By Rabbi Eugene and Dr. Annette Labovitz
"Rebbe, did you hear what happened?" asked Yoel David. "Chanale, the woman who was barren for so many years, the one who lives in that house by the brook, gave birth to a baby girl last week. She is telling everyone that Yankele Krechmer, the innkeeper, blessed her last year."
A few days later, Chaim slid over on the bench where he sat in the study hall and whispered in his rebbe's ear.. "Rebbe, I heard that Berel the tailor---the one who has his shop at the edge of Apt and who had such difficulty eking out a living---received a big order for suits from the owner of a large clothing store. When I asked him why he thought his luck changed, he told me that Yankele Kretchmer blessed him."
The following month, the Apter rebbe heard that a very sick man, who was not expected to live, had fully recovered. He went to visit the man. During their conversation, the man volunteered the information that he believed he would never have recovered had it not been for the blessing of Yankele Kretchmer.
"Who is this Yankele Kretchmer?" mused the Apter rebbe. "Imagine, if only I had the power to bless as he does, I could help so many people. I have to find out who Yankele Kretchmer is, what good deeds he has done, and what he does to merit that all his blessings are fulfilled. If I know what he does, I could emulate his actions. I could be a source of blessings also."
There were so many things that took the rebbe's time that temporarily he pushed the stories of the wondrous blessings out of his mind. But the rumors about the fulfillment of Yankele Kretchmer's blessings persisted. The Apter rebbe kept wondering what the source of his power was. Finally, unable to contain his curiosity any longer, he decided to go to the inn to personally investigate the source of Yankele Kretchmer's blessings.
Since he was well known in the vicinity, he disguised himself as a merchant. He did not want the innkeeper to recognize him. He arranged to stay for three days, thinking that in that amount of time, he certainly would be able to find out the secret of Yankele Kretchmer's blessings.
He observed the innkeeper carefully, but he couldn't figure out why he merited that his blessings be fulfilled. The innkeeper spoke gruffly to the customers who patronized the bar in the inn. He ate without manners at times, stuffing the food into his mouth. He prayed the morning and evening services by himself, never taking the time to attend a minyan in the shul. The Apter rebbe noticed that he mispronounced every other word. It was obvious that Yankele Kretchmer was a boor. Yet people stood in an endless line, outside the inn, waiting to see him. They stood in line with hunched shoulders and heavy hearts, some scowling, some crying, pain clearly marked across their faces, but when they emerged, their faces shone. The Apter rebbe was puzzled.
"Maybe," thought the Apter rebbe, "the innkeeper performs righteous deeds at night, after the working day, when he is alone. I will sneak into his bedroom and hide under his bed. I have to find out the secret of his blessings."
That night, the Apter rebbe lay under Yankele Kretchmer's bed. As soon as he lay down, he fell into a deep, sound sleep and snored loudly. The Apter rebbe waited for something to happen. In the middle of the night, Yankele woke up. From under the bed, the Apter rebbe heard him go into a room at the end of the hallway, shut the door, and bolt it. He stayed for about an hour, returned to his bed, and immediately started to snore again.
The Apter rebbe could not contain himself any longer. In the morning, he decided to tell Yankele Kretchmer who he was, hoping that he could find out the secret of the blessings.
"I am the Apter rebbe," he began. "I have been watching you for the past three days. I came here to try to find out the secret of your blessings. Truthfully, I haven't noticed that you do anything differently than any other ordinary Jew. I am stymied. Please tell me the secret of your blessings, so I could emulate your actions. I cold help so many people."
"Rebbe," answered Yankele Kretchmer modestly, "indeed I am flattered by your visit, but I have no secret. I have no special powers."
The Apter rebbe persisted.
"I have heard rumors about you blessings for months. I have heard that a barren woman gave birth to a child, that a penniless tailor is now making a living, that a very sick man has recovered.. Please tell me why your blessings are fulfilled."
The innkeeper saw that the rebbe would not leave without knowing the secret of the blessings so he explained.
I will tell you what happened. First of all, I want you to know that I believe that everything that happens in this world happens because the almighty decrees it. I have always placed my trust in Him. Many months ago, I received an urgent message from the poretz (landowner) of this shtetl to come to his mansion immediately. I knew what he wanted. I owed him three months back rent. I did not have the money to pay him, but I knew I had no choice but to answer his summons. On the way, I decided to pass through the town. I thought I could borrow the money from the bank. However, as I walked along, I thought, "Why should I borrow money from a total stranger? Why should I make a total stranger my partner?" I turned in prayer to the almighty and said: "Master of the World, if you give me what I need now, I promise You that I will make You my partner."
No sooner had I finished praying than I heard the jingling bells of a horse-drawn carriage trotting swiftly beside me. . The horses came to an abrupt stoop at my side. Two fashionably dressed men alighted from the carriage. One spoke: "are you Yankele Kretchmer? We have been looking for you. We have heard that you are an honest businessman. We are about to embark on a business venture to another continent, to South Africa. We have quite a bit of gold with us from our last venture. We do not want to take it with us. We would like to commission you to hold it for us until our return. You may use any part of it on the condition that you return the original sum to us after our trip."
I agreed to their proposition. They gave me the bag of gold, climbed back into their carriage, and disappeared into the distance.
Rebbe, do you know what? I knew that my partner was working already. Joyfully, I counted the gold coins that they entrusted to me.
I ran to pay the poretz the back rent and returned to the inn.
I wanted the agreement with my partner to be effective immediately. I returned home, divided the money into two boxes, and locked them up in the empty room at the end of the hall.
Each business day I keep an exact accounting of the money I earn. Every night, I enter the empty room and put half of the money in one box and half in the other box. I use the money that I put into my box to sustain my family. I use the money that I put into my partner's box to sustain the needy of this shtetl and to support worthy students who devote themselves to the study of Torah. Ever since I have contracted this partnership, I have prospered. You may have noticed that I eat very quickly. Sometimes I gulp down my food. I do this because I do not want to take time from the business day for myself, since I do not want to cheat my partner. I fall asleep as soon as I go to bed so I will have strength to work, because I know that my partner is depending on me.
Yankele Kretchmer's voice faltered. He had never told anyone his secret before.
"Now that I have told you the secret of the blessings, I want you to swear to me that you will not repeat this story again to anyone while I am alive."
The Apter rebbe promised. He understood why Yankele Kretchmer's blessings were fulfilled.
After the innkeeper passed away, the Apter rebbe told his story every year on his yahrzeit (anniversary of the death). He always concluded the story with these words: "Is it any wonder that Yankele Kretchmer's blessings were always fulfilled, for who can compare to Yankele Kretchmer, God's partner?"
from the August 2000 Edition of the Jewish Magazine