Retold by Rabbi Aryel Nachman
Let me tell you a story.
And so we are told that: One day Rabbi Akiva approached Rabbi Tarfon. Now, Rabbi Tarfon was from a very wealthy family, and he, himself, was a very wealthy man who owned many businesses and properties and gave much tzedakah. So, Rabbi Akiva asked Rabbi Tarfon if he would consider investing in the purchase of a city.
Rabbi Tarfon knew that Rabbi Akiva was a very honest and virtuous man who always had Heaven in his thoughts. Rabbi Tarfon thought to himself that, if Rabbi Akiva was asking him to make an invest ment, this must surely be an investment for the sake of heaven. So Rabbi Tarfon said yes and immediately gave Rabbi Akiva four thousand golden coins and gave it no further thought.
Rabbi Akiva took the investment money and used the coins to support the poor students of the beit hamidrash, the house of study. Making sure that the poor students had money to pay for their schooling, buy food and clothing, and have a place to sleep.
Now, there are some who would think “Rabbi Akiva deceived Rabbi Tarfon! Rabbi Akiva stole the money! Even if it was used for tzedakah, it was stolen money!”
But, before we jump to such a conclusion, let us see what happened.
Sometime later Rabbi Tarfon met Rabbi Akiva walking along the road. Rabbi Tarfon remembered the investment and asked Rabbi Akiva “Last year, you came to me and asked if I would like to invest in the purchase of a city. How is the investment doing? Could I see where you invested the money for me?”
Rabbi Akiva smiled and said “Of course I will show you your investment!” and he took Rabbi Tarfon to the beit hamidrash, a study hall, where children were learning Torah, made possible through Rabbi Tarfon’s investment. Rabbi Tarfon and Rabbi Akiva stood at the door listening as the children were reading and reciting Tehilim. When the children came to the posuk that one should spread his money to the poor, and the reward will remain forever, Rabbi Akiva stretched out his hand toward the children and said, “This is the city that I purchased for you.”
Rabbi Tarfon stood there for a moment looking, then with a smile, he kissed Rabbi Akiva on his head and exclaimed to Rabbi Akiva, “You are my master in wisdom.”, and he gave to Rabbi Akiva more money for charitable investments.
So, my question to you is “Will you invest in the purchase of a city?”