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The Greatness Of Charity

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Our sages teach us: “Great is charity and great is its reward.” He who gives charity to the poor, his prayers will be answered; a measure for a measure – midda k’neged midda. He heard the cries of the poor so will G-d hear his prayers when he cries.

The Midrash (Shemos 31) tells us “Nothing is harder to bear than poverty. For he who is crushed by poverty is like one to whom all the troubles of the world cling and upon whom all the curses in Devorim (28: 15-65) have descended.” And Chazal have said, “If all troubles were assembled on one side and poverty on the other, poverty would outweigh them all.”

“For G-d is the Judge, He puts down one and lifts up another (Tehillim  25:8).  To what is this world like? To a wheel of a well in a garden; the earthenware vessels attached to it ascend full from below and descend empty from above. Similarly, not everyone who is rich today is rich tomorrow. Why is this? Because there is a rotating wheel in the world.”

Rabi Aha said: “There is a wheel that rotates in this world because it says, ‘a wise kings sifts the wicked and turns the wheel over them (Mishlei 20:26). Happy is he whose hand is stretched out to the poor.”


Wheels Of Fortune Turn

The Midrash tells the story of a pious person who gave a lot of charity. His name was blessed by every poor person in the country. However, the wheels of fortune turned, and this pious man lost all of his riches and became poor.

That year, there was a famine in the land and he and his family suffered from hunger. One day, his wife said to him, “We have eaten the last morsel of bread. What will we feed our children tonight?”

The man looked at her with a pitiful expression. “My dear wife,” he said, “I haven’t a kopek to my name. I do not know what we can do!”

His wife had a beautiful head of hair, her crowning glory. In desperation, she cut off her hair, sold it, and with the money she purchased a measure of fine flour. With the flour she baked a fine challah.

Placing it on the table, she said to her husband, “Please watch the challah while I go to school and bring our children home for dinner. They must be starved for they went away this morning without breakfast.”


Gives To The Poor

While she was gone, a poor man knocked on the door and begged for some food. “Please give me something to eat,” he cried. “My wife and children are starving. We haven’t eaten for three days and they are too weak to walk out of the house.”

The pious man didn’t hesitate a moment. He took the challah and gave it to the starving man who began to cry from happiness.

After the poor man departed, the pious man began to worry what his wife would do to him when she heard that he gave away their last piece of bread. He fled to the shul were he began to daven and cry until he fell into a deep and exhausted sleep.


Dreams Of Eliyahu

He dreamt that Eliyahu HaNavi was trying to wake him from his sleep.

“Wake up, my good man,” he was saying, “G-d has heard your prayers. He will reward you with interest for the challah you gave away. Accept this payment without fear, for the principle of the deed is very great and it will be saved for you in the world to come.”

He awoke with a start and left the shul.  At the door he found a bag containing a thousand gold coins, with no identification in the bag. Happily, he took it home, and after buying food for his family, he invested the remainder wisely and he became a wealthy man again.

Therefore, does Tehillim say: “The good deeds of a man will reward him in this world and will pave a pathway for him in the next world.”


Charity Saves From Death

There was once a tzadeikes who gave every penny she earned to the poor. She and her husband were themselves very poor, and she took in laundry to support the family.

The husband was a brilliant man, well versed in the sciences and astrology and was able to foretell coming events. One day, he read in the stars that his wife would fall off the roof on a certain day and be killed. He loved his wife very dearly, so he prayed to G-d for help. He dreaded the coming of that day, and he worried continuously while he kept the secret to himself.

On the fateful day, he begged of her not to go outside of the house. “I’ll collect your wash today but promise me you will not go out of the house.”

Seeing how anxious her husband was she agreed. Before he left, the husband gave her a loaf of bread, and a container of cheese so she wouldn’t have to go to the store to purchase food.

The wife kept herself busy all morning washing clothes. In mid afternoon, she decided to go out of the house to hang up the clothes, forgetting the admonitions of her husband. Walking outside, she saw that the line, which had been attached to the roof of her house, was torn.


Poor Man At The Door

Pulling a ladder to the house, she began to climb it. Halfway up, she heard someone knocking at the front door.

“Who is there?” she shouted.

“I am a poor man who has not eaten all day. Could you spare some food?” was the reply.

She thought to herself, “I have more than enough food for myself in the house. Surely I can spare some of it.” She climbed down the ladder, entered her house and divided the food in half, which she gave to the poor man.

When the man departed, she again began to climb the ladder. Again, she heard a knock at the front door and when she climbed down, she saw that it was another poor person.

“I have not eaten in two days,” he wailed. “Unless you give me something, I’ll faint from hunger.”

“I’m not that hungry anyway,” she said. “I’m so busy all day that I won’t have time to eat. When my husband comes, he’ll bring with him enough food for supper. This poor man needs it more than me.”

She then gave him the remainder of her food. When he departed, she climbed to the roof, fixed the line, and descended without accident. She hung up the wash to dry.

At the end of the afternoon, her husband returned and was amazed to see all the wash dry and folded.

“How did you manage to hang the wash today?” he asked her. “I saw the line was torn and I was sure that you wouldn’t go out of the house today.”

“It was I who fixed the line,” she answered. “I climbed to the roof and repaired it.”

“Tell me, what good deed did you do today?” he asked her in amazement at seeing her alive.

She then told him of her experiences with the two poor people.

“Those two good deeds of charity saved your life,” he said to her, and he then told her of the terrible forecast about her which had been revealed to him. Therefore does it say, “Tzeddakah tazil mimaves!”

Rabbi Sholom Klass

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