PPE from the Sages

Friday, 9 April, 2021 - 11:58 am

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

The Torah starts off with G-d’s benevolence to Adam and Eve in providing them clothes.

The five books of the Torah also finish with G-d’s kindness and benevolence to Moshe by burying him after his soul departed his body.

Our Sages derive from this that the message of the entire Torah is about ‘Gemilut Chasadim’ acts of benevolence and kindness.

Helping the poor with monetary gifts of Tzedaka is one form of kindness.

Another very powerful mitzvah is the providing of interest free ‘bridge loans’ to those who need some help with their ‘cash flow. It is traditionally called ‘gemilut chasadim’ (Gemach in acronym form) a benevolent act of kindness. The advantage of the mitzvah of giving benevolent loans is that it can be provided to well to do people as well. Even wealthy people sometimes need bridge loans to help them through cash flow shortages. 

The reward for acts of kindness is immense. Our Sages taught that ‘tzedaka saves from death’ and tell the following story:

Rabbi Akiba’s daughter once went to the market to buy things for the home. As she passed a group of star-gazers and fortune–tellers, one of them said to the other: “see that lovely girl? What a dreadful calamity is awaiting her! She is going to die on the very day of her wedding. Mark my word!”

Rabbi Akiba’s daughter overheard the words of the star-gazer, but paid no attention to him. She had often heard it from her great father that he who observes the Mitzvoth of the holy Torah need fear no evil.

As the happy day of her wedding approached, she had forgotten all about that star-gazer. On the day before her wedding, there was much to do, and at night she retired to bed, tired but happy. Before going to bed, she removed her golden hair-pin and stuck it in the wall, as she had done before.

The following morning, she pulled her pin from the wall, and in doing so dragged a small but very poisonous snake with it. Horrified, she realized that she had killed the snake that was lurking in the wall's crevice when she stuck the pin into the wall the night before. What a wonderful miracle!

Then she remembered the words of the star-gazer, and shuddered.

She heard a knock on the door. “Are you alright, daughter? I heard you shriek,” her father said. Then he saw the dead snake still dangling from the pin. She told her father what happened.

“This is indeed a miracle,” Rabbi Akiba said. “Tell me, daughter, what did you do yesterday? There must have been some special Mitzvah that you performed yesterday to have been saved from this.”

“Well, the only thing that I can remember was this. Last night, when everybody was busy with the preparations for my wedding, a poor man came in, but nobody seemed to notice him, so busy everybody was. I saw that the poor man was very hungry, so I took my portion of the wedding-feast and gave it to him.”

Rabbi Akiba had always known that his daughter was very devoted to the poor, but this was something special, and he was very happy indeed. “Tzedoko (charity) delivereth from death,” he exclaimed.

This story is recorded in the Talmud. It happened a very long time ago.

I would like to share an incredible story that happened to me this week.

Times are challenging. Chabad of Thailand has just suffered the great loss of Mrs. Miriam Segal of Phuket after many months of immense suffering. I found that I needed to get a bridge loan to make sure that bills were paid.

In reviewing my options of who could help me with the interest free loan I was seeking, I thought of a particular colleague N.H. I reached out to him. He told me times were tough for him and seemed resistant to extending the loan. I sensed that he did have the ability to give me the loan, but it was not easy for him emotionally due to the uncertain conditions in the world. Usually I would have wished him well and turned to another friend for help. This time I decided to persist. To be honest, I am not sure what drove me to urge him to do this gemilut chasadim of giving me the loan despite his reluctance. I just had this internal feeling that it would be a favor for N.H. if he would do this mitzva and act of benevolence.

N.H. finally acquiesced and said that he would give me the interest free loan. He asked me to please pray for him when I next visited the Rebbe’s Ohel. I told him that I was about to set out from Brooklyn to visit the Rebbe’s Ohel and asked him to send me his names and mothers name for prayer purposes. He sent me the names, asked me to arrange a guarantor for the loan and said he would do it a bit later. In the meantime I headed out to the Ohel.

As I was in the car heading to the Ohel, I got a WhatsApp from my above friend. 

He wrote: ‘I have the merit that now I have to make a big feast of thanksgiving.’ 

I asked him what for?

He said just a few minutes ago ‘I saw a Jewish person getting accosted in front of my Chabad center by two people and I ran out to help him. Before I knew it, we both had guns put to our heads’. 

And? I asked him by return WhatsApp.

He responded: ‘And thank G-d I am here to tell the story… Police came and they went running, I think they arrested them’.

My dear friends, this miracle happened in front of my eyes a mere three days ago on April 6 2021. 

The sequence of events is surreal. 

N.H. went beyond his comfort zone to do and act of chessed. Hashem saved his life from the threat of death. 

We don’t always see the results of our good deeds.

Most of the times, the miracles that G-d makes for us we are not aware of. They happen in the background. Once in a while we get a chance to see Hashems miracles openly.

This week, I got to see the causality between Tzedaka and saving from death. Just like the story of Rabbi Akiva.

THANK YOU HASHEM for allowing me to see with my very own eyes, how giving to someone else is really the most potent form of receiving. Receiving Hashems unlimited blessings that he bestows upon those who do good.

I am sure this story was given to me not to keep for myself. Thus I share it with you. In the hope that it inspires you as it inspired me!

And perhaps to also provide the opportunity to give a suggestion for personal protection.

Unfortunately, after things were going so well for quite some time, Bangkok is now experiencing a resurgence of Covid cases. This calls on us to be prudent and exercise care based on the recommendations of the virology experts. 

I wanted to add the spiritual protection angle.

Consider upping your G-dly protective gear by doing acts of kindness to others.

There are myriad ways to do Gemilut Chasadim. Through the care and love we show others. Through helping the needy with Tzedaka, through providing interest free loans for those who need help with cash flow, and generally through thinking more about how to gladden the hearts of the downtrodden.

As we deal with this uptick and surge, we beseech the Almighty to bless us with life and health, to be able to continue to serve Him with love.

May G-d send us the Mashiach now and wipe away the tears of sadness from all faces!!!

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

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