A Heavy Price for an Esrog
Rebbe Michel of Zlotchov zt’l was very poor, and sometimes, there wasn’t even food in his home. But he did own one valuable item. That was the tefillin of Reb Michel’s holy father: Reb Yitzchak of Derohovitz zt’l.
Reb Michel’s Rebbetzin zt’l pleaded many times that he sell the tefillin so they could support their family, but Reb Michel refused. He didn’t want to part from his precious tefillin.
Once, a wealthy person came to Zlotchev and offered a lot of money for the tefillin, but Rebbe Michel turned him down. His father’s tefillin weren’t for sale.
One year, there was hardly any esrogim in Eastern Europe. Then, finally, an esrog merchant came to Zlotchev with an esrog, asking for an exorbitant sum. “What will be?” Reb Michel thought. “Could it be that we won’t keep this precious mitzvah this year?”
He sold the tefillin and bought the esrog for fifty reinish.
Reb Michel’s joy was endless. He had a beautiful esrog for Yom Tov. His Rebbetzin wanted to know how he had money to buy the esrog. Reb Michel didn’t respond, but when she asked again, he was forced to tell her that he had sold the tefillin. She bit into the esrog and said, “How many times did I ask you to sell the esrog for our family, but you didn’t want to. And now you sold it for a mitzvah!?”
Rebbe Michel said, “Ribono Shel Olam! I don’t have the tefillin anymore. I don’t have an esrog either. Should I also become angry?”
That night, he saw his father in his dream. His father told him, “Your second deed was greater than your first. Your ability to control your anger was more precious in heaven than your mesiras nefesh to buy the esrog. And because of your restraint, many gezeiros raos [harsh decrees] was annulled.”