The High Holiday seating arrangement committee of our shul informed me that a certain Mr. Goldberg with whom I have had good relations, who has come for years to our shul, sent back his tickets with a note that he wasn’t interested in coming to our shul anymore. Quite puzzled, I thought I would give him a call.

After a short amicable conversation I told Mr. Goldberg the reason for my call. “Rabbi” he said, “Please don’t take it personally, I love you and enjoy your sermons. The cantor is a pleasure to listen to, but one thing turns me off. It seems that the shul is out to get my money. There is an appeal on Rosh Hashanah. On Yom Kippur you have an appeal at Kol Nidrei and a Yizkor appeal Yom Kippur day. You sell the aliyot and then they expect me to make a mi shebeirach and contribute.”

Feeling sympathy for my friend, who would really not be affected in the least by giving some tzedakah, I asked him to listen to a story.

A woman once had a dream in which G‑d appeared and engaged in a very friendly and heartwarming conversation with her. Convinced that she had gained Hashem’s friendship she brazenly invited Him for dinner and He graciously told her that He would be coming for dinner the very next day.

In preparation for her visitor, the woman ordered the finest foods and most gorgeous flowers. She took out her best china, polished her heirloom silverware until gleamed, and donned her finest clothing. The entire house was turned inside out, and every surface was washed and dusted.

Amidst all the hustle and bustle, the doorbell rang. A poor man in tattered clothes stood there begging for a meal. He began telling her his sad plight, but she impatiently interrupted him, saying, “I’m sorry, but I’m busy preparing for a very important guest. Come back some other time.”

At noon the doorbell rang yet again. This time it was a woman. Her dress was frayed. She had old slippers on her feet. Outside it was cold and raining. “Do you have anything I can eat and perhaps something extra that I can take home to feed my children?” she asked. Once again the lady responded; “Oh, I’m so sorry for you, but now I can’t do anything for you. I’m busy preparing for a very important guest. Come back some other time.”

Toward evening the doorbell rang once more. By now the table was all set. The candles were lit. The wines were decanted. The centerpiece was perfectly arranged. Expecting G‑d, the woman raced to the door only to see a young boy inadequately dressed for the weather and shivering from the cold. He told her that he was an orphan and that his mother had no money to buy him winter clothing. “Could you please help me?” he asked with tears streaming down his cheeks. “My dear child” she said, “I can’t help you right now — I’m expecting a prominent guest for dinner and I am very busy.”

Of course G‑d never showed up. And as the candles melted down, the flowers wilted and the food went cold. The woman fell into a sleep and dreamt of Hashem appearing to her. With much sadness she said, “Dear G‑d, you promised to come for dinner, and I worked so hard preparing everything. Why did you disappoint me?” And a voice echoed from heaven and said, “I rang your doorbell three times today but you didn’t let me in.”

As I finished the story I heard my friend Mr. Goldberg tell me with a choking tear in his voice, “Rabbi please tell them to reserve my seat — we will be spending the High Holidays again this year together and hopefully for many more years to come.”

So, my friends, tonight, as we make our annual Kol Nidrei appeal and your help is solicited, please realize no one is out to “get your money.” Just resolve to give generously because you never know who is ringing the doorbell.

Credit for story due to Arthur Luxenberg