The story of the holy snuff box
A beautiful story retold by Marc Gafni
Everybody knows that Holy Beggars hold the world together. Thus would one modern master introduce the following sacred story. Never, never pass by a holy beggar, and they are all holy. Walk across the street. Go out of your way! Who knows who he really is? Who knows what great soul lays hidden in that tattered beggar? You never know… You never know. All you can know that is if someone asks, they must certainly need.
One day a beggar came to see the Holy Israel, Master of the Name. He was angry and depressed. “What kind of a God do you have. I used to be rich – I helped many people. But now look at me – I have lost everything. It’s not fair. How did such a fate fall upon me?!” And with that the beggar broke down into tears.
“Sweet Yossele,” said Israel, Master of the Name. “All the mysteries are in your own life. Think back to Yom Kippur six years ago.”
And now the master Israel had Yossele’s complete attention. For how did he know that his name was Yossele – and how could he know what he had done six years ago? Master Israel continued. “It was a fast day, the holiest day of the year. A day when we pray all day long. People on that day are at their weakest, but also at their highest. You remember, Yossele, that you brought the snuff box to the prayer service?” For although on this fast day eating is proscribed, fragrance is permitted. Often, as in the prayer fellowship I grew up in, snuff boxes would be passed around, to offer fragrance to revive the spirits for prayer.
”Do you remember, asked Master Israel, how you went around to all the congregants giving snuff to everybody?” Yossele, now spellbound, could only nod silently. “Well there was a beggar in the back of the room, lying lifelessly on a bench. You said to yourself – just for a second, ‘Why should I walk back there for him? He can come up to me to get his snuff.” Yossele was overwhelmed as he recalled for the first time that fleeting thought. “Well,” continued Master Israel “that beggar hadn’t eater for three full days. If only you knew how much he needed that pinch of snuff! He was so inside of his prayer that the heavenly gates were wide open… listening to his every word, his every sigh.
“When the holy angels saw that you did not walk back and give this holy soul some snuff, that was it – they were enraged! They decreed you should lose all your money and that the beggar should become wealthy instead of you. Well, that beggar is now the wealthiest man in your town.”
At this point, Yossele’s contrition turned to anger. “You mean that beggar has all of my money? What chutzpah! How do I get it back?”
“Actually, you can get it back,” answered Master Israel with a twinkle in his eye. “If you can find a time when you ask him for a pinch of snuff, and he refuses, at that moment all of that lost wealth will be returned to you.”