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Jewish Thinking

Stories and Men: A Well-Kept Wealth

Published on Tuesday October 26th, 2021

In the wave of quarrels and disputes that we are witnessing, the story I am about to tell act as a healing balm for us.

I would first like to say a few words about my job.

I work in the field of electricity, but it is difficult for me to define myself simply as an electrician.

I touch everything related to electricity, but apart from repairs of power sockets and installation of electric lamps, outlets, and repairs of all kinds of electrical appliances, I am a kind of "Bank" for parts of fridges, washing machines, dishwashers, and electric clothes dryers.

When you see a washing machine that someone got rid of, you do not even look at it, but for me it's a collection of dozens of potential pieces, from rubber pieces to the drum, the motor, screws, doors, hoses, etc.

When I spot an electrical device, my first move is to load it into my car, and it does not matter if I'm on my way to a wedding or back from a parent's meeting. That is, to put it mildly, any electrical device, from an iron to an industrial refrigerator - is explicitly a source of income for me.

I load it into the car, bring it to the warehouse, and carry out checks. If it is possible to repair the appliance, I can earn 1000 shekels or more, and if it is irreparable, we start dismembering it until there is nothing left, but it is possible that in the end I will earn more money, because the next month, someone can ask me for a rubber, a door, a pipe, and a drum, and each customer pays me between 200 and 400 shekels. This is how we make a living.

When I talk about "earning a living," I am talking about myself and my partner. We have been working together for twenty years. We both learn during the day. He in the morning and I in the evening. I work in the morning, and in the afternoon, we work together. We do some work together and other work separately. We divide all the revenues, and, thank G-d, we make a good Parnassa.

One day he called me at 2 pm and said: "Come quickly and meet me at such and such an address."

I asked him, "Did something happen?"

"Come and you'll see," he answered me.

" Can it wait?"

He replied: "No, it cannot wait."

I tried to imagine what he could have found, maybe a new oven worth 2000 shekel, because someone, instead of cleaning it, had put it in the garbage... or maybe an industrial refrigerator worth 5000 shekels.

When I arrived, I saw him leaning on a rusty old dryer, with the door about to fall off. A quick professional glance lead me to the conclusion that if we were to earn 30 shekels, we would be lucky.

''You made me come for this old machine?'' I asked him.

I noticed that he was sweating from head to toe. "What is going on?"

''Put this thing into your car and we will talk afterwards''.

Once the machine was loaded into the car, we drove towards the warehouse. We unloaded the old machine, and once the car doors were closed, he leaned down, searched the machine and then he took out...

A box of Elite coffee.

"Great," I exclaimed, "We have earnt 49.90 Shekels!"

"Open the box and you'll see that there is a little more," he said.

I opened the box and noticed that it was stuffed with 200 shekel bills rolled up.

"It was in the machine, around the outside of the drum," he told me.

We emptied the coffee box. I had never imagined how much a small box of coffee could hold. 26 packets, each containing 10 well wrapped notes and closed with an elastic. There was a total of 52,000 shekels.

"What should we do?" I asked him.

"We have to find the person who threw out the dryer," he said.

We started to make enquiries. We posted posters in all the neighboring buildings asking who had thrown away an old electric clothes dryer. We mentioned that it contained a lost object, without further details. There were enough distinctive signs, and we were not afraid that an impostor would try to pretend that the machine belonged to him.

Three days later, a local resident telephoned and explained to me that she had thrown a machine, but she was not aware of a lost item.

I asked her, "Did you buy this machine in a shop? "

She replied, "No, I bought it six months ago for nothing at all from an electrician who sells spare parts, but it turned out that that was what it was worth: Nothing at all."

''Do you remember the name of the electrician?''

"Yes," she answered, giving me his name.

We knew him. Our business is quite small, there is competition on one side, but also a fraternity between people of the same profession. An electrician could call me and ask: "Do you by any chance have a piece of rubber?'' And I, from my part could ask: "Do you have a door for the old model of Electra?

I called him. "Did you sell a clothes dryer to Mrs. So and So? I asked him.

He immediately retorted: "She should leave me alone. I sold it to her for 100 shekels, and I told her that there was no guarantee. It worked for six months. Four months more than I thought it would."

"Forget it," I told him, "she had no complaints. I just want to know where you got it from."

" Why?'' he asked me.

"Nothing. We just need to know. Do you know or not?"

"I have no idea," he answered, "I found it in an empty space in the north of the country. I went with my children on a trip, and rather than enjoying the trip, they had to help me carry this old machine and make room in the car to take it home... but I see that this old dryer has come to haunt me… a year later. What is the story now?"

"Ok, if you tell me that you did not give her a guarantee, I will explain it to her," I replied, changing the subject. I then hung up.

From there, we went to speak to a Rav.

It was clear that the woman had not hidden money in the dryer, nor had the electrician, but we feared that perhaps this lost object belonged, according to Jewish law, to one of the two.

The Rav told us that, as the money did not belong to them, and that, according to their answers, they were not even aware of its existence, they were not entitled to this money which did not concern them.

We asked him what we still had to do, and he told us that, from the point of view of the law, the owners had given up finding their money, and we were thus allowed to use it, provided that if, one day, the owners had not finally given up finding their money bearing distinctive signs, we would be bound to return it.

We left the Rav's house and I said to my partner, "I'm so happy for you. You will certainly find what to do with 52,000 shekels."

He replied, "You mean 26,000 shekels."

I retorted, "Why 26? We counted together, it's 52."

"That is true," he said, "there was 52,000, but we are partners no? I found some money and I have to share it with you."

I stopped. I looked at him to see if he was not making fun of me, it took me a long time to understand that he was speaking very seriously.

"Tell me, have you lost your mind?" I exclaimed. Will I also be your partner when you win the lottery?"

"No," he replied, "the lottery has nothing to do with you, but the dryer does have to do with you. It is part of our business."

We began to quarrel and raise our voices, but he did not give up. "You will take the 26,000 shekels and not a penny less."

At one point he deposited half of the money on a stone ledge, climbed onto his motorcycle, and left me alone with the money.

I went home and decided to keep the money.

The next day, someone asked me for a loan. I gave him the money knowing that it was in good hands.

Two years passed, the money was returned and lent out several more times. Then my partner's daughter got engaged.

The bridegroom was a Ben Torah and I knew that my partner had committed to giving a nice sum.

About three weeks before the wedding, I visited him with my wife. We explained to them that we wanted to give a gift before their daughter's marriage so that they could make good use of it at this critical time.

We chatted for a few minutes, then we went home.

We had not yet arrived home, when my cell phone rang.

" What does this mean? asked my partner.

"I kept the money that belonged to you," I replied, "this lost object belonged to you and I only kept it as a deposit."

"But it was only 26,000 shekels, how did you get to 80,000 shekels?"

That is another calculation. You start working in the afternoons and I work two hours more in the morning. Since this money was found, I made the commitment that for any work done in the morning, I would put half of it aside, and that's the accumulated amount of those two hours over the last two years. "

This is my story. It has been a long time since I have been encouraged to broadcast it. I did not want to, I thought it was pretentious on my part, but recently there have been too many quarrels in our society, and I was convinced that it would be a sanctification of the name of G-d to publish this story about a quarrel of a different kind between two working partners, a controversy that could "repair" quarrels of another kind and prove that it is possible to choose another way.

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