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November 28, 2014 / 6 Kislev, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘charity’

Rav Chaim Tzanzer

Friday, October 19th, 2012

From the remarkable beis midrash in the town of Brodi came forth a dazzling number of Talmudic chachamim, many of whom went forth to greatness. The most famous was the great Nodah B’Yehuda, Rav Yechezkel Landau, who was the rav of the Diaspora during his lifetime. But there were other towering scholars who were members of the famous beis midrash. One of them, a giant in his time, was Rav Chaim Tzanzer.

Rav Chaim (not to be confused with Rav Chaim Halberstam of Sanz, author of Divrei Chaim) had two occupations. One was the study of Torah and the other was the doing of good deeds and charity. As to the first, not only his days, but his nights, too, were devoted to study. His candle never went out and it was his custom to sit before a table that had on it two glasses of water. As he learned, one hand would be immersed in one of the glasses. If he ever began to doze off the glass would overturn and the sound would awaken him. He would then wash both his hands in the other glass and resume his learning.

He would often ask, “Why is it that all the tractates of the Talmud begin with page two and not page one?

“The answer is that although a Jew sits day and night in the study of Torah, he should not become arrogant in his knowledge. For he should always remember that in reality he has never even learned page one and he still must start at the beginning.”

A Snowy Night

One evening, Rav Chaim, as was his custom, sat before his Talmud while outside the cold wind blew and the snow came down in fearsome fashion. It was a night when only the foolhardy would be out. Yet, as Rav Chaim sat in study, he was startled to hear a loud pounding on his door and someone frantically calling, “Open, for the sake of heaven, please open the door!”

Rav Chaim went swiftly to the door and opened it to find a half-frozen man covered with snow and shivering from head to toe. He hurriedly sat him down by the blazing fire and got him some strong wine to warm his trembling body. Then, Rav Chaim brought him supper and prepared a bed for his guest.

“A thousand pardons, Rebbe, for my interrupting you from your studies,” the man said, “but as I was on my business travels the storm caught up with me and I saw no light burning in the entire town except for yours. I was nearly frozen to death and was forced to knock on your door.

“Now, you are doing too much for me, even preparing a bed.”

“There is no need to say anything,” interrupted Rav Chaim. “If it will make you feel better, you should know that I am not preparing the bed for you, but for myself – in the World to Come.”

Hope For Him?

The Jew understood what Rav Chaim meant and he asked, “Rebbe, and what about me? Is there any hope for me in the World to Come? Behold, in this world I have no pleasure at all. I work like a horse, wandering from town to town and never knowing peace. Will I at least know it in the next world?”

Rav Chaim looked at him and sighed, “You ask a good question and you must consider it carefully. If in this world, where you put in so much time and effort, you still are unable to find enjoyment and peace, how can anyone who does not bother at all to prepare for the World to Come hope to find pleasure there?”

Help For One Who Fell

It was in the doing of good deeds and the collection of charity for those in need that Rav Chaim especially excelled. He would not only give liberally of his own money, but he would go to the homes of the wealthy to get money for the poor who were ever-present guests in his house. He was, of course, always careful on these collections to adhere to the admonition of the Talmud (Baba Bathra 8b) that charity should always be collected by two people and not one. Therefore, he was always accompanied by one of the heads of the community or the officials of the town.

Rabbi who Sold Phony Holocaust Torahs Gets Four Years in Jail

Friday, October 12th, 2012

A rabbi who called himself the “Jewish Indiana Jones” was sentenced on Thursday to four-plus years in jail for attempting to sell Torah scrolls which he claimed he had salvaged after they were lost during the Holocaust, the NY Post reports.

Menachem Youlus, 51, stood with his eyes closed while Manhattan federal Judge Colleen McMahon rebuked him for swindling $1.2 million through a charity organization called the Save a Torah he co-founded in Maryland.

Youlus was ordered to return more than $990,000 to his victims.

Judge McMahon said Youlus’ her stomach was turned by Youlus’ exploitation of his “co-religionists.”

Youlus, who never spent the money he stole, invented imaginary tales of his risking his life in search of Torah scrolls buried in concentration camps.

“The reason, as near as I can tell, is that, Mr. Youlus has a screw loose,” the judge said.

Prosecutors said Youlus simply lied about the used Torahs he was selling, which he had bought in the United States.

Not The Correct Charity

Monday, September 10th, 2012

The Gaon, Reb Nachum devoted all his time, day and night, to collecting money for charity and helping the poor. The vast majority of the people thought so highly of Reb Nachum that they would deduct a fixed amount of their income every week and give it to him to distribute it to the poor. But there was always the exception, some people just tried to avoid contributing.

There was one such person who, although not rich, was well to do and had many children. When Reb Nachum came to him for charity he refused, saying, “Rebbe, you know what the Gemara says in explaining the meaning of the sentence in Tehillim (106:3). ‘He gives charity all the time!’ that this refers to a person who supports his little children. You know that I have many little children and therefore it is considered as if I have already given charity.” [Editor’s note: The Gemara in Kissuvot 50a describes how David HaMelech lauded a family man who supported his children, saying that it was truly an act of charity.]

Reb Nachum smiled and replied, “Apparently you forgot the sentence in Vayikra 16:2: ‘You should not come all the time into the holy place.’ With that type of charity you shouldn’t come unto G-d. It is not sufficient, you must also try to help other poor people.”

Helping The Judge’s Family

In the city of Horodna there was a Jewish judge who, although he was Jewish in name, was far removed from anything Jewish. He never participated in communal affairs nor did he ever help a poor person.

One day, Reb Nachum visited the judge and asked for money for the charity fund. The judge began to berate him and then angrily insulted him.

“Who appointed you to be a collector for charity in this town?” he shouted. “For all I know, you keep all the money for yourself!”

Realizing that he couldn’t convince the judge, Reb Nachum left with an apology. He wasn’t angry, he only pitied him.

A few days later the government charged the judge with bribery. This scandal was the talk of the country and people traveled from all over to be at the trial. The judge hired the best lawyers and he spent his last penny to offset the evidence but the result was inevitable. The judge was found guilty and sentenced to two years in prison.

While the town was stunned at the verdict and the people gathered everywhere to talk about it, Reb Nachum visited the judge’s wife. He found in a deplorable state and when she saw him she began to cry.

“Rebbe,” she wept bitterly, “what shall I do? My husband spent every cent we had on the trial and now that he will be gone for two years, how will I be able to support myself and the children? We will starve.”

Reb Nachum consoled her and told her that she would yet have better days. “By the way,” he said, “how much money do you need every week to carry on your household expenses?”

Wiping her eyes, she replied “Twenty rubles.”

“Here is twenty rubles,” said Reb Nachum. “Keep it as a loan, when your husband will come home he’ll repay me. Continue living in this beautiful home and continue sending your children to the same school and buy all the clothes you need. Don’t change your mode of living for even one day.”

The poor woman practically grabbed his hands as she accepted the money.

Every week Reb Nachum would visit her home and slip twenty rubles under her door. This he continued to do for two years. When the judge got out of jail he came home and was amazed to see the house as beautiful as when he left it.

“How did you manage to support yourself and live in this house?” he asked in surprise.

“That elderly charity collector, whom you threw out of the house, came around every week and he gave me twenty rubles. If it wasn’t for him, who knows what would have happened to me and the children.”

Without saying a word, the judge rushed out of the house and came to the home of Reb Nachum. With tears in his eyes he fell on his knees and begged Reb Nachum’s forgiveness for having had insulted him. He promised to repay every cent he have to his wide and he would always give to the poor, too.

Woman Says Tzedaka Dollar Saved her Life in Bus Crash

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

Eliana Siegal says she believes she survived unharmed a bus crash yesterday, Thursday, on Interstate 55, because her father gave her a dollar to give to charity, a Jewish tradition that she said helped protect her en route.

On Thursday morning, Eliana Siegal boarded a double-decker Megabus at Union Station in downtown Chicago, on her way to a concert in St. Louis that night.

Megabus is an intercity bus service providing discount travel services throughout the Northeast, parts of the Southeast, and Midwestern United States, and in southern Canada.

According to the Chicago Tribune, a few hours later, the 64-passenger bus she was sitting in blew a tire and skidded until it smashed into a concrete pillar of an overpass on Interstate 55 near Litchfield, Illinois, some 60 miles northeast of St. Louis.

Television footage from the scene shows crews on ladders reaching inside the smashed front end of the bus. Thirty ambulances and five medical helicopters responded, and I-55 was shut down in both directions from the Carlinville exit to the Litchfield exit.

One woman was killed and dozens of other passengers were injured, Illinois State Police said.

As many as half the people on the bus were injured, according to Illinois State Police Capt. Scott Compton. Five of the injured were trapped and had to be extricated, including the woman who died, Aditi R. Avhad, of Columbia, Mo.

“I flew forward, and my glasses were smashed into the back of the seat in front of me,” said Siegal, 16, of Chicago’s West Rogers Park neighborhood. “People were panicking, and babies were crying. A woman across the aisle from me was screaming that her leg was broken.”

West Rogers Park is one of the most ethnically diverse neighborhoods in Chicago, with a prominent Jewish population, dozens of synagogues and several Jewish day schools.

Siegal, who was riding on the top tier of the double-decker bus, said she and other passengers exited the bus quickly, afraid it might explode. She told the Tribune that the driver and some passengers were trapped.

Four people were airlifted to Memorial Medical Center in Springfield, and another two were taken there by ambulance. Nineteen other passengers were treated for non-life-threatening injuries in local hospitals.

The Talmud (Pesachim 8.) cites Rabbi Eliezer who states: “Emissaries of a mitzvah will not be harmed,” suggesting that if a person is on a mission to fulfil a certain commandment in a dangerous environment (this was often applied to rabbis who labored to free fellow Jews from prison) enjoy a divine protection. This generated a custom in many Jewish communities of giving a person a small amount of money to give to charity at their destination, turning them into emissaries of a mitzvah.

The Cow

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Rav Chaim Soloveichik, the Torah luminary of the city of Brisk, was a legendary figure when it came to charity and good deeds.

Once, when he was still a student in Volozhin, he ate at the home of the Netziv (Rav Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin). The Netziv, who loved the young scholar as his own son, brought a cow for Rav Chaim and his growing family. At least there would be sufficient nourishing milk for the scholar.

After a few weeks, as Rav Chaim was sitting at home deep in study, the village blacksmith came by. Excusing himself for troubling Rav Chaim in the midst of his studies, the blacksmith poured out a tale of woe. He was a miserably poor man and his long-suffering wife had fallen ill. She needed milk to help her get better and there was not a drop in the house.

Rav Chaim heard the sad tale with a heart filled with pain and quickly said, “Go to the barn and take my cow. Bring it home and have milk for your sick wife.”

The blacksmith was overwhelmed and ran to the barn where he found the cow and took it home with him immediately.

After a few hours Rav Chaim’s young wife came home and went to the barn to milk their prize – the cow. Horrified, she ran back home and cried out to her husband, “The cow is gone! Some thief has gotten into the barn and stolen our cow!”

Truth Is Told

Rav Chaim, fearing his wife’s wrath, kept silent but she would not let the matter rest. The entire neighborhood soon knew that the cow had been “stolen.” Someone reported having seen the blacksmith leading a cow away. Immediately, the family began to brand the blacksmith as the thief.

Rav Chaim felt terrible and confessed to his wife that he had given away the cow to the blacksmith so that his sick wife would have milk.

The wife was not pacified, however, and she sent word to the blacksmith that he was to return the cow immediately. The poor blacksmith, however, was adamant in insisting that the cow was his since Rav Chaim had given it to him as an unconditional gift.

After much haggling, the blacksmith finally agreed to return the cow for ten rubles but in order to make sure that Rav Chaim would not insist that the cow remain with the blacksmith or repeat the incident with someone else, the Netziv – who knew that Rav Chaim was poor himself – sent word to him as follows, “Know that the cow is my cow and I only lent it to you so you might have some use from the milk…”

Money? I’m Giving it Away!

Monday, May 14th, 2012

http://notajew-jew.com/?p=85

I thought this would be one of the hardest mitzvot of all.

Years ago, I was taught by secular Jewish friend that giving away money was disrespectful to money. It devalued money to give it away.

And, for years, I agreed. Until I tried it.

There’s a special outreach newspaper that homeless people sell, and they get to keep all the money they raise. When the paper was launched, I was one of its most vocal champions: “finally a way for these people to earn an honest buck, instead of putting out their hands and just begging for it.” But then I promptly forgot about it.

Until a few weeks ago.

I had just spent more money on a single piece of sushi-grade tuna than most homeless newspaper vendors will make in a day, when I emerged from the store and saw…him. My body instinctively tried to carry me away from him. But my new-found Jewish teachings kicked in and stopped me.

I turned, looked him in the eye, and did something I normally avoided like…well…like homeless people on the street. I treated him like a human being. I struck up a conversation. And, while we were talking, I put all of the change in my pocket into his hat. He offered me a paper, and my old instincts kicked back in. “That’s all right,” I said, “I won’t have time to read it.” And he said, with a smile, “Take it. It’s got a good crossword.”

Now, let’s break this down. 1) He already had my money. All of it. Easily tripling what was already in his hat. 2) He had a limited number of newspapers in his hand. Which meant that, if he had kept my newspaper, he could “sell” it again, and make even more money. 3) He smiled and looked into my eyes, long after I had given him my money.

That brief experience was such a blessing to me that it broke my nearly 20-year habit of walking past beggars on the street, not making eye contact, and not giving them money.

He helped me to become a better Jew.

Giving away money may devalue money. But it adds value to my life as a prospective Jew, and to the life of the person I give to.

Is there a more valuable use for money than that?

Spare Change Can Spare A Life

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

It is said that giving charity can save one from death. We also believe that there is no such thing as a “coincidence.”

Many years ago, while living in New York, I was rushing home from work a few hours before Yom Kippur, as there were several things I had to do before the holiday started. My brother and his wife were staying over, and I had to heat the food we were going to eat before the fast. But first…
My parents had a tradition of going to shul and putting money in the charity plates that were put out one day a year, before the start of Yom Kippur.

Every Friday, before lighting Sabbath candles, I put loose change in my charity box. I now brought that money with me to put in the plates. Before going home, I rushed to shul to give the charity. Every minute counted, and as soon as I finished I left the building.

I saw the same delivery truck that I saw when I entered the building. There was just a narrow street I had to cross, and then I would be home to do some last minute chores. I looked to see if there were any cars coming, and seeing none I dashed across the street. I guess that I was in such a rush that I did not pay attention to the long skid that trailed in back of the truck, enabling the driver to slide the merchandise out. I ran across the skid, thinking I was running on solid ground. But I soon realized that I was being hurled across the street. Landing on my feet somewhere in the gutter, I looked to my left. To my horror I saw a car headed in my direction. I kept running and found myself on the sidewalk – out of harm’s way and close to my apartment building. Out of breath and somewhat in shock, I realized that a car had almost hit me. What had happened had not yet sunk in.

I stood on the sidewalk not moving, trying to make sense out of what had just happened. Suddenly I noticed that a car had pulled over close to where I stood. It was the driver of the car that had narrowly missed hitting me. The driver asked me how I knew his brakes were working so well. He obviously thought I deliberately tried to outrace him. While I remember his question very well, I don’t remember my answer. The only answer I can think of is that giving charity can save one from death, and that giving it before my near accident – right before the Day of Atonement – was no mere coincidence.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/jewish-columns/lessons-in-emunah/spare-change-can-spare-a-life/2012/04/05/

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