"During the seven years of plenty, the land produced in abundance. And [Joseph] fathered all the grain of the seven years that the land of Egypt was enjoying, and stored the grain in the cities; he put in each city the grain of the fields around it..." (Genesis 41:48)

Once a rich man fell upon hard times and lost all his wealth. In order to support, his family, he took a job as a manual laborer.

One day Elijah appeared to him disguised as an Arab and said to him, "You are destined to enjoy seven good years of prosperity. Do you want them now or at the end of your life?"

"You are a devil!" cried the man, and chased Elijah away.

Again Elijah appeared and repeated his offer.

"You are a wizard!" cried the man, and chased him away.

A third time he appeared, and this time the man said,"I shall ask my wife for advice."

She told him, "Ask for the good years now. For if we ask for them at the end of our lives, we will know our days are numbered as soon as good fortune comes to us."

So he went back and told Elijah what his wife had said.

When he returned home that day, his children greeted him trembling with excitement and said, "Father, see what we found while we were digging under the large stone in our yard! A treasure!"

His wife said to him, "Let us use this gift wisely. If we share what we have with those less fortunate, perhaps God may grant us more good years.

And so for the next seven years, they opened their hands generously to the poor and performed many acts of charity. At the end of seven years, Elijah once again appeared to the man. "I have come to take back my pledge," he said.

"I asked my wife's advice the first time you appeared," the man told him. "Let me consult with her again."

So he ran home and told his wife that the messenger had come to reclaim their fortune.

"Tell him," said his wife, "that if he can find two people who have used such a pledge more wisely than we, he can have it back."

Elijah searched the world over, but nowhere did he find two people with more generous hearts. So he never returned to reclaim his pledge. And they enjoyed prosperity and good health until a ripe old age.

Midrash Zuta Ruth 4:11; Yalkut Shimoni II #607; English language sources: Bin Gurion III, 1220-1223.
Retold in The Classic Tales: 4,000 Years of Jewish Lore, ed. Ellen Frankel (Jason Aronson, Inc., 1989, 1993).

SEVEN Table of Contents



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