THE 20,000 % PRICE INCREASE
Rabbi Yitzchak Ze’ev Soloveitchik [1886-1959; son of Reb Chaim of Brisk], was often asked why he permitted the Beis Yaakov girls’ school to be located in a non-religious neighborhood.
20,000 % PRICE INCREASE
Rabbi Soloveitchik sometimes responded with the following story.
A family that lived near the Beis Yaakov building, although far removed from Jewish religious practices, decided to send their daughter to Beis Yaakov anyway because of the convenience, rather than a school which suited their beliefs but was located much farther away.
The girl liked the school and was deeply affected by what she learned there. Although her parents openly transgressed Shabbos; including conducting business in their store the whole day, she herself had become well aware of the holiness of Shabbos and the importance of not violating its sanctity.
One Friday her parents told her they had to leave town for the weekend, so would she please open the store on Saturday and take care of the business that day. The young girl didn't know what to do. As a Beis Yaakov student she knew how serious it was to publicly break Shabbos, so how could she? But to rebel against her parents' instructions, she didn't feel she could do that either. After much inner anguish, she decided she would go to open the store, but try her mightiest not to sell anything.
The first customer came in. He wanted to buy a small but handsome item he had noticed in the window whose price was a half zloti. Exerting control to keep her face expressionless, she told him, "Oh no sir, I can't sell it to you for that. Today the price went up to 100."
"Are you crazy! From one half to one hundred?" he said to her unbelievingly. But she insisted that it was so.
"Okay, okay," said the man, "I'll pay you 10." She promptly refused, saying that she would not take even the slightest bit less than the full price. At this display of stubbornness he threw up his hands and left, while she rejoiced inwardly that she had succeeded in not selling anything on Shabbos.
An hour later he was back. "Here," he answered, and slapped 20 zlotis on the counter. She couldn't believe he was back again, and still interested! Outwardly calm, she said to him, "I told you; the price is 100. That's final."
And so it went on hour by hour. The customer repeatedly came back, offering a bit more money each time, and the little sales-girl continued to refuse without hesitation.
At last it was nighttime. Shabbos was over. "I wonder if that man will come back again," she murmured to herself.
He did. Almost embarrassed, he said, "You win," and thrust toward her the full 100. This time she took it with alacrity, and with a big smile, wrapped the purchase and handed it to her determined customer.
He took it and hesitatingly turned to leave. Then, changing his mind, he turned back to her. He said he wished to explain why he paid 100 for something worth only a half. He and his wife had just refurnished their house. When he passed the store, this particular piece had caught his eye. It was exactly what they needed to complete their new arrangement. It was so perfect a complement that he couldn't get it out of his mind, despite the outrageous price, until finally he decided to buy it no matter what.
After he left, the girl sat still for a few minutes, stunned at how G-d had rewarded her efforts to observe Shabbos. When her parents returned, they could barely believe the story she excitedly told them. They had to admit that it was only in the merit of Shabbos that they had profited 100 zlotis on a half-zloti price. This in turn inspired them to study Torah and mitzvos and eventually they both became mitzvah observant.
"So," Rabbi Y.Z. Soloveitchik would conclude, "Beis Yaakov is not only to educate our own girls, but also to be a beacon to Jewish souls gone astray."
[Translated and retold by Yrachmiel Tilles from Shemu V'tchi Nafshechem #219.]
Yrachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed,
and editor of Ascent Quarterly and the AscentOfSafed.com and KabbalaOnline.org
websites. He has hundreds of published stories to his credit.