Elijah the Prophet meets a wealthy man
There once was a wealthy man who owned many fields, but had no oxen to plough them. So he took a purse full of silver and gold coins and went to town on market day to buy oxen. This was a good man. He gave generously of his money to the poor, and offered a meal and a place to sleep to whoever needed it, but he did not believe in G-d’s active involvement with the world. He rejected the idea of Divine Providence.
He would often say, “The strength of my hands is what gave me my wealth.”
On the road to town, he met Elijah the Prophet, may he be remembered for good, and Elijah was disguised as a merchant.
Elijah asked him, “Where are you going?”
The man answered, “I am going to market to buy oxen to plough my fields.”
Elijah said to him, “You should say, “With the help of G-d,” or “G-d willing.”
To which the man replied, “Listen, my friend. I have the money in my purse to buy oxen. And I will buy oxen. This is up to me. Why does it have to do with G-d?”
Elijah said to him, “If that is how you see it, you will not succeed.” They parted company, and the man traveled only a short distance before his purse fell from his belt without his knowing it.
Elijah picked up the purse and put it on a big rock that stood in the middle of a dark forest where nobody goes.
In the meantime, the wealthy man went to market and purchased the oxen, but as he went to pay for them, he discovered he had lost his purse. Frustrated and angry, he returned home empty handed. But he was determined to get those oxen, so he took another purse, filled it with more silver and gold coins and headed back to town.
Again, Elijah met him on the way, this time in the form of an old man who was also going to market.
The old man asked the wealthy one, “Where are you going?” To which the man answered, “I’m going to market to buy oxen.”
The old man said, “You should say, with the help of G-d, or G-d willing.”
The wealthy man snapped back and said, “I do not believe in that. G-d gave me the power to do what I have to do. I make my own destiny.”
So Elijah caused a deep slumber to fall upon him and while he was asleep, he removed his purse and put the second purse next to the first purse on the rock in the middle of the forest.
When the man awoke, he felt for his purse and it was gone. He then said to himself, “This place is a den of thieves.” And he headed for home, angry and frustrated.
Along the way, it entered his mind that maybe what was happening to him was from G-d because he had rejected the idea of G-d’s active role in his life.
Right then and there, he decided that, from now on, he would say, ‘G-d willing’ or ‘with the help of G-d’ about everything he planned to do.
Strengthened by his new resolve, he took a third purse, filled it with silver and gold coins and set off to market to buy the oxen.
On the way, he met Elijah, this time in the guise of a poor young man looking for work.
Elijah asked the man, “Where are you going?”
And the man answered, “I am going to market to buy oxen, G-d willing.”
And Elijah said, “May G-d bless you with success,” and then he added, “Please, after you buy the oxen, you will need a servant to lead them home, I am very good with oxen and in need of work. If I have found favor in your eyes, please hire me for this job.”
The wealthy man answered, “If G-d brings me success and I am able to purchase oxen at a good price, I promise I will hire you.”
And sure enough, the moment he reached the market, everything went his way. He managed to buy the oxen at a price lower than he had expected. He knew without the slightest doubt that he had received the help of Heaven.
As he left the market, the wealthy man found Elijah and hired him to lead his oxen home. As they passed the dark forest, a dog barked at them, frightening the oxen which broke free and ran into the forest.
Elijah and the man pursued the oxen deep into the forest. When they caught up with them, they were standing right in front of the big rock where Elijah had placed the two purses.
When the man saw his purses, he picked them up and danced for joy, and thanked the Holy One, blessed be He, for showing him kindness and teaching him wisdom.
Together, the man and Elijah and the oxen walked on quietly till they reached his home safely, but when he went to pay the young man for his help, he was gone.
Then Hashem opened the wealthy man’s eyes and he understood that everything that happened had been by Divine Providence, and he recited the verse from Psalms 92:7: “An ignoramus does not know and a fool does not understand this.”
Recognition of Divine Providence is a step on the path of prophecy. And the return of prophecy is the proof of the Final Redemption, Geulah.
(Story adapted from Sefer Zechirah, based on the version of Rabbi Yisroel Yaakov Klapholz).