David Perlovitz looked through his account books and sighed.
His business was obviously not thriving. He added up the
figures again, and then once more. The results were always
the same. It was hardly worth keeping "Perlspaper" afloat.
His paper goods were not selling as well as they should. Then
David had a brainwave. He opened the door to the small
packaging plant, after his two employees had gone home, and
began to fiddle with the machines. Soon he had 'adapted' the
machine to package 90 items instead of the 100 claimed to be
in each packet. He reasoned that nobody actually counts the
100 table napkins when he buys them.
Weeks turned into months and then into years, and Mr.
Perlovitz's machines regularly churned out 90 serviettes
instead of 100 without anyone being aware of the fact. Then
one Shabbos afternoon, a visiting Rabbi spoke in his Shul. He
spoke about theft. "We are all guilty, at some time or other,
of appropriating or misusing property which does not belong
to us; of taking away something from its rightful owner."
The Rabbi elaborated on the various kinds of theft, including
disturbing someone's sleep, borrowing an article without
permission, and not paying workers on time. He was a lively
speaker and the audience listened attentively. Suddenly Mr.
Perlovitz sat up straight. Although he had known that it was
not exactly honest to adjust his machine, he had never
thought of it as theft. As the Rabbi concluded with the
thought that there was no forgiveness for stealing unless the
victim was reimbursed, David squirmed.
After minchah, David hung around until the Rabbi was
free, and went to speak to him. He introduced himself, and
told him how his business was not doing too well, and then
rather shamefacedly, confessed to having 'fixed' his
packaging machine. "Until your talk this afternoon, I am
afraid that I honestly did not think I was doing anything
really wrong. How can I do teshuvah?" he asked
The Rabbi stroked his beard thoughtfully, and did not reply
for quite a while. Finally, he spoke, "You have a real
problem, Mr. Perlovitz. The first thing you must do is to re-
adjust your machine that it packs 110 serviettes each time,
instead of the claimed 100. The second thing to do is to pray
fervently that anyone who purchased your wares during the
past few years will continue to buy them until, unknowingly,
they have been paid back. Just keep on praying."
"How long will I have to keep this up?" asked David
"You will surely be given some indication from Above that you
have been forgiven," replied the Rabbi, as he left the
The next day, David once again let himself stealthily into
the deserted plant, and followed the Rabbi's instructions.
Surprisingly, there was no significant drop in his earnings
during the following months. He sold about the same amount as
usual, and eked out a meager profit. Then the National
Consumer Council began to conduct a nation wide survey of
paper goods. As usual after a survey, they announced Best
Buys and Value for Money. They publicized their findings
about the choice of color and variety, quality and other
features. They added a note to their findings in the Consumer
Council's monthly bulletin.
"Our investigators have found that the packets of Perlspaper
serviettes invariably contained more than the amount
stipulated on the packet. We bought them in five different
locations, and the amount never varied. Although the quality
of their merchandise is good, it is not at the very top of
the list; nevertheless, we recommend Perlspaper as Best Buy,
for those who want value for money."
An enterprising reporter who read the Consumer Council report
decided to investigate this strange phenomenon. He found out
who the owner of Perlspaper was and asked Mr. Perlovitz for
an interview. He began, "Mr.Perlovitz, I understand that
every single packet of your serviettes holds 110 instead of
100. Is that correct?"
"I believe that is so."
"Did you know about this before the survey?"
"How long have you known about this?"
"Are you going to put it right now that you have found
A disgruntled reporter left the Perlovitz residence without
the hoped for scoop. However, he gave the interview quite a
write-up, which was all publicity for Perlspaper. There was a
run on all his goods and the retailers phoned insistently for
extra deliveries. Mr. Perlovitz hired several extra workers,
and as soon as possible, installed some extra machines. Still
the demand increased, and Perlspaper had to move to larger
premises. The packets of serviettes continued to provide
customers with 110 napkins instead of 100.
The following year, Perlspaper moved into a new, especially
designed factory. Mr. Perlovitz employed an excellent
foreman, and he himself decided to spend his mornings
learning. He had not been in Yeshiva for very long and had
never had the opportunity to improve on his knowledge. He did
not want his little boys to be ashamed of him.
The time had come, David felt, for the new machines to do the
work they were fixed to do by default, without anyone
interfering with them. He felt that the success of the
business and the ever increasing sales, were a sign that his
teshuvah had been accepted. Honesty, in Mr.
Perlovitz's home, forever after, was scrupulously adhered to
at all times, without any compromise whatsoever.