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The Dreaded Doorbell


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Truth be told, Hadassah dreaded answering the doorbell. She knew that it was probably a charity collector, and her financial situation was precarious. She had just received a letter from Countrywide Mortgage. If the mortgage on her home in Morristown were not paid by August 12, the house would be placed in foreclosure.

She had to open the door. She knew that if you turn your back, G-d would look away when you turn to Him.

The man introduced himself as a seventh-generation Yerushalmi who ran a yeshiva in Israel. With his broad smile and full beard, the rabbi reminded Hadassah of Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof.”

“I see the bicycles outside. It’s very good exercise. You have children?”

“Thank G-d, we have been blessed with eight children.”

“May you have much chassidishe nachas and good health.”

“Amen, amen,” Hadassah said. She looked at her cozy house with the yard and trees. She knew how much smaller the apartments are in Jerusalem. Why should she complain about her own struggles? When someone asks, she knew that you had to give. But what?

She walked over to the pushke (charity box) near the candlesticks, pulled out a dollar bill, and shook out some coins.

“I’m sorry, this is all I have.”

“Thank you, you are very kind. Every coin you give is precious in the eyes of G-d. May you have only simchas in your home.”

“Amen, amen,” replied Hadassah.

“G-d will surely repay you in a manifold way. Hashem rewards us for every mitzvah we do in the World to Come, but He rewards us for the mitzvah of tzedakah in this world as well. May Hashem bless you with bountiful parnassah [livelihood] – more than you need.”

The man’s exuberance and appreciation for her meager donation inspired Hadassah to open her pocketbook. She found a $20 bill, the last of her money until the next paycheck.

“G-d,” Hadassah said, “You said in the Torah, ‘Test Me with tzedakah.’ Well, I’m testing You now. We need to rent our house in Morristown right away or it will be put in foreclosure.” The previous tenants had moved out two months earlier, and the mortgage had not been paid since then.

As Hadassah was handing the man the $20 bill, the phone rang and her six-year-old Shlomo answered it.

“Hashem loves when we give tzedakah,” the rabbi said, “and seeing that you gave so generously, He will surely ”

“Mommy, Mommy, a man wants to speak to you,” Shlomo said impatiently, putting the portable phone next to her ear.

“Is your house in Morristown still available for rent?” asked the voice on the phone.

“Yes. Yes, it’s still available,” said Hadassah.

The next evening, Hadassah’s husband Aryeh drove straight from work to Morristown. He met the interested couple, and showed them the house. They explained that their lease was up at the end of the month, and they needed to move.

“It’s a solid house. We replaced the windows, upgraded the electricity, and put on a new roof. The only drawback is the traffic during rush hour, but you said you leave early to go to work.”

They negotiated, and the rent came down. Now it just covered the mortgage and home equity loan.

“Well, let us think about it.”

“Yes, please think about it. It’s perfect for your 16-year-old son. He can walk to high school in 10 minutes, and play ball behind the elementary school just down the street. Please decide soon, since others are interested.”

But the others might take months to decide, or might not have the money.

A car pulled up along the curb. A well-dressed man and his wife stepped out.

“May we see the house?”

“Rabbi and Mrs. Rubinstein, please come in. So you got my message ”

The rabbi and his wife, who had 10 children, were interested in renting the house. The couple that had just walked down the steps started whispering excitedly. The woman ran back up the stairs. “We decided we want it. We’ll give you a security deposit tomorrow night.”

“Well, I need to show it to this other family and see what they say. Why don’t you call me tomorrow?”

The rabbi and his wife walked through the house. “It’s a great house for us, but we’re still trying to find a loan. If you have someone else, let them have it. We hope we didn’t waste your time.”

“Waste my time? Thank G-d, it was perfect timing.”

The following evening, the couple paid a security deposit and signed the lease. The mortgage was paid.

Today, the doorbell has a different ring.

“Test Me, test Me. After all, it’s for your sake that I am sending someone to remind you to give tzedakah, to give even a little more than you think you can. Test Me. My bank is overflowing, and I promise to reward you generously.”

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For 10 years our front door was 35 feet from the busiest road leading in and out of Morristown, New Jersey. Zoom, zoom, zoom…one car after another going 40-50 miles per hour, not only during the morning and afternoon rush hours, but all week long. Even when we stood by our front door, we had to yell at the top of our lungs to call to our children who were playing in our tiny front yard.

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Truth be told, Hadassah dreaded answering the doorbell. She knew that it was probably a charity collector, and her financial situation was precarious. She had just received a letter from Countrywide Mortgage. If the mortgage on her home in Morristown were not paid by August 12, the house would be placed in foreclosure.

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