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The Greatest Charity Of All

There was a drought in the Land of Israel and the people prayed to G-d for rain, but none came. The sages fasted and still no rain. But that night the sages had a dream, an angel stood in before them and said, "Your prayers will not be answered by G-d, but the prayers of the mule driver, who resides at the outskirts of your city, his prayers will be heard."

In the morning, when the sages found they all had the same dream, they said, "It must be true if we all had the same dream." Let us visit the mule driver and see what wonderful attributes he may have."

That day, the sages visited the mule driver and after greeting him, asked him what was his occupation.

"I rent my mule to serve as a beast of burden to pull a plow and do other menial work on the field," the man replied.

"We do not see your mule; where is it?" they asked him.

"I have sold it," he replied.

The rabbis were amazed at his answer. Why would such a man sell his mule, his only visible means of support. And even if he did, why should it be considered so great in the eyes of G-d that if he were to pray G-d would immediately hearken to his pleas.

The Explanation

"Tell us, what wonderful thing did you do?" they asked him.

"I do nothing worthwhile," he modestly replied and refused to discuss any of his deeds, because he was a very humble person. But the rabbis persisted until he agreed to tell them the good deed he had performed.

'As you know, I rent my mule to people," he began his story. "The money derived through this rental enables me to support my family. One day, a woman came to me to rent my mule. She gave me the few coins I normally charge for its hire.

"But as she turned away, leading the animal behind her, I heard her sob. I walked over to her and asked why she was crying.

"She turned to me, and in bitter tears said, 'Woe is to me, my husband is sitting in jail for an unpaid debt and I don t have the funds to redeem him. I thought that I would hire your mule to plough and plant the ground behind my house and when the wheat grows I would sell it and with these funds redeem my husband.'

" 'And what will you do if the wheat does not grow soon, or if there is a drought and none grows at all?' I asked her.

" 'If the ground fails to produce I will go to the jail keeper and do whatever I have to in order to convince him to release my husband, she replied.

"She then began to sob uncontrollably. 'My husband is in jail and my children are starving and I am at my wits end. I'll do anything.' She began to cry bitter tears."

Sells His Mule

With a sigh, the mule keeper continued his story. "When I heard of the terrible plight of this woman, I , took pity on her. I invited her into my home. 'Stay here until I return from the market place, I said to her. 'I will secure for you the money to redeem your husband.

"I then took the mule with me to the market place and I sold it to the highest bidder. Although this was a great sacrifice for me, to lose my means of support, I never hesitated. I took this money and returned home and gave it to the poor woman, saying to her, 'Here' is enough money to free your husband from jail and may G-d bless you that you may never again know any trouble:

"The woman fell at my feet, kissing my shoes, crying in appreciation, she then departed, happier than she had ever been in her life. That is my story, O masters."

Merits G-d's Mercy

"How do you support yourself now," they asked him.

"It is not easy," he replied. "But I hire myself out as a laborer to work in other people's fields. I work Iong hours to make up for the money I would have earned through my mule."

When the sages heard this they were awed by the story told by this simple man. "You are worthy that G-d should always listen to your prayers and we are worthy to have had the honor to know you. May the merit of your wonderful deed protect all Israel from famine."

Pleading to the Father

Once, when there was a drought in Israel, the sages wanted Hanan, the son of Choniís daughter to pray in their behalf. They knew him to be a saint but he was so modest and meek that he would hide when they approached him for help. He reasoned that by relying upon him to pray, they would neglect to repent or pray themselves. Therefore, he refused to help them.

When Hanan refused to pray, the people became worried. The drought was fast giving way to a famine and still he would not help them. When the rabbis saw this terrible predicament, they went to the schools and addressed the children. "We want to tell you, dear children, that we may soon die of thirst and hunger, unless we receive rain. There is only one person who can help us and that is Hanan. Therefore, go to him and ask him for rain."

The little children, hearing these instructions, went to Hanan and began pulling at the tails of his robe, saying, "O father, father, please give us rain."

Touched by the pleas of the little children, Hanan prayed thus to the Holy One, blessed be His Name, "Master of the Universe, please cause rain to fall for the sake of these little children; who do not know the difference between the Father who is able to give rain and the father who is unable to give rain."

G-d listened to Hananís prayer and rain descended in abundance upon the earth and all the people enjoyed themselves and blessed G-d.

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