To Give Tzedakah or Loans

Once there was a holy rabbi who had many, many students. His students learned much from their teacher, but could not understand why their beloved teacher disappeared every Thursday night. No matter how many people wanted to see him, he was nowhere to be found. None of his students or other rabbis in the community had any idea where he had gone.


One Thursday afternoon some of his students decided to try to find out what was going on and what their holy teacher was doing. The students hid in some bushes outside of the synagogue hoping to see their holy teacher. When he left on his secret business, after waiting for several hours, they saw the holy rabbi come out and hurried away. The curious students followed him.


The holy rabbi moved quickly through the streets and the students were always not far behind. Soon he entered one of the poorest areas of the town. He was immediately surrounded by so many needy people asking for tzedakah (charity). The students watched the holy rabbi’s actions and noticed that he didn’t just give some money to a better and then walk on, he stopped by each poor person and said: “my friend I would be so happy to help you, but I really can’t give you any charity. I can only give you this money as a loan.”


The beggar looked at him in surprise. “Alone? Rabbi, holy rabbi you would really give me alone?”


The holy rabbi would look at the poor man in front of him and smile as he answered: “yes, of course. Would you accept a loan for me? I have so much faith in you, I know you’ll be able to pay me back.”


With a peaceful face each beggar would happily accept some rubles as a loan, and the holy rabbi would go on his way.


After watching the holy rabbi do this for a while, the students decided they had seen enough. They went back to the synagogue and gathered around the table where they learned holy lessons from the rabbi and waited for him. When the holy rabbi finally returned very late that night, they confronted him with what they have learned:


“Holy teacher, we have to admit we followed you tonight and saw that you were doing. But really, how could you tell all those poor people. You were giving them loans? You know full well they’ll never be able to repay you. Why didn’t you just give them some tzedakah (charity) and let it go at that.”


“Why? I’ll tell you why! It’s not just that those beggars don’t have any money. They’ve also lost all of their hope, all of their faith that their lives can ever be better. They’re so broken, and too many are in despair.”

“Do you know what that means to them. When I, the holy rabbi, offer them a loan? It means that I believe in them… Even though they fallen to the lowest place, I have faith that they can get back on their feet again”

“Listen to me! I’ve taught you a lot of Torah. But this is the most important thing I’ll ever tell you. It’s not enough to hand a beggar a few coins. You have to give them back their self-respect, to show them that you believe in them, even if-especially if-they no longer believe in themselves.”

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The holy rabbi paused for a moment or two and then continued: “Are we not taught: ‘who gives the poor money is blessed six-fold, who gives him morale is blessed seven-fold.’ (Baba Basra 9b) May each and every person who gives the poor a means to strengthen themselves physically, emotionally and spiritually be blessed.’ ”


May all your tales end with Shalom (peace)

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