There lived in Vitebsk a prominent Jew by the name of Reb Gavriel. Soon after the Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, became the first Rebbe of Chabad, Reb Gavriel became a devoted Chassid of the Alter Rebbe.
His family, who were antagonistic to the Chassidim and the Chassidic way of life, tried to dissuade him from following this path. When their words did not change his mind, they used other means to show their displeasure. His father and brothers and other relatives began persecuting him and used concerted efforts to ruin his source of income. But none of this had an effect on Reb Gavriel. Ignoring all his personal difficulties, he continued to visit Liozna and bask in the warmth and love of the Rebbe and the Chassidic way of life.
Reb Gavriel chose not to complain to the Rebbe about his losses and his deteriorating financial situation. On the contrary, he always contributed generously to all the causes for which the Rebbe turned to his Chassidim. He supported the needy scholars in the holy Land of Israel, who had no other source of income in those days and contributed to the ransom of captives, among others.
Reb Gavriel and his wife Chana Rivkah had another source of heartache. They had been married for twenty-five years and had not yet been blessed with a child. Yet, even about this, Reb Gavriel refused to complain to the Rebbe, and never brought it up. By nature, Reb Gavriel was a happy person and he retained his optimism until one day….
A large sum of money was needed by the Rebbe for a particular mitzvah of pidyon shevuyim – ransom of captives. As was the custom, the Alter Rebbe sent a messenger to his Chassidim in the outlying communities assigning each one an amount to contribute. When the messenger told Reb Gavriel how much he was expected to give, he realized that this time he simply did not have the money, though he did not say so to the messenger who continued on his way.
Reb Gavriel’s wife observed that since the messenger had come, her husband appeared sad. This was very unusual as he always was most pleased when a messenger of the Alter Rebbe came to their house.
She approached him and asked him what was the matter and why he looked sad?
In answer to her query, he told her that due to his family’s untoward actions against him, they had been reduced to poverty and he simply did not possess the amount that the Rebbe had assigned to him.
“Haven’t you told me many times,” his wife said, “that our Rebbe teaches that one should always place their trust in G-d and be constantly joyful? So why be unhappy? The Almighty will surely help and enable us to contribute the full amount the Rebbe asked of us!”
A few days later, Reb Gavriel’s wife handed her husband a tied kerchief and said, “Look, here is the whole amount the Rebbe asked for. Go ahead and give it to the Rebbe.”
Reb Gavriel explained to her that generally the messenger returned to collect the money. However, within a short time, his brothers caused him another serious loss and he was afraid that he might be tempted to use the money to pay his creditors. So, he decided to follow his wife’s advice and set out immediately to Liozna to deliver the bundle to the Rebbe.
Arriving in Liozna he was allowed to enter the Rebbe’s room where he placed the bundle on the Rebbe’s table. He explained that since his financial situation was not as comfortable as it once had been, he decided to bring the tzedakah money himself.
The Rebbe told Reb Gavriel to open the bundle. When he did so, he was clearly surprised to see that the coins which fell out shone with extraordinary brilliance.
The Rebbe leaned his head on his arm in a state of deep concentration. When he raised his head, he said, “The contribution to the Sanctuary in the desert included gold, silver, and brass; yet nothing shone so brightly as the Laver and its Stand which were made of the brass mirrors contributed by the Jewish women with selflessness and joy. These were the last items to be made and the first to be used in the service in the Sanctuary.”
He then continued and asked Reb Gavriel where these coins came from? Reb Gavriel was forced to acknowledge the truth. For the first time, he told the Rebbe about the losses his family was causing him so that he did not have the money to give for the Rebbe’s cause. His wife Chana Rivka bat Beila had somehow raised the money together and gave it to him to bring to the Rebbe.
Once again, the Rebbe leaned his holy head on his arm, in a state of deveikut – holy concentration. And then he said, “Bat dina batel dina” (literally translated it means “decree delayed is decree cancelled”. However, “bat” also means “daughter” so using a play on words, this could mean, Daughter of decree, nullified decree).
The Rebbe continued, “Your harsh trials are over. May G-d grant you and your wife sons and daughters and long life to see grandchildren and great grandchildren. May G-d grant you abundant prosperity and wherever you turn you will find favor in the eyes of all you meet. My advice to you is to close your shop and beginning dealing with precious gems and diamonds.”
With a happy heart, Reb Gavriel rushed home to bring his wife the good news. He asked her about the shining coins.
“I sold my jewelry and then rubbed the coins for a long time with sand, until they glistened and sparkled like the stars, all the time praying to G-d that our mazal should begin to shine again.”
Reb Gavriel did as the Rebbe suggested. He closed his shop and began dealing with precious gems. G-d made his way prosper and he found favor in the eyes of the local nobles and squires who soon became his regular customers. Within a year his wife gave birth to their first child, a son. The couple went on to have more children and within a few short years, Reb Gavriel became very wealthy. He was nicknamed Reb Gavriel Nosei Chen – Gracious Gavriel – as whoever he met liked him and wanted to do business with him.
After forty years, he handed over his business to his sons and sons in law and established a community of ten scholars with their families who lived on his estate. Thus, he was able to spend his remaining years in Torah study, prayer, and continued acts of charity. Reb Gavriel lived to the ripe old age of 110, enjoying seeing children, grandchildren and great grandchildren following in his footsteps. And his wife outlived him by two years!
Adapted from Living Jewish #828 by Rabbi Yrachmiel Tilles. Story can be found in Chassidic Tales based on Sippurei Chassidim by Rabbi Zevin a’h.
This story was related by the Rebbe in connection with the 150th yahrzeit of the Alter Rebbe to N’shei u’Bnos Chabad 8th annual convention in New York in 1963. It is published in Letters by the Lubavitcher Rebbe to N’shei u’Bnos Chabad conventions.
The story can also be found in L’Chaim Weekly # 908 Feb. 17, 2006 – 19 Shevat 5766 published by LubavitchYouth Organization.