Rebbe Nachman tells a story of a poor woodchopper who found a diamond under a tree in the forest. He went home to his little village and asked people, “How much is this treasure worth?”
“We’re not equipped to know,” the people told him. “It looks like millions of rubles. You have to go to Moscow to find out what it is really worth.”
The poor woodchopper didn’t actually own a single ruble, nor even a penny, but he did have the diamond, so he started off for Moscow. When he stopped at an inn, he ordered the best food, and ate like crazy. When the innkeeper asked him, “Can you pay?” he said, “I’m sorry to tell you that I can’t pay, but I do have this treasure here.” Even if the innkeeper didn’t know exactly how much it was worth, he knew it was worth millions, so he said, “We trust you. When you come back from Moscow, please allow us the great honor of serving you.”
So the woodchopper continued on his way to Moscow. He finally arrived in Moscow, and there they told him, “Even in Moscow we are not equipped to tell you how much your treasure is worth. You have to go to London, and in London they will tell you.”
The woodchopper still didn’t even have a single penny, but who cares? He has this tremendous treasure. He went to a ship, and they said, “You have to buy a ticket.”
“I have no money,” he said, “but I have this treasure.”
The Captain said, “Oh, what an honor for us to have you on our ship,” But he is thinking, “Such a wealthy man, maybe even the wealthiest man in the world.” The Captain gives him a cabin, and the woodchopper received special treatment, special waiters, and special butlers. Everybody was waiting on him, even though he was still wearing his dirty shirt (because he didn’t have any money with which to buy a new one). He still looked like the poorest beggar in the world.
The waiter who came in to serve him his meal, spread out a very fancy tablecloth. Nebech, the poor woodchopper never ate on a tablecloth in his life. He put the diamond on the tablecloth, since just to look at it made him feel good. While eating, he looked at the treasure and thought, “Thank G-d. This is the greatest thing in the world.”
One day, when the woodchopper finished eating, he fell asleep at the table. In a ship, when you want to clean crumbs off of the tablecloth, you just shake it out the window. So, that is what the waiter did. Upon awakening, the woodchopper realized what had happened, and thought to himself, “Oy! I don’t have my treasure anymore! Oy vey, Oy vey!”
Rebbe Nachman says, “Don’t give up.” The woodchopper didn’t give up. He knew one thing: “If I tell the Captain that I lost my treasure, he’ll throw me right out the window, too. I’m traveling here for free. In the meantime, nobody knows about it. Nobody knows I’m bankrupt, so I won’t tell.”
Five minutes later the captain came in. “I’ve got to talk to you,” he said to the woodchopper. “I want you to know that I was once a famous bank robber and a pirate. Now I have stopped. But before, when I was in India, I found a great treasure chest of unbelievable jewels. I cannot bring it into England under my name, because if they see my name they will arrest me. I know that you are also rich. Would you mind bringing my treasure into England under your name?”
“Okay,” says the woodchopper. So the ship’s captain signed the treasure over to his name, and the Captain told him, “Before we leave the ship, I will give it to you. You take it with you, and at night I will come to your hotel and pick it up from you.
Our little woodchopper was a really honest man. When they arrived in England, he took his little suitcase, went to the hotel, and waited for the Captain to come. One day. Two days. The woodchopper started getting nervous. On the third day, the waiter from the ship came to tell him, “The saddest thing happened. The Captain had a heart attack and died. He had no family.”
The woodchopper realized that the treasure was his to keep. He also realized that it was only his because he hadn’t given up. If he had said to the Captain, “I lost my treasure out the window,” the Captain would never have trusted him anymore.
Rebbe Nachman says, “Never give up.”
Basically, what was really meant for him was the Captain’s treasure, not the treasure he found under the tree. G-d has His ways of giving you your treasure. Hold on. Don’t tell [The woodchopper did not tell anyone that he lost the diamond]. Don’t give up. Sometimes it is just a matter of minutes. Minutes. Hold out just one more minute. Hold out!”
When Rebbe Nachman was on his deathbed, he summoned all his strength, and he yelled so loud that people blocks away could hear him. “Don’t give up! Don’t give up!” Even we, here, one hundred and sixty-seven years later, can still hear him yelling, “Don’t give up! Don’t give up!”