There were once two merchants whose names were Yosef and Chanan. Now Yosef was a very simple and hard-working man who was always saying Psalms and greeted everyone with a good word and a smile. Chanan was very knowledgeable in the ways of buying and selling and was always trying to get more wealth. Yosef and Chanan were friends and frequently traveled together and often shared space at the markets.
One day, after the market closed, the two merchants took to the road. When they stopped for the night they counted their profits and discovered they had between them over 1000 silver coins. When they arrived at the next market Yosef suggested they divide the profits equally.
Chanan thought for a moment and answered his friend, “there are many in the market who would try to take our money and then we will have nothing. Let us hide the money under a tree and if we need money we can get it and divide it equally.”
The two merchants found a large oak tree, dug a hole and buried their bag of silver coins. The very next day, while Yosef was in the marketplace Chanan came and took the money from the hiding place.
A few days past and Yosef decided that it was time to divide the money. He found Chanan the two of them went to the oak tree in the forest. They dug beneath the tree and found nothing.
Chanan became very angry and said, “is this the way friends treat one another? Return the money and we will go our separate ways and never speak of this again.”
Yosef was shocked and confused. “I have not been to this place since we buried our profits.”
Chanan became even angrier and demanded they go to the holy rabbi of the village for justice. The holy rabbi listened to Chanan as he presented his account of the situation and asked, “are there any witnesses to the truth of what you are saying?”
Chanan thought for a moment and answered the holy rabbi, “the oak tree under which we buried the silver shall be the witness.” Chanan looking very serious continued, “let us ask the old oak tree who stole the silver.”
The holy rabbi was surprised at the words of Chanan, but agreed to go with the two merchants to the old oak tree in the forest.
That night Chanan went to see one of his close friends and persuaded him to hide in a hollow of the oak tree. “When the rabbi asks, who stole the money?” He told his friend to respond, “Yosef took it in the darkness of night.”
The next day the two merchants and the holy rabbi went into the forest. They went to the old oak tree where they had hidden the money. The rabbi walked around the tree three times then asked, “tell us if you can, who stole the bag of silver coins?”
A voice came from inside the tree, “Yosef came in the night and took the money.”
The holy rabbi was wise and asked Chanan if there were any other witnesses. Chanan thought for a moment and answered the moon is also a witness for no case can be determined without two witnesses let us ask the moon what it had seen. The holy rabbi was again surprised by Chanan’s answer.
The holy rabbi lifted his arms toward the moon and said, It is written, “The heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment” (Isa. 51:6). I remind you that before asking for justice from you, we should ask for justice for ourselves, for it is said, “The moon shall be confounded and the sun ashamed” (Isa. 24:23). Tell us if you can, who stole the bag of silver coins.”
The holy rabbi and the two merchants waited quietly for the moon to bear witness of what happened that night to the silver coins hidden beneath the old oak tree. The wind whispered, but the moon remained silent.
The rabbi saw some men who were working in the forest and asked them to set the tree on fire. The flames began to climb up the trunk of the tree when a voice cried out, “let me out! Let me out! I don’t want to burn to death!”
They dragged a man out of the hollow of the old oak tree. He was singed and very afraid, but he confessed that it was his friend Chanan who had stolen the money.
Yosef was given all of the money and Chanan was punished by his own words, his own trickery and the judgment of the holy rabbi.
May all your tales end with Shalom (peace)
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