse. The yeshiva, which expected to host dozens of its students together with the ramim and their families for the festival, was without a penny in its treasury. HaRav Dovid told one of his confidants to borrow money with which to finance the baking of matzos, in the hope that a certain source would provide the necessary support. That source proved fruitless, and now the yeshiva found itself in debt, besides.
A son was born in his family at this time, and the bris was scheduled to take place on chol hamoed. The only provision which the family owned, a barrel of wine, broke just at this very crucial time. Not only did the wine pour out freely, but it reached the matzos, which were also ruined. Spirits in the family were at the lowest of the low; the situation was worse than hopeless.
HaRav Dovid, however, did not despair. He smiled and said, "We're not finished yet. I expect the landlord to come any minute and ask for the entire year's rent." He soon made his appearance, as predicted, and when no money was forthcoming, he took legal action. The family received a court eviction order. R' Dovid's wife burst into tears; it was too much for her to bear.
It was in this devastating condition that R' Dovid showed his shining trust and faith. He comforted the rebbetzin and said that salvation was sure to appear soon and that everything would turn out fine. So convinced was he of his words that he grabbed the hands of his students and broke out in song and dance, to the verse, "I thank You for having afflicted me, and for having been my salvation." He then explained that one's salvation is in direct measure with his suffering. Since they were suffering so much, the aid would be correspondingly great in measure. A great salvation must come! All is in the power of Heaven!
The very next morning he was informed that he had won a huge lottery prize. He was in the habit of buying a lottery ticket which, the Alter of Novardok had advised, was no contradiction to one's measure of faith in Hashem and did fulfill one's requirements of hishtadlus, that is, investing some personal effort. As a matter of fact, he often won sums of money from the lottery tickets, since he conducted all of the yeshiva's affairs along the guidelines of Providential trust.
This particular prize covered the necessary outlay for the yeshiva and its staff members and extended to the seudas bris. It also sufficed to pay the entire year's rent, with enough left over to purchase new clothing for the family for the festival. R' Dovid himself regarded this entire episode as another test, which he had succeeded in overcoming.
The Novardok `stock exchange,' which succeeded in producing men of high spiritual caliber, the likes of R' Dovid Bleicher and his colleagues, was never closed down. Its gates remain open to whoever wishes to purchase stock in Torah and Mussar, whoever wishes to invest in commodities with an everlasting value. They are available to one and all . . .
Even right now, anyone who seeks truth, faith, Torah, piety, or other spiritual commodities with high return, need only invest time and effort in application, constant daily study in mussar works, in energetic `dealing' with study partners who likewise seek the same commodities, who wish to perfect themselves in middos tovos, good practices, character improvement. "Then did the devout of Hashem converse with one another etc." can work, with guidance from the proper Torah leaders on the ways and methods of applying themselves. Thus will they be able to reap great dividends in achieving superior degrees and levels of spirituality and self perfection and thus become `millionaires' on the heavenly stock exchange.