He spoke thus: “I told one other story, about trust, and this is it.”
Once there was a king, who thought to himself, “Who is there in the world with less worries than I? For I have all the good things, and I am a king and a ruler.” He went to investigate this. He went in the night, and stood by peoples’ houses, to eavesdrop and listen to the words of the world. He listened to the worries of each one – this one had troubles with his shop, and another had a problem for which he needed to see the King, and so with the worries of each one.
After this, he went and saw one house, partially submerged underground, its windows almost touching the ground, and the roof broken and collapsed. He saw a man sitting inside, playing a harp to which one had to listen very carefully to hear. He was very happy, and had a jug of wine sitting on the table before him. There were also foods placed before him, and he was very happy, filled with joy, and without worries at all. The King entered the house, and greeted him, and he answered. He saw the jug of wine and the foods, and how the man was filled with joy. The man invited him to drink, and he drank to the King, and the King also drank, out of affection for the man. Then he lay down to sleep, and the King saw that he was only joyful, without any worry. In the morning, the King rose, and also the man rose, and escorted him. Then the King asked him, “How did you obtain all this?” The man answered, “I can fix all sorts of things that are broken. I go out in the morning and fix things, and when I have gathered enough money – five or six gold pieces – I buy all these foods and drinks for myself.”
When the King heard this, he thought to himself, “I will sabotage this.” So the King went and made a declaration, that anyone who had something needing repair, must not give it to any other man to repair. Either he must fix it himself, or buy a new one. In the morning the man went looking for things to fix, and they told him about the ruling of the King. It was very difficult for him to accept, yet he trusted in the L-rd. He went and saw a nobleman chopping wood, and asked him, “Is this in accord with your honor?” The man answered, “I searched for someone to chop it for me, but could not find anyone. So I had to do it myself.” He said, “Allow me, and I will chop for you.” So he chopped the wood, and the nobleman gave him a gold piece. He saw that this went well, so he looked for more wood to chop, until he gathered six gold pieces, and again bought his usual meal, and was happy. The King again went near his house, peering through the window. He saw the man sitting there, with the drink and the foods before him, appearing very happy. The King then entered the house, and they had an exchange similar to the first time, and the King slept there as on the first night. In the morning, the King rose, and the man escorted him out. The King asked again, “Where did you get all this? For this requires a good deal of money.”
The man answered, “It was my custom to fix things needing repair. Then the King decreed not to give any item to any man to fix. So I cut wood until I gathered enough money for all this.” The King then left, and passed a decree not to let any man chop wood. When the man came to someone and asked if he had wood to be chopped, the man told him of the decree of the King. It was difficult in his eyes, for he had no money. Nevertheless, he trusted in the L-rd, and he went and saw a man cleaning a stable. He asked him, “Why would someone such as you be cleaning a stable?” He replied, “I looked for someone to clean it, but could not find anyone, so I had to do it myself.” He said to him, “Let me clean it.” He cleaned it completely, and the man gave him two gold pieces. Then he went and cleaned other stables, gathered six gold pieces, and again bought his customary meal, and went home, and was very happy.
The King came again to his house to see how he had fared, and he saw again everything as before. He entered the house as before, and in the morning the man again escorted the King, and the King asked him and he answered, all as before. So the King went and decreed that no man should be allowed to clean a stable. In the morning, the man went looking for stables to clean, and they told him of the King’s newest decree. So the man went and enlisted as a soldier with the minister who recruited soldiers for the King. For there are soldiers who are enlisted mandatorily by the government, and there are other soldiers who are hired for a salary. He had himself hired, and he set conditions with the Minister that he would not be enlisted permanently, rather on a daily basis. Every day in the morning, he would be paid for a day’s work. The Minister outfitted him immediately in a soldier’s uniform,allotted him a sword, and sent him to where he was needed. Afterwards, in the evening, after having finished all his work, he stripped off the uniform, bought his usual meal, went home, and was very happy.
The King came to see him again, and saw that all was prepared before him, and that he was very happy. He entered and slept, as before. And he asked him as before, and the other answered as before. So the King went and summoned the Minister, and commanded him not to draw any money from the Treasury to pay any of his men that day. In the morning, the man went to the Minister to receive his daily pay, and the Minister would not pay him. He asked him, “But did we not agree that you would pay me each day?” He answered that the King had decreed not to pay any man that day. And all that he argued with him was to no avail. The Minister said, “It is better that I pay you for two days tomorrow, but today it is impossible to pay you.” What did he do? He went and broke off a piece of his sword, and affixed a piece of wood in its place, and the difference could not be discerned from a distance. Then he went and polished that piece of metal, and bought with it his usual meal.
The King came again, and saw that his happiness was even more complete than before. He again entered the house and slept there, and asked him as before, and he explained that he had been obliged to break off a piece of the sword, and had polished it and bought with it his meal. “Later, when I get paid for that day, I will use the money to repair the sword, and the damage will not be noticed at all. For I can fix all sorts of broken things, and there will be no damage to the property of the King.”
The King then went to his house, and called the Minister, saying that there was someone sentenced to the death penalty. “So call for that man who you hired as a soldier, and command that he specifically should be the one to decapitate him.” The Minister did accordingly. He called him, and he came before the King. And the King commanded to gather all the noblemen, to come and see this farce: Being that there was a man who had inserted a piece of wood in place of the blade of his sword. Then the man came before the King, and fell on his knees, asking, “My lord the King, why was I called?” The King answered, “To cut off the head of the man sentenced to death.” He answered him pleadingly, saying that he had never shed blood in his life, and so the King should choose someone else. But the King answered him that specifically he must shed the man’s blood. Then he asked the King if the man’s guilt was certain. “I have never shed blood in my life, all the more difficult it would be for me to execute someone whose guilt was not assured.” The King answered that it was without question that the man was guilty, for there was certainly an accurate sentencing. “And now, it is specifically you that must spill his blood.” Upon seeing that it would be impossible to sway the King’s decision, the man turned to the Holy One, Blessed be He and said, “G-d Almighty, I have never shed blood in my life. If this man is not guilty, may the metal of my sword turn to wood.” He unsheathed his sword, and everyone saw that it was wood, and it was an object of great hilarity. And the King saw that he was a charming man, and he let him go.
-By Rabbi Nachman of Breslov