On a bitterly cold night on the outskirts of Vilkovishk, Velvel the Tailor and Gronam the Milkman were playing a friendly game of dreidel, when they heard a knock at the door. Surprised, Velvel opened the door to find an old man with a long gray beard shivering in the darkness. Quickly, Velvel brought him to the fire, and served him barley soup. When the color returned to the old man’s face, he noticed that the others were playing dreidel and asked if he might join them.
What followed was the greatest exhibition of dreidel that the two men—or any men—had ever seen. In less than an hour, the old man had parlayed twelve kopeks into sixty rubles, until his companions had nothing left to gamble.
Astonished, Velvel asked how it was possible for a man to have such luck.
“My friends,” the old man replied, “it is not luck. For I am the Prophet Elijah, come to reward your generosity with innumerable heavenly blessings.”
The men rejoiced, and they kissed Elijah’s hands and his cheeks. And the Prophet blessed them, and he blessed their houses and their animals; but somehow he neglected to give back the sixty rubles.
In the course of the holiday, Elijah would repeat the scam twenty-three times.