SALUTE TO THE HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATES OF 2017

Past Articles:
ON THE GIVING END

By: L. Azar

Ding dong!goes my
doorbell unexpectedly.

I willnot open that door! I resolve. I am scrubbing a pot, speaking on the phone with a potential babysitter and keeping an eye on the brown rice simmering on the stovetop. There is no way I am getting that door!

And yet.

Somehow, I feel this magnetic pull drawing me toward the front door of my apartment. I drop the pot, Brillo pad and phone and march toward the door.

“Who’s there?” I inquire, all
resolve forgotten.

“Tzedakah.”

Oh.

At this point, my inner voices wage their war. To give or not to give? Is he the real thing or is he a fraud? Fish through my pocketbook and junk drawer for a dollar, or tell him I’m not available?

In the doorway, a bearded man bedecked in black presents me with the pale blue certificate that sanctions his collecting. I haphazardly read the name:
R’ Zalman Kravitz*.

R’ Zalman Kravitz! I’ve heard that name before. During my nine-month stay at seminary in Israel, the dorm counselor placed me by a Kravitz family for several Shabbat meals. R’ Zalman Kravitz conducted the most beautiful Shabbat meals, replete with zemirot (songs) and words of Torah. Though the food served was simple, the rabbi’s wife plated it so artfully, and her warm demeanor was calming. His many children were
well-behaved and refined, with the purity of Jerusalem on their faces. Adorning the dining room walls were breathtaking paintings, painted by one of the talented Kravitz daughters. My experiences as the Kravitz home were cherished.

Just to be sure it was him, I read the two-line blurb on the certificate describing the man’s plight. “Meah Shearim father of ten desperately needs money….” That’s the one, I say to myself. Now I’m totally shaken up. The man before me is not simply “some collector;” rather, he is someone I’ve met personally. He is no longer a beggar disturbing my dinner preparations, but the patriarch of a destitute family. An impoverished wife is managing the front alone, desperately hoping her husband’s fundraising trip bears fruit. Many children are at home missing their daddy, who had to leave them for America to collect money. In just minutes, my perspective has changed completely.

Efshar she’achalti etzlecha b’seminar? Could it be that I ate by you in seminary?” I ask him.

A nod.

I continue in my best Hebrew, “Do you have a daughter who paints really nicely?”

Now his face lights up. “Ken!”

The change in facial expression is all I need to see the man for who he really is: someone’s husband, someone’s father – doing his best to help his family.

Naturally, I drop the idea of giving him the usual coin or dollar and opt instead to write him a $100 check. I do so not only as a debt of gratitude for his hospitality nearly one decade ago, but also as a manifestation of my solidified awareness that there’s an entire universe behind each human being.

Much controversy abounds regarding charity collectors: Should we open the door for them? If we do so, are we modeling altruism to our children, or teaching them to open the door for strangers – a definite no-no? Are all collectors truly in dire straits? Is there no alternative for these men but to ask for alms?

There are no across-the-board answers on this subject. But if there is one thing I have learned from this most recent charity experience, it is this: The needy are not a “subject.” Whether we choose to supply them with funds or not, we still need to regard each collector as human beings with goals and hopes. Even if we are unavailable to answer the door, let us offer up a heartfelt prayer to Gd to ease the burden of the poor.

May we always be on the giving end
of charity.

* Name and identifying details have been changed.