Thursday, November 27, 2008

Tzedaka- From the Heart

I visited the Kotel (Western Wall) yesterday- to get something else done (story for another post), and of course, before walking through the gates, I needed to check my wallet.
Why, you may ask?

Well, there are at least 20 ladies on the women's side of the Kotel who collect tzedaka there, daily. They could be collecting for themselves, for Hachnosat Kallah, for a yeshiva, for a kollel, or many other such things. I have asked them once or twice who they collect for- but usually it is a cause that I can donate a shekel to, at least, or something like that.

So, I checked my wallet- was assured that I had at least 20 shekel on me, and set out.
Immediately, they asked in their pleading voices for tzedaka. I can't refuse- it's very hard for me to refuse a woman collecting. After all, we have an inner sense of tznius, of busha, (embarassment) of not being in the limelight- if a woman has to go out collecting tzedaka- it means she's usually in dire straights, with no one to help her, and she has no male children or a husband to help either.

So, I handed out a shekel to each one- making sure no one would get more than the others (they notice who gets more or less.)

(Oh, and if you're judging me as to why I only have a shekel per person- I'm sorry- but I also need money for food and lodging...I could try to give more- but usually I can't- as I give to the people who need tzedaka in Geula as well, plus, I can only give a mashehu without asking my husband for permission for more (he usually says yes, but if he's not there....)

Usually, they thank me- and I wish them the best- that they should have hatzlacha, and kol tuv.
And, I mean it. The words come from my heart, as do the money- I want them to be able to give more to the poor, I want them to no longer need tzedaka...

But yesterday, when I gave a shekel to a woman- and wished her all the best- her reply was, "A Shekel? Zeh Lo Kesef. (that's not money.)"

So I told her that was all I had, and she left it at that.

But it hurt. It hurt that she didn't care whether I meant it or not, that all she saw was a girl, probably American, who gives her "just a shekel", and then leaves.

I'm sure she's in pain. I'm sure that she has a very rough life. I'm judging her dan l'kaf zechus that she has so many tzaros in her life that when someone hands her a small bit of tzara, she reacts like that.

I called my mother, another frequent visitor to Israel, to tell her about it- we both sighed on the phone, at the tzara, and the pity on the situation. She told me that someone once threw the shekel back at her- signifying that it was too small a donation.

I guess this is a David HaMelech moment. That when someone lectures you- it's not from that person, it's from Hashem.

Maybe Hashem is telling me I should give more. Maybe Hashem is telling me not to think so highly of myself- that I have money and she doesn't- the wheel of fortune could turn at any moment.

I wish her, and all the other women who are out there collecting- all the best. Kol Tuv, and much Hatzlacha.


Bas~Melech said...

I've had the same experience and sentiments to go with it on a number of occasions...

I always try to change my money into small change before going to the Kosel or other places where I know there will be a lot of people begging, so that I can give to everyone and not have to say no to people, especially before I'm going to daven...

tembow said...

I once had the experience at the Kotel that I gave a small amount to a woman collecting and she got upset at me and yelled at me. I told her that was all i had. She just was really upset. I took it as a kaparah that maybe i had done something to deserve this. I said I'm sorry and walked away. but its so hard to know that someone needs something so bad and you cant give it to them :(

nmf #7 said...

Bas~Melech, Tembow- thanks for the words of encouragement.
It is quite hard to know these things.

For those who are familiar- there is an elderly man who collects next to Kikar Shabbat's Bank HaPoalim- he speaks a fluent English, and sits next to Feldheim.

He used to react quite angrily to me when I gave him less than he thought he could get- but I realized that he is slightly not all there. Now, I go out of my way to make sure he gets something decent from me- it's hard to see people in such pain.

(Echoing Tembow a bit- very true)