Pinchas Monkey Street

Story retold by R. Daniel Lev

Reb Pinchas worked as the business manager for a Poretz, Polish aristocrat, named Brunon. Each Friday morning he’d go to Brunon’s office where the Poretz would open a small chest and count out several gold coins to pay Pinchas for his services. As the coins fell into his hands, Pinchas would raise his face towards the heavens and say, “Thank you HaShem for supporting my family.” The Poretz would think to himself, “G-d!? He’s thanking G-d!! – I’m the one paying him!”

After a number of months of this, the Poretz decided to show this Jew just who buttered his bread – he planned to fire Pinchas at the beginning of the work week. What’s worse, he planned to do it two weeks before Passover. Brunon called Pinchas into his office and haughtily proclaimed, “You are fired Jew, now let’s see how ‘G-d’ will pay you your wages!” Pinchas was stunned and he slowly walked back home. He was worrying about how to feed his family, and he dreaded telling them that this Pesach would be a very, very humble celebration. He could barely afford matzah with the little money he had left over from the previous week. When he told his wife she encouragingly said, “We will make do.”

Each evening, after Pinchas returned home from fruitless job hunting, he would help his wife put their four children to bed and then he’d sit at the kitchen table by the window and study Talmud until late in the evening. Each holy word he pronounced was a pleading prayer for help, mingled with his tears of despair.

One night, about a week before Pesach, Pinchas was learning Torah in his usual place. Suddenly something smashed through the window and landed on top of his Talmud. When the shock faded, he looked and saw something most strange – a dead monkey lay before him. Now, any ordinary person would have thrown it back outside. But Pinchas, the careful manager, took a moment to examine the poor dead beast.  He then saw something extremely weird and joyously satisfying. Protruding from the ape’s mouth was a gold coin! When he took the animal outside and cut it open, he found dozens and dozens of gold coins! – enough to make the most splendiferous Pesach anyone could have, and to start his own business and provide for his family.

The night of Pesach, a few hours before Pinchas and his family and friends were to light candles and begin the Festival, there was a loud knock at their door. Pinchas, dressed in fine new clothes with a silver trimmed Kittel, opened the door to see the smug face of his former employer facing him in the doorway. The Poretz took a U-turn and frowned when he saw Pinchas standing there in all his finery. He then mumbled to himself, “Its true…G-d did pay him all these months.”

Pinchas, being a gracious host, invited Brunon into his house to sit in a nearby chair. The deflated Poretz told this story:

“I was mad at you for thanking G-d all the time when I paid you, so I fired you and wanted to you suffer by having a bad Passover. Then one day, one of the grounds-men brought me my pet monkey, who was dead. He had been missing for a while and I had no idea where he went. I had the man go to your house that night and throw it through your window. Later the next day, I noticed that my coin chest was missing most of the money it held and I could not find it anywhere. So now, this evening, as I stood in the doorway, I was hoping to make myself feel better by gloating at your poverty. But here I see that G-d paid you your wages anyway. I am so sorry for doubting you and treating you so badly…”

The Poretz stayed for the meal and learned about freedom, liberation, and love at the Seder. After the holiday was over, Pinchas took some of this money and donated it to the shul. It is said that the community built a new side street alongside the new synagogue and named it “Pinchas Monkey Street.”