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The Beggar’s Story: A Rich Man for a Day

The Beggar’s Story: A Rich Man for a Day

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Charity is not just about giving; it is also about empathy.

Every beggar has a story, and I wanted to know the story of the beggar I met every week in my small Israeli town.

You cannot miss him sitting outside the delicatessen. He sits there every Friday on a plastic chair. Blind in one eye, his gaze from the other is penetrating as he displays a note from his local rabbi recommending giving him charity.

I used to wonder when he began his “career” as a beggar. For some reason, I felt certain that he was not born into a family of beggars.

When I ask him for an interview, he responds, “Why not? But while you’re at it, I need a ride to the train station.”

As we drive to the train station, the beggar begins to tell his story. His first statement shocks me with its expression of deep pain: “My entire life was hell! I didn’t have a single good day,” he says.

Menashe Fadal was born in a small Yemenite village, one of seven brothers. “We had a very difficult childhood. Our father was a shoemaker, and we herded sheep, goats, donkeys and horses. We worked extremely hard but remained excruciatingly poor.”

Menashe immigrated to Israel with his parents in 1949. “I never had an education,” he sighed. “In Israel I worked in gardens and in construction, and then I joined the army. When I finished my service I married, but divorced a year later.”

“My second marriage wasn’t much better, but it lasted longer. She died five years ago. You see, I have no luck.”

Rich for a Day

“My entire life was hell! I didn’t have a single good day,” he says. Then, despite his run of bad luck, Menashe won the lottery—one and a half million shekels. “Nothing is left of it,” he explains. “I split the money with the family and gave some to charity. The rest of the money was sucked out of me without pity. Soon I was left with nothing.”

Four years after his short-lived stint as a rich man, Menashe began to ask people for money. “I fell ill and had no money to live on, to pay for food, for medicine.”

He became blind in one eye and suffered a loss of vision in his other eye. “Every week I am in the hospital. I have no money for anything, not even to pay my rent. I have no choice but to beg for money.”

Menashe lives in a rented room in Ashdod, where the rabbi of the Belz chassidic community gave him a written recommendation.

“I go wherever my feet take me,” he tells me, “but I do have a few places I go regularly: Ashdod, Tel Aviv, Shuk Hakarmel, Shekhunat Hatikvah, and once a week I come to Kfar Chabad.

“I come here every Thursday afternoon and meet people at the synagogue. I have my regulars who give me a steady amount. One gives 50 shekels, another 100 shekels, and the like. At night I go to sleep at the home of a good person who kindly hosts me. And in the morning I come here to the delicatessen.”

When I ask Menashe if he has any good memories, he answers sadly, “I haven’t had one good moment in my life. At first I worked very hard and then I got sick. Recently I spent three days in the hospital. I couldn’t move and didn’t eat much. The door to my room was open, but no one came to visit. My entire life has been one long hell.”

When I push him a little more, he says, “Maybe the day of my second marriage, but even that was only so-so.”

I glance at the man sitting next to me. Will Menashe be a beggar for the rest of his life? What does the future hold for him?

“I do own a house,” he says, “but because of a feud, the house is not in my hands. Maybe one day we will make peace and I will sell the house. From that I will have enough money to live off for the rest of my life. Who knows?”

The train to Ashdod is entering the station. We bid each other farewell.

As the train pulls out, I think to myself: Menashe may look like a beggar, but he has feelings and a working mind just like anyone else. Charity, I realize, is not only about money; it is also about the way we look at and judge one another.

A Hebrew version of this article first appeared in Kfar Chabad magazine.
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Discussion (5)
December 14, 2011
this beggar
It seems this particular beggar felt a total poverty within his life, and never perceived the "gold". I think his giving away of his money was a purity of heart but it seems he never felt the joy in his life. He worked in gardens and did other things, that did not take him into halls of higher learning, but surely he might have derived great truths and love from his occupations. Nothing is actually lowly. I think the lessons are yet to be learned for him, and yet he seems bitter, and maybe closed to learning.

These people who gift him, are surely humane connects. If only he could turn, his thoughts, around.

I have to agree with Catherine's comment, above.
ruth housman
marshfield hills, ma
December 8, 2011
Re: Beggars
I would recommend the following articles which touch upon the issues you raise, What if a charity I donated to turns out to be fake? and What Do I Do with all these People Knocking on my Door Asking for Money?
Yehuda Shurpin for Chabad.org
December 7, 2011
Beggars
Although the mitzvah is to give without question, I find it very difficult to give to beggars who seem to be professionals and make no real effort to enter mainstream society. I am waiting for the day when a beggar asks whether he or she could do some household chore for me. I would be more than happy to pay in excess of the going rate per hour to someone in genuine need. The trouble is we don't know how much money beggars really have, and few people are willing to be conned. One familiar beggar in Jerusalem has a collection of very fashionable clothes. I never see him in the same outfit twice. Another wears well tailored suits. Another shamelessly smokes American cigarettes which are expensive. A female beggar has been telling the same story about her four starving and sick children for twenty years. They must be adults by now - but the story doesn't change. Most of us would be more than willing to help those in genuine need, but how can we know the difference?
Greer Fay Cashman
Jerusalem, Israel
December 6, 2011
the Beggars story
Not sure about the merits or otherwise of charity here G-d knows the heart..... however it does strike me that the beggar had not had such a bad life and saw life as a glass half empty...I dont think that anyone/anything could have made him happy' as at no stage was he ever content rich or poor...he had a poverty of spirit that is hard to assist
Catherine
Chch, NZ
December 5, 2011
If there are beggars it is because we do not help them get back on their feet and start a new life.

We rather see them every day and give them couple dollars.

Giving to all charities who do nothing to help our people and put them back into society with a home and a job... that is not hard to do.
A man with out a home is not a human being according to Talmud...
so please when you see a beggar offer a home and a job, so he can regain his dignity and be like every one...
sylvia barchichat
nyc, ny
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