One Good Deed
A person should always strive to do good, for one good deed alone may assure him the rewards of Gan Eden. For Rabi Yehudah HaNasi would say, “One may acquire Gan Eden in a single hour while another may acquire it after many years [over a lifetime].” (Avodah Zara 10b).
One such incident occurred many years ago in the town of Koritz wherein lived a tailor who made a special effort to violate every precept of the Torah. No respectable Jew would deal with him.
One day the tailor died and as was the custom of the time, the gabbai of the town called upon the people to attend the funeral of a fellow Jew. But no person would attend the funeral of this evil person.
The gabbai then approached the home of the Gaon Reb Pinchas. Imagine his surprise when the Gaon took his cane and started out for the funeral. When the gabbai next visited Rav Yakov, and told him that Reb Pinchas was attending the funeral, he expressed surprise.
“I must see why Reb Pinchas is attending the funeral of such a sinner,” he said and he too started out for the funeral.
Everyone Attends the Funeral
When the people of the city saw these two pious rabbanim attending the funeral of the sinner, they became intrigued and they all began to follow the entourage. Eventually the entire city turned out to pay homage to the tailor.
On the way home from the funeral, the crowd surrounded Reb Pinchas and demanded to know why he had attended the funeral.
“I will tell you the reason,” said the Gaon. “Two months ago I was trying to raise hachnassas kallah funds. I finally succeeded in raising sufficient money to arrange for the wedding. But at the last hour the groom backed out. He said he had been promised a new suit by the bride’s parents and unless he received it, he would call off the wedding.
“In desperation the bride turned to me for help. As I had already approached every resident of the community for money, I had no choice but to turn to the tailor for help. That night I entered his home and told him the story. He gave me a ruble. But as I started to leave he called me back and said, ‘Rebbe, if I give you all the money for the entire suit will you promise me the future world, Olam Habah?’
“Yes,” I said. “He then gave me fourteen rubles and I was able to perform the wedding ceremony. Now that I heard that this tailor died I decided to attend his funeral and see the results of his charity.
“Would you believe it,” continued the Rabbi before the multitude of people, “over the coffin I saw a shining halo of a suit and angels dancing around the coffin waiting to escort it into Gan Eden. Therefore you can see how great is the mitzvah of tzedakah. One mitzvah alone saved this man and assured him a place in the next world.”
Hospitality To Strangers
Being hospitable to travelers is one the cardinal mitzvos of our Torah. The Talmud tells us: Rabi Yehudah said, “Hachnassas orchim is greater than even welcoming the presence of the Shechinah” (Shabbos 127a). Rabi Yochanan said, “Hospitality to strangers is as great as the early attendance at the Beis Hamedrash” and Rabi Dimi of Neharea said, “It is greater than the early attendance at the Beis Hamedrash.” Therefore every community in the small towns in Europe, would have a gabbai whose duty it was to assign travelers to the various homes in the community for Shabbos. When a stranger would arrive in town he would seek out this gabbai who would then place him in one of the well-to-do homes.
One Friday, very late in the afternoon, a merchant entered the town of Altuna. As the gabbai had already exhausted all of the host’s homes, he was in a quandary where to send the poor man for Shabbos.
“You better see the rav, the Gaon, Rav Yonason Jonathan Eibschitz,” he said. “Perhaps he may have a place for you. Although he himself has already taken more of his share of people, he may have a suggestion.”
They both went to the Gaon’s home where ,as usual, there were more than a dozen guests and absolutely no place for another person.
“Tell me gabbai,” asked the Gaon,” Does Reb Lazer have any guests for this Shabbos?”
“That skinflint,” snorted the gabbai, “He is the wealthiest man in town and yet he will never allow a stranger to enter his home. He is too sick to entertain guests, he claims.”
“I have a plan,” replied the Gaon. Calling the merchant over to him he said, “If you will follow my instructions to the letter I can assure you that this wealthy miser will welcome you with outstretched arms.”