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There was once a rich chassid who was known for his piety and erudition. We'll call him Reb Yaakov.
One day, a very distressed Reb Yaakov was standing before the great chassidic master Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov. He was on the verge of tears.
"I can't understand it," he lamented. "Everything I do is failing. I used to have such good business sense. It's as though I've been cursed! Has someone cursed me?"
The Baal Shem Tov said nothing. Reb Yaakov tried to wait, but the silence was unbearable.
"Every time I make an investment, it ends in disaster. I'm losing money hand over fist! What should I do?"
The Baal Shem Tov looked up at him sadly and said, "Your snuffbox."
"My snuffbox?" Reb Yaakov asked nervously, fumbling in his jacket pocket and producing a small, finely decorated golden box, which he proceeded to open.
But the Baal Shem Tov paid no attention, and continued.
"About half a year ago, you were sitting in (synagogue) with some of your friends, and you took that box out and offered them snuff. Do you remember?"
"I . . . I don't . . . That is . . . almost every day, some of us, we sit together after (morning prayers) and pass around . . ."
"Do you remember the day that you took out your snuffbox and offered everyone to take a bit of snuff, but when you saw a beggar stand up from his seat in the corner and head towards you to take some, you closed it and put it back in your pocket? Do you remember?"
Reb Yaakov tried not to remember, but suddenly the scene was there in his memory, clear as day. He didn't want that bum to get too close. He looked disgusting. Not only that, but he had been in the middle of a conversation with his friends . . .
"Well," concluded the Baal Shem Tov, "maybe it meant nothing to you at the time, because your success and wealth had hardened your heart. But you really shamed that man to the core of his being. So it was decided in heaven that all your worldly possessions would be taken from you and be given to him."