In the city of Berdichev lived a man whose avocation was redeeming Jewish captives from Jail. Many of these poor folk were simply held for ransom by the local squire who needed to raise quick funds. One such family was taken hostage the day before Yom Kippur.

Getting right to work, the man managed to raise a small percent of the 400 rubles required for their release. He decided to visit the non religious bank president, the richest and most miserly man in town. After ringing the bell, he was led in to the parlor and found the bank president sitting and playing cards (on the day before Yom Kippur!) with a few of his cronies. He explained the plight of the poor family and asked the bank president for a donation of 400 rubles.

The bank president, already slightly inebriated, explained that he did not have that kind of money, but he would give him 100 rubles if he would drink an entire glass of “zechtsig ninetziger”, straight grain alcohol (It was customary to have a small glass of the stuff on a table and mix it with other liquids). Surmising that his job would be one quarter finished, the man lifted the glass from the table, said l’chaim and a brocha and knocked back the entire glass. The kick floored him, quite literally. He picked himself off the floor and was handed 100 rubles. One of the bank president’s friend thought this to be good sport and made the same offer. Again the man, a teetotaler by nature, said l’chaim and knocked back another four ounces of the firewater. After picking himself off the floor a second time and being handed a second 100 rubles, the offer was made again two more, to which he gladly obliged.

Having money in had, he managed to somehow make his way back to Reb Levi Yitschok, the famed leader of Berdichev. With his last ounce of strength and determination, he handed the rabbi the money and asked that the captives be redeemed. Adjacent to the Rabbi’s house was the great synagogue. The man crawled to the back of the shul and fell asleep on a bench.

After several hours, the shul began to fill with worshippers preparing for the solemn day. There he slept, snoring loudly. As Kol Nidre, the holiest time of the year, began, the man sat up from his sleep, now just normally drunk. Through hazed eyes, he perceived a well lit shul and people standing on the bima holding the Torah scrolls and the cantor was about to begin.

The man suddenly figured out what was going on and screamed at the top of his lungs, IT’S SIMCHAS TORAH! He then began to dance merrily around the shul. Aghast, the congregants wanted to expel the drunkard from the services. Reb Levi turned around and said, “Leave him. For what he did today, he skipped Yom Kippur and went straight to Simchas Torah.