Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

18 Sivan 5763 - June 18, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








Eizek Yekkels' Treasure

by Chaim Walder

Part II

Eizek Yekkels, a Polish young man who lived in Cracow 350 years ago, was a dreamer. He mainly dreamed of being rich. He worked as a peddler, but was always investing his meager earnings in the hope of striking it rich. One day his father came to discourage him from his fantasies. In the course of the discussion, his father mentioned that his own grandfather, Eizek's great-grandfather, once almost became the richest man in the world. Great-grandfather Moishy was drafted into the army, where he lived by his wits.

The Polish army at that time was fighting a large band of rebels. Moishy joined with two Polish officers to ambush the rebels and capture their money. He determined that a large treasure was being transported in a convoy of coaches, and then they attacked at and overcame it. At the end, Moishy, who was supposed to get two-thirds of all the money, gave it all away to his friends, and only took a little bit to start a business. Everyone suspects that there is more to the story, but that is all that is known.


"To tell you the truth, I've thought about that inconsistency for quite a long time," Yankel admitted dryly. "And I'm not the only one. A large group of people have been trying to investigate the matter along with me. We visit Warsaw on occasion, ascertain the names of Moishy's pals at that time, and then locate them. All of them are wealthy Jews and their reports are contradictory and unclear. They also have reservations, and are unsure which version of the story is true. They say that it is rumored that Polish rebels would bury dozens of chests in the nearby forest, but then some sort of a battle would break out, and they would flee.

"Where is Moishy's house located?" Eizek asked.

Without hesitating, Yankel replied: "He lived in this shack until his final day. This was his house. After his death, it was abandoned and served as a warehouse, until your marriage. Then I gave it to you so that you would have somewhere to live. Of course, I renovated it a bit.

"My father grew up in this house and so did I, and we were all very happy. Perhaps that is why we made no effort to clarify the inconsistencies in the story, about which Moishy himself refused to speak until his final day. The story became known in town only from the relatives of the Jews to whom Moishy gave the booty."

At that point, Yankel recalled why he was visiting his son, and added:

"That's precisely the message I want to convey to you. My grandfather dreamed of becoming rich. He could have realized his dream. He had access to enough money with which to buy an entire city. Apparently he felt that it was better to be happy than to be rich.

"After all, his children lacked nothing. They had all they needed and were happy with their lot. Besides, they say that for years he supported all of Cracow's educational institutions. When he was alive, no one suspected that he was the schools' patron. Everyone thought that the schools were supported by public funds. After his petiroh though, people understood that the community could have subsidized only 10 percent of the expenses, and that Moishy had probably supplemented the rest from his own pocket. Although this didn't prove that he had money, it caused people to believe that he was still hiding a chest or two of coins somewhere.

"Moishy's children and grandchildren led very modest lives and had no particular ambitions to become rich. But you, Eizek are different. You always want more and more. Why not learn from your great-grandfather?"

"Don't forget that at certain stages of his life, my great- grandfather also dreamt of becoming rich. Perhaps, I have to go through the same stages in order to be like him eventually -- first dreaming of becoming rich and then having no ambition to become rich."

That stumped Yankel a bit. "That"s it. I give up," he sighed in despair, before taking his leave.


As soon as his father had left, Eizek began to search all the nooks and crannies in his house. If that had been Moishy's house, there had to be some sort of evidence, some sort of proof which corroborated the story.

He searched the attic carefully and, after a number of hours, found a map which depicted a forest area with a path beside it. The map contained many circles and numbers and showed the entire Warsaw region.

And so, Eizek decided to travel to Warsaw.

Even his wife didn't protest. The story and the map indeed seemed to indicate that hundreds of chests with money lay buried somewhere in Warsaw near the battlefield and that if Eizek followed the map, he would discover quite a treasure.

Eizek hitched up a decrepit wagon and set out for Warsaw. It took him two weeks until he reached an area which had become a Polish army camp.

Picture this scene: A Jew with a puny horse and a battered wagon stands outside a military camp, waiting to be allowed in.

Of course the soldiers weren't impressed by him and sent him away with a few kicks, similar to those Zaidy Moishy had received. But Eizek kept on returning, asking to speak with the commander.

When the commander saw that the Jew was so insistent, he finally let him in.

Eizek entered the camp and asked to speak to the commander in private. Once in the commander's office, he said: "I know that there's a treasure here in your camp. Actually, I thought of taking it all for myself, but since you own the place, I have no choice but to invite you as my partner."

Amidst chortles and guffaws, the commander roared, "A Jewish beggar comes to the camp with a weird story about a treasure on my premises, and then invites me to share it with him. That's the funniest thing I've ever heard, and you're about the brashest person in the world. By my life, if my grandfather hadn't become rich because of someone like you, I would issue an order to shoot you on the spot."

"What do you mean by that? Why did you say that your grandfather struck it rich because of a Jew?" the stunned Eizek asked.

"Haven't you heard about Heinrich's last battle?"

"Truth to tell, no!"

"Well, a few decades ago there was a large rebellion against the king of Poland, whose efforts to subdue it cost many soldiers their lives. My grandfather was the famed General Heinrich who masterminded that battle. One time, a very large convoy, which carried all of the rebels' money, was attacked. The moment the rebels lost their source of support, they were defeated. My grandfather planned that attack along with a Jew who had been drafted into the army by force. My grandfather received a large share of that money and the Jew took the rest. They say that he divided it among some other Jews and then disappeared."

"And if I tell you that the money of which you are speaking is only a small part of the entire sum, what would you say?"

"I would say that your imagination is working overtime," the commander answered. "Do you know how many dreams and stories shroud the account of the Big Battle? For your information, a few decades ago a group of Jews who claimed that there are dozens of chests in the forest arrived here. We let them dig, and after they had uprooted about twenty trees and had dug around them, we told them to vamoose. Do you want a repeat performance of that scenario?"

But Eizek insisted: "There's a difference between me and those Jews. I know the exact location of the trees under which the treasure is buried."

"How do you know that?" the commander asked.

"Let's say that I dreamed it. Any questions?"

"Well, if you dreamed it, save yourself the trouble of digging. My grandfather also had dreams about the treasure and if we had paid attention to them, we would have had to roam the entire country in search of it. Take my advice and don't rely on dreams."

"If, after fifteen minutes of searching, I find a chest filled with money, will you believe me?" Eizek continued.

"Okay, lets go to the forest. But it's so thick that we had to build a bridge over it, since no carriage can enter it," the commander noted.

While the two crept under the bridge, Eizek kept the map in his pocket, lest the commander try to borrow it for himself. He recalled some of the numbers and arrows on the map and understood that they indicated how many trees one had to pass before reaching the treasure, as well as the direction in which to walk. When he reached tree number 132, he began to dig.

Within three minutes, the rake hit a hard object. Hearing the clink, the commander came to Eizek's aid. Together, they managed to dig around the chest and to remove it with care. The chest was very heavy, and with each inch they moved it their hearts skipped another beat. With trembling hands, they placed it on the ground and began to pick the lock.

"There are twenty-seven more chests here," Eizek said.

"Where's the next one?" the commander asked.

"Take it easy, sir. We'll open this one, divide up the money, and then I'll go home and dream where the next one is."

Fearing that the commander might decide to split the treasure only with himself, Eizek insisted that every chest be opened separately and that the money be divided separately. The commander read his thoughts.

The chest was locked and the two smashed the lock with an ax.

The lock broke.

Eizek opened the chest.

It was filled with earth.

They spilled out its contents, hoping to find a treasure. But it contained nothing but earth.

"Let's try the next chest," Eizek whispered.

Within half an hour they also opened that chest -- only to discover that it too contained only earth.

During the next few hours, they dug up five more chests. All of them were filled with earth. At that point they realized that if they needed earth, they should continue to dig. But if they didn't need earth, they could stop searching.

"Listen here," the commander said after some thought. "That Jew was very mysterious and his entire behavior is very perplexing. I don't understand why he went to so much trouble to bury chests filled with earth in my forest."

Eizek sighed. "Nonetheless, my information is precise. Wherever I searched we found a chest."

"Filled with earth," the commander rejoined.

"Filled with earth," Eizek agreed. "But the fact that the chests are here still indicates that there's a basis to the story."

"It has no basis whatsoever. They guy was a nut, who took a handful of rubles and scattered all the rest. Then he buried chests filled with earth. Go figure him out."

The two left the forest dejectedly, Eizek feeling a deep need to get to the bottom of the mystery. He had no doubt now that his grandfather had made off with most of the treasure. But how had he managed to take it out of the forest?


The following week, Eizek visited one of Warsaw's well- known merchants, a wealthy man whose own grandfather had been one of Zaidy Moishy's pals. The man laughed and said that there were so many versions of the story that he had no idea which one was true.

Eizek tried to ascertain how much time had passed between the attack on the convoy and his grandfather's departure. The rich man replied that according to an unauthorized, unverified version of the story, a few hours before the attack some rebels were seen bearing a lot of chests and heading towards the nearby forest.

Having no choice, Eizek started to ask about the leader of the rebels and soon located the grandson of the man who had led the rebels during his great-grandfather's time. The grandson, who lived alone in a secluded region, still resented the Polish army for having massacred his grandfather and his soldiers.

Eizek introduced himself and asked the leader's grandson to help him sneak into the camp and dig under the bridge without the commander's knowledge.

The grandson wasn't thrilled with the idea. "I guess you're looking for the treasure," he jeered. "Well, for your information, over the years, hundreds of people have looked for it. What happened was that a Jew, drafted against his will, did a real razzle-dazzle job and persuaded the army commanders to attack the rebels' money convey. At the same time, he made a deal with the rebels to reveal to them the details of the attack he himself had planned, on condition that they give him a cut of the money. He marked the coaches which would be filled with money, and those which would have chests filled with dirt. According to the plan, the rebels were to bury the real gold before the attack, which they indeed did.

"The coaches with the earth-filled chests continued on their way, bearing brave fighters. When the Polish army attacked them, it encountered well-prepared and trained soldiers. The battle was so successful that both sides managed to destroy each other. Only two or three soldiers remained alive after that historical battle which marked the end of the rebellion.

"At the end, the convoy remained in the middle of the road, but the rebels who hadn't participated in the battle weren't in the least concerned about abandoning it, since they knew quite well that it contained only chests with dirt inside them and that the gold was hidden in a safe place.

"The full extent of the Jew's wily plan became clear to the rebels only after they had buried their dead, and returned to remove the treasure from its hiding place. The maps in their possession had been exchanged at the last minute and the markings were different. Apparently, the markings had also been changed, and in the end it was the buried chests which had contained the earth, while those that remained on the convoy had the gold.

"The Jew, who despised both the Polish army and even more so the rebels, had cooked up a savory dish. He had caused them to kill each other, and afterwards had pointed to one coach from which he removed five chests. From these he gave the commander of the army a large sum of money, and he didn't let his Jewish friends leave empty-handed either. After that, he sent his friends home and remained behind for half a day, during which he hitched the coaches which had been correctly marked and which bore the fortune. Then he disappeared.

"For many years, attempts to find out precisely who he was were made," the leader's grandson continued. "It seems as if he presented himself to the rebels as "Moshe Cohen." But they found that among the Jews that was a very common name and they could not track him down. The Jew had gotten even with both sides and had avenged the murders of his relatives by pitting the Poles and the rebels against each other. He also retrieved the Polish Jews' assets and returned them to their rightful owners.

"That's the full story, my friend. Many before you tried to find that treasure and all were disappointed."

After hearing this version of the story, Eizek realized that his entire trip to Warsaw had been in vain. True, he had discovered a remarkable story. But money? Forget about it.


As he was planning to return to Cracow, and to poverty and want, he encountered a troop of soldiers who asked him to proceed to the commander's office.

Apprehensively, Eizek obeyed. To his surprise, the commander didn't shout at him, but asked. "Did you really find the chests according to a dream?"

Eizek hesitated. Should he tell the commander about the map or let him believe that he had really dreamt about the locations of the chests?

"You"re probably surprised by my question; so let me explain. Right before his death, my grandfather, General Heinrich, dreamt that the great treasure for which he had searched his entire life is buried under the fireplace in the home of a certain Jew in Poland. He told me that Jew's first name and family name, and that he lives in Cracow."

Eizek's hair stood on edge. "What did you say? Under the fireplace?"

"Yes, under the fireplace, if I recall. Of course I didn't pay much attention to that dream because my grandfather's mind was a bit fuzzy prior to his death. Besides, he always had an 'under-the-fireplace fixation' and would hide all his money there. He said that the Jew's last words before they parted at the end of the bloody battle had been: `Hide the treasure under the fireplace.' It's no wonder that he dreamt about a treasure located under the fireplace of a Jew in Poland. Ah, yes, I remember -- Moshe Yekkels. That's the name he mentioned. Of course my grandfather claimed that he hadn't been dreaming, but I felt that he no longer could tell the difference between reality and dreams. I never thought that would ever go to Cracow because of a dream, until you told me that you know the location of the chests according to a dream. Now I think that I really should find out more about Moishy Yekkels from Cracow. What do you say?"

Eizek burst out laughing, even though inside, he trembled with fear. "I'd better rid the commander of his notions about a dream, before I return home to examine my fireplace," he told himself.

"Do you really believe that I could see the numbers of the trees in a dream and then remember them? I found a map on which the trees under which there is a treasure are circled. That's why I came here. And like you, I was disappointed to discover we were duped and those chests contain nothing but dirt instead of money. I also believe that dreams are vain. Even my dream of becoming rich has fizzled out! I'm going home to warm myself beside my fireplace, and stashing my dream of striking it rich. From now on, all I want is to be happy."

Then, in order to prevent the commander from ever realizing his dream, Eizek gave him the map. The commander was, of course, delighted to receive it, and was certain that some of the chests contained money. He forgot all about his grandfather's dream, feeling that his own dream had come true.


Eizek Yekkels rushed home to Cracow, and began to dig under his fireplace. He wasn't at all surprised when he found a treasure there which made him the richest man in Poland. Like his great-grandfather, Moishy, he donated vast sums to educational institutions and to needy people. He also built Cracow's main synagogue, which still stands today. In his will, he wrote. "People always search for wealth and happiness in remote places like Warsaw. But the truth is that wealth and happiness (osher with an ayin and osher with an alef) may be found right under our feet. All one has to do is to pray to Hashem to grant them to us."

When you're in Warsaw, pop over to the famous bridge under which people have been digging nearly nonstop for the past hundred years. Even though it is now 5763/ 2003, you'll still see a crew of workers, digging and digging. Each one of them is clutching a photostat of the ancient map Eizek Yekkels gave the commander in exchange for forgetting the dream. They're still searching for the treasure which Moishy Yekkels buried, and haven't the faintest idea that it was found two generations later by his grandson, Eizek Yekkels.

P.S. Eizek Yekkels is buried in Cracow's famous Jewish cemetery, very near the grave of the Ramo (HaRav Moshe Isserles). Beside the grave is a marble tablet on which is engraved the famous story of Eizek Yekkels' dream about a treasure under the bridge and about the real treasure he found under the floor of his very own fireplace.

There are seventy versions to this story, appearing in various manuscripts. This is the 71st version.

I am grateful to HaRav Asher Gruzman for providing me with the book of versions.


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