In a village near Jerusalem there lived a rich Jew and his wife. Once a Gentile came to their home to borrow money. The woman went upstairs and opened the chest where they kept their gold. But when she reached in to take some coins, a voice called out, "Do not touch it! It is not yours!"

Frightened, the woman went downstairs and told her husband what had happened. He went up and opened the chest. The voice again called out, "Do not touch it! It is not yours!"

A man should not care more about his money than his body. (BT BK 117b)

The man asked, "To whom does it belong?"

"To Abraham the Carpenter," answered the voice.

Saddened by this discovery, the man took the money from the chest, cut a hole in a tree in his garden, and hid the money there. Then he and his wife went out into the streets to beg. Soon after this, there was a great flood that carried away many houses and trees, including the tree with the money hidden inside it. A fisherman found the tree floating in the river and said, "What a good piece of timber this is! I am sure that my friend Abraham the Carpenter would be happy to have it." So he brought the tree to Jerusalem where Abraham lived.

When Abraham began hewing the tree to make a table, he found the treasure inside it. He was overjoyed at his sudden good fortune and thanked God with all his heart.

Not long after this, the couple to whom the treasure had once belonged decided to travel to Jerusalem to see whether the money had found its way to its true owner. They came to Abraham's house and knocked on the door. It was Friday afternoon, and Abraham's wife was preparing the Sabbath.

When she saw the poor old couple at the door, dressed in tatters and begging for bread, she invited them in to spend the Sabbath.

But when the two beggars saw their own silver cups on the table, they began to weep. "Why are you weeping?" asked Abraham's wife.

At first they refused to tell her. But she pressed them until they told her the story of the mysterious voice that had made them surrender their treasure to its true owner. Then Abraham's wife told them how her husband had found their treasure in the uprooted tree.

"Please take back what is yours," she told them. "We have enough without taking your things."

"No, they are yours," replied the poor couple. "We must have sinned, and so have lost everything."

When Abraham's wife told him about the poor couple's misfortune, he instructed his cook to bake a cake and hide 100 silver coins inside. This cake he gave to the old couple on Sunday morning, although they were reluctant to take anything from him.

On their way home they came to a place where they had to pay a toll. Since they had no money, they gave the tollkeeper the cake that Abraham the Carpenter had given them.

"How fortunate!" thought the tollkeeper, "Now I have a beautiful gift to give Abraham the Carpenter in honor of his son's wedding."

So he gave the cake to Abraham. And thus the treasure returned to its rightful owner.

The old couple died in poverty, for they had never given charity and God punished them by taking away their wealth. As for Abraham and his wife, whose hands were always open to the poor, they lived happily to a ripe old age and they never lacked for bread.


Frankel, Ellen. The Classic Tales: 4,000 Years of Jewish Lore. Copyright © 1989, 1993 by the author (Northvale, New Jersey: Jason Aronson), pp. 380-81. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, Jason Aronson Inc., Northvale, NJ Copyright © 1989.
Moses Gaster. The Maaseh Book: Book of Jewish Tales and Legends (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1981).

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