Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

23 Kislev 5761 - December 20, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly







Rich Man, Poor Man

by Chaim Walder

A Chanukah Story

One of the reasons for the custom of Chanukah gelt is that the Greeks asserted their control over the money of the Jews. We give out our money to show that we are now in control. This story explores what it means to control our money.

He looked like a crushed man who had lost all meaning in life. During the past year, age seemed to have taken Binyomin Riklin by surprise, and deep furrows had worn themselves into his face. His sons and daughters, and his sons-in-law and daughters-in-law, and their children, had assembled in his rented house. Nonetheless, there was no happiness there.

It was a few hours before Chanukah licht bentchen, and one of his sons-in-laws, in a supposedly casual manner, asked him if he had already bought a menorah and oil. Binyomin's eyes glinted for a moment. "This year, I will bentch licht on the costly and celebrated menorah of Shmaryahu Cohen. Immediately after Chanukah, I'll sell it to the highest bidder."

"How did you get hold of that menorah?" the son-in-law asked.

"It wasn't easy," he said, with a gleaming face, as if all of his terrible tsoros had vanished into thin air. "I know Shmaryahu inside out, and was certain that he wouldn't let go of this menorah even if he had to sell the shirt on his back. I figured that even though he sold all of his belongings and remained penniless, he hid this menorah somewhere.

"This morning, I sent two deputies to his house with a court order. They entered in his presence and found the menorah near the windowsill, ready for tonight's kindling. He tried to put up a fight, of course, but they took it and brought it to me. What does he think, that I will lose everything I own because of him and still let him light that menorah just like that, as if nothing had happened?"

Silence. He saw his children and sons-in-law exchange glances. Some of them stepped out into the hall, and whispered aloud. No, they weren't pleased.

His oldest son-in-law, Tuvia, finally sat down beside him, and the rest of the family followed suit. Their expressions were not propitious. "We have to talk about that," Tuvia said.

Forty Years Earlier

Binyomin and Shmaryahu, two ten-year-olds, are on their way home from school. Binyomin takes a rusty iron marble out of his pocket and tells Shmaryahu: "The marble season is over, and I am throwing this one into the wadi. I don't need it."

Shmaryahu: "It's a pity to throw it away. Give it to my brother Nochum. My parents don't have money for marbles, and he'll be very happy to receive a marble as a gift."

Binyomin: "Why should I give your brother Nochum a marble as a gift. Do I owe him something?"

Shmaryahu: "You don't have to, and I wouldn't have asked you for it, if you hadn't told me that you want to throw it into the wadi."

Binyomin: "But I don't owe your brother a thing."

Shmaryahu: "It makes no sense to throw it away and not to give it to my brother."

Binyomin: "You're right. Your words make sense."

Shmaryahu: "So you'll give it to my brother . . . "

Binyomin: "Of course not. I'll keep it for myself. If it's so important for someone, perhaps it really is a pity to throw it out."

Thirty Years Earlier

Binyomin and Shmaryahu, two twenty-year-olds, are on the way home from yeshiva for an off-Shabbos. Binyomin, the son of rich parents, summons a taxi. Two bochurim ask to come along. Binyomin says: "Pay." The bochurim reply: "But you're going anyway. Why not take us along?" Binyomin tells the cabby: "Drive."

The taxi driver begins to move ahead.

Shmaryahu: "Stop."

The driver stops.

Shmaryahu: "If you don't take them, I also won't go."

Binyomin: "Thank me for taking you for free."

Shmaryahu: "Thanks. I'm getting out."

Binyomin: "Do what you want."

The door opens. Shmaryahu leaves. Binyomin goes home alone.

Twenty Years Earlier

Binyomin and Shmaryahu are married men and go into business together. They are very successful and do well. Shmaryahu lives in accordance with his means. He lives in a nice house. His children dress well. He invests a lot of money in them. Shmaryahu saves up a lot of money. He invests part of it, and gives part of it as deposits to various gemachs. Shmaryahu doesn't like to keep money in his house. "Either in real estate or in mitzvos," he likes to say.

Binyomin tries to live simply. He's very apprehensive of income tax and of ayin hora. He lives in a very plain house. He argues about the fees for the building's maintenance committee and pays only when he is threatened with a law suit. Binyomin always pays with head checks spread out over months, even though his bank account attests to a high credit. Something causes him to postdate his checks by two months. He is fully aware of the angry look of the salesman. The knowledge that he has managed to reduce the salesman's profits to a minimum -- a profit the salesman will only see two months later -- makes Binyomin's remorse over the expense easier.

He doesn't invest in his children -- not in their clothing nor in their education. He's not one to hire a private teacher to live it up at his expense. Binyomin is one of the staunchest opponents of the custom of giving teachers Purim gelt. He regards that as bribery and unctuousness and he certainly is not one to taint himself with such sins.

Shmaryahu is known as "large." Some say that he is too easygoing with his money, and tends to dole it out freely. He's not one to ask a store keeper about the price of an item. He once mistakenly paid 300% more than cost price for a loaf of bread. The grocer thought that he had bought something else and Shmaryahu thought that it cost that much.

Shmaryahu doesn't care if people know about his wealth, while Binyomin cares -- oho, does he care! Shmaryahu behaves as if money is a burden one has to get rid of, while Binyomin holds on to every penny as if his life depends on it.

Ten Years Earlier

Shmaryahu and Binyomin's children reach marriageable age. Shmaryahu marries off his children generously. He has saved quite enough money to give to his children. He never asks the other side to pay its share. Actually, Shmaryahu behaves like a foolish merchant, in that he declares in advance how much he will give (and Shmaryahu isn't a foolish merchant). In addition, in the tenoim what do you think he writes, if not: side one (i.e. Shmaryahu) will give the sum of "x" dollars, while side two (the mechutonim) will give whatever they want.

The first time Binyomin saw such a nusach, he nearly had a heart attack. His mind couldn't fathom so foolish a financial agreement.

"All of them will take you for a ride and drain you of your last penny," he claimed.

"But no one has ever done that," Shmaryahu says. "I state the specific amount I have, and I give it."

"Didn't anyone ever try to squeeze more out of you?" Binyomin asks.

"Yes," Shmaryahu replies. "They tried, but didn't succeed, because I don't give more than I can."

"And why not try to squeeze more from the other side?"

"Why should I try? They love their kids no less than I love mine and they also are interested in their kids' welfare. I assume that they give what they can."

"If I were your mechuton, I would say that I don't have anything, that I am in debt, and that I can't even give even one cent," Binyomin declares.

Shmaryahu wants to say, "And that's why I'm not your mechuton." But he restrains himself and says: "You mean, then, that you don't love your children."

"Who says that I don't love them?"

"You are saying outright, that you would lie and refrain from supporting your children even though both of us know that you are a man of means."

"I am saying that if someone is willing to shower me with money, I won't refuse the offer," Binyomin replies.

"And if the other side doesn't have money?"

"Then I won't have any either."

"Because you love your kids, of course."

"Because I don't like it when people exploit me."

In truth, the shidduchim of Binyomin's children are like Krias Yam Suf, two times over. In addition to the difficulty in finding a suitable marriage partner, the difficulties which Binyomin places in their paths have to be overcome.

When the other side proposes high sums, Binyomin claims that from an ideological standpoint, he opposes the principle of fifty-fifty, saying: "That is why I can't give more than I've offered." In shidduchim in which the other side is poor, Binyomin declares that he regards the principle of fifty-fifty as sacred and inexorable. In some shidduchim, Binyomin manages to pressure the other side into giving way beyond their means, and in the cases in which he isn't successful, he reduces his own share to a minimum. To his family he explains: "So what if I have $70,0000 dollars? If he gave that sum, meila. But he's giving $15,000 dollars, so I'll give $15,000 too, and not a penny more."

The members of his family remain silent. What can they say?

They get married one after the other. At the beginning, his children suffer from many problems with their marriage partners, due to the numerous fights between Binyomin and his mechutonim. Binyomin never fulfills his obligations and surely never deviates from his obligations, not even by a cent. Even when genuine difficulties arise, Binyomin declares: "Go to the other side."

There is much friction between the sides and even between the couples themselves. Amazingly, what in the end puts out the fires is the fact that Binyomin's children silently agree with the accusations against him. Against the truth, what is there to say?

Shmaryahu's children live very comfortably. He marries them off generously and mammesh searches for ways to support them. He knows how to scold them when necessary for being too concerned about saving, or for running their homes in an irresponsible manner. But at the end of such discussions, the offer to help is always made. There are times too when he says: "Today I covered your minus. Don't you thing it's exaggerated to be NIS 5000 overdrawn?"

Shmaryahu's children might have been offended, had they not known that their father was right. Shmaryahu had a tendency to examine their financial situation and somehow always knew their balance in the bank. Some of his children transferred their accounts to distant banks for privacy but they quickly discovered that when their father didn't know about their distress, he didn't know that they needed help. As a result, they returned to the banks they had left.

Shmaryahu lived for his children, and they knew that quite well. He showered them with money and gifts, made sure that they were comfortable and helped however possible.

Binyomin on the other hand would settle accounts with his children. When they were in real trouble, he would agree to throw them a loan of a few dollars, about which he was careful to remind them again and again. Binyomin would present his children with the bill for a bag of rice he had once bought them, and if they had forgotten to pay, he would bitingly comment, over and over again: "It's not the few shekels for the rice. It's the principle of the thing. I did you a favor, and it is inconceivable for you to take advantage of that and not pay."

Shmaryahu and Binyomin conducted extensive business dealings together. Actually, Shmaryahu was the only person in the world Binyomin trusted. They would loan money to each other and sign as guarantors for each other.

Every now and then Shmaryahu would be asked to pay for various deals Binyomin had made and had afterward declined. Shmaryahu would first pay and then afterward call Binyomin in order to find out what was up. Binyomin would begin to reprove Shmaryahu, saying: "Why did you pay those scoundrels, when they owe me millions?" Then he would say that he would find a way to repay Shmaryahu. After that, everything would be forgotten by the silence of the two sides.

Forty years passed since their initial friendship had begun. Binyomin and Shmaryahu were both fifty, and had already married off most of their children. Both were very wealthy. Both were very respected in the community and, say what you like about his dealings with his family, in all that pertained to public donations, Binyomin displayed outstanding generosity, which rivaled even Shmaryahu's. Together with Shmaryahu, he would be invited as a guest of honor to all of the dinners and events in town, and would donate large sums -- tens of thousands of dollars.

The only thing which broke the hearts of his children, who struggled for their daily fare, were the articles in the papers describing the outstanding generosity of their father, only a week after he had asked them to return the 100 dollars he had loaned them. That was mammesh intolerable and his children required unusual emotional stamina in order to overcome the horrible feeling this engendered.

Two years Earlier

Rumors began to spread slowly. "Someone in the stock market deceived Shmaryahu Cohen. The guy bought a huge amount of diamonds from Shmaryahu, and paid him with bum checks, and then flew the coop." "Shmaryahu Cohen is in dire straits." "His checks bounce." "The bank has confiscated his assets." "Merchants in the stock market fall in the domino method." And then: "Shmaryahu Cohen fled abroad."

The entire country spoke about Shmaryahu Cohen's downfall. Whoever could place his hands on Shmaryahu's capital did so. His bank assets were confiscated. His luxurious home was offered for sale. His car was taken. Possessions registered under his name were sold to the highest bidder.

But all that covered only a small amount of his vast debts. It became clear that Shmaryahu had made a number of bad deals, and in order to revive his business he had then taken large loans, with which he had made the diamond deal which had totally brought about his final downfall. He unsuccessfully tried to return the loan -- which steadily swelled. In the end, he fled abroad, leaving behind scores of irate creditors.

The creditors swooped down on his assets, and left him emptyhanded. Nonetheless, there still remained millions of dollars of debt. They of course turned to the one who had signed as a guarantor for all of Shmaryahu's deals.

The guarantor was Binyomin Riklin.

Binyomin was thunderstruck. Suddenly he owed millions of dollars he didn't have. He hired the best lawyers in the country, but it was too late. The accounts in his bank and his savings were depleted by the banks and the creditors. His many assets were confiscated, and huge suits were filed against him in the courts.

His vast wealth was eaten up in a matter of days by a debt he had never owed. The creditors were clever enough to locate assets which he had thought they would never discover. His greatest anguish was caused when government collectors entered his home in broad daylight, and in front of his neighbors, took tables, chairs and other items of furniture, until his vacant home looked more like a broad and abandoned field. He didn't suffer long from the emptiness. Within a few months, Binyomin was forced, by court order, to sell his house. He moved into a rented apartment, and acquired or received second hand furniture. Mammesh, a pauper!

His children would come to console him and leave with totally aching hearts. Their father would tell them in a broken voice how much "the criminals had stolen from him under the aegis of the law." They were shocked. It soon became clear that their father had millions. Needless to say he had never even flashed that money in their direction, nor had they known that it had existed.

Binyomin began to track down Shmaryahu. He tried to locate Shmaryahu's assets, but in vain. Everything had already been located and sold. He hired lawyers to find Shmaryahu abroad, and to get hold of him. The ones who in the end brought Shmaryahu back to Israel were his children. They hired the best lawyers, who proved that their father had gone bankrupt. They then promised to sell their own homes and assets on the condition that the authorities would promise that when he returned home, he wouldn't be arrested. Shmaryahu landed in Israel at the end of Elul. His children enveloped him in much love and fought over the privilege of hosting him.

Shmaryahu asked them to rent him an apartment so that he wouldn't be a burden on them. He rented a simple apartment, got some second and even third-hand furniture, and remained idle at home. His children supported him honorably, and tried to maintain the standard of living to which he had grown accustomed. Every now and then creditors would come to his house and threaten him. His children and sons-in-law would defend him and negotiate with the creditors.

Only Binyomin did not stop pursing him. "That man ruined my life," he told his children. "He took the millions I had saved my entire life, miserable thief."

His children would exchange glances, and not reply, neither for or against.

The holidays passed. Cheshvan, Kislev. Chanukah was on the threshold, and Shmaryahu asked his oldest son to take out the large menorah, the only thing he still owned. All were aware of what that menorah meant to Shmaryahu. It was perhaps the only item he had inherited from his parents, and a great story lay behind it -- a story which spanned continents and generations.

The menorah was worth a few thousand dollars. But that wasn't the point. Binyomin, who knew quite well what the menorah meant to Shmaryahu, equipped himself in advance with a court order to confiscate Shmaryahu's portable assets, and on the morning of the 24th of Kislev, sent two messengers to seize Shmaryahu's menorah.

About an hour before licht bentchen, as was customary in Binyomin's home, his sons and sons-in-law, daughters and daughters-in-law, arrived in his home to participate in the candlelighting ceremony. Then the scene we described at the beginning of our story took place. Binyomin tells them about his seizing of the menorah and his intention to light it during Chanukah and then to sell it. Binyomin's oldest son- in-law sits down opposite him and says: "We have to talk about that."

"What do you mean?" Binyomin asks.

"We ask you to return the menorah to Shmaryahu."

"What happened? Are you going to defend Shmaryahu and oppose your father, the one who gave birth to you."

"Cholila," the son-in-law says. "We're not going against you. Nonetheless, we ask . . . "

Binyomin refuses. He is rankled by his sons-in-law, who side with his enemy, Shmaryahu. He prepares the candles in the luxurious menorah and afterward, recites the blessing and lights them. Silence prevails in the house. Binyomin feels like a stranger in his own home. He decides to break the silence. "Listen," he tells his son-in-law. "It bothers me that Shmaryahu is sitting in his house comfortably. I heard that your father has a connection with the attorney Blumberg. Perhaps you'll tell him that . . . "

"I don't think that I can act against someone who benefited me and was so kind to me for many years," the son-in-law replies.

"Your benefactor, someone who helped you?" Binyomin jeers. "When did he help you?"

"Through the years," the son-in-law says, "he was the one who gave each and every one of us the money to hold brissen for our children, when no one helped us. He is the one who gave us loans which became grants. He is the one who, from his own pocket, helped us pay for medical treatments for our children. He was the address. We came to him all of the years. No, we won't turn our backs on the person who helped us so much. Actually, I have $5000 in my pocket, which I borrowed from a number of gemachs, and I will go over to give it to him. I asked the halocho. I owe him the money, and I have to return it to him."

"When did he loan it to you?" Binyomin asks. The son-in-law requests to speak with him privately. "The first time was five years ago, when my wife -- your daughter -- pleaded with me to ask you for a loan so that we could buy winter coats for the children. I knew that it wouldn't go. Nonetheless, I mustered up the courage and came to your office. Davka, you were in a good mood that day. I told you about our tsoros, our difficulties, and in your good mood, you said: `No problem, Tuvia. You remember that my wife went on a shopping spree with you and bought shoes for your two girls. Remember? You owe me $100. Forget about that.'

"I left brokenhearted and on the verge of tears. On the way, I met Shmaryahu, who asked me why I looked so dejected. I told him. He took out a large amount of money from his pocket, and said: `I'm sorry that this is all I have.' Since then, whenever we met, without my asking him, he loaned me large sums, and never asked for them back. I personally owe him tens of thousands of dollars and I intend to pay back as much as I can," the son-in-law says.

One after the other, Binyomin's children begin to tell their father how Shmaryahu helped them over the years. Binyomin's face ruffles with each story. He too understands the meaning of what he has heard. They spoke gently and politely and tried to praise Shmaryahu and not to accuse their father. But Binyomin understood what they didn't say: how he -- Binyomin - - had neglected his children, how it had hurt them to see him refusing to help them, abandoning them to poverty and totally ignoring their distress, even when things reached the point of hunger and illness.

Binyomin's children return to their homes, and Binyomin is left alone with his wife. He looks at the waning candles, and begins to cry. Suddenly, the picture of his life becomes clear to him. As a merchant he knows how to make quick calculations, and his cheshbon this time is zero. He has no money, no house, no car, and his children feel that they really aren't his. Actually, he had known that for a long time, but that hadn't interested him. He had been too wrapped up in himself in order to pay attention to the distress of his children. But now it touched him -- why, he didn't know.

Late at night. The candles have gone out. Binyomin can't sleep. Suddenly he decides to do something. He takes the menorah and runs to Shmaryahu's house. Shmaryahu is awake. When he sees Binyomin with the menorah, he is surprised.

"What do you want?"

"To return your menorah."

"Why return it if you went to such pains and spent so much money to seize it?"

"Because of my children. I am afraid that they will leave me."

"Do you really fear such things?"

"I think they said they would light candles in your house tomorrow," Binyomin murmurs.

"That means that what really bothers you is that they are coming to me, and not that they are leaving you."

Binyomin doesn't answer.

"Like the rusty marble, no?"

Binyomin looks at him, questioning. He doesn't know what Binyomin is talking about.

"Forty years ago, you were about to throw a rusty marble into the wadi. When I asked you to give it to my brother, you decided to keep it. Remember?"

Truth to tell, Binyomin isn't built for such memories. But he did recall that incident, due to the simple fact that the following day, when Shmaryahu wasn't there, he threw the marble into the wadi.

"What do you want to say by that?"

"That you should have no gripes against me, since I didn't bring about any bad changes in your life."

"Interesting to hear," Binyomin cynically says. "My many creditors think that I have been transformed from a rich man into a poor man. Whichever way you look at it, that's a change for the worse."

"Do you know that since childhood you have been poor?"

"Because I made a mistake and became your friend," Binyomin retorts.

"Because a poor man can't give of himself or of his possessions to others; because a poor person is one who isn't happy with his lot; because poverty is a matter of character, and not a matter of one's financial situation."

"One doesn't pay the grocery bill with character . . . " Binyomin says.

". . . but without character, there is no need to go to the store," Shmaryahu finishes the sentence. "There is no reason to live."

"Really, after all you did to me, I indeed find no purpose to my life," Binyomin says.

"And before that you had purpose?" Shmaryahu asks. "Did you ever think about that?"

Binyomin doesn't remain silent. ""Why are you behaving so self-righteously all of a sudden? Has what happened to you brought you happiness?"

"You don't know how right you are," Shmaryahu says. "For the first time in my life I discovered the true world, not that which hides behind personal interests. This year, the true world was revealed to me in all of its glory and without its disgrace. This year, I discovered who was a true friend all through the years, and who was really interested only in his own good. I listed the large institutions which didn't invite me this year to their dinners because they knew that there was nothing to milk from me. I listed all those who distanced themselves from me and my children, and who refused to give me a hand. However, I also recorded the behavior of the genuine people, like the gabbai of the shul who used to "punish" me, despite my status and money, by not giving me an aliya when I talked in shul. I always thought that he was my enemy. But davka during my difficult times it was he who helped me secure the ragged furniture which you see here now. I discovered a mentsch, and above all I discovered my children. They returned double the amount of the love I showered on them. I know how hard it was for them to manage, but they didn't divulge a thing. They agreed to sell all of their assets, so that I could be with them. If I ever doubted their love for me, those doubts have now disappeared. Davka now that I am poor, I have become a rich man. I am happy with my lot. There is purpose to my life."

Binyomin doesn't know what to say. He thinks about himself and knows that he can't say the same thing. Throughout the years during which Shmaryahu had given money to both his children and to Binyomin's, he had kept his money to himself. Now, no one has money, and what remains is the memory.

What do Shmaryahu's children recall? All of the good he showered on them. Binyomin's money, which was invested in assets and hidden in various places, would never return. Shmaryahu's money also went, but was returned to him in other ways -- in love, support and admiration.

Suddenly Binyomin felt like the loneliest man in the word. He knew that Shmaryahu was the only one who would understand him.

"Do you know?" he said to Shmaryahu. "I am very angry at you. You knew all these years what I was doing to myself. Why didn't you warn me what awaited me? Why didn't you reveal to me all you knew?"

"I told you," Shmaryahu said. "But you refused to listen. Try and remember how many times I told you to give your children more, and you would wave the shoes which you once bought for your granddaughters in my face. I told you, and you didn't listen."

Binyomin continues with his claims: "We always shared our financial investments with each other. Why didn't you share with me the idea that the most important investment in your life is your children?" Binyomin's voice grows angry. "How did you dare invest in what belonged to me, my children? For many years, you bought them with money and with your smooth tongue. Why did you behave toward me with deceit?"

Shmaryahu answers: "I suggested that you invest in them, and you scorned that investment. I helped your children because I couldn't bear to see them suffering. Do you know how serious their problems were? They would come to you with their problems and offer you the investment -- and you refused it. Why come to me with complaints? You must thank me that on my merit you now know what was hidden from you your entire life."

"To thank you? For what? For your having gone bankrupt and dragged me along with you? Aren't you ashamed to say that? You took all of my life's savings, nearly five million dollars -- and I should thank you? For what?"

"For the knowledge," Shmaryahu said. "If you had continued to remain a rich man your entire life, you would never know what you know today. Until your dying day, you would be a pauper, without knowing it. The money would have blinded you, and hidden your life and the lives of your children from you. The money would have hidden your `poverty' from you too. You would have drowned in a sea of money, while still remaining poor."

"OK. Now I know," Binyomin says. "And how does this knowledge help me? Now everything is over. My money has been taken away. So have my children's hearts, which never belonged to me. Both of us are paupers, and both of us know a lot about the world, but can't do a thing with that knowledge. You know who turned their backs on you after you went bankrupt. So what will you do? You won't go to their dinners? Anyway they won't invite you. And me? I know too late what I could have done for the sake of my children. What can I do with that knowledge? Nothing, except eat my heart out the rest of my life over the opportunity that presented itself, yet was wasted."

"The opportunity of your life hasn't been wasted," Shmaryahu says. "Actually, your life can begin at this moment, right now. Go home and begin your life anew. Give your children all of the best. Scatter money to others, and begin to be a wealthy man who is happy with his lot."

"This isn't the time for jokes," Binyomin says. "I'll never again be rich, because of my/your debts, which I won't be able to repay until my dying day. You're right. Since childhood I have been ideologically poor without even knowing it. Now I know that, thanks to you -- if you deserve thanks. Now, precisely when I have stopped being poor ideologically, I am poor materially. Which is better? I don't know. In any event, be well my friend."

Binyomin leaves the house. Suddenly, he turns around and says:

"Anyway, thanks for the information."

"By the way," Shmaryahu replies. "Here's a letter which I wrote you."

He takes an envelope out of his pocket and gives it to Binyomin.

Binyomin begins to walk through the dark and cold streets. His life passes before his eyes, and a tremendous pain cuts his heart. He knows that his life is one great waste, and he wishes that he weren't alive. The pressure in his chest grows stronger and he is afraid that he might have a heart attack due to his great sorrow.

Suddenly, he feels an urge to read the letter. He pulls it out of his pocket, and sees two pieces of paper. The first is in Shmaryahu's handwriting.

"My dear friend," Shmaryahu writes. "I have always known that `wealth' and `poverty' are loftier concepts than people think. Since childhood my father would tell me that there are things which one can't buy with money, and things which one can buy even if he doesn't have money. You had all of the money in the world and because of it could not enjoy the things poverty gives.

"I saw too, how you, my friend, didn't perceive the simple things I understood, and I rightly feared that money also hid some important things from me too.

"Then I went bankrupt due to a person who thought that there is a shortcut to wealth and happiness. He made a mess of my life, and transformed me and you and many others into wretched paupers.

"This morning I received a telegram from London. The sophisticated impostor who ruined my life and those of hundreds all over the world, was killed when his private plane, which he bought with my money and yours and that of many others, crashed. Death, apparently can also be bought with money -- something else I recently learned. `Wealth as a stumbling block,' they call it.

"The money which he stole went down the drain in failing investments and successful expenditures, because money that comes easily also goes easily. All those he deceived can forget about the money he stole from them.

"Your friend, Shmaryahu Cohen.

"P.S. By the way, there is a strange custom in the Israeli diamond market, that when a diamond deal of tens of millions of dollars is done, the buyer takes out a life insurance policy in his name, in order to safeguard the seller in the event of the buyer's death. I don't like that custom, but for some reason, before swindling me, the crook insisted on taking out an insurance policy for $38 million with me as the beneficiary. The policy is in my pocket. The insurance company, Lloyd's of London, has informed me that I will receive the money in exactly a month's time."

Binyomin, who was totally confused, places the letter in his pocket. Suddenly he recalls that there is a another piece of paper in the envelope.

He takes out the paper. It is a check from a Swiss bank made out to Binyomin Riklin. The sum is $5,000,000 or, in words, five million dollars.


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