Once there was a poor man who, may God spare us all a like fate, did not have a groschen to his soul. Nevertheless, he sat night and day studying Torah with pure intention, as God has bidden.

One Friday morning, when his wife discovered that they did not have the wherewithal to buy the necessities for celebrating the Holy Sabbath, she drove him out of the house.

Go to the marketplace!” she cried bitterly. “Look around—maybe you can earn a few kopeks so that the children and I will not have to starve on God’s holy day!”

Lost in gloomy thoughts, the poor man made his way to the marketplace.

“Alas!” he mused, “What a sad fate is mine! Instead of devoting my time to the study of Torah, I must now worry about groschen and kopeks!”

As he walked with downcast eyes, he suddenly heard a voice near him say, “Sholom aleichem!”

“Aleichem sholom” answered he. And, looking up, he saw an old man with a long gray beard and a wonderfully holy face.

“Who are you?” asked the poor man, overawed.

“I’m the Messiah!” answered the old man. “I see you are sad. Confide your trouble to me!”

And the poor man told him of his great need and of his grief in being diverted by base cares from his study of Torah.

“Cease your lamentation!” said Messiah. “Let me give you this sack—it’s a marvelous little sack! Whatever you desire the sack will give you. All you have to do is put your hand into it and draw forth whatever your heart desires. The little sack has also another virtue. Should anyone wish to hurt you, all you have to do is call out: ‘Swallow him, little sack!’ And, believe me, it will do exactly as you say.”

Overjoyed, the poor man took the little sack, I thanked Messiah in a heartfelt way, and returned I home to his unhappy wife and children.

From that day on, the wheel of fortune turned for him. He thrived and he prospered and was wanting nothing of all the goods of the earth. He lived in honor and tranquility. He saw his children and his children’s children grow up and marry happily, and sorrow shunned his threshold.

Unfortunately, like most men who grow rich, he forgot the manner in which his prosperity came to him—forgot to do good with it, to serve his fellow man, to feed the poor and to clothe the orphans. He even gave up his study of Torah.

As he lay dying, he called his heirs to his bedside and said to them, “Give me my magic little sack. It will save me from the Angel of Death.”

His heirs did as he had asked them.

When the Angel of Death rose up before him, he asked, “What is your name?”

“I will not tell you!” the dying man cried. “Leave me in peace!”

But the Angel of Death would not leave him. Again and again he repeated, “What is your name?”

When the dying man saw that he could not resist him any longer, he picked up his little sack and said, “Little sack, little sack! Swallow the Angel of Death!”

Immediately, the Angel of Death disappeared into the little sack.

In the meantime, on the Throne of Mercy sat the Celestial Judge impatiently waiting for the Angel of Death to arrive with his daily catch of souls.

Angered by his tardiness, God sent the angels Gabriel and Michael down to earth.

“Go” said He, “and find out what’s keeping the Angel of Death.”

When the angels came to the man, they asked him. “Where is the Angel of Death?”

He did not answer. Again and again they asked him the question. When he saw that he could not stand up against them any longer, he picked up his little sack and said, “Little sack, little sack! Swallow the angel Michael!”

And lo and behold! Michael disappeared into the little sack.

When the angel Gabriel saw this, he fled and returned to Heaven.

As Gabriel reported to God what had happened to him, the Messiah suddenly recalled how he had given the little magic sack to a poor man he had once met.

“Lord,” said the Messiah to God, “give me leave to go down and find this man.”

So the Messiah descended to earth and went in search of the man. When he found him, he asked him sternly, “What is the meaning of your conduct? Explain yourself!”

“You, too!” cried the man angrily, not recognizing the Messiah. “How many more of you will come down to browbeat me?”

“Why, don’t you know who I am?” began the Messiah.

But even before he could finish what he had begun to say, the man picked up his magic little sack and cried, “Little sack, little sack! Swallow this one, too!”

And the Messiah also disappeared into the little sack.

And now, dear friends, do you want to know why the Messiah doesn’t come?

Editor’s note:
This story, adapted from a Yiddish groschen book, may date as far back as the sixteenth century. Since well before that time, men have been attempting to explain “Why Messiah Doesn’t Come.”‘ In this account, Messiah does come, yet the poor man does not recognize him.

The prophet Isaiah, too, wrote of a time when Messiah would come, yet He would not be known. He said, “He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”

Messiah has come. He does not live in a “little sack,” yet we can lock him out of our lives—by not recognizing him.

Are you willing to consider that Jesus might be that One?


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