18 January 2016

The miser and the slippers by S. Brombacher


Photo Credit: AdamJiaoshi130

In a small village lived a very rich miser. Every time the local rabbi came to his door to collect funds for the poor, the miser would invite the rabbi in, offer the rabbi a glass of tea and talk about his business. When the rabbi started talking about the plight of the poor people in winter, the miser would brush him off and tell him that poor people like to complain--it wasn't all as bad as the rabbi thought. In any case, he had no cash in the house at the moment, and couldn't give anything right now. Could the rabbi come back another time? The miser would then escort the rabbi to the door, go back to his warm and comfortable room and settle down in his favorite chair near the fireplace, very pleased with himself.

But the rabbi was not pleased. The poor had no money for food or for wood for their stoves and they were cold and hungry.

One evening, the rabbi knocked on the rich miser's door. It was a cold and miserable night, snow and sleet blew through the deserted streets. The miser asked the rabbi in, as usual. But the rabbi refused. "'No," he said, "I won't be long." And then he inquired after the miser's health, and after the health of his family, and asked him about his business, and spoke about affairs of the community for a long time. The miser could not send the rabbi away, of course; he had opened the door for him himself. But he was getting quite uncomfortable. He had come to the door in his slippers and skullcap, dressed in a thin shirt and his house pants. The rabbi, wearing a warm coat with a fur lining, his biggest shtraymel covering his ears and heavy winter boots encasing his feet and legs, talked on and on. No, he didn't want to come in. No, really, he was on his way. The miser's toes became ice and stone.

Suddenly the miser understood. "Oh, Rabbi!" he cried. "Those poor people with no warm clothes or firewood for winter... I never knew. I never imagined it could be like this. This is miserable. It is horrible. I never knew, honestly! Something must be done!" He went into the house and returned with a purse full of gold coins. He wanted to go back to his fireplace as soon as he could. He needed hot tea. The rabbi thanked him and took the money. He, too, was cold after that long talk, but he didn't mind. The poor people would have a good winter this year.

The miser changed his ways that night. He became a regular contributor to the rabbi's funds for the poor, for poor brides, for poor students, for Passover money and for many other causes. He had learned a good lesson that night.

This story was written by Shoshannah Brombacher, of chabad.org. She studied ancient Near Eastern studies and codicology in Leyden (Holland), with her Ph.D. specializing in the medieval Hebrew poetry of the Amsterdam Sephardic-Portuguese community. She studied in Jerusalem, and lectured in Berlin and New York, where she devotes all her time to her family and her chassidic art. She painted from an early age, inspired by chassidic stories and Chagall works on her father’s bookshelves. She attended classes at an art academy, but considers herself “self-taught.” Her academic career, her passionate interest in chassidic life and her travel experiences (Europe, Egypt and Jerusalem) significantly influence the Jewish themes in her artwork.

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