The Rosh Kollel of the Medrash Eliyahu Kollel Avreichim in the city of Elad in Central Israel, is Rav Avraham Pechter shlita. He is not only a well-known talmid chacham, but also an accomplished fundraiser, who maintains contact with businessmen and wealthy benefactors all over the world, and often travels to the United States and Europe to raise money.
One of his largest benefactors lives in Miami, and one day a few years ago, Rav Pechter received a phone call from this man. It was during the “Great Recession” of 2007-2008, when the sub-prime mortgage crisis led to the collapse of the United States housing market, which contributed to a global financial crisis, and the failure or collapse of many of the United States’ largest financial institutions. Many people’s entire wealth portfolios were wiped out, and numerous businesses and businessmen went bankrupt. The benefactor from Miami was struggling mightily at this time, and as soon as Rav Pechter picked up the phone, he could hear the anxiety in his voice and worrisome tone of the man on the line.
“Rabbi Pechter,” said the man, “I have a scheduled trip to Israel coming up next week and I plan to travel to Bnei Brak, to call Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman (zt”l) to a din Torah!”
A din Torah against Rav Aharon Leib? Rav Pechter almost dropped the phone when he heard the man’s request and quickly asked why he wished to take the Gadol HaDor to beis din. The man explained that Rav Aharon Leib had given him a brachah and it did not come true. “When I was by Rav Aharon Leib a few years ago, he gave me a brachah that I would merit ‘ashirus’ in the z’chus of the tz’dakah I give to you and other Torah institutions. With the recession hitting everyone hard, myself especially, I am in dire straits and struggling to make ends meet. So, I feel that the brachah I received was in error, and therefore I want you to help arrange with a beis din there for me to call Rav Aharon Leib to a din Torah.”
Rav Pechter did not know what to say. He tried to reason with the man, but the benefactor was insistent. Rav Pechter told him that he will see what he could do and hung up the phone. Immediately, he traveled to Bnei Brak and went to see Rav Aharon Leib, with whom he had a very close connection. When he told Rav Aharon Leib what the man wanted, the Rav instantly responded, “Tell him to come to me. I will talk to him.” The man from Miami arrived the following week and Rav Pechter escorted him to the tiny two-bedroom apartment of the Gadol HaDor on Rechov Chazon Ish. They sat down and the man began to explain in great detail why he felt he was wronged. He poured out his heart to Rav Aharon Leib and concluded that the Rav’s brachah obviously did not come true, so why must he continue to give such huge amounts to tz’dakah?
The room was quiet for a few moments. Finally, Rav Aharon Leib asked the man, “In your business, do you work with people who are not shomer Shabbos? Do you have any partners in any of your businesses who do not keep Shabbos?”
The man nodded his head. Yes, a number of his partners are not religious, he said.
Rav Aharon Leib then asked, “And do you have any partners who are not careful with ribbis or other monetary halachos? What about gezel akum, or other such infractions?” Again, the man responded that his partners are not religious and are therefore not necessarily careful to keep the halachos of Choshen Mishpat stringently. They were generally honest businessmen, but they did take some liberties with money and were certainly not scrupulous to the extent that he was.
Rav Aharon Leib replied, “If so, you should be happy that you lost all your money! HaKadosh Baruch Hu had rachamanus on you that you should not come to the nisayon of committing an aveirah or benefiting from ‘treifena gelt’ (unkosher money) or chilul Shabbos money. He is giving you an opportunity to start anew. All you need to do is accept upon yourself to deal only with kosher money – without any trace of sin or contamination – and you will surely return to your former wealth!”
The man from Miami took these words to heart. He immediately turned over a new leaf and only conducted business with honest people. Rav Pechter reports that the man became wealthy once again and continues to support many Torah institutions.