The great Moshe Sofer, author of the Chasam Sofer, was known not only for his intellectual greatness but also for his great kindness and charity. His heart yearned to help the poor and his hand was always open to them.
When he was first married, he was helped by his brother-in-law, Reb Tzvi Yaravitz, who was a very wealthy merchant. Reb Tzvi appreciated the importance of learning and thus honored scholars. He did everything imaginable to give Reb Moshe the opportunity to study without fear of economic insecurity. He took him in as a “partner” in his business.
What was Reb Moshe’s role in this partnership? He would sit and learn and take care of all the charity. He gave out thousands to the needy and his brother-in-law never protested.
As so often happens, however, the wheel of life turned and Reb Tzvi ran into hard times. His business went from bad to worse and he became poverty stricken. Naturally, this affected Reb Moshe, as often there was no money in the house.
One day a poor man came to the house seeking help. Reb Moshe reached in his pocket to give him something and was distressed to find he had nothing there.
Desperately, he looked about the house, hoping to find something to give the man. As he searched, his eyes fell upon a beautiful and expensive shirt that was hanging in the closet. It had magnificent buttons that were worth a great deal of money.
Reb Moshe was overjoyed. “Thank G-d that I finally found a way to help this poor man,” he declared.
He took a button off the shirt and gave it to the man saying, “Take this button and sell it and we will share the profits.”
The poor man did as he was asked and Reb oshe was able to give half to him and support his family for some time with the other half. From then on, he did the same with the other buttons until there were none left.
Rav Eliezer Lippa, the father of Reb Zusha of Hanipoli and Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk, was a wealthy man who lived on the outskirts of Lvov. He was known as a man of great charity and one whose house was continually open to the poor.
It was also his custom, when he journeyed to other cities, to pick up every poor man he passed on the road and drop him off at his destination.
It is said that he was riding one day in his wagon and passed a poor man who was walking slowly, carrying a heavy sack.
“Sholom Aleichem,” he said.
“Aleichem Sholom,” replied the traveler.
“I see that you are carrying a very heavy bundle,” said Rav Eliezer Lippa, “and you look quite tired. Please do me a favor and get into the wagon so that I may drive you to your destination.”
“Thank you,” said the poor man. “I would prefer, however, to go by foot.”
Rav Eliezer Lippa was very surprised. “But why? The journey could take half the time if you went with me.”
“I know that, sir, but if I walk I will be able to stop at each town and collect money.”
“I see,” said Rav Eliezer Lippa. “Tell me, approximately how much money do you think you can collect in the towns that lie between here and Lvov?”
The poor man thought for a moment and replied, “I would estimate that I can certainly collect about 25 gold pieces, and I cannot afford to lose this sum by riding with you.”
“Nevertheless, I cannot bear to see you walking in this heat with that heavy burden. Here are 25 gold pieces – the amount you would have collected by walking – and ride with me.”
“Believe me, I appreciate it,” said the traveler, “but I still think it would be better if I walked.”
Rav Eliezer Lippa was now completely dumbfounded. “I have just offered you the same money that you could make by walking to these towns. What prevents you now from riding in the wagon?”
“You see, I have been going for many years to these towns. I know the people and they know me. They expect me at a certain time every year. If I should now go with you in your wagon, they will surely think that I met with some accident and they will worry. I wish to spare them that.”
When Rav Eliezer Lippa heard these words he said, “I appreciate your thoughts. But at least let me carry your heavy sack in my wagon. I will drop it off at the hotel in Lvov and leave it with the innkeeper. When you have finished with your collection and arrive in Lvov it will be there waiting for you.”