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Charity And Good Deeds

Rabbi Levi said, "Six organs serve a man; over three he has control, and over three he does not. Over the eyes, ears and nose he is not master, for he sees what he does not wish to see and hears and smells what he does not wish to hear or smell. Over the mouth, hand and feet he does have control. With his mouth, if he desires, he, studies the Torah, or if he wishes he can engage in slander, blaspheme. and revile. With the hand, he can dispense charity if he wants to, or he can rob and murder, if he so desires: With his feet, he can go to the theaters, while if he wishes, he can go to synagogues and houses of study (Midrash Rabba, Genesis 62).

G-d Tests Everyone

Happy is the man who can withstand the test, for there is none whom G-d does not test. He tries the richest man to see if his hand will be opened to the poor, and the poor man He tries in order to see whether he will accept his poverty without complaint. "And bring the poor that are humbled to your house" (Isaiah 58:7).

If the rich man withstands his test and practices charity, then he will enjoy his wealth in this world, while the capital (the reward for his good deeds) will be preserved for him in. the Life to Come, and the Holy One, blessed be He, will, moreover, redeem him from the punishment of Gehinnom, as it says, "Happy is he who 'considers the poor, the L-rd will deliver in the day of evil (Psalms 41:2),

The rich man, however, who begrudges giving, perishes from this world with his wealth, as it says, "And those rich perish by evil adventure," for he is mean towards those who collect for charity. Why so? Because there is an ever-rotating wheel in this world and he who is rich today may not be so tomorrow. One He casts down and the other He raises up, as it says, "For G-d is the Judge. He puts down one, and lifts up another" (Psalms 75:8).

Charity Saves From Death

The rewards of charity work in strange ways. Sometimes a mere loaf of bread given to a hungry person, may save the donor's life.

The Talmud narrates that once two pupils of Rabbi Chanina went into the forest to cut wood. An astrologer, who was performing before an audience, saw these two disciples enter the forest and remarked, "I see by the stars that these two people will not return alive!

Entering the forest, the two disciples met an old man who was starving.

"Please give me some food," pleaded the old man. "This is the third day in which I have not tasted a morsel of food; I am too weak to even walk."

The two disciples had with them a loaf of bread. Breaking it in half, they gave it to the old man and watched as he devoured it.

When the old man finished eating, he stood up and blessed them. "Just as you saved my life today, so may your lives be spared," he said.

The two disciples left the man and began chopping down trees. They worked many hours until they accumulated a large load of wood, and then started for home.

Astrologer Puzzled

On the way home, they passed the astrologer, who had prophesied their doom. The people, seeing the two pupils walking, began shouting to the astrologer, "Didn’t you predict that they wouldn't return alive?"

Other people took up the cry and began to shout, "Faker, you deserve to be run out of town!”

The astrologer was puzzled. He knew that his prediction should have come true, and yet these same two people were walking home as if nothing had happened.

Calling the two disciples over to him, he said, "May I examine the bundles which you are carrying?”

The pupils agreed. Taking their bundles apart, the astrologer examined the cords of wood. There, right in the middle of one bundle, was a poisonous snake, cut in half. Looking through the other bundle, he found another snake cut in half. It seems that while cutting the wood, they had accidentally cut two poisonous snakes in half.

"See!" shouted the astrologer triumphantly. "These two people were destined to be bitten by these snakes, just as I prophesied."

Turning to the men, he asked them, "What good deed did you do today that saved your lives?"

The two disciples told the audience about the starving old man and how they saved his life with their bread.

"That saved your life," exclaimed the astrologer. "What can I do if the G-d of the Jews can be appeased with half a loaf of bread?!"

Another Story On The Power Of Charity

Shmuel and Ablet were sitting and watching people depart into the swampland. Ablet was an astrologer, famed for his predictions.

Seeing a crowd of people entering the swampland, Ablet called out, "This man to the right will not come back alive. He will be bitten by a poisonous snake."

"You are wrong," said Shmuel. "If he is an Israelite, he will come back alive." (For they are known to be compassionate.)

They waited until the people came out of the swampland. There in the forefront was this man for whom Ablet predicted death.

Calling the man to him, Ablet asked permission to examine his pack. Spreading it apart, he found a poisonous reptile cut in half, lying in the center of the wood.

"Tell me, my good man," said Shmuel, "what good deed did you do today?"

The man replied, "Every day, our group would go into the swampland to cut wood to sell. We would pool our food and divide it. Today, one of the men had no food to contribute to the pot. I saw that he was embarrassed and felt too ashamed to mention it. I jumped up and volunteered to collect the food today. When I ap¬proached this man, I acted as if he gave me his share and moved away very quickly, so as not to embarrass him. That way he was able to partake of the general lunch."

“You have done a great mitzvah,” declared Shmuel, “and this deed saved your life.”

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