by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths
This morning, I was running out to do the shopping. I had a 200 shekel note in my pocket and no small change. As I opened the front door to leave, I noticed a one-shekel coin on the kitchen table. I thought to take it, but then I said, “I have the 200 shekels in my pocket, what do I need to take that shekel for?” But then I thought, “Maybe I will run into someone who needs tzdeka (charity) and I won’t have change to give them.” So, I put the coin in my pocket and left.
I finished shopping and was about to leave the store, but I had to talk to the manager about ordering something. He was standing a few yards away. As I was calling over to him, a nice, little old lady came up to me. She stood very close to me and was standing right between me and the man I was trying to talk to. She smiled a little and motioned with her hand for tzdeka. My immediate reaction was discomfort, since she was almost touching my chest with her face, and she was interrupting my conversation with the manager, too. I quickly nodded, “No,” and she walked away.
I finished with the manager, and when I turned to leave I saw her walking out of the store. Then, I remembered why I took that single shekel with me.
“Yikes! Wait! Don’t leave!” I called out, as I ran after her.
I gave her the shekel and thought, “What would have happened if she left without that coin? How bad I would have felt when I realized what I did?”
Sometimes we are running so fast that we do not see an answer right in front of us. That was her shekel I had in my pocket, but I was so busy worrying about my problems that I almost forgot about hers.
“You Have To Ask!”
Later, in the afternoon, I was on my way to the Kotel. There was a young woman sitting on the stone side wall of the square. I saw her there before when she shyly held out her hand for tzdeka. She was definitely not a regular at this. I had given her a coin when I last walked by before. A young couple with two small kids was walking by without paying any attention to her. I told the woman that she had to let people know that she needed tzdeka. She wouldn’t even put out her hand!
I was a little frustrated with her, and I told the couple that she needed tzdeka, but was too embarrassed to even ask!
“Oh, thanks for telling me,” the young man said as he reached into his inside jacket pocket for some coins to give her.
“You have to ask,” I told her again. “You can’t just sit there and expect people to know that you need money. You need a tzdeka box or something so that they will know.” I spoke insistently. She smiled shyly, but I could tell that she was not going to do anything to help her situation. She was not at all comfortable sitting there asking people for money.
I walked on and stopped in the book store to find her a small charity box. I told one of the store owners about the woman and what I thought she needed. He said, “I understand,” and he helped me to find a little box that said “Tzdeka” in bold letters. As we walked to the cash register, he spoke briefly with his partner who then shook his head, “Yes.”
He rang up the purchase. I went to pay, but I noticed that he was charging me 13 shekels instead of the 19 shekels that was on the price tag. He smiled and said, “We want to share in this, too.”
What a wonderful world this is, that people are so quick to forgo their own deserved profit to help someone they do not even know.
“Where’s The Candy?”
I went on to the tefillin stand at the Kotel and started to help to put tefillin on the tourists. I reached over to get a pair of tefillin and thought, “It’s Chanukah. Where’s the candy?” Not that I am big on eating candy, but sometimes on the holidays there is something to hand out to the kids.
I took a pair of tefillin over to a side cart where I like to work, and my first “customer” was a proud father with his not-yet-religious thirteen-year-old son. The father told me that this was going to be the first time that his son put on tefillin. He then reached into his pack and handed me a big box of cookies and candy to celebrate the Bar Mitzvah.
Not only do you have to be careful what you say around here, you have to be careful what you think, too!
BS"D - בסיעתא דשמיא