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Tzedakah Stories

A Duck and a Duty
Do these people deserve my money? Since when does cash drift gently from leafy poplars? Even my pastry was a momentary weakness. As these uncharitable thoughts flash through my system, I suddenly recall my mallards . . .
The Child and the Slave
Turnus Rufus asked Rabbi Akiva: “If your G-d loves the poor, why doesn’t He feed them?”
Six Hundred Dinars Minus Six
"Give with an open hand," Rabbi Shimon adjured. "Don't worry about tomorrow, G-d will provide. And most important: write it all down. Every penny you give, write it down and carry the list with you at all times..."
The Snake in the Wall
“On the day your daughter enters the bridal chamber,” the astrologers said to Rabbi Akiva, “a snake will bite her and she will die.”
Why the Reedcutter Didn't Die
Shmuel and Avlet, a Persian astrologer, were sitting together watching people go to the pond to cut reeds...
Hidden Treasure Well Used
The couple’s children had been playing in the dirt of their yard, where they found enough money to support their family for six years, so they called their mother.
What should I buy for you today?” “Some endives, not fresh. Leftovers from yesterday. If they’re wilted they’ll be cheap.”
The Man Who Gave Charity to Himself
“I will not travel with you,” stipulated Rabbi Menachem Mendel, “unless you give me twenty silver coins.”
Forty-Three Rubles
Zvi Elimelech's father pulled the boy aside and told him that he must promise never to tell anyone this story until the very last day of his life
The Yom Kippur Drunk
The scandalized crowd was about to eject the man from the synagogue, when the Rebbe turned from the wall and said: "Let him be. For us, Yom Kippur is just beginning, but for him, it's already Simchat Torah He's there already"
The Rusty Penny
It seems that this stingy man, despite his considerable wealth, was loath to share his blessings, no matter how worthy or urgent the cause. Rabbis and beggars alike avoided his home.
The Czar's Rubles
A Russian peasant once said to his friend: "You know, Ivan, I have been thinking, it is really very stupid for us to pay taxes to the Czar."
A Door on the East
The rebbe took the gold coin, wedged it in a crack in the wall next to his desk, and said no more.
Herschel Goat
“When I was a young man of twenty,” the Baal Shem Tov began his story, “shortly after being accepted in the society of hidden tzaddikim, several of us came to the city of Brody . . .”
The Popular Names of the Town's Kids
As they walked, they came across a group of children playing in the sand. The Baal Shem Tov went over to them and said to the nearest one, “What is your name?”
Seventy Kopeks
That's the profit from the sale of a calf in the marketplace of the White Russian town of Lubavitch
An Etrog From Eden
The Angel Michael harnessed the horse to the wagon of mitzvot, and the wagon driver cracked his whip. Suddenly the wagon gave a lurch forward, flattening the piles of sins that had been obstructing its way...
A Plate of Food
The Jews of Vitebsk, if you want to know the truth, were never known to be generous givers of money to charitable causes. But they could always be counted on to provide food for the hungry.
A Joker's Shabbat
As might be expected, Hershel the Hilarious was the most popular guy in Mosayov among the idle, the crude, the silly and the drinkers . . .
The Czar’s Army’s Iron Pots
The rebbe’s youngest son, Shmuel, who was seven years old at the time, wandered around the room, talking to the men who sat tearfully reading Tehillim as they waited to be received by his father . . .
The Meeting
“Hundreds of mitzvot were about to be performed in Shchedrin! Never mind the eighteen rubles that will be raised—considering the sums of money that the yetzer hara deals with, this is a mere pittance. But the mitzvot . . . !”
Charity Wars
“Every act of charity is a victory over our selfish nature,” explained the chassid. “I just can’t resist the opportunity to score two victories for the price of one . . .”
Elijah the Prophet in Minsk
A chassid went to the Baal Shem Tov in Mezhibuzh. “Rebbe,” he said, “I want to see Elijah the Prophet . . .”
The Coins Shone
She scoured and polished the coins till they sparkled, and with a heartfelt prayer that their fortune should also begin to shine, she packed up the coins and gave them to Gavriel to bring to the Rebbe...
Impeccable Logic
“I accept that my business failure is punishment for deserting you,” he cried to Reb Zushe, “but why? What was wrong with my logic?”
Music at the Rabbi’s Funeral
At one point during the trip, the horse suddenly changed course and took her own route, going back in the direction from where they had come.
When the Town Robber Gave Charity
As she was washing, a known local robber and swindler swiped the ring and ran off... She shrieked that the robber just made off with her ring. "It is worth 100 coins!"
The Bloodless Challah
One Friday, a beggar came and asked for a piece of bread. But the Rebbe's wife had only whole challahs in the house – challah that she had just baked in honor of the Shabbat...
Nothing New
Silently, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak studied the expectant faces. "My brothers!" he said in a respectful tone of voice. "Did we not agree that I was not to be burdened with discussions of old policies?"
Count Down to Charity
The wealthy fellow politely explained how he would love to give but can’t, because he already gave his share of charity for the year . . .
The Miser and the Dead Man
The time came when Pinchas no longer felt comfortable living in the Jewish community, and he moved to the other side of town where he built himself a large, well-guarded mansion.
The Watercarrier Who Almost Brought a Locust Storm
"I am a water carrier," he said. "My barrel has broken beyond repair, and my children are starving. . ."
Israel Goy
How could a Jew be so indifferent to the needs of his brothers and sisters? People started referring to the rich miser in their midst as “Israel Goy,” and the epithet stuck
The Miser's Slippers
It was a cold and miserable night; snow and sleet blew through the deserted streets. The miser asked the rabbi in, as usual. But the rabbi refused. “No,” he said, “I won’t be long . . .”
Eating Stones
Proudly the rich man described to the Chassidic master his one daily meal, in which and ate and drank nothing more than bread with salt and a jug of water
The Wheel of Life
The visitor lost no time in explaining to the Baal Shem Tov that he had no special needs or problems which required any intervention or blessing. “Perhaps you’d like to hear a story, then?” asked the chassidic master.
Baseball on the Day of Atonement
I think that somewhere in the next world, the soul of his Jewish mother was confused and asking, ‘Where is my son? Why is he not with his fellow Jews praying on Yom Kippur?'
Road Work
Near the park, we were forced to detour via a parallel street. At the next traffic light, the Rebbetzin said to me: “I heard a woman screaming. Can you go back and see what that was about?”
The Holy Beggars of Safed
Like any small town, Safed has a few professional beggars. None of them are drunkards, thank G-d, or homeless, G-d forbid. They just beg for a living. It’s their job, and they work hard at it. They keep regular hours, and each has his own territory.
Check Out My Room
“This,” they declared, in contrast to how most people thought a home should be furnished, “is interior decorating.”
The Cigarette Beggar
It was rumored that back in Russia, before the Revolution, the Cigarette Beggar had been a wealthy man, with textile factories in Minsk and philanthropic projects all over the world...
Heshy with His Hand Out
Michael had spent those precious two days moping around his heavily mortgaged home, dwelling on the millions he'd lost in the stock market the preceding Thursday...
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