As Jews, we are taught to give Tzedakah, commonly translated “charity,” meaning money, before each Shabbat and holiday, as a way of expressing our gratitude for all that we have.
This week, I was reading a book of Chassidic stories as told by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, tzt”l, Lamed Vav: a collection of the favorite stories, adapted and illustrated by Tzlotana Barbara Mildo (2005/5765). In it, I ran across a story that inspired me, so I want to share it with all of you, with hope that it will touch your hearts too:
Let’s say we’re walking down the street, and a [person] comes up to us. He’s dirty and ragged, maybe he even smells. He says, “Oy, Oy — I’m so hungry. I’m … at the end. Could you give me a couple of dollars?” Or maybe he doesn’t say anything, he just holds out his hand.
So what do we do? We take out our wallet, and — trying not to look at him — we give him some money. Then, without a word, we walk away. And we feel so good because we think we’ve just fulfilled the holy mitzvah of giving charity to the poor.
That’s all cute and sweet. But it’s not enough. Because maybe, with the charity we have given him, the [man] can feed his body. But have we given him anything to feed his soul?
There’s a teaching from the Holy R. Yitzhak Vorker: G-d didn’t take us to Mount Sinai and give us the Torah just to tell us to give a beggar some dollars or shekels. Yes, it’s important to give him money. But we have to do more than that. We have to give him back his pride, his self-confidence. We have to revive his soul.
This Shabbat, and every day, may we remember to open not just our wallets, but also our hearts.
Shabbat shalom, jen