Hurricane Sandy has affected our communities tremendously. For the most part, the disposition is very hard for one to face. A home is something sacred, a place to relax because of the familiar surroundings after all, we are creatures of habit. Does one remember how Fred Flintstone use to come home and relax, the paper on his left and Dino on his right?
This is quite difficult to write about because of the sensitivity involved. Never-the-less there is one concept which I think might help us cope with this disaster.
Rav Gedalya Shorr writes in Or Gedalyahu about Avraham, who was extraordinarily proficient in CHESED kindness; he was a pioneer. Rav Gedalya writes that he imprinted in the genealogy this tremendous character of CHESSED in which every Jew that had come out from our great father Avraham, has. From then on, it’s built in us. The “super-duper we would love for you come to my house for Shabbat” was transformed through the Y chromosomes.
There are many characteristic traits from our ancestors that our super imposed on us. One important one is found in the book of Bamidbar. Interestingly the scripture says that they traveled from place to place in the dessert. They would follow the cloud of glory at any given moment. Without warning the cloud would start to move; it didn’t matter if it was two months, two weeks or two days. The Israelites would get up and go. Rabbi Olbaum qoutes his sources’ saying that what’s astonishing is that they never complained. They possessed a tremendous virtue of dealing with the travel and disposition, considering there was no warning given. Those Jews, our ancestors were considered the generation of knowledge. It takes tremendous fate to maintain your composure during the disposition travel period and they were able to preserver.
I’m sure we have that installed in our genes. I guess now is the time for that gene to sprout.
Archive for Chessed/ Acts of Kindness
* Avraham would probably be labeled by many as a pioneer; he was the first man to utilize his great gifts to the fullest and able to capitalize on his potential and bring them to fruition. Through passing the ten tests, he not only elevated the status of man, he also energized the world. He and his wife Sarah did what Noach and all the prominent people before them could not do – spread the word of G-d to the entire civilization and live up to the heights man was projected to live up to. Avraham fueled the attribute of kindness. Everyone is born with certain spiritual energies in which man has to step up to the plate. However, if these energies are not used as designed, it is taken away and transformed to somebody else. A person is provided with certain energies to combat the trials and tests of life to elevate him and by doing so, elevates the world as a whole. However, if he fails to take advantage of the opportunity then the energies transfers to someone else who will be given similar opportunities to elevate himself and the world. Adam, Noach, and others lost the powers while Avraham fueled the KOACH. Avraham had the chutzpah to say NO WAY!! to paganism; he had the audacity to stand up to what he believed in; risking his life for the sake of G-d.
* The Kli Yakar, one of the commentaries on the Chumash, has difficulty with the title of this week’s Parsha, Lech-lecha; literally it means “go to you” which doesn’t make sense. The scripture should be, either, “go” or “leave”. He explains, it actually does mean what it sounds like. “Go to you” is referring to one shall go to himself; he should explore his inner-self, the essence of man. Where shall he do that? The Parsha describes later, by the MAKOM – place. Which place? The place, G-d refers to, is Har Hamoria. This is the place where the Temple Mount stands today. The Kli Yakar informs us this is where the souls are manufactured, the nucleus of mankind is structured. Yaacov had his dream on this spot. The Kodesh Hakadoshim, the most important part of the temple, rested on that spot. Besides offering Avraham’s children riches, G-d offered Avraham clarity, a chance to be more spiritually close to G-d. The kedusha – holiness of the land of Israel, especially in certain parts of Jerusalem, is very apparent.
* Rashi says the third test, G-d made the it more difficult for Avraham by stating, “Leave your land, your place of birth and your father’s house”. By stating these points, it will invoke a feeling of familiarity, so dear, it would make it harder to depart. However, the question is asked, Avraham was ridiculed rather cruelly for not having children by his fellow neighbors and for his belief in a non-visible G-d. Unless Avraham is one of those people who likes getting abused and stepped on, not many do, he would jump at the opportunity to leave. So why did G-d state it like that? Even if one is in an undesirable environment, if it’s his home and his mother’s tongue, one would find it difficult to leave. It’s not an easy feeling going to an unknown destination.
* As soon as Avraham arrived in Canaan, the place where G-d had chosen, famine broke out. This was Avraham’s fourth test. G-d wanted to see if he would complain; he didn’t.
* Because of the famine, they were forced to go down to Egypt.
* This was a tremendous test for both, Sarah, as well as Avraham. Sarah’s morality and loyalty is tested. The frustrating and frightening incident where she is taken away by a king happened twice; once, here, by Pharaoh and another time by Avimelech, the king of the Pelishtim. She could have rationalized; “Maybe I should succumb to Pharaoh’s advances. After all, if I don’t, I am not only putting my life in danger but also the life of my husband.” Sarah could have stooped even further in human character and rationalized, “I can be the Queen. Do you know what Kavod – honor that is.” “Avraham will be fine; I can support him financially, after all, I’m the Queen.” Sarah prayed with intensity so Pharaoh will release her untouched. Both she and Avraham were protected by G-d, and reunited. The test of loyalty, though, happened a second time. The time with King Avimelech was a harder test. Pharaoh and the Egyptians were a barbaric society. However Avimelech and the Pelishtim were more of a high cultural, sophisticated and fashionable people. It seemed it would be more tempting. Moreover, the fact that it happened twice might frustrate her into thinking, “Maybe G-d is sending me a message; I missed an opportunity the first time with Pharaoh. Fool! Let’s try this again. Let’s not mess this up a second time.” On both occasions, Sarah rejected the king’s advances and was returned to Avraham unscathed. G-d then rewarded Sarah in the next Parsha with a son from Avraham. G-d said, “You were tempted with the reproductive organ; I will reward you through the reproductive organ.”
* The controversial question Rav Eliyahu Dessler asks, was Avraham’s decision to separate himself from his nephew Lot – correct? After all, Avraham was Mr. Outreach. Why didn’t he continue to influence his own nephew? As long as Lot was with Avraham, G-d didn’t fully communicate with our forefather. Furthermore it was only after Lot left Avraham, did Sarah have a child. It seems like Lot brought down Avraham spiritually. It’s not so clear-cut whether to have someone we know under our care and direction. Perhaps they might not let us grow in life.
* To save his nephew Lot, Avraham goes to great extent, in the war of 4 kings vs. 5 kings. The question is, why? Didn’t we learn previously that Avraham deemed Lot as unworthy. Furthermore, the kings knew Avraham will make every attempt to rescue his nephew. What’s so special about Lot? In next week’s Parsha, the angels specifically go to Sedom to save Lot before destroying the city. Why is Lot getting the VIP treatment? The reason is, the descendant of Lot is Ruth, and from her dynasty, David will be born. From David, the Moshiach will come.
* Avraham rejected any personal gains from the war even though he was entitled. This was to show his devotion to G-d and to show the nations of the world, it was G-d’s hand, not mine, that determined victory.
* Sarah suggested to her husband Avraham that he should take her maid servant, Hagar, for a wife; “Maybe then G-d will have mercy on me and give me children”.
* Hagar gives birth to Yishmael.
* One of Avraham’s ten trials was the commandment of circumcision.
* G-d instructed Avraham, “Your name will be changed from Avram to Avraham. I am adding a HEY to your name. Your wife’s name will also change from Sarai to Sarah by exchanging the YUD to a HEY. This change was significant because now Avraham and Sarah have been transformed to a higher level.
* When G-d removed the letter YUD from Sarah’s name, it flew up to G-d’s throne to complain. G-d comforted it, “In the past, you were the last letter of a woman’s name. In the future, I will put you at the head of a man’s name”. This will happen when Moshe will rename his student Hoshea to Yehoshua.
You’re the General and have just conquered strategic point in the battle against the enemy. There is now a new front and you are dispatching the forces towards the target area. There are places that the enemy have fortified and there are places where you, as the commander, have a strong hold Then there are the grey areas, the places where you’re not sure who’ll win.
Kosher food, well that’s your stronghold. With all the kosher supermarkets. fancy restaurants, and fast food whole-in-the-wall take-out places which are open till 2:00am you definitely have no problem keeping kosher. However the grey area, the battle of keeping the laws of family purity (nida laws), well that’s sometimes more difficult to keep. Never-the-less though, sometimes you and your wife feel spiritual and wait the two weeks and then are mikva bound. You and your wife realize it’s a fierce battle. Who will persevere?…..and the war continues. Who’ll win?
There is an awesome question asked by Rav Dessler. Avraham is known for his HACHNASAT ORCHIM hospitality and his nephew Lott’s claim to fame was that he didn’t spill the beans and disclosed, when Avraham, Sarah and himself, were in Egypt that Avraham and Sarah were not brother and sister but rather husband and wife. Interestingly Lott, living in a degenerate society, where kindness and hospitality are outlawed, went out on a limb for having guests. Lott put his life in danger having the two angels at his house while a lynch mob was waiting outside. He even offered his two daughters in order that his guest would not be harmed. For the most part his daughter inherited that character trait as well. She got killed doing a kindness with a passer-by. So it seems like Lott had a tougher time and more of a test to keep hospitality. Why wasn’t hospitality the famous virtue that Lott is known for?
The weakness Lott had was the desire for money. As a matter of fact, that is the reason why he chose Sedom as his residence after he and Avraham went there separate ways. Sedom’s economy was bustling and that attracted Lott to reside there event hough they were evil people.
When the three went down to Egypt Lot had a big opportunity to cash in by disclosing to Pharaoh about Sarah. Against all his desires he kept his mouth shut. That was his battle, his weakness, and he won.
Out of all the times Avraham did kindness, why does the incident with the angels stand out the most. All his life Avraham wanted to reach the height of spirituality. He examined the stars, the sun, anything that could have had a spiritual pulse. On the third day after his circumcision G-d , with all his glory, appeared to him. The ultimate spiritual quest finally arrived. This was the moment he was waiting for. Three men from afar, potential guests, arrived. Ever wonder why G-d had the three men come a few moments after he appeared to Avraham? This was Avraham’s test. This was the sacrifice that Avraham was faced with. The battle had sprung. What would Avraham choose?
He interrupted his meeting with G-d to attend to the guests. For this reason Avraham is known for his kindness and hospitality. He won the battle.
* We would like to believe we are not the same people we were years ago. Everyone would state, they have matured, been educated and have learned from life’s experiences. This is the general attitude of humans. Well, I hope we have matured and become better people. It’s frustrating to see those that have not.
In this weeks parsha our forefather Avraham’s status has been elevated. This is evident by the level of communication between G-d and Avraham. Its clear from the KAVOD that G-d has given Avraham by visiting that Avraham has evolved to a complete and upstanding individual. We learn some very important lessons from this section. First lesson we learn is visiting the sick, which G-d did by approaching Avraham after Avraham followed G-d’s commandment and circumcised himself. The one being afflicted is revitalized by the visit. Secondly, hospitality is of great importance; Avraham in great pain from his circumcision, still managed to accept guest with tremendous enthusiasm.
We see the relationship between G-d and Avraham is now on a higher level because of the circumcision. When G-d revealed himself to the non-Jewish prophet Bilam many years later, Bilam’s immediate reaction, peculiarly, was of great embarrassment for not being circumcised. It seams like there’s a connection between high level of spirituality and circumcision. Rabbi Baruch Dopelt asks why do we say at a brit ” just like he (this boy) has entered a covenant with G-d today so too will he be able to enter the threshold of Torah and mitzvot”? Why don’t we say it when he’s born? After all a Jew is a Jew circumcised or not. The Mystics say by having the brit and its ceremony spiritual energies are infused into the boy. These are the tools necessary to be able to comprehend the Torah in a different realm.There are also thirteen times, in last weeks parsha Lech Lecha where G-d mentions his covenant with Avraham. This is to offset the thirteen attributes of G-d. The Thirteen attributes of G-d is mentioned on Yom Kippur and is a focal point in our quest for forgiveness. It can only be applied if the Jew is circumcised. Rabbi Pesach Krohn teaches us with the infused energy that the boy gets at the brit comes a name. A name defines the task that this boy will do in life. This is the reason Avraham’s name was changed the day he was circumcised.
* “Where is Sarah your wife?” Oh, she’s in the tent”. From here we learn an importance lesson pertaining to women “modesty is a virtue”.
* “How can we have kids my husband is so old” Sarah proclaimed. What about you Sarah, you’re no spring chicken either? Here we see an ongoing occurrence in human nature. It’s the spouse that’s blamed for everything. If only we can appreciate our spouse and realize their good qualities we would have better marriages
* An important lesson is learned about keeping peace between husband and a wife. G-d altered the truth when he approached Avraham about what Sarah said. He asked Avraham; ” why did Sarah laugh and say how can we have kids, I’m so old”. In saying Sarah is old as opposed to what Sarah actually said – “my husband’s old”, Avrahams feelings weren’t hurt and it preserved peace between the couple. One has permission to alter the truth to preserve peace.
* What compelled G-d to destroy the city of Sedom and Amora was an incident pertaining to one of Lott’s daughters. She once performed kindness and gave food to an old passer-by. Kindness, it seems, is against the law in Sedom. As punishment they hung her on a tree and spread honey all over her body and watched how she was tortured as the bees bit her to death. Her cries was the last straw that broke the camel’s back and propelled the all mighty to issue a death warrant to the entire city with the exception of Lot and his family.
* Although Lot had tremendous hospitality, a trait he learned from his uncle Avraham, never-the-less the fact that he offered his daughters as compensation not to harm his guest raises some eye brows
* Rabbi Moshe Feinstein relates a story when he was a young man about a colleague, who in one of his powerful sermons blamed Lot’s daughter for the despicable and immoral act of sleeping with their father. Add insult to injury one daughter named their offspring after the sin MO-AV, from the father. A while later Rav Moshe was informed that his friend is very ill. Upon visiting his friend, Rav Moshe was performing the commandment of visiting the sick, he sees that his friend’s throat is tremendously infected and can barely speak. ” Rav Moshe” the colleague said ” I know why I’m being punished. I had a dream shortly after one of my sermons. I was lying in bed and see two elderly woman standing besides me. It was Lott’s daughters. With a stern and angry tone of voice they accused me of slandering their name. They claimed they did the act out of complete sincerity and self sacrifice to preserve man-kind, figuring that civilization had been destroyed again. ” Instead of praising us you unfairly turned our deed and intentions into a sin, therefore you will pay with your life with punishment to your vocal cords”. Soon after Rav Moshe’s friend passed away. We learn never Judge anybody unless you’re in their shoes.
* Once again Avraham and Sarah marriage and morals are tested when Sarah was taken forcefully and brought to Avimelech the king of the Pilishtim. Avimelech intended on keeping Sarah for himself despite knowing that she might be Avraham’s wife. Although that information wasn’t clear. It didn’t require a rocket scientist to figure that Avraham and Sarah were more than a brother and sister.
* Because of Avraham and Sarah passing the test of the Avimelech incident (she had the opportunity to be Queen, and acqiure tremendous riches). However she chose loyalty to her husband. G-d said you preserved the test with the reproductive organ so I will reward you with a child through the reproductive organ. G-d rewarded them with their own child.
* It seemed Sarah was on a higher level then Avraham. Yishmael, who was Hagar the maid servant’s son (she had him with Avraham), was a bad influence on Yitzchak ( Avraham and Sarah son and the heir apparent to the Jewish nation). She demanded that Avraham send Hagar and her son Yishmael away. Avraham was faced with a difficult decision. What to do? Naturally he turned to G-d who advised him listen to your wife Sarah, ‘She knows”. We learn here the importance of maintaining the right environment for your children and yourself.
Kids tend to be very impressionable so one has to surround them with the right school, nice neighborhood and proper role models at home.
*Avraham and Avimelech make a treaty after Yitzchak was born.. As long as the descendants of Avimelech dwell on the land, no descendants of Avraham will wage war against them. This covenant was the reason later why Israel couldn’t capture Eastern part of Jerusalem. Avraham called the western part Yeru- to see G-d (holy place). Shalem, the eastern part was originally inherited by Noach’s son Shem. The name Shalem comes from Shem. In Yehoshua’s time the Philishtim lived in the Shalem, the eastern part. Although Yehoshua, the leader of the Israelites, conquered the western part, in honor of the treaty the Israelites refrained from entering the Eastern part. It wasn’t until the last descendant of Avimelech died after the time of Yehoshua did the children of Judeah took it.
* The pride and Joy of the Jewish nation, the incident of the AKEDA which is so beloved by G-d. This is the primary weapon we use on Rosh Hashana to ask G-d for mercy and forgiveness
* The narrative prepares us for the next stage of life describing the future wife of Yitzchak, Rivka’s heritage.
This week in the portion of the Torah we’re introduced to Abraham, the first Father of Judaism. He’s known to have many virtues, one of which is kindness. To commemorate Abraham’s ability to enhance and popularize the trait of kindness, a story must be told about a few of his descendants. One would think Abraham, our Father, would be proud of them.
Rabbi Joel was coming back from a conference in New Jersey where he figured he’d stop at the cemetery to visit the grave of his father, since it’s conveniently on the way. As he was saying tehilim at the grave site, he notices a family burying their loved one, not far away from his father’s grave. It didn’t seem they were observant and were having a hard time with some of the rituals.
After Rabbi Joel finished saying tehilim, he walked over to the family and said ‘Can I offer you my help, I’m a Rabbi”. After getting a nod of approval, he immediately helped with the rituals and then gathered ten Men and asked the sons of the deceased to say kaddish. Unfortunately, they seemed disinterested with saying the prayer that is said for the deceased and gave him permission to finish off the ceremony himself. Rabbi Joel proceeded to say kaddish and finished the necessary customs of burying the dead. On the way back on the Belt Parkway, he felt a tremendous uplifting feeling having helped out a perfect stranger getting buried properly according to Jewish law. Through the ride back, he couldn’t stop to think about the name of the deceased, ‘Sam Rosenberg’.
That evening as Rabbi Joel was curiously looking up Sam Rosenberg’s name on the internet for any information, he gets a call from his Rabbi. After some casual greetings, he decides to tell his Rabbi the act of kindness he did earlier that day. ‘I can’t seem to find out anything about Sam Rosenberg from Staten Island’ Rabbi Joel said in frustration. ‘What’s his name?’ his Rabbi asked. ‘Sam Rosenberg from Staten Island, why do you know him?’ Let me tell you about Sam Rosenberg from Staten Island. Thirty five years ago, I was a young rabbi convincing parents from a secular background to place their child in Yeshiva. The parents half heartedly agreed as long as it was free. I was handed a list of rich-well-to-do businessmen whom might be gracious enough to help. After a few hours, I called Sam Rosenberg who’s name was half way down the list. I began to go through my pitch on how important it is to give these boys a Jewish education and we need people who can commit long term for their studies. I told him, I have five boys that need the financial help. He said to me ‘I can only finance one; THAT ONE WAS YOU!
There is an old expression, ‘What goes around, comes around’. Be aware, Baruch Hashem, kindness is contagious.
Taken by the lectures of Rabbi Issac Olbaum
Rabbi Baruch Dopelt who quotes the Bet Halevi.
We learned Noach was a Tzadik in his generation. What would Noach be, though, in comparison to our forefather, Avraham, a generation later? Since Noach’s Generation was so corrupt, maybe his status would have been considered an average Joe. Or, perhaps, he was a tzadik in such a degenerate society, then for sure he would have been angelic in the time of Avraham.
We learn a fundamental concept from the Bet Halevi, that when one sins, it gives KOACH – strength – to the power of evil. It follows, then if one does a good deed, then he strengthens the power of good in the world.
The question is asked, why were the animals destroyed by the flood? Why did they get punished? Did they sin? Animals don’t have freedom of choice; the poor cow. Perhaps, one can say they were no longer necessary once man is gone. They are here, as we know, to serve us, humans.
Rav Yisrael Salantar adds, if someone in Queens is learning Torah, his learning triggers a guy in Paris, France to contemplate whether to keep Shabbat for the first time. In other words, my positive action affects the world for the better, and the opposite is true as well.
The generation of the flood was so corrupt and evil, they were so immersed in sexual misconduct, that even the animals were effected, because the power of evil spreads. The animals’ natural tendencies gravitated to sexual misconduct as well. An Elephant was cross-breeding with a hippopotamus, etc.
Noach, through divine intervention, picked the good animals; the ones that were not so affected in a negative way and congregated them all in the ark. The ark’s purpose was to shut off itself from the rest. A new world was formed in the ark. The KOACH HARAH – the evil powers – were diminished greatly in the ark. This was a new environment. This was a place to fix the damage caused by the generation.
Noach catered to the animals day in and day out. One can say the ultimate form of CHESED – kindness – the exact opposite of the thievery that the world was famous for. They, the rest of the world, practiced that everything belongs to me. Here, Noach was the ultimate giver. Physical relations between the couples were forbidden for twelve months as long as they were in the teiva (ark). This was in contrast to the sexual circus, with no restraints, that was being conducted in the world.
We are a product of our environment; that’s scary stuff. If someone in Honolulu gets depressed, it might be perhaps because a fellow in Brooklyn ate pork. Perhaps, we have to be more intuitive to what’s happening in the world and try to make it a better place because ultimately it affects us.
We have finished the three weeks of national mourning concluding with Tisha B’av. We only hope during that dark period, our brethren, including yours truly, have done some soul searching and have learned from the countless and precious videos of the inspirational speakers that were shown on that fast day through out the world, how to deal with people and are ready to face (with a smile) the challenges of dealing, tolerating and helping our fellow Jew.
Over the years I have encountered many, and I mean many, good people including strangers who were willing to give a helping hand to a fellow Yid. I have countless personal stories of kindness but none more heart warming then something I read by Rabbi Paysach Krohn ‘ A Dance for the Ages’, from his book ‘In the Footsteps of the Maggid’ (Mesorah Publishing). Rabbi Krohn who happens to be one of the leading inspirational speakers has compiled some of his stories in this one of many books. This story has really touched me; therefore I would love to share it with you.
‘A Dance for the Ages’
This following story is one of the most remarkable I have ever hear. It was told to me by one of the central characters in the episode, my uncle, Rabbi Yehuda Ackerman, a Stoliner chassid now living in the city of Bnei Brak, Israel. The love and concern for a fellow Jew portrayed here are so genuinely touching that the story inspires all who hear it.
A number of years ago a wealthy in individual came to Israel with his family for a few weeks’ vacation. He was just staying in the famous Central Hotel on Rechov Pines in Jerusalem, and that is where he had most of his meals.
One Friday night, after the seudas Shabbos, the gentlemen was strolling back and forth outside the hotel where he noticed two chassidic boys rushing somewhere. “Where are you boys off to?” he asked, as they sped by.
“We’re on our way to the Stoliner Rebbe’s tish.” (The word “tish,” literally translated as “table,” is a term used for a gathering of chassidim around their Rebbe’s table.) The gentleman thought that it might be interesting to observe a tish and so he asked, as he hurried to catch up with them, “Do you mind if I come along?”
“No, of course not. But you must walk quickly,” they added, “because it is starting soon.”
The three of them rushed down Rechov Pines, made a right turn on Rechov Malchei Yisrael, and headed into the tiny streets of Meah Shearim toward the Stoliner shul.
The shul was packed with hundreds of people who had already gathered to sing and bask in the Rebbe’s presence. The gentleman now detached himself from the two boys, shouldered his way through the crowd, found some room for himself in the back of the synagogue and stood there unobtrusively observing the scene.
My uncle, a fervent Stoliner chassid for decades, had come that week to Jerusalem to be with his Rebbe. He, too, was at the tish and was sitting close to the front. As he looked around the synagogue he searched for faces that were not among the “regulars.” It was then that he noticed the wealthy man in the back.
My uncle, aside from being a devout chassid of the Rebbe, is the founder and fundraiser of the Stoliner Yeshivah in Bnei Brak. Before Shabbos the Rebbe had told him that he must not leave Jerusalem before raising twenty-five thousand dollars for the benefit of the yeshivah, because themelamdim (teachers) were owed a great deal of back pay. Therefore, when my uncle saw the wealthy gentleman, he figured that he might be a good man to talk to.
Throughout the evening my uncle kept an eye on the man in the back of the shul. When he realized that the tish was about to end, he made his way towards him. My uncle, a jovial and robust individual, extended his hand and, with the broadest of smiles, said, “Gut Shabbos, Reb Yid. Welcome to Stolin. I believe I recognize you.”
My uncle knew quite well that this man had a reputation of being a philanthropist who supported many Jewish causes. He was hoping he could get him involved with his own cause.
The man looked at my uncle and replied, “Gut Shabbos. I believe I recognize you too.”
The two men spoke for a while and then my uncle asked, “Where are you staying, and how long will you be here in town?”
I’m staying at the Central and I’m leaving on Tuesday,” came the reply.
“May I bring some of my friends to you tomorrow night at the central, and we will make a little Melaveh Malkah (festive meal held Saturday night)? We’ll sing a little, dance a little, tell some stories, have some good food. It will be beautiful.”
The philanthropist understood quite well what my uncle’s intention was, but still he smiled and said, “Fine. Come with your friends tomorrow night.”
The next evening, a little while after Shabbos ended, my uncle and three of his friends went to the Central Hotel and up to the gentleman’s room. They knocked on the door and waited, pacing back and forth as they worried that perhaps the gentleman had forgotten about the Melaveh Malkah or that something else had came up. After a few moments, however, the gentleman came to the door and invited them in.
For more than two hours they sang, told stories and relished the ambience of the evening. Finally the gentleman turned to my uncle and said, “Ackerman, what do you want from me? I know you didn’t just come here to sing and dance.”
My uncle smiled sheepishly and said, “You know something? You are so right. I didn’t just come to sing and dance. I came for a very important reason.” He then went on to explain the financial plight of the Stoliner Yeshivah and how, because of the economic hardships in Israel, the yeshivah was almost totally dependent on support from friends in America. “I need your help,” my uncle said seriously. “The Rebbe told me that I must raise twenty-five thousand dollars.”
Everyone in the room was quiet. The gentleman was deep in thought, his eyes closed as he reflected on the words my uncle had just spoken. “I’ll tell you what, Ackerman,” he said. “I’ll give you a donation now, and if you raise ten thousand dollars by tomorrow night, I will match it and give you another ten!”
My uncle and his friends could not believe their ears. It had never occurred to them that the gentleman would make such a gracious offer. They shook hands on the “deal” and a few moments later my uncle left the hotel to begin his efforts to raise the ten thousand dollars.
For much of the night and all of the next day my uncle ran from person to person, telling them that he had a golden opportunity to relieve Stoliner Yeshivah of a good deal of its financial burden if only they would help him. He collected cash, personal checks, money orders and traveler’s checks. He hardly rested for a moment, and by Sunday evening he was close to his goal.
Late Sunday night he made his way to the Central Hotel, went directly to the gentleman’s room and began piling all the money he raised on the table. They counted it, and sure enough – my uncle had met the goal! He had raised ten thousand dollars! The philanthropist promptly took out his checkbook and wrote a check to the Stoliner Yeshivah for ten thousand dollars. My uncle simply could not believe what was happening. For the first time in many years he was speechless.
As he began to thank the gentleman profusely for what he had just done, the gentleman said, “Aren’t you wondering why I did this?”
“Wondering?” my uncle blurted out. “To me this is a miracle. It’s like man min hashamayim (the food that fell miraculously from Heaven for the Jews in the desert.)”
“Sit down,” the gentleman said. “Let me tell you a story and then you will understand.”
“It was twenty-five years ago.” The gentleman began, “on the afternoon of my wedding day. I was so poor that my parents could not even afford to buy me a hat to wear to my chuppah. I lived in Williamsburg (an Orthdox neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York) at the time, so I walked to Broadway where there was a famous Jewish hat store. I went in and told the owner, “I’m getting married tonight, but my parents are poverty stricken and can’t afford to buy me a hat. Could you please do me a favor and give me a hat? I promise you that tomorrow morning I will come in and pay you with some of the money that I hope to get tonight as wedding presents.”
“The man behind the counter looked me over and then answered, ‘You look like an honest yeshivah bachur (student). I’ll give you the hat.’
“I was so happy and grateful to him, “continued the gentleman. “I walked outside and a few stores down was a liquor store, also owned by a Jewish man. I knew very well that my parents couldn’t afford any liquor for the wedding, so I went in and said to the man behind the counter, ‘I’m getting married tonight and my parents do not have money to buy any liquor. Would you be so kind as to give me a few bottles for the wedding? I promise that tomorrow morning I will come in and pay you from the money that I hope to get as wedding gifts.’
Here, too, the man looked me over and said the same thing the fellow in the hat store has said. ‘You look like an honest yeshivah bachur, I’ll give you the liquor.’
“He gave me the liquor and I walked out of the store with the hat in my right hand and the liquor in my left. I felt like a million dollars. I was ecstatic. I took just a few steps outside the store and there you were, Mr. Ackerman.
[My uncle, R’ Yehuda Ackerman, was known at the time as the most extraordinary dancer at Jewish weddings. Whenever he made his way into the middle of the circle where everyone was dancing, He became the focal point of frolic around which everything centered. Everyone in the hall would stop whatever they were doing just to watch him perform for the chassan and kallah. His body movements were elegant; his balancing acts; entertaining; his radiant smile ebullient, and his body’s comical coordination with the music the band was playing was incredible and legendary. Somehow he managed to become the physical embodiment of the musical notes emanating from the violin, clarinet and cordovox, which were popular at the time.]
“I saw,” the gentleman said, “that Hashem was so good to me in helping me get the hat and the liquor, so I figured that I would take my chances just one more time. I walked over to you and said, ‘Mr. Ackerman, I know you don’t know who I am, but I am getting married tonight. Would you mind coming to dance at my wedding?’
“You said that you couldn’t promise anything, but you took down my name and the name and address of the wedding hall. And that night, right in the middle of the wedding, you came running into the center of the circle where everyone was dancing and you danced so magnificently. The people loved it! You made everyone so happy and you helped make it the greatest night of my life. When it was over that evening, I swore to myself that someday I would repay you.”
Now, transversing all the years in between, the gentleman concluded. “Last night, when I saw you at the Stoliner Rebbe’s tish, I suddenly remembered what I had said to myself back then on my wedding night. I realized that now was the time to pay you back. That’s why I gave you the money.”
My uncle sat there astounded. He hasn’t remembered the wedding. He hadn’t remembered the wedding from so long ago, but he would never forget this Shabbos night in Jerusalem.
The story, however, did not end there. The next time my uncle was in the city where this generous gentleman lived, he heard that the man’s son was getting married. He waited until the middle of the wedding and then as he had done so many years earlier, he ran into the center of the circle where everyone was dancing, and he danced as he had, all those years before.
And as he did, he turned and saw the gentleman standing off on the side with a great smile across his face, and tears rolling down his cheeks. He ran over to the man and, as they embraced, the man said to my uncle, “How can I ever thank you? You’ve made me relive the greatest night of my life.”
The Gemara (Yoma 9b) teaches that the Second Beis HaMikdash was destroyed because of sinas chinam, uncalled-for and unreasonable hatred. Here, though, was an instance of poignant ahavas chinam, a talented individual dancing at the wedding of a young man whom he didn’t even know and never thought he would see again only because there was love…love of one Jew for another with no motive or incentive other than that they were both Jewish. May we all learn from this incredible story and merit together to see the building of the Third Beis HaMikdash.
Reproduced from “Footsteps of the Maggid,” by Rabbi Paysach Krohn, with permission of the copyright holders, ArtScroll / Mesorah Publications, Ltd.