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I remember reading long ago that the prophet Elijah sometimes will appear to a dying man pretending to be a beggar asking charity, to give the man one last chance of doing an act of tzedakah. Is this correct and what is the reference?

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    At least the bit about Tzedakah having the ability to reverse a decree of death is an explicit passuk (Mishlei 10:2) – DonielF Mar 15 at 19:26
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    Perhaps you’re thinking of Pirkei d’Rebbi Eliezer 33:2, that we learn from Eliyahu that Tzedakah has the power to revive the dead? – DonielF Mar 15 at 19:27
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    No, it was as precise as I described. – Maurice Mizrahi Mar 15 at 19:29
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Did you read a somewhat similar story which appears in Louis Ginzberg's The Legends of the Jews, vol. 4 ch. 7 ?

There were two brothers, one of them rich and miserly, the other poor and kind-hearted. Elijah, in the garb of an old beggar, approached the rich man, and asked him for alms. Repulsed by him, he turned to the poor brother, who received him kindly, and shared his meagre supper with him. On bidding farewell to him and his equally hospitable wife, Elijah said: "May God reward you! The first thing you undertake shall be blessed, and shall take no end until you yourselves cry out Enough!" Presently the poor man began to count the few pennies he had, to convince himself that they sufficed to purchase bread for his next meal. But the few became many, and he counted and counted, and still their number increased. He counted a whole day, and the following night, until he was exhausted, and had to cry out Enough! And, indeed, it was enough, for he had become a very wealthy man.

His brother was not a little astonished to see the fortunate change in his kinsman's circumstances, and when he heard how it had come about, he determined, if the opportunity should present itself again, to show his most amiable side to the old beggar with the miraculous power of blessing. He had not long to wait. A few days later he saw the old man pass by. He hastened to accost him, and, excusing himself for his unfriendliness at their former meeting, begged him to come into his house. All that the larder afforded was put before Elijah, who pretended to eat of the dainties. At his departure, he pronounced a blessing upon his hosts: "May the first thing you do have no end, until it is enough." The mistress of the house thereupon said to her husband: "That we may count gold upon gold undisturbed, let us first attend to our most urgent physical needs." So they did and they had to continue to do it until life was extinct.

  • The source is given (here footnote 64) as "the Jewish version of a widespread legend among European nations." In any case this has Elijah pretending to be a beggar, but I'm not sure it matches the aspect of being a last chance to give charity before dying – b a Mar 16 at 19:15
  • I agree it is not the same - but sometimes memories from long ago can be distorted so I thought it might be close enough to be the story the OP was looking for – mbloch Mar 16 at 19:16
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    I remember distinctly the words "to give the man one last chance of doing an act of charity", but maybe it's the author I read who extrapolated from Ginzberg. So that may well be it. Thanks. – Maurice Mizrahi Mar 17 at 3:43

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