The Prophet Elijah came to him and said: “My son, what is your wish? Do you prefer to be a scholar, or a rich man or to marry a beautiful maiden?”
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Elijah and the Three Sons Who Watched in the Garden
Posted by Rabbi
Once upon a time there lived a pious man who had grown very old, and when the time for his death approached, he called his three sons and instructed them that they should never quarrel with one another, for they might be led to swearing and he had never sworn in his life. Soon after that he died and left them a beautiful spice garden, which he commanded them to guard continually against thieves. The first night, the eldest brother lay down in the garden to watch. The Prophet Elijah came to him and said: “My son, what is your wish? Do you prefer to be a scholar, or a rich man or to marry a beautiful maiden?” He replied: “I should like to be a rich man.” So the Prophet Elijah gave him a coin, and he became a rich man.
The following night, the second brother lay down in the garden. The Prophet Elijah came also to him and asked him the same question as to what he would like to have. He replied that he would like to study the whole Torah. So he gave him a book and he became a great scholar.
On the third night, the youngest son went into the garden. The Prophet Elijah came to him also and asked him what he would like to have. He said that he would like to have a beautiful wife. The Prophet Elijah then said: “You must go with me and I will give you a beautiful, pious wife.” So they went away together. The first night they stopped at an inn, whose owner was a wicked man. In the night the Prophet Elijah heard the chickens and the geese talking to one another and saying: “The young man must he a great sinner if he is destined to marry the daughter of this wicked man. They are all worthless people and worshipers of idols.” When the Prophet Elijah heard this, he understood what they said and went on his way.
The next night, as they stopped at another inn, they heard again the chickens and the geese talking to one another and saying: “The lad must be a great sinner if he is destined to take the master’s daughter for a wife, for they are wicked people and worship idols.” In the morning, they rose up early and went on their way.
The third night, they came to an inn, whose master had a beautiful daughter. In the night, the Prophet Elijah heard the chickens and the geese talking to one another and saying: “What a virtuous lad he must be if he is destined to get as a wife such a beautiful and pious girl. For all the people in this house are pious and righteous persons.” Early in the morning the Prophet Elijah rose up and asked the master of the house to give his daughter to the young man as a wife. They were married and returned home in peace.
After a time the Prophet Elijah came to visit the three brothers in order to see what use they had made of the gifts he had granted them. He disguised himself as a poor man and came to the first brother, who had gotten wealth. He was refused admittance and no assistance of any kind was given to him. The man had become a hard-hearted miser. Thereupon the Prophet Elijah made himself known to the man and said to him: “Give me back the coin which I gave you many years ago and which made you wealthy, for you kept your wealth to yourself, you have not helped the poor and have done no work of charity. You are not worthy of it.” So he took back the coin, and the man lost all that he possessed.
Elijah then came to the second brother in the guise of a scholar. That man, however, had grown so proud and arrogant that he treated every man with contempt and boasted of his learning far beyond his merits. But he did not continue his study, nor did he have a circle of students, and he treated the Prophet Elijah in the same contemptuous manner as the rest. So he revealed himself to the man and said to him: “Have you forgotten that all your learning comes from the book which I gave you and not through any merit of yours? You are no longer worthy to keep it. Return it to me.”
The Prophet Elijah then came to the house of the youngest brother. He disguised himself as a poor man. No sooner did the wife of this man see the beggar than she called him in, treated him hospitably and showed him all possible kindness. In the evening when her husband came home, the Prophet Elijah told him who he was, took out the coin and the book from his bosom and said to the man:
“I give you wealth and learning through the merits of your good and pious wife. For you will know how to make the proper use of both.”
Thus the choice of the young man who had asked for a beautiful and pious wife proved to him a real blessing.
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