There was a Jewish man who made his living chopping wood so the people of his village could heat their ovens. One Friday afternoon he went into the forest to cut some wood for people to use to cook their Sabbath dinner. He was chopping wood near a small lake when suddenly the ax head flew off the ax handle. and fell into the nearby lake. The man began to cry.
An old man passed by and asked him why he was crying. The woodcutter replied, “Because I am very poor and I can not afford to buy another ax. Without the ax I can’t chop wood to make money to feed my wife and children.”
The old man, who was really Elijah the Prophet said, “I have a special magnet that can bring things up from the bottom of a lake. I will recover your ax head for you.” The old man tied the magnet to a long branch, waved it over the water, and up came an ax head made of gold.
“Is this your lost ax?” the old man asked.
The woodcutter knew he could sell an ax made of gold for a lot of money. He also knew that gold is very soft and can not cut wood. He could sell the golden ax and buy a new iron ax and lots of other things, but that would take many days, and the people who depended on him for firewood to cook their Sabbath dinner would go hungry. He told the old man, “That is not my ax. I need an ax that will cut wood.”
The old man threw the golden ax back into the lake and waved the branch with the magnet over the water again. This time a silver ax rose to the surface. “Is this your lost ax?” asked the old man.
The woodcutter knew that he could cut firewood for Shabbat dinners with the silver ax because the silver ax could cut wood, although not as well as an iron ax. He also knew that he could sell the ax for much more than the cost of a new iron ax so it would smart to say the ax was his. But he realized if he said the ax was his ax he would be lying. He knew our Torah teaches us not to lie. He shook his head no.
Elijah threw the silver ax back into the lake and waved the long branch with the magnet over the water for a third time, and an iron ax head rose to the surface. “That is my ax head” said the woodcutter joyfully. He thanked the old man, attached the ax head to the ax handle and went back to work.
Elijah was very proud of how faithful the woodcutter was to the Mitsvah of Shabbat responsibility and to the Mitsvah of honesty. While the woodcutter was chopping wood, Elijah raised up the gold and silver ax heads and left them for him. When the woodcutter returned home he told everyone about the miracle that had happened and showed them the gold and the silver ax heads.
One of his neighbors thought, “I will find the old man with the magic magnet and get a gold ax for myself.” He ran to the same place and threw his iron ax into the lake and then pretended to cry very loudly. Elijah came by disguised as an old man and offered to retrieve his ax for him. When the gold ax rose to the surface Elijah asked the man if it was his lost ax, and the man said that it definitely was his. Elijah knew that the man was lying so he let the golden ax sink to the bottom of the lake and walked away.
Now the man really started crying because both the golden ax and his own ax were lost at the bottom of the lake. He returned home and told his wife what happened. She told him he lost his iron ax because he thought he could fool Elijah, and he lost the gold ax because he lied. All this was was due to his greed. Our Torah teaches us not to turn a miracle into magic for our own advantage. Miracles can happen to honest, faithful people because they don’t try to trick or test God. The man listened carefully to everything that his wife said and stopped being greedy.
Now that was a real honest to goodness miracle.
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