CURRICULUM Teacher's Guide
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Tzedaka Intro to Tzedaka A short introduction to the Mitzva of Tzedaka. • What is it? • Why is it considered to be such a great Mitzva? • How does one fulfill it? • The giver is the ultimate recipient.
What is Tzedaka?
Why should I give?
How do I do it?
This lesson aims to equip the student with facts about the Mitzva of Tzedaka.
This lesson aims to equip the student with good reason to want to give Tzedaka and with explanation as to how it is beneficial to him.
This lesson aims to empower the student to give in the most practical and suitable way by focusing on select laws about Tzedaka.
The Tzedaka Effect
This lesson focuses on the sources upon which the Mitzva of Tzedaka is based. It aims to help the student understand the importance of the various components of Tzedaka.
This lesson focuses on the sources that discuss the motivation to give Tzedaka. It aims to help the student understand what effect giving Tzedaka has on the giver.
This lesson focuses on the sources upon which the halachot of Tzedaka is based. It aims to equip the student with practical ways to perform the Mitzva.
Intro to Tzedaka LESSON ONE
Intro Inquiry question: Who benefits most from Tzedaka? This lesson should take you about 50 - 55 minutes. Learning Goals In this class we wish to cover the following objectives: •
To give the student a basic understanding of what the Mitzva of Tzedaka is.
To give the student a deeper understanding of the importance of giving Tzedaka.
To aquaint the student with contemporary Tzedaka organizations.
To provide a framework for when and how to take part in the Mitzva.
Guiding Questions •
What is Tzedaka?
Why should I give Tzedaka?
How should I give Tzedaka?
Requirements for this lesson:
• • • • • •
Coins Pushkas Regular printing paper or writing paper for group activity Small pieces of paper for each student Pens/pencils for each student Timer (a phone, stopwatch, hourglass timer or if you have internet you can use www. online-stopwatch.com)
Option 1: Quotes 5 min Read out some of these quotes to your class and ask them, "Which quote doesn't belong?"
MA’ASER - 10% Did you know that Jews separate Ten Percent of their earnings to give to Tzedaka? We'll learn more about this in later lessons.
"Tzedaka is great that it brings redemption." - Talmud Bavli, Tractate Bava Basra, 10A
"Tzedaka saves from death." - King Solomon, Mishlei 10:12
"Even one who survives on Tzedaka, must give Tzedaka." - Talmud Bavli, Tractate Gittin, 7B
"Give Tzedaka to become wealthy!" - Talmud Bavli, Tractate Ta'anis, 9A
Once your students have identified that quotes #1,#2 and #4 are about the benefits of Tzedaka, ask them, "When someone gives Tzedaka, what are the benefits for the giver?" This should lead them to mention some of the benefits shown in the quotes like wealth, healing or redemtion. Use this as a springboard for your lesson that will convey the message that the giver gets more. Option 2: Popcorn Reading 5-10 min
PRESENTING QUOTES WITH SLIDES If you'd like to use a slideshow for the quotes, we've put up a slideshow with them online for you. You can access them here: https://goo.gl/dh4izQ
Use one of the the stories on page 10 for 'Popcorn' reading. Tell your students that one of the students will start the reading and the teacher will select the next reader at random. Once a student is called, he has 2 or 3 seconds to pick up the reading from the right spot before moving on to the next random selection. This way the students will need to follow and be ready to take over from the previous reader.
What is Tzedaka?
TEST YOUR TZEDAKA VOCAB
Introduction - Focus on what is the Mitzva of Tzedaka. 5 min Activity
צֶ ֶד ק
Hold up a pushka and ask, "Does anyone know what this is?"
Define it as a Tzedaka box, a Kupat Tzedaka or a Pushka in Yiddish for those unfamiliar. Use this opportunity to widen their vocabulary. Ask them to repeat the terms after you
ְצ ָד ָק ה
in their original. 3.
Explain to the students that giving Tzedaka is a Mitzva, a commandment in the Torah. The Torah, as it was given to the Jewish people by G-d, says;
כ ן-ל ֵ ּ ִמ ֶּק ֶר ב ָה ָא ֶר ץ; ַע, ֶי ְח דַּ ל ֶא ְב ֹיו ן- ִּכ י לֹ א ָ ָי ְד ך-ת ַח ִּת ְפ ּ ַת ח ֶא ת ֹ ּ ָפ,מ ר ֹ לֵ א, ָא נֹ ִכ י ְמ צַ ְּו ָך ָ ְל ָא ִח . ְ ּב ַא ְר צֶ ָך, יך ַל עֲ נִ ֶּי ָך ּו ְל ֶא ְב ֹי נְ ָך
For the poor should never be lost from the land; therefore I command you, saying: ‘You should really open your hand to your poor and needy brother, in your land.
ּפ ּו שקע ָע ני
י" א: דבריס ט ״ו
This is what Tzedaka is. It’s not just social justice, it’s an obligation from G-d. 4.
Once you feel that your students understand that Tzedaka is primarily a Mitzva obligation, draw them to this lesson's inquiry question by asking them to think about the following question; “Who benefits most from Tzedaka?” Take a few suggestions but don’t answer the question at this point.
Body - What happens when I give Tzedaka? 10 min Instruction To understand one of the reasons why Tzedaka is such a great Mitzva let's first understand an idea and about what happens when we do any mitva. Challenge your class, “What happens when we do a Mitzva?
Accept a few suggestions.
And offer some explanantion: An idea When
Kuppat Tzedak / Pushkah
ַמ ּת נַ ת ַע נִ יים
ֵׂ ַמ עש ר
Charity Box Charity (Yiddish)
Gifts to the Poor
If you have access to the internet in your class, you may want to try this. We’ve set up a fun way to test your class some of the new terms they will learn in this section.
Why should I give Tzedaka?
ק ּו ּ ָפ ה
Includes word cards, tests and games. Go to: https://quizlet.com/_3m3d1r
Intro the physical object involved is changed All Mitzvas involve physical objects to some extent. Why? The reason for this is that Hashem created this world in order to make it holy so that He would 'feel at home'. Doing Mitzvot with the items in this world makes things holy. For example; Tefilin: Tefillin use hard leather hide for the boxes, soft leather for the straps, the inner membrane of the skin for the parchment and natural flowers ink and birdfeathers to write the text. This process changes the spiritual status of the coarse and regular animal skin into something that is sacred.1
LESS, MORE OFTEN
,"והכל לפי רוב המעשה It's all according to the ammount of actions10 We all have a tendency to keep our things for ourselves. Giving often, even if in small incements, changes one's nature to be more giving. 11
Analogy: This would parallel the sentimental value of the gift that a bride would give to her groom. The gift was once just a regular item on the shop shelf but now it has immense sentimental value & meaning to it, always to be preserved and kept sacred. It now embodies something much more than it would before it attained all this special meaning. Outcome Applying the above to Tzedaka. The uniqueness of Tzedaka is that most of a person’s day is spent in the pursuit of his livelihood. He puts his mind, body and resources into making a living. Now, when a portion of the earnings are given to Tzedaka, not only does that elevate the the rest of his earnings that he keeps for himself, but also his mind, body and resources that were invested.
This is another way that giving Tzedaka transforms us.
Through Tzedaka, his mundave pursits are elevated. 'Ithapcha Boggle' Activity 15 Min Bringing it down... 1. Ask one of the students to distribute paper and another to distribute pencils. 2. Explain the way the activity works. I. Student write down examples of 4 different Mitzvot with the 5th one being Tzedaka. II. Show your students how to make a mindmap or a list of what materials are need to preform the Mitzvot they have written down. Then show them how to break them down into their physical parts that are transformed and elevated through doing that Mitzva. For example: You could draw a model for the students or provide examples: a) Mezuza - The parchment scroll, black ink and the doorpost/ house. b) Tzitzit - The wool garment, the sheep that the wool came from, the tailor who sewed the garment and the fellow who tied the strings. c) Lulav - The palm branch, the etrog farmer, the tractor etc. d) Tefilin - The leather straps, the parchment, the tanner, the source of the leather. e)
Tzedaka - Your mind, body and resources that invested in the work
and the 8 hours a day spent slaving away in your cubicle at work. 3. After everyone writes down their lists (which should be timed; 1 minute per Mitzva should be enough), one student begins reading all of their words aloud. Any word that was has been written down by a fellow student must be crossed out - on everyone's papers. Any 'original word', that no one else thought of, should be circled. Once s/he finishes her/his list, the next student starts reading their list until everybody is only left with circled words. The student with the most circled words wins. This will encourage excited conversation in a competitive atmosphere about each topic, as well as giving place for added emphasis to be placed on the Tzedaka round. 4. Lead your students to see the outcome from the activity. Outcome Although all the Mitzvot are important and vital in transforming our world, Tzedaka has a unique potential to elevate much more of our being and world than other Mitzvot.
Influential Tzedaka Organisations
A Focus on
Colel Chabad Colel Chabad provides life preserving assistance to the needy people in Israel regardless of gender, age, marital status, ethnicity or religious observance. They combat daily hunger in partnership with the Israeli Government. They also offer a comprehensive range of material and social services for widowed and indigent families, Holocaust survivors, immigrants, and the chronically ill. COLEL CHABAD AT A GLANCE: Founded in 1788 by Alter Rebbe Founder of Chabad Chassidut Oldest continuously operating charity in Israel Operates 24 free restaurants open 365 days a year Monthly pantry deliveries to 8,800 households Holiday pantry deliveries to 21,000 households Dental care for the poor Israel’s only Center for Multiple Sclerosis patients Interest-free loans Subsidized weddings for poor couples Network of 10 daycare centers for children of poor working mothers Holistic aid and support for widows and orphans Annual mass Bar/Bat Mitzva for fatherless children In-hospital summer camps and holiday celebrations for hospitalized children Aid for new immigrant
Colel Chabad, in partnership with the Joint Distribution Committee, has been designated by the Israeli Government to take charge of eliminating hunger among Israel's neediest. This nationwide undertaking is now in its third year, with 24 municipalities already included. The program provides for the chronically dysfunctional, while empowering others to take control of their lives and achieve nutritional independence. Soup Kitchens Colel Chabad's network of 24 Soup Kitchens serves fresh, nutritious, home style meals every day of the year free of charge, to over 2,900 indigent men and women Household Groceries Some 8,500 impoverished families throughout Israel receive monthly deliveries of their entire grocery needs. Hundreds of additional families carry the Colel Chabad Eshel credit card that enables them to shop at major supermarkets Meals-On-Wheels Colel Chabad’s Meals on Wheels program is a customized and highly personal service that caters to the nutritional needs of the homebound indigent and senior citizen Non-Profit Supermarkets The Colel Chabad Non-Profit Supermarkets stock 600 staple grocery and household items that are sold to poor and near poor families at a savings of 40% below retail. Pantry Packers Pantry Packers is Colel Chabad's Jerusalem based plant where tourists volunteer to pack dried food staples such as rice and beans, that are then included in the Household Deliveries.
Read up more at www.colelchabad. org, pantrypackers.org Source: colelchabad.org
Instructor Led So, who is Tzedaka really for? We see that Tzedaka does more for us than it does for the recipient. It may uplift the needy in a material way but it refines the giver and all his investment from the mundane to the holy.
How should I give Tzedaka? Conclusion – How to give Tzedaka in the best way. About Colel Chabad 15 min Instructor Led Our Obligation Imagine that you're walking down the street and someone asks for food. The Torah says you have to give something. If he asks for money, you're allowed to make some inquiries to determine if he's legit. Nothing in your pocket? Show some empathy, provide some kind and uplifting words. In no case can you just keep on walking.2 Standard Jewish practice is to give at least 10% of net income to charity.3 Since Tzedaka is a Mitzva, it doesn't just help others—it lifts you up as well. That's why we keep a pushka (charity box) on prominent display in home and office. Just drop a few coins in the pushka every so often, at least once a day.4 The Recipient
Give Tzedaka to the needy, Torah schools, Jewish welfare institutions5 , and/or humanitarian causes.6 Priorities A family member who is in difficult financial straits takes precedence over non-family. Likewise, local poor and charitable organizations take precedence over their faraway counterparts.7 Charitable causes in Israel take precedence over (non-local) charities in the Diaspora.8
ALTERNATIVE CONCLUDING ACTIVITY If you have extra time or need to add a more hand-on activity for your students, perhaps a make-your-own pushka and/or to decorate one, this may be the best time to slip it in. However you choose to do it, whether with disposables or woodwork, with decorations or without, make sure that you are well prepared for all the possibilities.
Concluding activity 1.
Ask for a three volunteers. Two to distibute the Tzedaka boxes for each student and one to hand out a coin to deposit into their new pushkas.
Once the Tzedaka distribution has settled down, draw your students to the inquiry question by asking them, “Who is benefiting from us giving these coins to Tzedaka?”
Now is a good chance to assess if the students have absorbed your message that the giver gains more.
Tell them that these pushkas are theirs and that they should take them home and put them in their bedrooms9 and ensure to put in a few coins ever day.
Be sure that the message is enhanced and not drowned out by the 'hype' of the craft.
Endnotes 1. See Likutei Amarim Tanya Chapter 37 for a lenghtier discussion on this topic. 2. Mishneh Torah, Gifts to the Poor - Chapter 10 Halacha 5 3. Mishneh Torah, Gifts to the Poor - Chapter 7 Halacha 5. See also Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 34:4. There's plenty more written on what's considered net—and on when tuition fees and other Mitzva-related items can be deducted from the 10 or 20 percent. A competent Halachic authority should be consulted for specific questions relating to practice. 4. Giving Tzedaka to a pushka would be likened to the seconfd of the Rambam's 8 levels of Tzedaka. See Mishneh Torah, Gifts to the Poor - Chapter 10 Halacha 8. See the Commentary of the Rambam on Mishnayot, Tractate Avot, Chapter 3, Mishna 15 about the powerful effect of giving often, yet in small increments on one's character trait/ emotional capability of giving. 5. This could include: Hachnasat Kalla organisations who help poor young couples with their wedding expenses, Maot Chittim organisations who ensure that needy families have enough supplies for the upcoming festivals, Chevra Kadisha - Jewish burial society, Gemach - Free loan society, Jewish outreach institutions, Bikkur Cholim, Hatzala etc.)
6. Mishneh Torah, Gifts to the Poor - Chapter 7 Halacha 7. See also Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 34:3. 7. See Talmud Bavli, Tractate Bava Metzia Folio page 71B 8. See Tur HaAruch on Deuteronomy 15:11 9. "In 1987 the Rebbe ... called for every family to turn their home into a "House of Torah Study, Prayer and Charity" ... especially for all Jewish children to turn their room, or the part of the room they use, into a special "mini-sanctuary," by keeping there their own prayer book, book of Torah, and charity box. He suggested making special attractively designed charity boxes with space on them to write each child’s Hebrew name (and title and/or surname), and first the Hebrew words "To G‑d belongs the world and everything in it." Every day, the Rebbe proposed, the child should spend some time there, saying a prayer or blessing, studying some Torah, and placing a coin in the charity box. The Rebbe requested at one one time that local schoolchildren be brought to visit him with their own charity boxes, and he personally gave each of them who came a coin to place in his or her box." - Reprinted with permission from Chabad.org - A History of the Charity Box
10. See Pirkei Avot, Chapter 3, Mishna 15. Our translation is according to the explanation of the Rambam (See footnote 11). 11. See Rambam's commentary to tractate Avot 3:15 12. See Hayom Yom; entry for the 8th of Cheshvan which compares the Mitzvot to acts in a relationship. That analogy, however, compares the relationship to the relationship between a great Sage and and a simple minded man. In other sources it is referred to that in the context of the Jewish people's relationship with Hashem.
THE SECRET OF FORTUNE of the Rothchild Family
You have all heard of the famous Rothschild family of bankers, who were as much famous for their great wealth as for their great charitableness. The founder of this world-famous banking firm was Mayer Amschel Rothschild, who was born in Frankfort 214 years ago, in a very religious family, several members of which were rabbis. His father Amschel Moses Rothschild, who died a year after Mayer Amschel became Bar Mitzva, had hoped that his son would be a rabbi. Instead, he became one of the world's greatest financiers, yet remained strictly religious and humble, and Jews everywhere could speak with great pride of him. How did this young orphan, born in the judengasse (Jewish Quarter). in Frankfort become so successful and so wealthy? Well, there is a story current among Chassidim that reveals the secret of his unusual success. It's a heartwarming, story and you will be glad to read it here. The hero of our story, however, is his father Anschel Moses.
n a small town in Galicia, called Tschortkow, the Jewish community appointed a rabbi, who was known for his great scholarship and piety. His name was Zevi Hurwitz, and he was affectionately called Rabbi Hershelle Tschortkower. He was known as a saintly man, and many came to him for advice, or for a blessing. He tried to help everybody, and most of all the poor orphans and widows, for whom he collected special funds. In addition, moneys left in trust for orphans and widows were placed in his hands for safekeeping.
Now, a rabbi with such responsibilities required a Shamash (a beadle). His duties included the running of errands for the Rabbi, accompanying him on his way, handing him a sepher (holy book) when the Rabbi was studying, taking care of the visitors who came to the Rabbi, and so on. This was not a well-paid job, but Anschel Moses was a young man in his teens, whose personal needs were small. Not much of a scholar himself, Ansehel Moses was anxious to serve such a great scholar and rabbi as Rabbi Hershelle Tschortkower, and when the opportunity presented itself, he was very happy to become the Shamash, and he was treated as one of the Rabbi's family, enjoying their fullest confidence. Soon, the time came when Anschel Moses had to think of getting married and raising a family. He married into a modest Jewish family in the nearby town of Sniatyn, where he went to live. His father-in-law helped him to open a small store there. Several weeks, or perhaps several months, after Anschel Moses left the service of Rabbi Hershelle in Tschortkow, the Rabbi discovered a theft in his house, which upset, him very much. In the drawer of his personal desk he had kept a purse with five hundred gulden. This substantial amount of money belonged to orphans, widows and other people whose savings had been left in trust with the Rabbi. He discovered that it was missing on the night of Bedikas Chometz, the night before Pesach. For it was his custom to personally check in case some Chometz might have slipped in there. When he opened this drawer, all the way, he was shocked to see that the purse was not there. This was quite a fortune, which the Rabbi could not hope to replace. He thought of the poor people who had entrusted all their possessions in his care, and his heart was filled with pain. It pained him even more to think
that there was someone in his own home who had stolen the money. The only other person who knew about it, or might have known that the Rabbi kept a large sum of money in that drawer, was Anschel Moses. The Rabbi had trusted him fully, and would never have suspected him of such a mean thing. Yet, there could be no other explanation. No doubt Anschel only wanted to borrow the money in connection with his marriage last win ter, which he must have hoped to repay as soon as he was able to do so. Having come to this conclusion, the Rabbi decided to tell no one about it, so as not to create a panic in the community, nor stamp anyone as a thief. He would have a talk with Anschel Moses and clear up the matter, and no one would know anything about it. So, on the first day of CholHamoed he rented a carriage and went to Sniatyn to see his former Shamash. His trip aroused no surprise in the community, as it was not unusual, but it certainly surprised Anschel Moses to see his Rabbi in his humble store so unexpectedly. When the Rabbi remained alone with Anschel, he carefully told him why he had come to see him. He told Anschel of the missing money, but assured him that he did not suspect him of theft, G‑d forbid, but thought that perhaps he merely wanted to borrow it for a little while. Although this is also against the Din (Jewish Law), a human being sometimes gives way to temptation, and as long as he makes good the wrong, G‑d will forgive him. The Rabbi also assured him that he personally would also forgive him, and that no one would ever know about it. Had it been his own money, the Rabbi concluded, he would have done nothing about it at all, but as this money belonged to orphans and widows and poor people, whose whole existence depended on it, he had no choice but to come to see him about it. As the Rabbi was talking to him, Anschel grew pale and frightened, and his eyes 10
filled with tears. The Rabbi thought that Anschel was filled with remorse, and thought all the more of him that he did not attempt to deny the whole thing. Indeed, Anschel said not a word in selfdefense. He merely opened his money-till and emptied all its contents. He counted it and gave it to the Rabbi. Then he begged the Rabbi to excuse him, while he went to get the rest of the money to make up the missing amount. After a considerable while, Anschel returned. Still looking quite distressed, he told the Rabbi that all he managed to raise now was half of the amount, but he promised faithfully to make up the balance by installments. The Rabbi was very happy at the way things had turned out. He had always thought that Anschel Moses was a good and honest soul, and now he was convinced of it. Happier still was he at the thought that those poor orphans and widows would not suffer any loss, for he was certain that Anschel would keep his word. True to his word, Anschel regularly sent small amounts on account, until the whole five hundred gulden were fully paid. The Rabbi now could dismiss and forget the whole unpleasant affair. If he ever thought about it at all, it was only to admire the decency and goodness of the Jewish heart of a simple young man such as Anschel Moses, who so eagerly made amends for a mistake he committed in a moment of unusual temptation. One day, as Rabbi Hershelle was bent over a sepher, deep in study, a special messenger arrived from the Police Chief of the town. The messenger told him that the Chief begged to be excused for troubling him, but he wished to see him urgently, and had sent a, carriage for him, which was waiting outside. The Rabbi had no idea what the matter
could be, but he put his trust in G‑d that it was not connected with any danger to the community, and he hastened to go with the messenger. The Police Chief greeted him in a friendly manner, and asked him if anyhing had been stolen from his house recently. The Rabbi replied that if the Police Chief was referring to a certain sum of money which was discovered missing in his house, it had already been recovered. The Police Chief looked rather surprised and wished to know the whole story, and how the Rabbi came by such a large sum of money. "If you will promise not to take action against an innocent man, who has made good his mistake, I will tell you every thing," the Rabbi said. The Police Chief promised, and the Rabbi told him the whole story about the missing money. "You Jews are wonderful people," the Police Chief said admiringly. "I have never in my life heard anything like it!" Thereupon he opened a drawer and pulled out a purse, saying, "Do you recognize it?" Now it was the turn of the Rabbi to be surprised, for this was the very purse that had been missing. After enjoying the Rabbi's surprise for a while, the Police Chief rang a bell, and when an orderly appeared, he gave the order, "Bring them in!" The next moment a country yokel and his wife were brought in, handcuffed together. "Do you recognize either of them?" the Chief asked the Rabbi. "I am afraid I do not," the Rabbi answered, still mystified by the whole thing. "Well, I suppose you are busy with your books, and do not notice the cleaning woman that comes to clean your house. It does not matter. A full confession has been obtained," and after ordering the two
prisoners out, the Chief began to unfold what had happened: The woman had been cleaning the Rabbi's house before Passover, when she chanced upon the purse with the money in the Rabbi's desk. She stole the purse and brought it to her husband. Afraid to use the money at once, they buried it in their barn. A drunkard, however, will out, and so the yokel could not resist using the money to buy himself a drink. He went to the buried treasure, and took out one gulden, and went to the inn. When the innkeeper asked him where he got a silver gulden, the yokel told him he had found it. The next day he came back with another silver gulden, and the third again. This made the inn keeper quite suspicious, and he reported it to the police. The yokel was arrested, and, after several lashes, confessed the theft. The purse with the money was recovered, except for the three gulden which the yokel had spent on drink. "Take it, it's yours," the Police Chief said with a smile, still unable to make out that Jew Anschel, who not only failed to clear himself of a suspicion, but even paid for a theft committed by someone else. The Rabbi's heart was now filled with happiness to overflowing. He lost no time in making another trip to Anschel Moses. "Reb Anschel, please forgive me," were the Rabbi's first words after greeting his former Shamash, with tears in his eyes. "Why didn't you tell me that you had not taken the money?" he demanded to know. Anschel told the Rabbi that the plight of the poor orphans and the Rabbis own distress had touched his heart. If he had denied that he had taken the money, and offered to help, the Rabbi would not have accepted his sacrifice, for truth to tell, he had to pawn everything he possessed to raise what he could, and then saved every penny to make up the rest, knowing that the Rabbi could not otherwise raise
the money. The Rabbi embraced Anschel, and blessed him with great riches that he might always help the poor and needy of his people.
fear and answered that he dreamed that several awesomely holy men had visited him, and that one of them told him a Torah idea and a story.
"Here is the money you so kindly paid out of your pocket. Go back to Frankfort where you will have better opportunities to do business, as well as to do good works. May G‑d be with you and with your children for generations to come."
He described them, and his father identified the one who had spoken as Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (the founder of Chassidism, 1698–1760).
The blessing of Rabbi Hershelle Tschortkower came true. Anschel Moses Rothschild became a successful merchant and money-changer in Frankfort. His son Mayer Anschel Rothschild succeeded even on a larger scale. He had five sons, each of whom settled in a different financial capital of Europe, and their wealth increased from generation to generation. A grandson of Mayer Anschel, Baron Edmond de Rothschild, head of the House of Rothschild, who lived in France, especially did much to help his brethren in various colonizing enterprises, which earned him the name of Hanadiv Hayadua, the Famous Benefactor. He lived to a very ripe old age, and died in 1934 in Paris, at the age of ninety. From Talks and Tales by Nissan Mindel Published and copyrighted by Kehot Publication Society With permission from Chabad.org
HERSCHEL GOAT A Tzedaka Story
When the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Shalom DovBer Schneerson (1860– 1920) was a young child, his father (the fourth rebbe, Rebbe Shmuel) woke him one morning and asked him if he had dreamed anything. The boy thought for a minute, then began trembling with
The Torah idea that the Baal Shem Tov said was: It is written in Ethics of the Fathers (4:1): “Who is strong? He who conquers his selfish inclinations.” It does not say “who breaks his selfish inclinations,” but rather “who conquers . . .”: true might lies in conquering and transforming one’s selfish drives in order to use them to serve G‑d as well. The story that he told was as follows:
hen I was a young man of twenty, soon after being accepted as a member of the society the hidden tzaddikim, several of us came to the city of Brody. [Translator’s note: The “hidden tzaddikim” were a group of unusually gifted and devoted Jews who, disguised as simple people, dedicated their lives to improving the plight of their Jewish brethren both spiritually and materially.] It was there in Brody that I saw the most amazing thing. I was standing in the marketplace, speaking to a large group of locals, when I noticed from the corner of my eye an older man walking in the distance, bent under the burden of a large sack he was carrying on his shoulder. His face was covered with sweat, and there was nothing unusual about him, except for the fact that over his head floated a brilliant pillar of spiritual fire! Obviously, none of the other townspeople saw it. A few of them even yelled jeeringly, “Keep going, Herschel Goat,” and, “Carry, Herschel, carry!” And he called back with a smile, “Thank you! G‑d bless you!”
I could not believe my eyes. I called two of the elder tzaddikim who were with me, Rabbi Yechezkel and Rabbi Ephraim. They, too, saw the pillar but also couldn’t explain it. To all appearances, this Herschel was just a simple old Jew trying to make a living. What connected him to such a great revelation? For several days I observed him and tried to understand the reason for this holy fire, but I still had no idea. People told me that he was a widower, his wife having died some ten years ago. He earned his meek living by carrying things on his back and doing odd jobs, and as far as everyone knew, he used all his money to feed a few goats he had because he loved goat milk. That is how he earned the name “Herschel Goat.” So I decided to fast the first three days of each week, only drinking water at night, until I understood what this man did that was so pleasing to G‑d. I had just finished the first three days and was leaving the shul when, by divine providence, there was Herschel walking down the street. He had a big smile on his face as I approached him. I told him I was very weak from having fasted, and asked if he could give me something to eat. “Of course! Of course!” he said joyously. “Please, just follow me to my home! I’m so happy to help.” We walked for about an hour till we came to an old run-down hut near the woods. Nothing seemed unusual, until he opened the door and we entered. Suddenly four or five goats jumped from all corners of the hut at him. They lovingly licked his hands and literally pranced with joy about him. I had never quite seen the likes of it. Herschel quieted the goats and told me to sit down, took out a large metal pail, milked one of them, and poured me a cup to drink. 12
“Nothing’s more healthy than goat’s milk! Here, have another,” he said with satisfaction as he handed me a second cup. When I tried to pay him, he refused. “G‑d forbid! Money? No! No money, no money! It’s my pleasure! I’m the one that benefits! What, I should take money too?” he said with a smile on his face. Then he looked at me seriously and said, “I want to tell you a true story. You have no idea how happy I am that you came here. Please listen.” He sat down opposite me, waited a few moments while collecting his thoughts, and began. “My wife, of blessed memory, was a truly righteous woman, always helping people. Any time anyone lacked anything, she was there, doing everything she could to help. She collected money for charity, cared for people when they were sick; everything she did was for others. Shortly after she passed away, after the seven days of mourning, she appeared to me in a dream. “She told me that after she died, instead of going through the painful and frightening purification processes of ‘the slingshot’ and ‘the thrashing of the grave,’ she was received warmly by the souls of all those people she had helped, and led directly to one of the highest heavens. “She told me that nothing is valued in heaven more than brotherly love, and beseeched me to also begin a life of charity and good deeds. “That is why I bought these goats. I give free milk to whoever needs it, and it has done wonders for people, simply wonders, and I am so happy I can help. “Since then, my wife never appeared to me again. It’s been ten years since then, but today, just before I woke up, she came. She told me that this morning I would meet a holy man and he would change my life, and I’m sure she was talking about you. Please stay with me for a few days and teach me Torah.” 13
I stayed with Herschel for several days, and watched the way he lovingly cared for his goats and how he dispensed their milk to dozens of people that needed it, everything done with a simple, contagious joy and with no egotism whatsoever. But, on the other hand, he was a complete ignoramus and could barely read.
of Ostropol would be punished because of her husband? Her husband had devoted his life to helping people. The greatest possible disgrace that could be done to him would be to cause anyone, no less an entire city, to suffer on his account. She demanded that the punishment be annulled.
I discussed it with the tzaddikim, and we decided to take him under our wing and teach him Torah. For three years we taught him the most basic books, and then one day his mind simply opened. He suddenly understood and remembered everything we taught him, even the most difficult concepts in Talmud and in Kabbalah, but he never lost his simplicity.
“After short deliberation,” the Baal Shem Tov concluded his tale, “her demands were met.”
After five more years he became a great hidden tzaddik and mystic in his own right, and moved to the city of Ostropol. There, for the next ten years, he helped, and even saved, hundreds of Jews with his prayers and blessings. But the story has a strange ending. As fate would have it, Herschel passed away on a cold, rainy day. The burial society of Ostropol did provide ten Jews to escort him to his final resting place, but otherwise treated him like a simple pauper. This was not received well in heaven. After all, Herschel was a holy man, and had helped myriads of people, and deserved much more honorable treatment. A decree was passed in heaven that the city of Ostropol should suffer terrible misfortunes because of their mistreatment of Herschel. I and many others tried to avert the decree, but to no avail. It seems that disgracing a tzaddik, although they do not care about their own honor, is no small matter. Until, suddenly, the soul of Herschel’s wife appeared before the heavenly court. All the accusing angels fell silent and she spoke. How could it be that the entire city
From the writings of the sixth Lubavitcher rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn; translation/adaptation by Tuvia Bolton. With permission from Chabad.org