England. A stately commercial building, an elegant office with an engraved silver sign on the door. Plush carpeting, stylish chairs. Inside, Mr. T sits at a large table, his head in his hands. His thoughts race through his mind, turning his brain into a boiling, horrifying mess.
The situation couldn’t possibly be any worse.
A number of unsuccessful deals in quick succession had created a huge deficit. People were losing their trust in him. It was only a matter of time until the rumors spread and everyone would hurry to withdraw the money they had deposited with him. That would be the end…
Until now, he had enjoyed a good reputation as a careful businessman who avoided precarious deals. He was known as a fellow who preferred to do things slowly but surely and usually reaped multiple successes for his efforts. But the wheel of fortune had turned and the future seemed black. The last deal he had entered, the implications of which he was only now discovering, would be the final nail in his coffin.
He couldn’t bear to sit in the elegant office, looking at numbers dancing across his computer screen, for a moment longer. He made his way downstairs, entered his car and slammed the door impatiently. When he reached home, the climb up the few stairs to his house seemed as difficult as scaling Mt. Everest.
His home was exquisite, furnished in the loveliest European tradition. How much longer would it be his?
“I can’t!” he roared suddenly, alarming is devoted wife. “I can’t go on! We’re lost, lost! Today, tomorrow, in two days – I won’t survive it!”
She was aware of the situation, but her husband’s shout, like that of a wounded animal, made the blood freeze in her veins.
“Don’t you have any good friends?” she asked. “You’ve helped so many people over the years. Where have they all disappeared?”
“Successful people have friends; losers don’t,” he growled, his hands turning purple as he dug his fingers into them.
“Still, you ought to try,” she pleaded. It wasn’t just money and respect at stake; it was her husband’s life. The status he had achieved after long years of toil was about to go down the drain and she feared he would go down, too. She didn’t need her famous womanly intuition to sense impending disaster.
“Your friends won’t abandon you. We’re all Yidden, after all.”
He went. He listened to her and went to his friends- maybe because he wanted to know he had left no stone unturned, maybe to placate her or maybe because there was nothing else to do.
His friends nodded gravely. They had been vaguely aware of what was happening but didn’t know the details. Now his desperation was spread out before them and the solution – perhaps the key to the solution was in their hands? They each owed him a debt of gratitude. Would they give him the cold shoulder now that he needed them?
“We’ll give you one final chance,” they said after a long and complex discussion that included an analysis of how he had reached such a grim situation. “We’ll give you a huge loan of £100,000. Use the money to do something extremely safe, like importing computer monitors from China, for example. There’s no risk in such a deal and you make a nice clean profit. There’s a lot of work involved but the returns are worth it. If you succeed, you should be able to slowly regain your previous footing. If you fail, we’ll know you’ve lost your business acumen completely. We won’t be able to absorb another failure.”
How many hopes did Mr. T pin on that deal?
He invested all his heart and soul in it. He knew it was his last chance so he made sure not to leave the slightest hole in the deal. A huge deal like that requires lots of hard work, lots of connections, lots of documents. Mr. T. did everything himself, refusing to rely on anyone else.
The computer screens finally reached the port. When Mr. T. heard that they had arrived, he breathed a sigh of relief. Finally! The screens were in England, safe and sound. The goods were his. He had personally investigated and purchased them. Ftom here, the path to success was short.
Or was it?
The computer monitors were carefully loaded onto a two-car truck that would bring them from the port to their final destination: the warehouses of Mr. T’s customers, who would check their quality, count them and pay good money. Then he’d finally be able to repay part of his large debt and use some of the profits to broker a new deal that would bring him still further ahead.
A great deal. Zero risk. What could be better?
The double-car truck had a long drive ahead of it – nearly 48 hours. It was impossible to even consider having anyone drive so many hours consecutively, eager though Mr. t was to see his precious cargo safely unpacked at its destination. The driver was a human being, after all; he had to rest from time to time. There were periodic rest stops along the way where he would stop to have a hot drink and rest for a few hours.
“I don’t know what can go wrong, but be extra careful,” Mr. T told his steady driver, a fellow with years of experience. “There are thieves, there are accidents… I don’t know. No fooling around this time. I want the truck in one piece and on time!” The driver was aware of the importance of the job ahead of him and he was confident he could pull it off.
At various rest stops, groups of “professionals” lie in wait on the dark side of the road. They’re skilled at various tricks: with the help of a specialized tool, they silently cut the cable that connects the two cars in trucks like the one transporting Mr. T’s computer monitors. Then, with astounding speed, they connect the cable of the trailer car to a different truck, rev the motor and disappear into the night. Go chase the wind.
At the rest stop where Mr. T’s driver pulled over, such a gang was waiting too. The criminals knew that trucks filled with expensive equipment often stopped by.
The police were aware of this type of activity and often conducted raids. A steady patrol supervised the area, but heavy traffic was a deterrent. The thieves were quick and often managed to pull off their heists under the policemen’s very noses.
In the morning, the terrified driver called Mr. T and informed him that one container had been stolen. “I don’t know how it happened,” he stammered helplessly. “I was so careful…I fell asleep for a short while…”
Mr. T’s world came crashing down on him. He shouted, wailed, threw himself to the ground…his life was as good as over.
“Approximately a hundred and fifty such incidents occur every night,” the police told him coldly. “Frankly, you don’t stand a chance of recovering your goods. We can’t help you. Absorb the loss and try again.”
Mr. T paces up and down his house like a caged lion. He had no chances left. The remaining goods would not cover his losses. What would be with the loan his friends had given him? With his last chance? With his previous debts?
I’ll have no choice but to declare bankruptcy, he thought. And then I’ll be reduced to begging. No, I won’t survive it…
The windows in his home suddenly seemed very dangerous. Would he find the strength not to step out on the sill and plunge into oblivion? He didn’t want to lose both worlds at once, but oh, the humiliation. His family, his friends, his creditors, the pictures in the paper… he was in a black pit without even the slightest ray of hope.
His children took to walking through the house on tiptoes. Their father’s was ashen and they didn’t need any explanations. His wife wept soundlessly. In her mind’s eye, she was already a widow – a poor widow, steeped in debt. Was this really the end?
A day passed. Twenty-four of the bitterest hours imaginable. Mr. T’s breathing was labored, his vision blurred. He couldn’t eat; he couldn’t drink; he couldn’t sleep.
Another hour passed. Another one. What were they waiting for? For the story to explode all over the street, for the creditors to come storm through the wrought iron gate at the entrance to their home and shout their angry messages.
Mr. T was a devout Jew, but this nisayon was too much for him. He knew that everything was part of a master plan but he felt the world crashing down on him. Somehow, he found the strength to go daven minchah in his local shul. He hadn’t davened with a minyan the previous day or that morning. One last tefillah betzibbur before… before what?
He davened with dry eyes. The pain was incredible. His tongue stuck to his palate.
After davening, he bumped into a good friend from his youth. The friend noticed the terrible pallor, the sunken eyes… They exchanged hellos and Mr. T poured out his tale of woe. What point was there in hiding the truth? By the following day it would be all over town.
But his friend’s eyes are bright. “Haven’t you heard of Kupat Ha’ir? Contribute to Kupat Ha’ir and you’ll be saved. I’m telling you they’ll find your truck.”
Was he kidding? How could you kid a person in a situation as desperate as Mr. T’s?
But his friend was perfectly serious. He explained to Mr. T exactly what number to call and what to say. Mr. T followed his friend’s instructions as if possessed by a demon.
A day passed. Mr. T barely left his house. His heart pounded wildly. He didn’t tell a soul his secret.
A day later, he received a call from the Glasgow police department.
“Did you file a complaint regarding a stolen truck trailer?”
Yes, he had.
They verified his name and address and everything matched.
The gang of criminals had been caught and the container was safe and sound. The thieves hadn’t yet had a chance to open it or tamper with it in any way. The police instructed him to go to the local police station and present his identification papers. He’d receive his goods back that same day.
How did the police catch the thieves? We’ll never know. The police department keeps its professional secrets to itself, refusing to reveal them even to such grateful, delighted citizens who receive their stolen goods back. But who the angel was that accompanied the police and helped them nab the gang, despite the dismal odds – we know that, don’t we?