"What Kind of Congregants I've Got!"
TOLD BY SHIMON ḤALAMISH TO NILI ARYEH-SAPIR
A well-to-do merchant who did most of his business on the road and was always traveling once had the bad fortune to be stuck in a town far from his home on a Friday afternoon. Unable to get home, he had to stay there and spend the Sabbath in a foreign place, in some inn.
But what could he do with all the money he was carrying, since it is forbidden to handle money on the Sabbath? He remembered a passage in the Talmud: "If darkness overtakes a man while he is traveling, he must give his purse to a gentile."* Finally he came up with the idea of storing his money in a safe place and went to the house of the local rabbi. The rabbi greeted him cordially. Hearing his request, he agreed to accept the purse, of course. He called over two men who frequented his house. "Look," he told them, "this Jew wishes to deposit his money with me so that he will not, God forbid, come to desecrate the Sabbath." Then he turned to the Jew. "Please, give me your purse, count how much you have in it, and here are your witnesses!"
He opened the drawer in his table and put the purse inside. The Jew went off, wishing him a peaceful Sabbath and promising to return when the Sabbath was over.
When the sanctity of the Sabbath had departed, after Havdalah,** the Jew appeared in the rabbi's house and wished him a good week. The rabbi asked whether he wanted to recite Havdalah. The Jew said that he had already recited Havdalah, but…
"What do you want, man?" demanded the rabbi.
The Jew took fright. "Rabbi, before the Sabbath I gave you my purse with my money!"
The rabbi pretended that he did not know what the man was talking about. "Oh, your honor must have had a dream. I will be glad to try to interpret it."
"Mishnah Shabbat 24:1.
"The ceremony that marks the end of the Sabbath.