Buying items on Craigslist can be a risky affair. After all, you may discover hidden flaws or problems after you’ve already paid your money. But when this rabbi bought a desk, his surprise was altogether more pleasant.
The story begins with Noach Muroff, a Jewish man who originally lived in Ottawa, Canada. In 2008 Muroff moved to New Haven, Connecticut, to become a rabbi at a private Jewish school, or what is called a yeshiva in Jewish culture.
Five years later, in September 2013, he added a study room to his home. But one thing was missing: a desk. So, being a frugal individual, Muroff decided to look for one on Craigslist.
As he subsequently recounted to the Times of Israel, “We had been looking on Craigslist for a few weeks and eventually found a listing for a desk that seemed like what we wanted.” With a price tag of only $150, it certainly looked like a steal.
So the young rabbi and his friend went to collect the desk from a woman just outside the city. But while the desk certainly fit into his minivan, it failed to pass through the study door. “It missed being able to pass through the door by a quarter of an inch. It was so frustrating!” Muroff recollected.
However, although he may not have realized it at the time, it was this seemingly mundane fact that would change everything. Because the desk did not fit, he first tried to take down the door. But when that failed, he and his wife took to disassembling the desk instead.
As Muroff began removing the drawers, he noticed something stashed behind them. “Behind the drawers there’s this plastic bag. Like a shopping bag, I’m talking about. And in that bag, I could already see through the bag, there’s… it looks like a $100 bill,” he told CNN.
But it was only when he took the bag out that he realized there was much more than simply $100 sitting inside. “We open it up, and it’s full of cash,” he recalled. And when he and his wife were finally done counting the money, they found that it came to a staggering grand total of $98,000.
Now after overcoming the initial shock of the discovery, the average person would probably start thinking about whether or not to keep the money. After all, Muroff had no legal obligation to return the haul or call the police, since he was now the owner of the desk and its contents.
But for Muroff and his wife, the next step was very clear. “Right away, my wife and I sort of looked at each other and we said, ‘we can’t keep this money,’” he told CNN. In fact, he says the idea of keeping the life-changing amount of cash never even crossed his mind.
Instead, he immediately called the woman he had bought the desk from, and his wife recorded the whole thing on film. The woman – whom Muroff identified only as “Patty” to help preserve her identity – could barely believe him.
“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,” she subsequently wrote in a thank-you letter to the rabbi. “I cannot thank you enough for your honesty and integrity.”
As it turns out, the money was from an inheritance that Patty had received from her parents. She said that she had stashed the cash in the desk during a difficult period and had not realized that the bag had subsequently fallen down the back of the drawers when she looked for it later.
But while her story sounds plausible, many people were understandably skeptical about whether Patty was telling the truth. As Muroff told the Times of Israel, “A lot of people are cynical and have asked me why I didn’t call the police and why I immediately believed that the money belonged to the lady.”
But Muroff says he felt the woman was completely honest and that it wasn’t his place to question about why or how she had put her money in the desk. More importantly, he also revealed one key piece of evidence. Before he purchased the desk, Patty told him, she had picked it up from Staples and assembled it herself.
Then, the day after the phone call, Muroff and his family drove down to Patty’s home to return the money. They took their children along, too, to show them the importance of doing what is right. And Patty reportedly gave them a reward for returning the cash.
To Muroff, honesty is the most important thing in life. “We both agreed that this is not our money,” he said. “If God wants us to have $98,000, he’ll make sure to give it to us in some other way,” he added in an interview with ABC News.
Interestingly enough, the story took place only days before Rosh Hashanah – the Jewish New Year. This sacred day occurs in September or October and is one of the two most important Jewish holidays. Muroff told ABC News that the whole situation “made the Jewish new year all that much more meaningful for [him].”
But there’s one important question left to this heartwarming story. If Muroff found the money on September 2, why did it take until November for the story to emerge? Apparently, it’s because the modest rabbi didn’t think it was noteworthy.
He says that he only made the decision to go public after talking to his fellow rabbis, who advised him to take his story to the media. “It’s a good story, and we’re making a big kiddush hashem (sanctification of the name of God) by telling it,” Muroff added. And whether you’re religious or not, it’s certainly nice to know there are still good people left in the world.