Moshe the Miser

As told by Reb Daniel Lev


Moshe was a wealthy butcher and the town miser – he was so stingy that even the most miserable, and accomplished, beggar would be completely ignored as Moshe walked down the street. Shnorers from the shul would walk the other way when they sighted Moshe. But Moshe had his own problem, a big problem – his wife of eight years. Not only did they have no children, but his wife would nag him every minute of the day and night, “You don’t make enough money because you’re a shvach businessman,” and “what kind of husband are you! – a nothing husband, that’s what!” Of course Moshe contributed his own nagging and arguing so the weight of this problem was not only on his shoulders.

He thought of divorcing her or running away. But first, he considered himself a good Jew and would never break a ketuba, and, second, he had a thriving business in town and did not want to leave it. For a long time he felt painfully stuck. Then he came up with a fantastic idea – he could kill her! But how could he do that, he thought. After all, he was a good Jew. He thought long and hard but could not come up with a solution. So Nu! – where does a good Jew go when she or he can’t solve a problem?…to the Rabbi of course! The spiritual master Rebbe Naftali welcomed Moshe when he came through his study door.

“Moishe, you look sad my friend. Come, sit down and tell me your troubles.”

“Well Rebbe,” Moshe coughed, “My wife is driving me mad with her kvetching and criticism and I have reached my end. I decided what I need to do but don’t know how. Rebbe, can you help me? – can you tell me how I can kill my wife?”

A number of quiet moments passed. The Rebbe said, “Just a minute.” He walked over to a bookshelf and, reaching high up to a dusty shelf, he brought down a large tome. After he slammed it down on his desk, opened it, and read quietly for a moment, he responded: “Moishele – are you sure you want to do this?”

Moshe almost jumped out of his seat and answered, “Yes Rebbe, but I don’t know how to kill her without murdering her – which I cannot do.”

“OK then,” said the Rebbe, “It says here, ‘If a husband wants to end the life of his wife, he must fail to give tzedaka on an important holiday.’ Now it happens that Rosh HaShanah will arrive in two weeks. It says here, ‘If a man pledges, say 10,000 rubles, to the Shul leaders on Rosh HaShanah, and he does not pay, soon the Malach HaMavet (Angel of Death) will come, and before Yom Kippur his wife will be dead.’”

Rebbe, that sounds wonderful! What should I do?”

In the Shul on the morning of Rosh HaShanah, Moshe followed the Rebbe’s advice and called over the Gabbai. “I would like to get an Aliyah. Standing before the Torah, I want to announce there that I will donate 10,000 rubles to the Shul. The Gabbai nearly fell down when he heard Moshe the miser saying he wanted to give something! Eventually, Moshe was called up and presented his verbal promise to give the money. The congregation took a collective, sudden intake of breath. They could not believe it.

A day after Rosh HaShanah, members of the Shul board knocked on Moshe’s door. When he answered, they said, “Reb Moshe, we’ve come to ask a little advance of the donation to help our poorer congregants to make a break-fast.”

“Donation! Donation!” replied Moshe, “I made no donation. You are all mistaken.” And with that pronouncement he gleefully slammed the door. Now he waited. One day…two days…on the third day he became worried. His wife was yelling at him with even more force. So what do you do in such a situation? – ask the Rebbe.

“I don’t understand Rebbe – I did what you said but she is still very alive.”

“Just a minute,” said the Rebbe. He again went to the bookshelf, brought down the tome, read from it, and said, “Oh Reb Moshe I’m so sorry – I forgot to tell you something very important. You see, the Malach HaMavet is little bit stupid and does not know that she is your wife.  You have to exaggerate a little to draw him to your house.”

“But Rebbe, what can I do to show that she is my wife.”

“That is simple, my holy Jew. All you need to do is to pretend that she is like the wives of the other men. Go buy her small gifts, like flowers or a box of chocolate. Maybe take her to dinner. That should help the Angel of Death to find her.”

“Oh Rebbe, thank you so much!”

Moshe went out and bought a big bouquet of flowers and a large box of his wife’s favorite candy. “That’ll get her,” he happily thought. At home, he loudly knocked on the door and when she answered, before she could say a word of annoyance, he thrust the flowers and candy towards her face and said as joyfully as possible, “These are for you, my dear.”

“Moshe?” She received the beautiful flowers and looked up at her husband.  She took the box of candy and again looking up in confusion thought, “Moshe?” She dazedly walked around the house for an hour holding the gifts. That night they did not argue.

The next day Moshe bought her a bottle of her favorite wine. As he opened his door, he took a deep breath through his nose and passionately observed a familiar, but long ago experienced, fragrance. “Kishkeh!” He said. He nearly ran to the kitchen where his wife was taking his favorite meal out of the oven. He placed the bottle between their settings as she placed the steaming dish on the dining room table. “Oh, what a beautiful bottle of wine, “ she said. They sat, ate, drank and even giggled a little.

As you might guess, day after day they grew closer and closer until the morning of Erev Yom Kippur Moshe woke feeling very happy with his marriage. As he turned to share his joy with his wife he saw that she looked a little green.

“Oy Moshe, chah, chah, chah,” she coughed, “I don’t feel so good.”

After giving her some water he rushed over to the Rebbe’s house and got an emergency visit with him.

“Oy Rebbe, my wife is dying!”

“Oh, that’s good, Reb Moshe.”

“NO! I don’t want her to die!” pleaded Moshe.

Confused, the Rebbe asked, “You want her to live?”

“Yes!” – begged the distraught butcher.

“Just a minute.” The Rebbe again pulled down the big book and read. Looking up to Moshe he asked, “Are you sure?”


“OK,” quickly answered the Rebbe. “In that case, it says here that you will need to give the 10,000 rubles to the Shul today.”

Without a pause, Moshe ran to the bank, took out the money and immediately gave it to the Shul elders. His wife recovered, and from that day forward he was known as Moshe the generous. And they lived happily ever after!