The Gemara relates that Yaakov Avinu crossed the river to retrieve pachim k’tanim, the small jugs that had been left behind. From here we learn: “Tzadikim, chavivim aleihem mamonam yoser m’gufam l’fi she’ein poshtin y’deihem b’gezel, For the righteous, their money is more precious than their bodies since they never stretch out their hands in theft.” The Arizal explains the Gemara in a different manner. A tzadik recognizes that nothing that comes his way is coincidental. Each and every item found in his possession is there for a specific purpose and must never be squandered. Yaakov Avinu understood that if in addition to his riches Hashem also made him the owner of these small jugs, he must use them for avodas Hashem too. It is for this reason that the Gemara connects this concept to the idea of refraining from theft. Just as all that was given to me was predestined, so too, anything that was given to my friend is exactly where it ought to be.
One day, a man called up the office of a particular yeshivah in Israel. Explaining that he had seen an ad for the yeshivah in a newspaper and was quite impressed, he asked if he could come down and make a donation. While the rosh yeshivah assured the man that they had placed no ad in any newspaper, the man remained undeterred. “I will be down at the yeshivah a bit later today,” he said. Sure enough, later that day, the man pulled up in front of the yeshivah in a fancy, expensive car. Entering inside, he looked around for a bit until he located the rosh yeshivah.
“Rabbi,” he said, “I was taken aback by your ad. Would you mind if I take a look at the yeshivah premises?”
Well, which rosh yeshivah wouldn’t jump at the opportunity? Gladly complying with his request, he went on to provide a tour of the building. After doing so, the rich man said, “Rabbi, I initially had in mind to give you $80,000, but I am in fact so impressed with your entire system of operations, that I have decided to raise the amount to $100,000.”
Taken aback by this stranger’s beneficence, the rosh yeshivah asked again. “Tell me again, what brought you here?”
“Don’t you know?” said the unknown benefactor. “It was the ad you placed in the newspaper!” And with that, the man wrote out a check for $100,000 on the spot. After a few more complimentary words, the man walked back to his car.
Quite surprised to be the unexpected recipient of such a large endowment, the rosh yeshivah called over the man in charge of the day-to-day operations and asked, “Moshe, did we submit an ad for any newspaper recently?”
Without a moment’s thought, Moshe replied, “Not that I am aware of.” The mystery deepened.
Without any explanation for how such a check ended up in their possession, the rosh yeshivah went on to investigate the matter. He finally was forced to ask the rich man where he had seen the ad for the yeshivah. He told him it was in a paper he had picked up in his local barbershop! Now he was really confused and he doubled his efforts to learn the truth.
And sure enough, the true story was uncovered. Fifteen years earlier, a religious newspaper had just begun its publication in Israel. Desperately wishing to break into the market, they struggled to meet any significant success. After two weeks and two editions released, they were running out of funds. And so, they turned to various organizations for support to stabilize themselves. Asking yeshivos if they would be willing to submit an ad into their paper in lieu of a donation, this particular yeshivah consented. It yielded a few donations and was quickly forgotten. One newspaper wound up in the local barbershop. And for 15 years it did not move! The newspaper remained sitting in the same barbershop for a decade and a half.
And then the day finally arrived. Fifteen years later, in walked a man to get a haircut, grabbing a newspaper as he took a seat. And what did he see inside? An ad for this particular yeshivah. He liked what he saw and decided to make a donation! Just imagine the likelihood of a newspaper sitting in the same spot for 15 years and a rich man being motivated to donate thousands of dollars as he sits on a barber’s chair getting a haircut. That is what it means to have hashgacha pratis in our day and age. Hashem closely watches over us every moment of every day and every night. And what is meant to be yours will eventually come to you. Even if it takes 15 years to get there!
(Rabbi Dovid Kaplan, Torah Anytime: Tishrei Companion 5779)