The following story occurred a number of years ago, and it demonstrates to what lengths a Jew will go to help his fellow Jew. In Jerusalem lived a man who became a master plumber and worked for himself. He was good – so good, in fact, that it wasn’t long before he developed a reputation as an expert in all matters related to plumbing. On numerous occasions, he was brought in to figure out how to expertly handle a delicate situation or to correct someone else’s mistake. He was creative and had “hands of gold,” and whatever he worked on, he managed to bring to a successful conclusion. He became prosperous.
One day, he was called to an apartment where he found a complete and utter mess. This was no small sink installation or pipe connection; this was a massive project that would require hours of labor, considerable expense, and ingenuity. The man spoke to the lady of the house, and it soon became clear to him that she was a widow with many small children and very little money. She asked him if he could fix the problem and he told her he would; but now, he was wondering how he could do this massive project for a woman with no money. Well, he figured, I will do this job for free and earn some points in Heaven. The problem was: how to tell the widow in an honorable fashion. He pondered this question the entire day as he worked.
Late into the day, he completed the massive job, and the thankful woman approached him and asked how much she owed him. “Nothing,” he said, with a grin. “How is that possible?” she asked. “You worked here all day.”
The man concocted a story that for these types of jobs, the local municipality reimburses him for his time and labor since he is improving the quality of the city’s pipes, the property values go up, and they are happy to cover the cost. She was pleasantly surprised and very grateful to him, and he walked away with the satisfaction that he had done a really good deed.
The man ran his successful business for many years, and when he got older, he purchased a vacant lot in a fine section of Ramat Gan, where he intended to build himself a luxurious house. As an expert craftsman, he was involved in every stage of the planning and construction of his dream home. He worked with the architects and contractors and helped map out the entire structure, including the layout, electricity, plumbing, air-conditioning, and concrete walls. He applied for all the necessary permits and had them expedited. He even took on the task of pricing out the various supplies that would be needed, and through his many contacts in the industry, he was able to get many items at excellent prices.
In the process of purchasing his construction materials, he went to one of the largest suppliers of building goods and materials, a company named “Itzik and Zuri Commerce” located on HaMaccabim Street in Bnei Brak. He spent considerable time there pricing out hundreds of items that would be needed once the construction began. He didn’t make any purchases yet, as he still wished to price out other supply companies in order to get the best deal.
How shocked he was to show up one morning and find trucks unloading all the building material he would need for his home. It was all top-quality stuff – but he knew he had never ordered it. He ran over to the driver and yelled, “What is this? What is going on? I never ordered this stuff!” The driver just shrugged and showed him the purchase order where it listed quite clearly all the items being unloaded and a stamp in the middle, “Paid in Full.”
The man spluttered angrily. The driver said, “Look, I am just the driver. Take it up with the main office.”
In seconds, he was in his car, driving to Bnei Brak and the “Itzik and Zuri Commerce” showroom. He stormed in and demanded answers. He never ordered these supplies – he was just pricing them out – and he certainly never paid for them.
A kind man behind a desk told him to calm down. “My name is Zuri and no one ever said you paid for them,” he said with a grin. “Well then, who paid for them?” came the question. “Actually, I believe the municipality paid for them!”
Zuri stood up and took the older man’s hand in his. “Many years ago, you came to my mother’s apartment, and you worked on a massive plumbing project for free. I know it was free even though you told her that the municipality was reimbursing you. I never forgot that act of kindness; and now, it is my pleasure to actually reimburse you for that great act of chesed!”