A Missed Opportunity
The child waited, perhaps the boss would give him some flour as a bonus
It was Shavuos morning, and Reb Moshe Kabriner stood up to read the Aseres Hadibros(ten commandments) in shul. The congregants were quiet as they listened to their holy Rebbe read the words in a powerful voice filled with emotion. When he got up to the words “lo signov” (“you shall not steal”), loud sobs were suddenly heard coming from the back of the beis midrash. Everyone turned around to see Meirke, an eight-year-old orphan, sobbing hysterically. Reb Moshe stopped leining and instructed someone to bring Meirke up to the bimah. All the mispallelim looked on with pity at the small child who didn’t have a father to sit next to in shul. When Meirke reached the bimah, Reb Moshe enveloped him in a tight hug. He wiped the tears off the orphan’s face and held him close until he was done leining from the Torah. Later, at the tish, Reb Moshe revealed what had happened: “Meirke’s father died when he was only a small child,” he began. “His mother was left with a house full of children and no money to feed them. Being that Meirke was the oldest, the yoke of parnasah (livelihood) fell onto the poor boy’s shoulders. He went out to search for work and eventually found a job working for a Jew who owned a flour factory. Meirke’s job consisted of packing the flour into the sacks that would then be sold to the customers. “Yesterday,” the Rebbe continued, “Erev Shavuos, this little orphan worked particularly hard. It was a very busy day, as all the women in the village came in to buy flour so they could bake something lekavod Yom Tov. At long last it was closing time, two hours before the zman.
The owner handed Meirke a few groshen and told him to go home. Meirke waited; perhaps the boss would give him some flour as a bonus in honor of the holiday. He knew that his mother would be devastated if she wasn’t able to bake a little cake for Yom Tov. The few groshen that he earned would be used for the basic necessities, but there wasn’t anything left over for “extras.” When he saw that the boss wasn’t giving him any, Meirke quietly pocketed some flour. When he got home and presented it to his mother she was delighted, but Meirke felt terrible. He couldn’t believe he had fallen so low as to actually steal. When he heard me recite the words ‘lo signov,’ the little boy couldn’t take it anymore and burst into tears of regret. “The cries of the small orphan, weeping over the aveirah he had committed, made a tremendous commotion in heaven. In fact, little Meirke had reached a level of teshuvah that most adults never attain during their whole lives. But just consider the poor factory owner—look what an opportunity he missed! With a little flour he could have bought olam hazeh for the widow, and olam habah for himself!”