Most of the people of the shtetl of Roshvenitz were very poor, but, being Chasidim, poverty could not detract from their joy of life, as it was derived from their Rebbe, the great Rabbi Avraham Yaakov of Sadigora.
In those days, traveling to the Rebbe was not an easy undertaking. It cost far more than most of them could afford, and so they established a special fund to pay the traveling expenses of one person. Each Jewish family would contribute to the communal pot, and when a special occasion would arise, a raffle would be held. The winner would travel to the Rebbe as an emissary of the community.
At the Rebbe's court, the representative was given a private interview with the Rebbe who would question him about the state of his Chassidim in the little village. But that wasn't all. When the emissary set off, the Rebbe always presented him with a pure, silver coin. These coins became the property of the community and were its prized treasure.
It was a month before Chanuka and a special meeting was called. The villagers twittered with anticipation of this unexpected event. Finally the caretaker of the shul began to speak: "My dear brethren, we have called you here tonight to discuss the matter of the holy coins of our beloved Rebbe. We have merited to amass many coins, and we have decided to give them all to a G-d-fearing silversmith who will make from them a most beautiful menora."
Excitement rose as the congregants murmured their approval to one another. "The beautiful menora, we will put in our study hall, and each Chanuka we will sell the honor of lighting it to the highest bidder. This money will help pay for the many needs of our community- - food and medicine for the sick and poor, dowries for needy brides, salaries for the teachers." The congregants were all very excited, and each of them dreamed about the beautiful silver menora made from the Rebbe's holy coins.
The first night of Chanuka arrived and every corner of the shul was packed tight. At the southern wall stood the Chanuka menora, a masterpiece of the silversmith's art -- intricate in design, glowing, and sparkling in the lamplight.
The bidding began, and then rose quickly. It wasn't long before the poor and average homeowners were outbid, leaving only the wealthy to continue the contest. In the end, Reb Lipa, a wealthy wood merchant won the honor. With great emotion he approached the menora. He recited the three blessings, and ignited the wick.
This scene was repeated each night of Chanuka. The same bidding, the same enthusiasm, and in end, the same result: one of the wealthy congregants always emerged the winner.
The poor people of the shtetl realized that the coveted honor would never fall to one of them. They had to content themselves with watching the lighting and answering "amen" to the blessings.
One of them, however, couldn't accept the situation. Reb Baruch, the blacksmith, was a Chasid to the core of his soul. His love for his Rebbe filled his entire being, and he was heartbroken that he couldn't light the menora even once. Chanuka passed and once again life's dreary sameness returned to the inhabitants of the little shtetl.
But for Baruch the blacksmith life was different. He had a mission which filled his nights and days. He began to work a little extra every day, and he hoarded every penny he managed to scrape together -- all this for his much longed-for Chanuka lighting. Months went by and he managed to amass a tidy sum.
A month before Chanuka his wife took ill. When all the old remedies failed to cure her, a doctor was summoned from the big city. The doctor's fee was tremendous and the medications very costly. When G-d blessed his wife with a complete recovery, Reb Baruch's entire hard- earned savings were gone.
Chanuka arrived and Reb Baruch was inconsolable. He had come so close to attaining his heart's desire, and now it was lost.
As the nights of Chanuka passed by, Reb Baruch watched the successive lightings with a pained heart. Finally, the eighth and final night came. The bidding was frenzied, and the poor looked on as their wealthy brethren bid astronomical sums for the honor. Reb Baruch felt that his heart would break.
Suddenly all was still. All eyes focused on the figure ascending the bima. Could it be Reb Baruch, the blacksmith!? With tears running down his face, he turned to the crowd: "My dear friends, this is the second year that I have yearned with my whole soul to kindle the holy menora. All year I saved, but then my wife became ill. G-d has granted her a complete recovery, but my savings are gone. Believe me, my brothers, I cannot continue; my soul is expiring from longing. So, I am making you a proposition. My house is very small-- worth about 300 crowns. I am giving it to the community. I will continue to live in it, but as a tenant of the community. Accept my plea and restore the soul of a poor blacksmith."
Reb Baruch's heartfelt words touched everyone. Tears flowed freely, and a great roar came up from the crowd. "Reb Baruch has won the bidding!" was heard from every corner. When he rose to kindle the silver menora, there was not one heart which did not tremble at the sight of the flame that burst forth and rose up from the soul of Reb Baruch, the blacksmith.