Our sages tell us that man's behavior is a reflection on his G-d. By his behavior you can tell the accomplishments of his religion. The following stories from the Midrash bear out this point.
A Warehouse of Seeds
One day two people approached the home of Rabi Pinchas ben Yair, who lived in the western part of Israel. They carried two large bags of seeds.
They knocked on his door and said, "We are seeking work in this town and it is too difficult to take these heavy bags with us. Will you keep these bags in a safe place until we call for them? We have heard that you are an honest and pious rabbi"
Rabi Pinchas accepted the bags and agreed to give it to them upon their return. Many days passed but the two people didn't come for the bags. They had forgotten about them.
Fearing that the seeds might spoil, Rabi Pinchas began to plant them. That fall he harvested the crops and stored them in a warehouse. He did this for seven years.
During the eight year, one of the men was passing through the town and he stopped at the home of Rabi Pinchas.
Rabi Pinchas recognized him and said, "Come inside and take your fortune in wheat that now occupies many warehouses."
The man was amazed and exclaimed, "Blessed is the G-d of Rabi Pinchas."
Finds Diamonds In His Purchase
Rabi Shimon ben Shetach purchased a mule from an Arab. He loaded his merchandise onto the mule and traveled home. When he arrived, his students came out to help him. When they unloaded the merchandise from the mule they found a diamond caught in the folds of its skin.
"Rabi, we are rich!" they shouted.
"No," answered Rabi Shimon, "we have to return the diamond. I only purchased the mule, not a diamond"
Rabi Shimon and his students set out to find the Arab. When they returned the diamond to him, he exclaimed, "Blessed is the G-d of Rabi Shimon ben Shetach!"
Rabi Safra had some merchandise to sell. When he met with the traders to finalize the purchase, he asked for 10 pieces of gold.
"We will give you only five," said the merchants.
When Rabi Safra refused to sell they went away.
The following morning tney returned while tne pious man was in prayer.
"We have returned to offer you seven gold pieces or your goods," they said.
Because he did not wish to interrupt his prayers, Rabi Safra did not answer. Thinking he was still dissatisfied with their offer, they said, "Very well, then we will give you the ten gold pieces you are asking."
By this time Rabi Safra had ended his prayers.
"I could not answer you before," he apologized to them, "because I could not interrupt my prayers. Know, however, that before you even spoke I had made up my mind that if the opportunity arose, I would accept the five gold pieces you offered yesterday. Therefore, to accept the ten pieces you have offered me now would be to cheat you."
Our rabbis consider giving charity as one of the cardinal principles of our faith. As it says in Gemara Kittuvot, "Rabi Yehoshua ben Korcha said, Any person who shuts his eye against charity is like one who worships idols."
Charity should be given in a discreet manner so as not to embarrass the recipient. As Rabi Yonatan said in the name of Rabi
Shimon bar Yochai, "Better should a man throw himself into a fiery furnace than publicly put his neighbor to shame." From where do we derive this? From the action of Tamar. The Chumash tells us, "When she brought forth to be burned (Genesis 38:24) she sent to her father-in-law ..." She chose to be burnt rather than publicly put her father-in-law to shame. It was only through Yehudah's own confession, that she was saved.
In the neighborhood where Mar Ukba lived there was a poor man. Each day Mar Ukba would throw four zuzim into this man's home. This way he avoided seeing the man personally and the man did not have to be embarrassed.
One day, the poor man thought, "I will watch at my door and see who does me this kindness."
On that day it happened that Mar Ukba was detained at the house of study and it grew very late. His wife, seeing that he didn't come home on time, decided to go and meet him. On the way Mar Ukba passed the poor man's home and planned to leave him money as he usually did every day.
But as soon as the poor man saw them moving towards his door, he went out after them to thank them. Fearing that he might be embarrassed they fled from him but the poor man ran after them. Passing a furnace from which the fire had just been swept, they both jumped into it.
Mar Ukba's wife was unharmed but Mar Ukba's feet began to burn. His wife said to him, "Raise your feet and put them on mine."
Mar Ukba became upset. He feared that he was not providentially protected from the heat of the furnace because he was not as worthy of divine protection as his wife.
Wife Has Greater Merit
"Fear not," she said to him. "I have greater merit because I am usually at home and the poor have greater access to me and my benefactions are direct. I usually give them food and gifts, which are direct, while you are usually inaccessible and you give money that first has to be exchanged for food, which is therefore indirect"
The Gemara asks why did they make such an effort to escape from the poor man? Therefore, Rabbi Yochanan said in the name of Rabi Shimon ben Yochai, "Better that a person should throw himself into a fiery furnace than publicly put his neighbor to shame."
Dishonest Recipients Of Charity Will Suffer
While the virtues of giving are very great, the recipient must be honest and truly in need of it before he accepts this charity.
Our rabbis taught: "If a man pretends to have a blind eye, a swollen belly, or a shrunken leg or a hump, he will not depart from the world before actually coming into such condition. If a man accepts charity and is not in need of it, his end will be that he will become blind or lame."
Rabi Hanina had a poor man in his neighborhood to whom he regularly sent the sum of four zuzim on the eve of every Sabbath. One day he sent this sum through his wife who was surprised at what she saw.
"Why send him money?" asked the wife. "He has no need for this money."
"What did you see at his home?" asked Rabbi Hanina.
She replied, "When I entered their home I heard the poor man say to his wife, 'On what shall we dine, on the silver coins or on the gold ones?"
"It is in view of such cases," Rabi Hanina remarked, "that Rabi Eleazar said, 'Come, let us be grateful to the rogues, for were it not for them we, who do not always respond to every appeal for charity, would have been sinning every day, for it is said in Scriptures, 'And he cried unto the L-rd against thee and it be a sin unto thee' " (Deut. 15:9).
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Page last updated - 10/16/2009