New Haven resident Rabbi Noach Muroff had been searching the online classified listings for a desk for his office, finally finding one that met his needs several days before Rosh Hashana. Folding down the rear seats in his minivan, R’ Muroff went to pick up the desk, which he purchased from its original owner for $150.
“It fit perfectly into my van but when we got home, it was about a quarter of an inch too big to fit into my office,” Rabbi Muroff told VIN News. “It was crazy that it didn’t fit by such a small amount. We tried taking the hinges off the door, but it didn’t work.”
Instead, R’ Muroff unscrewed the top of the desk, and after doing so, noticed a white plastic shopping bag wedged in behind one of the desk’s side filing cabinets.
“We took out the bag and we could see that there was money inside,” said R’ Muroff.
In fact, the bag was stuffed with neatly bundled stacks of one hundred dollar bills.
“We brought it to the table and counted it out and there was $98,000,” said R’ Muroff. “It was me, my wife and a friend who was here and we looked at it each other and said, ‘this can’t be real. This only happens in the movies.'”
There was never a question about what to do with the money.
“My wife and I both knew immediately that we would return it,” explained R’ Muroff. “When I was picking up the desk, the lady, who wasn’t Jewish, told me that she had bought the desk at Staples and put it together herself. We knew the money was hers and she was speechless when we called her to tell her we had found it.”
According to R’ Muroff, the original owner of the desk, a middle aged woman identified only as Patty, knew that she had hidden her nest egg in the desk but was unable to locate it when it fell behind the filing cabinet. Assuming the money had to be somewhere else in her house, the woman sold the desk, never once suspecting that it still contained her life’s savings.
“If we hadn’t had to take the desk apart we never would have found it,” observed R’ Muroff.
R’ Muroff, a ninth grade Rebbe at the Yeshiva of New Haven, returned to the woman’s house the next day with his wife and four small children.
“We took the kids along because we thought it was a good opportunity to teach them about emes,” said R’ Muroff.
R’ Muroff consulted with his own Rebbe on what to do should a reward be proffered and while he was uncomfortable accepting anything in return for doing a mitzvah, he did so at the insistence of the desk’s original owner who also refunded the purchase price of the desk.
“Originally, she thought I only had two kids because that was how many car seats she had seen in my van the day before. When she saw that I had four children, she went back into the house and added more money to the gift bag she gave me.”
R’ Muroff admits that he struggled with the decision of whether or not to go public with his story for several weeks, finally agreeing to do so after discussing the matter with R’ Shmuel Kaminetzky at the Torah U’Mesorah convention in Boston several weeks ago.
“He told me that by coming forward it would be an opportunity to make a Kiddush Hashem and it was the right way to go.”
A heartfelt note from the desk’s owner thanked R’ Muroff for his honesty and integrity and praised him for his actions.
“I do not think there are too many people in this world who 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.”