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The $98,000 Rabbi

The $98,000 Rabbi

A Kiddush Hashem in New Haven reveals the power of living Jewishly.


In the age of Craigslist, it’s not unusual to find household goods for a bargain. But for New Haven, Connecticut Rabbi Noah Muroff, an office desk he bought through the website for $200 turned out to be an investment with incredible dividends.

Returning home with his purchase, Muroff and his wife found that the desk would not fit through the office door by “a fraction of an inch”. When they took it apart, they discovered a bag containing the previous owner’s inheritance, to the tune of $98,000.

Muroff, a teacher at the Yeshiva of New Haven, told news station WTNH, "Right away, my wife and I sort of looked at each other, and we said, 'We can't keep this money.'" When they called the original owner to return the bag, she was stunned beyond speech; she had hidden the money in the desk and couldn’t find it once it slipped behind the drawer where it remained stuck.

After Muroff and his wife returned the money, they received the following note from the previous owner:

“I cannot thank you enough for your honesty and integrity. I do not think there are too many people in this world that would have done what you did by calling me. I do like to believe that there are still good people left in this crazy world we live in. You certainly are one of them.”

With a single decision that most people probably wouldn’t have made, Rabbi and Mrs. Muroff exemplified one of the highest precepts of Judaism: Kiddush Hashem, the sanctification God’s name through righteous and praiseworthy acts.

When the Jewish people accepted the Torah at Mt. Sinai, we were not only taking on the 613 commandments contained therein; we were also agreeing to act as God’s representatives to the rest of the world -- His PR team, so to speak. Our conduct, when guided by the Torah, is meant to set an example for the rest of humanity for how we should live.

This, by the way, is the reason why we Jews get a lot of attention when we slip up, and why the media works so hard to vilify us. When the press reported the Bernie Madoff scandal, for example, nine articles out of ten included the detail that he was a Jew. It’s an interesting piece of information, but it wasn’t really pertinent to the story. Including it functioned mostly to throw stones at Jews. Every day, the false message is spread across the world that Israel is an “apartheid state,” that we abuse our own citizens and are the perpetrators in crimes against human rights. The rest of the world benefits from our bad press, because it means the bar for behavior is lowered.

But every act of Kiddush Hashem we do has the tremendous power to offset these negative messages and to imbue the world around us with holiness. Every time we make the choice to act with decency, kindness and respect, every time we do the right thing, even when it’s hard, we are showing the world what human beings are truly capable of. And in the age of social media, as we see from the Muroff story, this message can reverberate around the world.

November 12, 2013

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Visitor Comments: 44

(29) buster, May 6, 2014 5:32 PM

These good people will be blessed

The good Rabbi and his wife will be forever inscribed in the Book of Life, and I am sure HaShem will bless them many times over for this incredible mitzvah.

(28) Sarah, November 22, 2013 2:40 PM

Thank you for leading the way

Wow. What an amazing act. It is so empowering to see people overcoming their internal battles and acting honestly. (We can all use $98,000!!)
My husband and I have made a point to always go by the truth. In an age where people are constantly hiding income in order to get government programs, and much worse, we were starting to feel like ignorant loners.
Thank you Rabbi and Mrs Muroff for showing us that it's still worth it to be honest.

(27) Edgardo Rubio, November 17, 2013 8:25 PM

measure for measure

I am 100% sure that hashem will return to this family as a same measure the same amount that they return to the original owner, either here on this era or hte next era

(26) rachel, November 17, 2013 2:56 AM

I am surprised they did not seek legal advice

Without giving legal advice, I would note that usually such sales are on an "as is" basis. So they might have had a moral obligation, but in the US, there was probably no legal obligation!

Rebecca, November 18, 2013 2:07 AM


I must confess I'm curious why the question of 'legality' should even come up. Legality is not the issue here. There are many things that are quite legal and yet totally immoral. Take for example, antisemitism in Nazi Germany. Or even in America today. No one can put a person in jail for simply hating Jews. Yet it is quite immoral and evil nonetheless. Western culture has some serious flaws that can lead to great evil, such as the tendency to be more concerned about legality than morality, and also the tendency to replace or evaluate morality by legality. When that happens, masses of people allow grave evils to occur, simply because there is no (secular) law against it.

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