The Method of Giving Charity
When a person gives charity he should make every effort not to embarrass the recipient. Rabbi Eleizer said, “He who gives charity in a secret manner is considered greater than Moshe Rabbenu” (Baba Basra 9b). The Ari HaKodesh would always make a special effort to seek out poor people and make sure that they had sufficient food for their family. This was always done in a very discreet manner.
Before Passover he would issue instructions to his disciples to make every effort to supply the holiday needs of the poor. In his city was a pious tzaddik, a poor man who would struggle for his daily bread. And poor as he was, he always shared his meager earnings with other people in his vicinity.
A week before Passover this poor person became ill, and he couldn’t go out to earn his living. After pawning their meager possessions his family soon ran out of food. Although his wife and children were practically starving, he wouldn’t accept money from charity, for he believed it was unethical to be supported by the community. Every person should earn his own living and support himself was his belief.
When his wife began to cry he consoled her with the words, “Have faith in G-d for he never forsakes his creations.”
Word of this poor man’s poverty reached the Ari HaKodesh. Clothing himself in the garb of a traveler, the Ari visited the poor man’s house and knocked on his door.
“Pardon me,” he said to the man when he opened the door, “Could you tell me where I can lodge for the coming Passover holiday? I am a stranger in town and I have no place to spend the holidays and hold the seder ceremonies.”
“By all means, you are welcome to be with us,” answered the tzaddik, although he had nothing in the house to eat.
“Very well,” replied the traveler, “here are 100 gold coins to prepare my food and lodging for all the holidays. I have business to do in town and I will be back tomorrow night, Erev Pesach!”
“Before you leave will you please tell me your name?” asked the poor host.
“My name is Rebbi Nissim,” answered the Ari.
The tzaddik joyfully reentered his home and gave the money to his wife. Happiness, as never experienced before, reigned throughout the household. The house was scrubbed clean; ornaments were bought, and enough food was secured to feed a regiment. Never had they had so much to eat, and the money was not charity but earned to provide lodging and board to a guest.
Erev Pesach arrived and the entire household waited expectantly for the honored guest to arrive. But he never came. Suddenly the tzaddik reminded himself as to the name of the guest.
“Rebbi Nissim,” he said aloud. “Nissim means miracles. Surely, he was no mortal, but he must have been an angel of G-d who performs miracles. G-d must have sent him to us to perform miracles by giving us money to celebrate the Passover holiday.”
And until their dying day no one ever knew that the miracle-performing angel was the tzaddik and gaon, the Ari HaKodesh.
The Outsider Helps The Insider
The Dubno Maggid once came to a small town to deliver a sermon in the synagogue. In pursuance of custom, he called upon the rabbi for permission. The rabbi, however, seemed reluctant.
“May I know on what grounds you object to my preaching in the synagogue?” asked the visiting maggid.
“I will tell you the truth,” replied the rabbi. “The population here is very poor and extremely indifferent. They owe me 300 rubles for salary, and I greatly doubt if I will ever get it. Now, if you are going to make a collection, my situation will become worse.”
“You are greatly mistaken,” said the traveling orator. “Once, a young housewife forgot to feed her chickens. For two days the fowls got nothing to eat, except for a few grains, which they found now and then by scratching in the ground. Suddenly a rooster appeared in the chicken house. His visit threw the winged creatures into consternation.
“Get out of here,” they shouted. “We are starving as it is, and now that you are coming, our plight will become even worse.”
“My dear ladies,” said the rooster, “you will see that through me you will get something to eat, too. I’ll begin to crow, flap my wings and make such a racket that your master will realize that you must be hungry and you have to be fed.
“And so, too, my dear rabbi, will my preaching arouse the members of your congregation to their duties towards you.”
Israel – The Spiritual Cure
When Rabbi Abraham Isaac HaCohen Kook was the chief rabbi of Jerusalem, an American came to see him.
“Rabbi,” he said. “I come to bid you farewell. I am returning home to my native city. I thought I would open my home here in Jerusalem and spend the last days of my life in this holy land. But I can’t take it anymore so I am going back to my former home.”
“Why are you leaving us so suddenly?” asked the shocked gaon.
“My life is made miserable by all the irreligious people living here. Nearly all the chalutzim are Sabbath violators and everywhere I turn I see the Torah being violated. I am disgusted, so I am going home.”
Rabbi Kook felt terrible to hear such condemnation about his beloved country. “Where do you live in America?” he asked.
“My home is in Denver, Colorado,” he replied as he began to laud the wonderful climate, the high mountains and the cleanliness of the city.
The rabbi interrupted him. “But isn’t that the city where everybody suffers from tuberculosis and other respiratory ailments?” he asked.
“You are mistaken,” answered the American smiling. “Those people who are sick come from outside the state. They come to be cured from their illness. They local residents themselves are not sick. Therefore, don’t mistake the few thousand sick people, who are mainly outsiders, as comprising the entire population of the city.”
In a similar tone, Rabbi Kook then said, “Let you ears hear what your mouth is saying. The same applies to our country here. People who are sick in spirit and religion have come here to settle and earn a living. They come because many are forced to run away from their previous countries because of anti-Semitism. Our land, here in Israel, is a spiritual boon for these people who have not, as yet, been cured. If you see so many spiritually-sick people here, don’t attribute it to everyone. Just as you don’t consider every person in Denver a sick person. It is up to us to help them and show them the true values of our Torah. I firmly believe that the very atmosphere – the very air – of Israel will cure them, some day, of their lack of observance. For the hallowed sacredness of this land will permeate their very soul.”
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Page last updated - 08/03/2006