Tales of Tzedakah - 4: Daughters of Sarah

The Journey to Unity - 77

Tales of Tzedakah - 4

This evening, we light six lights. Rosh Chodesh Teves - the New Month of Teves - also begins this evening. Have a Good Month and a Good Chanukah!

The final redemption will come about only through the merit of the righteous women of the generation, for when the Compassionate One will bring about the final redemption, it will be said, "He recalled His lovingkindness and His faithful pledge to the House of Israel" (Psalm 98:3). It does not say the "Children of Israel"; instead, it speaks of the "House of Israel" - a biblical term for the women of Israel. (Yalkut Shimoni, Ruth 606).

In the spirit of the above teaching, I would like to share with you stories of two righteous women who follows the example of Sarah, our mother, and devoted their lives to the mitzvah of tzedakah:

On Wednesday morning, the first of Adar 1, 5684 (1924), a special funeral took place in Jerusalem. Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, the revered Rav of Jerusalem, ordered all the Jewish shops in the city to remain closed during the burial ceremony. A great Sephardic Jewish woman had passed away that morning, and Rav Sonnenfeld felt that her burial deserved great public respect. She was Delisia, the daughter of the late Morrocan Rav of Jerusalem, Rav David Ben-Shimon. She was involved in communal causes; moreover, she founded and led a tzedekah organization called Ezras Nashim. Each Friday afternoon, poor families received food and money through this organization. Before the Festival of Succos, the needy received new clothes free of charge, and on the eve of Passover, a sum of money was issued to poor families from a special fund. Her organization served all the diverse Jewish communities, and her name became synonymous with tzedekah. She was known for her integrity; thus, wealthy Jews happily sent her donations, knowing that every penny would be put to use wisely. Several times she traveled to Cairo, Egypt, where her brother, Rav Aharon Ben Shimon, was Chief Rabbi, in order to collect for the needy of Jerusalem.

Delisia helped marry off numerous orphans, outfitting them for the occasion, securing a dowry, and covering all the other expenses, as well. She treated each one as her own child and truly rejoiced at their weddings. Though she was married, she never bore children of her own, but she was the mother of hundreds of orphans and needy children. When she married Rav Yosef Krosz, he was a widower with five small children, and she became a devoted and loving mother to them.

She also took a special interest in the impoverished people who sat at the Western Wall. Since most of them were physically handicapped, she felt a special urge to aid and uplift them in whatever way she could.

For nearly fifty years, the poor of Jerusalem had found in her the encouragement and warmth they sought in their hour of need. Her days and nights were dedicated to carrying out her mission of assisting the Holy City's downtrodden residents. Now that her time had come to leave this world, Rav Sonnenfeld felt that the inhabitants of the city owed her this public demonstration of respect. Leading rabbis and dignitaries from every congregation in the city took part in the procession, as Jerusalem mourned the loss of a great tzadeket (righteous woman), a special daughter of Sarah.


The above story was adapted from the book "Where heaven touches earth" - Jewish life in Jerusalem from medieval times to the present, by Dovid Rossoff. "Where heaven touches earth" is an historical work which has many moving stories concerning the return of Jews to Jerusalem over the centuries, and the author gave me permission to share with you some of the stories in this book. It is published by Guardian Press and distributed by Feldheim Publishers: www.feldheim.com  . There are over 600 pages in this work which also contains historical documents, photographs, and illustrations. It is a classic in its field, and I highly recommend it to all who feel a connection to Jerusalem. The book is also available from the author, and he can be reached at: Rossoff@zahav.net.il


Another "tzadeket" is Rabbanit Bracha Kapach, who was born in Yemen and who lives in Jerusalem. The following description of her holy work is an excerpt from an article about Rabbanit Kapach which appeared in the Jerusalem Post Magazine, March 25, 1994:

Angel in a Housecoat:

by Netty Gross

One by one they walk the narrow gangplank that leads to her door at 12 Lod Street in Nahlat Ahim, in Jerusalem. They are Rabbanit Bracha Kapach's poor; the poor blessed with eight, nine, and ten children, and the needy who are angry with their families and subsequently are alone and abandoned.

...The needy come seeking a combination of food, money, clothing, and advice. Men, women, and children come; Russian immigrants, American have-nots, and occasional Arabs; those who have fallen prey to bad marriages, to debts, illness, drugs, prostitution, to all-purpose misery.

Israel's prosperity - the neon blue Japanese cars that line the smooth highways these days, the glass brick penthouses - has zoomed by them.

The cardinal rule in working with the poor, Kapach says, is to refrain from passing judgement on their mistakes. Help them find solutions, tend to them, she cautions. On a regular basis, Kapach tends to 1,400 such families, providing them with services and solutions ordinary people consider de rigueur.

For example, last year, Kapach arranged weddings for destitute couples, complete with flowers, candles, and sit down dinners, using leftover hotel food and homemade fill-ins, rolls contributed by Angel's Bakery and volunteer musicians. She also arranged bar mitzvas for 60 underprivileged boys, including several sets of twins and orphans.

She runs a used clothing center; an annual summer day camp for needy kids who would otherwise lurk on the sweltering streets; and she regularly dispatches mothers with large families on day excursions to Tiberias and other destinations. "To give them a break," says Kapach, "without the kids."

But before Passover, Kapach's door bell rings incessantly with a single persistent query: When is the "distribution" - short-hand for an event which has made Kapach a legend in Jerusalem. (The article then goes on to describe how the Rabbanit distributes "kosher for Passover" food to thousands of needy people.)


Hazon - Our Universal Vision: www.shemayisrael.co.il/publicat/hazon/