I often attend Shabbat services at a nearby synagogue. The rabbi is a member of the Chabad Movement and he often tells metaphoric stories and tales. Some inspire and impress me. This story is about generosity.
Last Saturday the rabbi told a story, whether is true or not I have no idea, but it certainly fits my deepest values.
The story tells about a woman in a small town who lost her husband. She was unable to take care of herself and her children.
The Rebbe happened to come into town and he heard about that woman and her needs. The Rebbe also heard that in that town lived a very wealthy man who was a miser. That man never gave more than one copper coin when he was asked to help.
Note: Rebbe is a Yiddish word derived from the Hebrew word rabbi. It means master, teacher, or mentor, like the title rabbi refers to teachers of Torah or a leaders of Jewry.
The Rebbe was determined to meet the man and to ask of him to help the widow. He instructed his entourage of men to religiously do what he does at the house of the well-to-do man.
At the wealthy man’s home the Rebbe and the man set to talk and the Rebbe brought up the main subject of his visit, the widow’s need for help. He then asked the man to contribute to the cause.
The man got up from the table and went to his cabinet from where he pulled out a copper coin which he handed to the Rebbe. The Rebbe took the coin and thanked the man, over and over again, and so did all the Rebbe’s men who were the room with him.
The man then got up and again, went to his cabinet from where he pulled another copper coin and gave it to the Rebbe. And again the Rebbe thanked the man, showered him with blessings. Again the Rebbe’s men emulated their teacher with more praise of the man and blessings for the man.
This continued for a long while till the wealthy man offered to take care of all the needs of the widow and her children.
After all was said and done, the Rebbe set down with the man and asked him: “what happened here?”
The wealthy man explained: “Years ago, when I had very little to my name, someone came and asked me for my help. All I had to spare was a copper coin. I offered that very copper coin but the people who asked for my help refused to take it. At that moment I vowed that if anyone ever comes to ask for my help, unless they appreciate and thank me for the copper coin I offer first, I will not go on to help with a larger amount. For years, whenever people came to ask for my help and I offered the copper coin, in each case they refused to take it. I did not offer any other help. Till you, Rebbe, came to my house and not only accepted the copper coin, you went on and on with your blessings and praise. That broke the mold for which I thank you.”
Lesson learned: never refuse the generosity of a person, regardless of how much it is. Generosity and charity must not be measured, rather appreciated. Remember, the person you are asking to help you may be giving his or her only copper coin. Unbeknown to you he or she may be giving you the shirt off their back.
Appreciate what people do for you if you need help, and do the same to others.
Kindness is not always a physical generosity; kindness is generosity.
I wish all my Jewish readers a year full of generosity and blessings. I wish every human being just the same.