Tales of Tzedakah - 7
The following story is
about a community-sponsored inn for needy travelers in the Lithuanian town of
A beggar once entered the town to collect money, and he was provided with shelter in the Jewish community's inn for poor travelers. The very first evening, as he was undressing, a huge wad of paper money fell from his pocket. When the other beggars in the room saw the value of the paper money - far more valuable than anything he could have collected in Kovno - they realized that this beggar was actually a wealthy man! The news soon spread through the entire town. The people of the town were angry that a "millionaire" disguised as a beggar had tried to exploit them, especially since the majority of the Jews of Kovno were poor working people who were struggling to survive. The Jewish City Council therefore decided to pass a new law forbidding beggars from collecting tzedakah in Kovno.
The Rabbi of Kovno, Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Spector, was a leading sage of the generation. When he heard about the proposed law, he immediately went before the council and asked for permisson to speak. He began by assuring the members of the council that he truly understood their anger and frustration. "But," said the sage, "before you take action, it would be wise to think. Who, would you say, deceived whom?" The council members replied: "That strange beggar from another town fooled us. Dressed as a poor beggar, he took our tzedakah money right and left - and he is really quite rich!"
"True," replied Rabbi Spector, "But in that case, you were fooled not by a poor man, but by a wealthy man. It is therefore unfair to retaliate by passing a law against poor beggars. Pass a severe law, if it pleases you, that tzedakah may never again be given to the rich, but only to the needy!" (This story can be found in "Ethics from Sinai" by Irving Bunim, Vol. 3, p.121, Feldheim Publishers.)
Rabbi Sholom Schwadron was
a 20th century sage and tzadik of
A son-in-law of Rabbi Sholom Schwadron once told over the following tzedakah story about his father-in-law, who was also known by the affectionate name, "Reb Sholom":
On the eve of a Yom Tov (Festival), a poor man knocked on Reb Sholom's door asking for alms. His son-in-law had just arrived to spend the holiday and was putting his belongings in his room. Suddenly he heard a soft cry emerge from the front room, and saw one of Reb Sholom's younger daughters wringing her hands. "Oy! Look what Abba (Father) is doing! Why is he doing that?"
The son-in-law went to the
front door where he saw Reb Sholom unfolding a brand new shirt before the poor
man's happy eyes. It was a fine shirt he had purchased in
The poor man accepted the
shirt and left. Turning back inside, Reb Sholom met his daughter's reproachful
eyes, and she said: "Abba! If you had no money and had to give him a shirt, why
give him the special shirt from
Reb Sholom saw her pain and
was silent. A moment later, he went to the bookcase and removed a volume of the
"Mishnah Torah" - the classical work on Torah law written by the Rambam
(Maimonides). He then began to read to his household from the laws of offerings
(Hilchos Issurei Mizbeyach 7:11). In this section, the Rambam states that a
person should suppress his selfish inclination and bring the best quality of
whatever he is offering to the
In his sweet tone of voice, Reb Sholom finished reading this passage, leaving his family with a profound lesson in tzedakah which has accompanied them to this very day.
The above story can be found in the following books published by ArtScroll: "Voice of Truth" - the life and eloquence of Rabbi Sholom Schwadron, and "The Tzedakah Treasury" by Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Feuer. It was adapted courtesy of the copyright holder, ArtScroll/Mesorah: www.artscroll.com . The biography of Rabbi Schwadron, "Voices of Truth," also contains moving stories about the great acts of hospitality and tzedakah which were performed by Rabbi and Rebbitzen Schwardon.
Hazon - Our Universal Vision: www.shemayisrael.co.il/publicat/hazon/