The Gold family was sitting shiva for their revered father, Mr. Jack (Yaakov) Gold, in October 1976. Rabbi Yaakov Pollack, rabbi of Congregation Shomrei Emunah in Boro Park and a Maggid Shiur at Yeshiva University, entered the house and sat down. He said to the mourners, “You’re probably wondering why I came to be menachem avel Avie, son of Jack Gold, when neither of them ever davened in my shul. I’ll explain it to you by relating the following story:
“Many years ago an Orthodox Jewish man was driving in Queens near a Jewish cemetery when he noticed an elderly lady standing under a bus shelter. He pulled over and asked her in Yiddish where she was heading. She answered that she was going home to Brooklyn, and she told him where she lived. He replied that he was heading to the same neighborhood and he would be happy to drive her home.
“During the drive to Brooklyn she explained that she had yahrtzeit and had come to the cemetery to daven. She had been waiting for the bus to take her home. They cordially conversed until he dropped her off in front of her home.
“Almost a year later the man called the elderly woman, “Since we both have yahrtzeit on the same day and we live so close to each other I’m going to pick you up and we’ll go to the cemetery together.”
“The scene repeated itself for a number of years until the elderly woman passed away.
“Before she died, the woman mentioned the story to her son and told him the name of the man who drove her to the cemetery every year on the yahrtzeit.
“The elderly woman in the story was my mother, and the man was your father. So when I heard he passed away I came to express my gratitude and to tell you how special your father was.”
The mourners were moved by the story, but they realized that the story was far greater than he had realized because their father had not lived anywhere near her, nor did he have yahrtzeit on the same day as she did.
It is one thing to do a chesed for someone one time or when it is convenient. But for a person to go a few hours out of his way every year for a stranger demonstrates incredible selflessness. And what’s more amazing is that he never told anyone – not even his own family – about the story. Were it not for the fact that Rabbi Pollack told the Gold family the story no one would have ever known. If Jack Gold did such a clandestine chesed, there must have been many other stories that we will never know of.
“If your brother becomes impoverished and his means falter in your proximity, you shall strengthen him – proselyte or resident – so that he can live with you.”
The Gemara quotes Rabi Yitzchak who said, “Anyone who gives a perutah (small copper coin) to a pauper is blessed with six blessings… and anyone who comforts him with words is blessed with eleven blessings.”
Why is one who encourages a poor person considered so much greater than one who actually gives money to a poor person.
Rav Yisroel Yaakov Lubchansky, zt’l explained that time is the most precious commodity we possess in this world. Time contains potential and opportunity for anything we want and hope to accomplish.
Someone who is willing to give up of his precious time to lend an ear and to give his attention and heart to another has given away of his most precious commodity, and that is the highest level of charity.
About the Author: Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW is the Rabbi of Kehillat New Hempstead, as well as Guidance Counselor and fifth grade Rebbe in ASHAR, and Principal at Mesivta Ohr Naftoli of New Windsor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit him on the web at www.stamtorah.info.
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