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Another Form of Charity

Another Form of Charity

The Rebbe's message to an eight-year-old child

The Rebbe, of righteous memory, shakes a child's hand.
The Rebbe, of righteous memory, shakes a child's hand.

I come from a family of twelve children. My father is in the London diamond industry. Once a year, my father used to take one of us to New York to meet the Rebbe, of righteous memory. When I was eight, it was my turn to go to New York.

We had an audience with the Rebbe at two in the morning. As a kid, by that hour, I could get very cranky. "Just do me a favor," my father told me, "All it's going to take is one minute. Please behave for that time." I agreed to behave for that one minute.

When our turn came, we entered the Rebbe's office, and the Rebbe started talking to my father in Yiddish. We never spoke Yiddish at home, and I did not know the language. One minute passed, two minutes, three minutes, five minutes, and I was getting impatient.

I started looking around the Rebbe's room to find the box of toys. I figured thousands of kids came through this room, there must be toys somewhere. What was I going to do? I couldn't turn around to my father and say, "Dad, hurry up." I knew that if I would ask him if I could slip out of his hand the answer would definitely be no. As he was standing there, I did it very quickly, I ripped out of his hand. What was he going to do — start running after me in front of the Rebbe?

I started looking around the Rebbe's room to find the box of toys. I figured thousands of kids came through this room, there must be toys somewhere.

At the back of the room there was a filing cabinet. I opened the bottom drawer, thinking there had to be toys there. I look inside, just papers. I opened up the next drawer, just papers. The compartment had a third drawer, but I couldn't see into it, so I slammed the second drawer and stood on the papers in the first drawer. I looked in the third drawer, and I saw papers. I didn't even bother opening the fourth drawer. I couldn't find anything.

I continued to look around again and there were just books. You could imagine what was going through my father's head, trying to concentrate on the what the Rebbe was saying while he's got this lunatic kid running around in the Rebbe's room opening up filing drawers.

There was nothing exciting happening in the Rebbe's room, but outside the Rebbe's room they were doing construction. Construction is always exciting: tractors, noise and so on.

I opened the blinds and was about to open the window when the Rebbe called my name, Shimon. I opened the blinds and was about to open the window when the Rebbe called my name, Shimon. I quickly closed the blinds, closed all the drawers, leaned over the Rebbe's desk and said, "Yes, Rebbe."

There Rebbe was holding a dollar in his hand, and he asked my father, "Does he speak Yiddish?" My father told the Rebbe that I understood English.

The Rebbe, holding the dollar, asked me, "Do you know what this is?" I said it is tzedakah (charity). He smiled and asked, "What is tzedakah?" I said, "charity." He smiled and asked, "What is charity?" I said, "tzedakah." This went back and forth several times.

He asked me a question and I answered. I thought I was going to get a candy.

The Rebbe looked at me and said to me, "There are two types of charity: there's charity with money and then there's charity with your body, to care and to share with somebody else. I want you to know, sometimes sharing and caring for someone else is more effective than giving money to charity." The Rebbe gave me that dollar.

Normally when you go to a grandfatherly figure, they are always trying to tell stories, trying to get your attention. Here, the only thing the Rebbe could tell an eight-year-old kid was to share and care for someone else.

Chabad-Lubavitch emissary in Beijing, China, Rabbi Shimon Freundlich, lights the Chanukah Menorah with his community at the Great Wall of China.
Chabad-Lubavitch emissary in Beijing, China, Rabbi Shimon Freundlich, lights the Chanukah Menorah with his community at the Great Wall of China.

My father would remind me of this story throughout my life, and I would tell him that I had learned two things from it: First, that I would be a very lousy fundraiser, and second, I knew that I wanted to be a Chabad-Lubavitch emissary to assist others. I thought to myself, that has to be my calling.

From that time, I wanted to go to a place where there's no Jewish infrastructure, I wanted to build it from scratch.

Rabbi Shimon Freundlich is the Chabad-Lubavitch emissary in Beijing, China.
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Elisabeth Dakak December 23, 2014

The Rebbe is full of wisdom. Reply

Marlene Rakover. Miami July 22, 2014

Silly boy... You are living your dream. You are an amazing man. This I am privileged to know on a first hand basis. May you continue to go from strength to strength . Reply

yoiel friedman GOLDERS GREEN January 8, 2014

A lobus then as always. The question is how to channel a lobus' energy to the right direction. The Rebbe managed , he was a genius at it Look at Shimon.

Kol hakavod! Reply

Bubbylevertov Brooklyn, Ny via January 31, 2012

Soul Someone missed the point. It was the Rebbe that could read into the kid's energy and see the reflection of his soul. He then touched that soul with its true mission in life, not merely a teaching or suggestion. Reply

Judith January 20, 2011

OMG Funny to read but OMG, your poor father! He couldn't concentrate, going through the floor in embarrassment. And you, a big 8 year old! Well, you turned out okay :) Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma January 18, 2011

stories and how we do respond! I think we can probably all traverse the years to what stands out, or stood out, as very important in our lives, as threads, great threads in our individual and connected stories.

This story was a moment in time, and yet that moment, created, for the author, a universe of being, as he came into being, sparked, by what the Rebbe had said to him, as a young child.

I do believe we are all doing these things for each other, in big and small ways, and all are equal. We may never know, as did this author, what was brought to another's life, and mostly perhaps, it is an anonymous kind of giving. Then, once in a blue moon, we run into a person who tells us, and we might not remember them, how one word, one act of kindness, something we said or did, changed the course of their lives. Reply

Sarah Masha W Bloomfield, Mi/USA January 18, 2011

The rabbi is in China to serve the Jews who live or visit there. Lots of Jewish (Israeli, American, Canadian, European) business people visit China for tradeshows or factory and buying visits. There are also a fair number of Jews who have longer postings with manufacturing plants, educational institutions, and NGO's or governmental postings. Chabad representatives make it possible for us to have kosher food, and a place to pray, and socialize, and also help educate the children of the long term residents.

Jews don't proselytize in general. We believe that a person is valuable and moral based on their behavior, not the status of Jew or Gentile. In China proselytizing will get you thrown out of the country. (Visas can be cancelled at lightening speed should the Chinese desire your departure.) Reply

L. R. Harms Lubbock, Tx January 17, 2011

Having worked with children for nearly 40 years it is always a treat to hear a story about a gifted teacher such as the Rebbe could teach a lesson to achild with surgical precision. Thank you for sharing. One comment you made has captured my interest; when you moved into a place that had no formal Jewish structure adn you created a community within that place, what is you objective? Are you working toward making prosolytes or teaching the general populace a better way to live by teaching G-d's Torah principles? Just curious. Reply

emuna moorpark via January 13, 2011

What a wonderful story..I am always amazed at the stories told about the Rebbe..What a wonderful person, what an honor it would have been to meet him. Thank you for sharing. Reply

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