The wife of the famous Jerusalem Rabbi Mordechai Machlis, Rabbanit Henny Machlis, very much liked to tell inspiring stories during the family’s popular Shabbat meals. Unfortunately, Henny Machlis passed away and I am publishing one of the stories she loved to tell:
It was at the time of the Arizal (Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, 1534 – 1572) in Safed:
There was a certain poor couple which one day decided to give G-d a present. They were thinking and thinking what they could give to G-d. Eventually they came to the conclusion to bake Lechem HaPanim (the shewbread from the Temple).
On a Friday morning they started to bake the Lechem HaPanim. They were singing and dancing through the kitchen, and their house was full of joy. An hour before Shabbat, the husband went to the Synagogue and put the Lechem HaPanim into the Aron HaKodesh. The couple hoped that G-d would accept their present for Shabbat.
A little later, the Rabbi of the Synagogue found the Lechem HaPanim in the Aron and thought: Who could have been so crazy to put Shabbat challot into the Aron HaKodesh. Finally he took the challot home.
In the middle of the night, the husband of the couple came back to the synagogue, checked the Aron and saw that the bread was gone. Happily he went home and told his wife that G-d had accepted their present.
From now on they did so every Friday. The house was full of joy and they were dancing around the kitchen table. And every Friday, the Rabbi was wondering who had put the bread into the Aron. Until one Friday he decided to hide in the Synagogue and see what is going on.
That’s what he did and after a while he saw the man putting the Lechem HaPanim into the Aron. The Rabbi jumped upon the man and screamed: “What are you doing here?”
The man replied that him and his wife baked the Lechem HaPanim as a Shabbat present for G-d.
“You fool”, said the Rabbi. “Do you really think that G-d needs you presents ? Go home and take your challot with you.”
Disappointed and broken came the man home to his wife and told her what had happened. They started crying.
The grave of the Arizal (Rabbi Yitzchak Luria) in Zfat / northern Israel
A few days later, the Arizal came to the Rabbi and told him that there was a decree in the heavenly court. The Rabbi will die within a few days.
“Why ?” asked the Rabbi.
The Arizal answered: “When the couple was baking the Lechem HaPanim, there was so much joy in the upper worlds which had never taken place since the Temple was destroyed. And you just destroyed the couple’s joy. That’s why the heavenly court made its decision.”
It is not known whether the Rabbi really died later on or if his Teshuva was accepted.